Top Chef University Blog

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce {for normal people.}

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 @ 09:13 PM

Did you miss the we’re all moved and see my spankin’ new apartment post?!?!


I finally got to cook something. It felt so good.

Making ravioli from scratch is a little intimidating. Or is it just me?

I think it’s intimidating. But guess what? I have a super easy and sneaky way for us “normal” people to make homemade ravioli.

I have 3 words for you…

Won. Ton. Wraps.

Boom! I know your mind is blown.


This recipe is from Top Chef University and it’s the beginning of a new Veggie Week. Veggie Week might go on for a complete second or third week… moving makes cooking extra challenging.

Some things I did in this recipe that I’d never done before:

  1. I made ravioli.
  2. I roasted butternut squash
  3. I used wanton wraps
  4. I successfully made something that included “brown butter”


For the recipe, click here!

I’m still drooling over these ravioli. They’re tasty, rustic, and simple. My brother already ate 2 of the 3 plates of ravioli I made.

It’s easy to do because they’re so good. But guess what? They’re completely vegetarian and really light so eat a million of them and feel light and healthy. I do. 


Wanna make easy ravioli, use wonton wraps. So genius. You can find them in the produce section where all the tofu and Asian stuff is. Well, that’s where they are in the 2 markets in Salinas. 

I really don’t want to mess with making homemade pasta. It sounds fun to do as a PROJECT some rainy afternoon. But I don’t want to do it all the time. Wonton wraps are the answer. I’m really impressed at how great they panned out, and on my first try.



If you don’t have fresh sage I’d totally use dried. I think it’ll work pretty-much the same way.

Ohh… I almost forgot to tell you. My squash, after roasting, was still a little under cooked in the middle. I didn’t notice until I’d blended in the egg, cream and zest. So, I put the filling into a microwave safe bowl and microwaved it for 4-5 minutes. It worked perfectly and my filling was awesome.


Tell me about you!! I want to know…

Have you ever made homemade pasta? How’d it go? Any tips?

Tags: cooking, learn cooking, Sauces, recipes, delicious, roast, roasting, veggie, vegetarian, Maren, deglaze, Top Chef University, pan sauces

drizzle season shower & roast

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 @ 07:08 PM

I just roasted some broccoli. It was organic broccoli and probably from an Earthbound Farms field 2 miles away from my house. 

That’s just pretty awesome. Just a little perk of living in the Salinas Valley. 


I’m a little obsessed with roasting veggies. It’s kinda my favorite way to eat them.

I’m a big fan of Ina Garten and she roasts everything in evoo and seasons with salt and pepper. You cannot tell me that’s not delicious and magical. 

So I kinda felt like a culinary boss when Spike from Top Chef University taught me how to roast veggies exactly like I’ve been roasting them for 6.3 years. 



Ohh– and I found out Donner becomes Puppy Beast from Cambridge when he smells parmesan cheese. I heart him. Shhh, but he gets that from his mama.  


Will you make this? I can’t say. I mean, if I were you… I’d already be at the grocery store and kicking everyone out of my house. Yes, it’s that good. But who am I to tell anyone to MAKE THIS BROCCOLI ASAP?


I hope you still love me. I’m just a little passionate about roasted veggies. 



Tell me about you!! I want to know…

How do you roast veggies?

I’m all about the evoo, salt and pepper.

Do you have plans for this weekend?

Possibly. But they’re still a little loose. 

What have you been craving lately?

Bagels!!! Lox and Cream Cheese Bagels, cinnamon raisin bagels, breakfast bagel sandwiches. BAGELS!!!

Tags: Spike Mendelsohn, cheese, roast, veggie, Maren, Top Chef University

I'm having you over this afternoon

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 @ 07:20 PM

We’ll be making braised collard greens. Well, I’ll be making them and you’ll be sitting at my counter.


I’m going to have you open a bottle of wine and we’ll talk about how I might be moving. I might be moving! It’s scary. Some opportunities have come up which would mean me moving north, with Donner of course. How north? It depends. One day it’s San Rafael or Marin City and others it’s Morgan Hill and South San Jose. But, I can choose not to go. Decisions, decisions. I’m excited, but I’m also a lotta bit scared.


Did you know I really love coaching basketball? I love it, but I’m feeling a little burnt out. Maybe I need to take a break?  Taking a break makes me sad. I’ll probably regret it in November when try-outs are beginning. But sometimes a little absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Everything looks better after I’ve had a few weeks off once the season’s over. I’ll wait to make that decision.

Donner is in this really weird pre-teen period. He’s totally barky. He played with a really big dog onValentines Day. Ever since then he’s been nipping at people’s faces. Did you know I grew up with a family dog named Jazz? She was a beagle and we had to put her to sleep for biting. Donner is kinda freaking me out right now. Donner stop biting!!

I have to go check the collards…

DSC_0105 DSC_0112

They’re lookin’ good!

Honestly, I’m one of those people who always freak out over change. I lose my marbles! About 99% of the time I make the right decisions, so I don’t know why I freak out. I’m happy with them exactly 6 seconds after I make them.

You tell me, Maren, take a zanex and drink more wine. We laugh! Then I serve you a bowl of my hot off the stove braised collard greens.


Braised Collard Greens

Spike taught me how to braise on Top Chef University today. I’ve never braised before. And, I’ve never had a collard green.


  • 5 pounds collard greens, washed, stems removed and sliced
  • 5 strips thick-cut smoked bacon
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 lemon


Heat a little evoo in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and add the bacon, cook for 3 minutes to render some of the fat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring.

Add the collards and stir to mix everything up really well. Cover the collards completely with the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, cover and cook over low heat until the collards are tender, about 45 minutes.

Finish with a dash of hot sauce, fresh lemon juice and serve.


Now we talk about you and how you’re doing. We drink another glass of wine and laugh over silly things. Like Donner, who has discovered chasing his tail can be really-really fun.

I will send you home with 4 servings of greens for leftovers.

You’re the best!



Tags: cooking, learn cooking, bacon, Dutch Oven, I'm having you over this afternoon, recipes, delicious, braising, Maren, wine, Top Chef University

I stewed! Moroccan Lamb Stew over Quinoa

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Sun, Feb 17, 2013 @ 11:48 PM

Hi guys! How has your long weekend been so far?

Mine’s been awesome. I just found out today that my basketball team made the section playoffs so we have another week of practices and hopefully a few games. I’m totally excited.

This afternoon I made Moroccan Lamb Stew to celebrate. It’s my first stew… like ever!


It was the first time I ever cooked lamb. Which I felt a little sad about. I don’t think I like cooking baby things. Even though (honestly) they taste pretty delicious.

The things I did in this recipe that I’d never done before:

I made stew

I cooked lamb

and I used my new french oven, Louis on the stove.


Moroccan Lamb Stew

CJ from Top Chef Texas teaches this recipe. It takes about 2 hours with cook time and prep. Serves 6-8.


  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder, cut into cubes and trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 12-ounce can chopped tomatoes 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Begin by toasting spices in a large dry skillet over high heat. Once fragrant remove from the heat.

Heat a large dutch or french oven over medium high heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot season the lamb with salt and pepper and add to the pan (CJ says he seasons the meat and lets it sit overnight in his restaurant because it makes the meat extra flavorful). Cook the lamb until it is brown on all sides, about 5 minutes — cook it in batches if necessary. Remove the lamb to a plate and add the onion, garlic, and the carrots to the pot, cook for 3 more minutes. Add the spices minus the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and the lamb back to the pot mix to combine.

Add the wine and tomatoes and reduce for 2-3 minutes. Add the apricots, orange juice and zest. Reduce for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add enough chicken stock (or water) to cover the mixture. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour and 45 minutes until the lamb is tender.

When the lamb is tender remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parsley. Adjust the seasoning and serve with couscous if desired.


Tasty Tasty.

Here’s the prep work all done up and fancy!


The prep is really easy. Just chop an onion, dice a few carrots, slice up some lamb shoulder, garlic and apricots. Ohh don’t forget to zest that orange.

CJ did something a little unexpected and not in the recipe during the video. When he added the orange zest he also squeezed the juice from one of the halves into the stew.


For the fennel seed I used my coffee grinder to grind the seeds. Worked like a charm. I also think toasting the spices makes all the difference. My kitchen smelt like Morocco all evening. Well, I’ve never been to morocco. But it smelt like what I think Morocco would smell like.









Pretty darn easy. I made a quick pot of quinoa to serve with my stew. I did 2 cups of quinoa with 2 cups chicken stock and a little salt.

I really liked making stew and I definitely think I’ll make another one before I kick the bucket. Maybe I’ll skip the lamb and go for cow though. It just feels better.

Lambs are really, really-really, cute!


I’m signing off to catch the Downton Abbey Season Finale! My Geek and I made brownies in Le Creuset mugs (you can bake in them!) and we have a bottle of Chocolate Shop wine to try. I’m in charge of making the Duraflame fire. It’s the only fire I can be in charge of…

See ya tomorrow! Happy 3 Day Weekend!!!!

Tags: cooking, learn cooking, Dutch Oven, recipes, CJ Jacobsen, lamb, stew, Maren, deglaze, international cuisine, Top Chef University

Walnut Creek Chicken Will Change Your Life!

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 @ 11:32 AM


Happy Friday! Do you know why I most look forward to Fridays??? If I’m lucky. If I bat my eyelashes at exactly the right moment. If I catch a certain Dad just right. I might get to have some BBQ for lunch. It’s a good thing.

I always wake up on Friday mornings with a drool soaked pillow… dreams of smoked chicken sandwiches!

I don’t know if you saw the magic yesterday. Happy Belated Valentines Day! I was taken on the best shopping spree in the history of shopping sprees.

At lunch, in the glamorous Red Robin where I ate an entire blue cheese burger with french fries, I was given a Visa Gift Card and told we were going shopping!!

But where?

We pulled into the Gilroy Outlet Mall made a very predictable right turn and before I knew it we were parked in front of the Volcom, Lucky Brand and smashed between them was Le Creuset.

It’s the honest truth… Maren Made a B-Line! And now I am the proud owner of a 5 quart, Rosemary colored French Oven!!

My Geek and I were so excited about it we had to make something in it. I had a basketball game (which was amazing and we won!) but I left him with the recipe, my new Oven who we appropriately named Louis, and a shopping list. I got to leave and come back to a delicious French Oven dinner.


Walnut Creek Chicken.

Makes 6-8 servings. Takes 1 1/2 hours cook time. 10 minutes prep.

This recipe is taken from the Le Creuset Website.



  • 1 quart canned or homemade tomato sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (Mexican or Mediterranean), crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed (see note)
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 to 5 pounds chicken thighs (or a combination of thighs and legs), skinned but left on the bone
  • Cooked brown, Basmati, Texmati or Jasmine Rice (for serving)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients but the chicken and rice in the round oven and stir to blend. Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with a paper towel. Add the chicken to the pan and spoon the sauce over the pieces. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Note: For even more flavor, toast cumin seed in the dry French oven (before cooking the chicken). Place the pan over medium heat, add the seeds, and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the cumin seed slightly darkens. Remove and grind in a spice grinder, then use this in the recipe.


I’m sort of in-love with this recipe. And I went to bed crying a little because there was only 1 chicken thigh leftover.

My Geek had the great idea to pre-heat Louis a little on the stove. It cut off about 20 minutes of cook time.

Also we were thinking that this recipe would go from easy to stupid-easy if we used our favorite spaghetti sauce instead of the plain tomato sauce and spices.


Since I’m learning to cook all Top Chef University style I had a great idea that will make this recipe pop! I totally feel like someone who knows what they’re doing… Anyways, season the chicken thighs with a little salt, pepper and evoo before you add them to the oven.

Just do it and tell me how it goes!! I think you’ll be pretty satisfied.


Tell Me About You! I Want To Know…

What did you do for Valentines Day?


Do you have a Dutch Oven and what is your favorite thing to cook in it? Please include the recipe!!


What was the best gift you have ever gotten in your life?

I loved my little pink bike with streamers when I was 4.

Do you like cheetos?

yes! The puffy ones.

Tags: Dutch Oven, delicious, Maren, Top Chef University

How do you say Happy Valentines Day in French?

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 @ 07:52 PM


Le Creuset!

I was surprised by a very special Geek and taken on a shopping spree to Le Creuset in Gilroy, CA. Don’t I have the best Geek-Squad?!

DSCN2334 DSCN2335

I hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day ladies, and gentlemen. Have loads of fun with your honeys!!

Tags: Maren

Roasted Root Veggies with Honey and Crumbly Cheese

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 @ 05:54 PM

I’m happy to read your comments and know that (thankfully) I’m not the only person who had never roasted a whole chicken before. It’s actually quite common, like brunettes. ;-)

Just kidding… chalk that comment up to years of laughing at blonde jokes.

Photo 2

Last night, when I made this yummy recipe I learned what a parsnip is. And it’s not a tuber-like veggie that looks sort of like a radish (which is how I described them yesterday morning). They look like white carrots.

I’m obsessed with roasting veggies. I love them the Ina Garten way with evoo, salt and pepper. This recipe from Top Chef University is a little more glamorous. I was a little bit intimidated and worried I’d mess it up. But that’s why I’m cooking through TCU. To learn how to cook new things and expand my culinary knowledge.

Bring me my honey and crumbly cheese!

Photo 3 

Roasted Root Veggies with Honey and Crumbly Blue Cheese

Makes 4 servings. Is tasty enough to eat as your entire meal.


  • 4 carrots, peeled and split lengthwise
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and split
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3-4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scatter the peeled and cut vegetables onto a roasting tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with honey then roast in the pre-heated oven 45-55 minutes until everything is nicely caramelized.

Serve with another drizzle of honey and scattered with crumbled blue cheese.

Photo 5

Some roasting tips that I didn’t know and are brilliant!

Cut your veggies about the same size

Go longer at a lower heat for a more thorough cook through. Normally, I roast at 425 for about 20 minutes. These babies roasted at 350 for 50 minutes.

If you’re going to add cheese, do it at the very very end or after you remove the tray from the oven.

Photo 19 

So far this year there have been only a few recipes I can GUARANTEE I’ll actually make again…

Potato Leek Soup with Bacon | Grilled Mexican Street Corn | and now Roasted Root Veggies with Honey & Crumbly Blue Cheese!

Tags: cooking, learn cooking, cheese, recipes, delicious, roast, roasting, Maren, Top Chef University

The time I made a whole roasted chicken and freaked out.

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 @ 01:12 PM

I survived! I survived a culinary crisis.

When my Mom signed me up for Top Chef University last Christmas I instantly knew a few different things…

  1. I’d learn how hold a knife. Score!
  2. I’d finally learn how to chop an onion. YESS!
  3. And I knew I’d have to make a whole chicken. Which would mean sticking my hand into a chicken butt. Gross.

Double Gross.

Photo 38 Photo 40 Photo 42 Photo 43 Photo 31 Photo 44

But I whipped that chicken and showed it who’s boss… me!

Photo 46

Oven Roasted Chicken

Makes 1 whole chicken. Takes 1 hour and 30 minutes. Is easy.


  • 1 fresh whole chicken
  • 1/2 onion, rough chopped
  • 1 whole head of garlic, halved
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before roasting. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper and stuff with the onion, garlic, lemon and herbs. Tuck the wings behind the breasts. Drizzle the outside of the chicken with olive oil and season again with salt and pepper. Place the chicken into a roasting pan fitted with a rack and place in the hot oven and cook for 25 minutes on the high heat before reducing the oven temperature to 350. Continue to roast for another 25 to 45 minutes depending on the size of your bird at 350 degrees F — so it’s total cook time of about an hour.

When cooked through, the internal temperature between the thigh and breast should read 165 degrees F. Allow the chicken to rest before carving.

Photo 17

If you know you’ll have a 23 minute conniption that includes crying while getting up the nerve to remove the neck and guts from the chicken, You’ll need to add to the prep time. Unfortunately.

I cried.

Photo 20(1)

The good news? This chicken is absolutely moist and tasty. And once you get done taking the heart and liver out of the chicken you’ll forget all about it and be really happy eating your chicken.

I’d add some bbq sauce for dipping…. just an idea.

Photo 27

I used some leftover Stubbs Sweet Heat from this recipe. One of my life mottos is ‘everything is better slathered in bbq sauce’.

Photo 1

Tell Me About You!!! I Want To Know…

Have you ever cried while cooking something?


What is the best type of M&M?

The peanut butter ones!!! HOLY MOSES!

Tags: cooking, learn cooking, chicken, roasting, Maren, Top Chef University

Top Chef University has drove me to Meal Plan!

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 @ 02:58 PM

Happy new week friends.

I had a few cool posts this weekend that you might have missed:

Just don’t want you to think I cheated you by posting my SASSY sauce on a Saturday and you missed it because you were out having fun!!


The Meal Planning…

With all the cooking going on in my life I’ve decided I need to start planning my grocery store trips. Last week I went to the market every day, and twice I went two times. It was madness and the cashiers are starting to recognize me and they’re guessing what I’m making each night. It’s a little embarrassing.

I started the Meal Planning process by going on and searching through printable Meal Planners. I found a great one from Lyn Lloyd Designs and it was only $3.50. Total steal.

cooking techniques week 1 meal plan

Here it is. My week in all it’s cooking fabulocity. I’m going to be doing these every Sunday to get ready for the week and I’ll be posting them on my new This Week’s Meal Plan page. I already have at least half the ingredients for these recipes so I’ve only included the things I actually have to buy in the Shopping List portion.

Pretty handy. Perfect for blogging and perfect for taking a hard copy to the market.

A little blog maintenance!

I wanna do a quick little shout out to my Geek! He did some major Maren’s Morsels blog work this weekend. He fixed my commenting problems. Now I get your comments in my inbox and I’m able to send you an email in reply! My Geek also made all my permalinks pretty by removing the index.php and the year/month in all my blog’s addresses. YOU ROCK GEEK AND I HEART YOU!!!

I added my social network buttons to the top right corner of my banner. Just know they’re up there. Do you like ‘em?

And as of today (sometime) my Top Chef University Page will be all updated with links to the posts/recipes I’ve covered. Also my Recipage will have all the recipes in it.

Wheew. I’m also doing laundry and trying to get caught up on all my chores. Mondays are for catching-up!



Do you meal plan? What are your tips for a new-to-meal-planning person like me?

What are you eating for lunch today?

I’m hungry and we’re not going for another 5 minutes!!! Help me out. I need a little more drool in my life.

Tags: meal plan, Maren, Top Chef University

Breakfast Bagel Sandwiches, the muy caliente version

Posted by Maren Kennedy on Sun, Feb 10, 2013 @ 12:44 PM

I might get in trouble for writing this blog post. It's not a Top Chef University recipe. It's not one of the video tutorials. And it's definitely not a lesson. But, I made them this morning and they were the most tasty breakfast sandwich in the history of sandwiches, so I simply HAD to share them. 

Don’t you love me? I break rules for you!!

Photo 22

This morning I sat up in bed looked at Donner, who was trying to eat my favorite decorative pillow, and said,  “BREAKFAST SANDWICHES”.

He barked at me and went back to chewing. He didn’t get a breakfast sandwich.

Photo 20

Here’s what you need for 2 Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches (spicy):

  • 2 bagels, I like plain or seeded
  • 3-4 slices of thick cut premium peppered bacon
  • 2 fried eggs with the yolks broken
  • 2 slices pepper jack cheese

Photo 23 Photo 14

There are 2 keys to making breakfast sandwiches that make or break the experience for me. Actually I lied there’s 3.

First, I must get the ingredients at the market early Sunday morning. There is no better time to be in the grocery store. Don’t be all organized, plan ahead and hit the market Friday afternoon. Ambiance is half the breakfast bagel sandwich experience.

Second, I always fry the eggs in the bacon grease and break the yolks. I hate it when runny yolk squirts out onto my hands.

Third, I have to get the uuber thick, premium bacon. Just do it and don’t think about it.

Photo 19

I like to melt the cheese under the broiler. And I always put the cheese between the egg and the bacon. The cheese is the glue.

Donner is totally pouting because he wishes he had a sandwich too. I told him “that’s what happens when I have a brilliant idea and you bark at me”.

He’s glaring at me, right now!


How do you make breakfast sandwiches?

Do you ever go grocery shopping early in the morning?

Would you rather have bacon or sausage at breakfast?

Tags: bacon, Maren, breakfast