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Melissa D'Arabian Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Melissa D'ArabianMelissa D'Arabian, season five winner of Food Network Star, is the host of the hit Food Network show Ten Dollar Dinners. Now in her second season, Melissa continues to share delicious dinner ideas for 4 people under $10. This mom of four knows all the great tricks to a perfect Easter! Melissa shares festive ideas for decorating cupcakes, unique tips on dyeing Easter eggs, tried-and-true tricks to perfect hard-boiled eggs, and great ways to customize that typical Easter ham with delectable glazes. Visit Food Network for videos, recipes, and ideas!

For Easter brunch, Melissa feels it's important to utilize those hard-boiled eggs you are making for Easter decorating. So, whether it's what to do with the ones that have cracked or what to do with the leftover, she has a few great brunch options:
* Egg And Roasted Garlic Cream Cheese Baguette
* Asparagus With Tangy-Smoky Dressing

I had a chance to speak with Melissa D'Arabian about food, Easter, and the Ten Dollar Dinners television show.

What are some of your favorite low-cost Easter dinner tips for a large family gathering?

Melissa D'Arabian:
Here's one of my favorite tricks. The whole thing when you're entertaining is you don't want to feel like you're eating on a budget and more importantly you don't want everyone else to feel nervous about eating too much because there's not enough food. I don't want anyone to walk away from my table hungry or kind of stretched, thinking "I'd better not take too much because I don't know if there's enough for everybody." That's just something I never want to deal with as a hostess. So, if you're finding yourself in that situation then you need to change your menu and make it a less expensive menu so you can have plenty of it.

Ok, here are a couple of ideas. One is find a way to work beans into your appetizer. You're going to say "What? That's the craziest thing ever. How can I work beans into my appetizer?" But you absolutely can. You could do a white bean or a black bean hummus, with some day old bread and make some nice olive oil brushed toasts out of it. Or you could do a white bean bruschetta, you know - a bunch of white beans maybe sauteed up with a little bit of garlic and a little bit of onion, maybe deglazed with a little bit of white wine with some herbs, and maybe put in one chopped tomato for the whole big bowl to give it that kind of bruschetta feel. Here's the thing. When people are eating beans in your appetizer - since beans are so cheap if you buy them dried and make them yourself they're so, so cheap, I mean pennies for an entire bowl of beans - you will be amazed that everyone will be so full from having such a nice hearty protein that when it comes to your sit-down meal people are going to eat a lot less and they're going to feel really satisfied.

Now. does that mean you're going to have a skimpy meal? No. But the point is to have a lot of something that's really cheap so that you don't have to have people say "Oh my gosh, I had four servings of roast beef because I was so hungry when I sat down I didn't know what to do with myself. People will just automatically eat less and they're going to feel satisfied. They're going to remember the fabulous roast beef, they're not going to be saying "Oh my gosh, she tricked me by eating white beans and filling me up." So, working beans into your appetizer or if you do an Italian food. At Italian restaurants they have those sauteed cannellinis. They're really expensive at an Italian restaurant, but they're beans. They're dried beans. They couldn't be cheaper to make, but they feel really elegant and creamy. So, work beans into your appetizer. That always will lower your bill.

Here's another thing about entertaining, another trick. If you can, try to cut your protein into smaller pieces. For instance, if you're carving a turkey or carving a ham - instead of each ham slice having to be this big, huge slab of ham, cut those pieces into two or three. That way people can have as much as they want but they will probably take a smaller piece, start with that, and then go back for more, if they want to, from the main platter. Because remember if you give someone a big slice of ham and it goes on their plate and they get halfway through it and they can't finish it, then that ham is now trash. If, on they other hand, they take one half that piece of ham from the main platter and the other half that piece of ham is on the main platter, well now that's leftovers. So set yourself up for success in making sure that any extra food remains leftovers, not trash.

Thank you, those are great ideas.

Melissa D'Arabian:
You sound surprised.

I sound surprised because the beans I'd never thought of. Very cool. Anyway, for each episode of Ten Dollar Dinners that airs, how long to you have to spend beforehand putting together the menu, testing the recipes, and adding the prizes up to make sure it all comes out?

Melissa D'Arabian:
It takes a fair amount of work. Actually being on TV is sort of the icing on the cake at the end of the whole affair. It's really about the work that goes into it. I generally do the whole season at once. I don't break it out week-by-week in terms of when I am doing it. I will spend several weeks developing the recipes, combining my recipe ideas into show ideas, and work with my executive producer to come up with what we think is a good cohesive show that makes sense for the time of year it's airing - lots of factors that go into that. That process takes maybe a week or two. Then I am testing all my recipes and writing them, because all my recipes are in my head because it's what I make for my family. So I go back and say "what do I put in that?" because these recipes come from the recipes I make at home. Then there's the whole typing that up and then retesting it and then pricing it out, that's a whole next step. To prepare for a whole season, which is thirteen episodes, we start about two months before I start shooting. That's not 40 hours a week, but it's between 10 and 30 hours a week. A few solid weeks of work and then we shoot about a show and a half in a day. So it takes about three weeks for me to shoot an entire season.

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