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Four-Star Meal From Food Network Star

Claire Robinson left a career in corporate America behind to follow her true calling.

Turns out it was a good move.

These days, she's the host of not one, but two Food Network Shows, "5 Ingredient Fix" and "Food Network Challenge."

And now, another career milestone: Claire accepted "The Early Show Saturday Edition""s "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge and tried to make a standout three course meal for four on our paltry budget of $40.

Not on that - her chef's hat was automatically entered into our "How Low Can You Go?" competition, in which the "Shoestring" chef with the lowest ingredients cost gets invited back to cook our year-end holiday feast!

"Early Show" Recipes Galore!

• Mixed Green Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
• Buttermilk Pecan Chicken
• Minted Squash Orzo with Feta
• Mini Strawberry Mascarpone Tarts


Raspberries: Considered by many the most intensely flavored member of the berry family, the raspberry is composed of many connecting drupelets surrounding a central core. There are three main varieties - black, golden and red, the latter being the most widely available. Depending on the region, red raspberries are available pretty much year-round, with the peak season from May through September. Choose brightly colored, plump berries sans hull. If the hulls are still attached, the berries were picked too early and will undoubtedly be tart. Avoid soft, shriveled or moldy berries. Store in a moisture proof container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)

Orzo: Tiny, rice shaped pasta, often used in soups. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)

Squash: Squash varies widely in size, shape and color. Generally, they're divided into two categories - summer squash and winter squash. Winter squash have hard, thick skins and seeds. The deep yellow to orange flesh is firmer than that of summer squash and therefore requires longer coking. Winter squash varieties include acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti and turban. Winter squash is best from early fall through the winter. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)

Feta: One of the world's oldest cheeses, feta has been made in Greece and other Balkan countries for centuries. Though traditionally made of sheep's or goat's milk, today large commercial producers often use cow's milk. Because it's cured and stored in brine, feta is often referred to as pickled cheese. White, crumbly and rindless, feta is usually pressed into square cakes. It has a rich, tangy flavor, contains from 45 to 60 percent milk fat and can range in texture from semisoft to semihard. (Source: Food Lover's Companion)


Greens with Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh raspberries, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pomegranate juice, plus more, if needed
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups mixed greens, washed and dried


Put the raspberries, mustard and pomegranate juice into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream, until a smooth emulsified dressing has formed. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste. (If the dressing is too thick, add another tablespoon of juice.)

Place half of the dressing in the bottom of a large chilled salad bowl and top with mixed greens. Toss when ready to serve and garnish salad with additional raspberries.

Note: Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Buttermilk Pecan Chicken

2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place each chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and gently flatten with a meat mallet or heavy flat object to an even 1/3-inch thick.

In a shallow bowl add the chicken and the buttermilk. Cover and marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, pulse pecans until finely ground. Transfer the pecans to a large rimmed dish and add the panko bread crumbs. Mix to combine well.

Remove marinated chicken breasts from buttermilk and shake off excess. Dip chicken in breading mixture, evenly coating both sides.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil. Add breaded breasts and shallow fry about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden in color. Remove from oil to and drain on paper towels. Immediately season with salt and pepper and place on a serving platter of individual dishes.

Serve it with a yummy salad for a super tasty meal. Enjoy!

Minted Squash Orzo

1 cup dried orzo pasta
1/4 cup garlic flavored olive oil, divided
1 large yellow squash, about 8 ounces, quartered lengthwise and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the orzo and cook for 8 minutes; pasta will be slightly undercooked. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the orzo in a colander in the sink.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown and soften, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the cooked orzo and cooking water. Bring to a simmer and stir in 3/4 of the feta; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and mint.

Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle the remaining feta over the top and garnish with additional chopped mint.


Mini Strawberry Mascarpone Tarts

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 large strawberries, hulled and finely diced
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, whipped

Special equipment: 3-inch round cookie cutter, 2 identical sheet pans


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Have a second identical sheet pan and parchment sheet ready.

Stir the sugar and salt together and pour about half of it evenly onto a work surface. Unfold the puff pastry sheet and sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the top of the dough and press it a few times to adhere. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thickness of about 1/8 inch, turning and flipping the dough as you roll to incorporate the sugar into the dough and to keep it from sticking to the surface. With a 3-inch round cutter, cut out 12 dough rounds and transfer to the lined baking sheet; lay the other parchment sheet over the dough rounds and put the second sheet pan directly on top.

Weigh the top sheet pan down with a cast iron skillet or bricks. Transfer to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the top sheet pan and parchment and cool the crisp rounds completely on the pan.

Meanwhile, pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until thick and syrupy, about 4 minutes; it should still swirl in the pan. If too thick, simply add about a teaspoon of balsamic, stir, and remove from the heat.

Put the strawberries in a small bowl and pour the hot balsamic syrup over them and stir. Let stand 5 minutes. To assemble the tarts, spread about 2 teaspoons mascarpone on each crisp dough round with a spoon or small offset spatula. Using a spoon to drain any excess liquid, place about one tablespoon of diced strawberries on the top of each tart. Any extra balsamic syrup can be drizzled over the tarts, if desired. Serve immediately.

NOTE: The sugared dough scraps can be tossed with cinnamon and baked in the 400°F oven until browned and crisps as a treat for the little ones. Leftover strawberries or balsamic syrup is delicious over ice cream!

So, how did Claire fare in our "how Low Can You Go?" competition?

Raspberry Salad
raspberries $3.49
pomegranate juice $3.99
mixed greens $3.49
total $10.97

Pecan Chicken & Orzo
chicken breasts $3.49
buttermilk $1.99
pecans $2.99
panko $1.99
orzo pasta $1.25
garlic $.39
squash $2.31
feta $2.69
mint $1.29
total $18.39

Strawberry Tarts
puff pastry $1.99
strawberries $2.49
mascarpone $4.59
total $9.07

Grand total: $38.43

Our Leaders Board:

1. Kelly Liken $37.20
Restaurant Kelly Liken

2. Stephen Kalt $37.40

3. Bethenny Frankel $37.69
"The Skinnygirl Dish"

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