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TMCNet:  Former 'Food Network Star' contestant Martie Duncan presents 'Party With Martie'

[February 27, 2013]

Former 'Food Network Star' contestant Martie Duncan presents 'Party With Martie'

Feb 28, 2013 (The Knoxville News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Adaptability is one of the greatest qualities a person can possess, and it's that trait that Martie Duncan has relied on throughout her life.

The former contestant of "Food Network Star Season 8 will be on the Women Today's Food City Cooking School stage this weekend to showcase why her website, Martie Knows Parties, is so popular." The Birmingham, Ala. resident has "made ends meet" doing everything from working as a police officer and selling wedding gowns to hosting a radio talk show in Chicago that focused on wedding planning. Her "Martie Knows Parties" content and video blog is currently affiliated with www.Myrecipes.com, but it was during her employment as an content developer for MSN.com that her life took a turn toward the culinary.

"I was trying to transition away from wedding planning when the folks at Microsoft suggested that I specialize in parties in general and make wedding planning a sidebar. "I said 'No problem.' They don't call me Martie with the Party for nothing,' " she said. So her focus turned to recipe development, decorating and offering "easy and affordable" party ideas.

"Every day someone is trying to hire me to host their parties but I'm not a caterer, I'm a virtual party planner," she said.

Duncan has always been the go-to person when friends need advice on hosting a party. It's a talent that comes easy to her, and she worries that the expectation that things must be flawless is ruining what was once casual gatherings between family and friends.

"I'm just afraid that Martha Stewart has intimidated a lot of people into thinking everything must be perfect. There shouldn't be a stigma attached to not entertaining beautifully. If you want to put out a cake and paper plates, that's fine. If you want to do it more elegantly, that's fine, too. Some of my best parties were out of the back of my car. My mission is to help people feel like they can host a party and do it comfortably," she said.

Perhaps unknowingly, it was Food Network star Guy Fieri who first planted a seed in Duncan's mind to consider breaking into the Food Network entertainment business.

"While working with MSN.com I was asked to participate in the Atlanta Metropolitan Cooking Show. The pay was just barely covering my expenses so I booked a cheap hotel to save money. On my way there I asked my assistant, 'Who are we going to meet in that cheap hotel Will anybody from Food Network be there No.' So at the last minute we changed hotels," she said.

Five minutes after checking into the pricier establishment, someone tapped her on the shoulder.

"It was Guy Fieri. He asked me if I could tell him how to get to Buckhead. I told him to get a cab. He said 'Gee, you sure are helpful.' We chatted a few minutes and he asked me why I didn't have a show on Food Network because I had the personality for it," she said.

That nudge just might have been the inspiration for Duncan driving to Chicago to try out for "Food Network Star." "I was on the Food Network website and saw their ad about tryouts for "Food Network Star." It was being held the next day in Chicago. I knew the city because I had lived there so I got in my car and started driving. I barely got there in time for the audition." She was invited to a follow-up interview the following day and was told to bring a prepared dish.

"I was staying in a hotel and needed a kitchen. I couldn't get in touch with any of my friends that lived in town, so I called Whole Foods and even talked to the folks at the hotel restaurant about using their kitchen. They all said no because of insurance liability. I was on my way to Target to get a burner and a pot to cook something very simple in the room like a one-pot boil (low country boil) when I passed a fire station on Michigan Avenue. I asked the cab to stop. I ran in and told them why I needed to borrow their kitchen. The guy said 'With an accent like that you can get anything you want, you just have to cook lunch for 25 to 30 firemen.' So I made enough to feed them and to take to the audition," she said.

Contestants had to present their culinary point of view that would be used during the show if they were selected as a participant. Her platform was "Martie with the Party," offering affordable and simplified ways to host a party. Those are the same principles she'll share during her demonstrations.

"I'm there to meet people, make friends and share a little bit about what I know. I want my ideas to be easy, affordable and something someone would want to do again. I think it's important that people be comfortable with entertaining at home," she said.

She will be preparing the following recipes.

Salad in a Jar: Layered Spinach & Fruit Salad with Poppyseed Dressing Yields 6 servings INGREDIENTS 1 (9-ounce) package of fresh baby spinach leaves, wash and remove stems 1 (16-ounce) container fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and sliced 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin orange slices, drained 2 cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped 1 (6-ounce) container Belle and the Bee Breakfast goat cheese by Belle Chevre (or if you cannot find it, make your own by swirling honey into goat cheese to make it creamy and slightly sweet) Poppyseed Dressing recipe (below), or your favorite dressing DIRECTIONS 1 Start by spooning about 2-3 tablespoons of dressing into the bottom of a pint-sized jar, enough so you can see the layer of dressing.

2 Next, add about 1 1/2 cups of the spinach leaves. Layer the strawberry slices around the outside of the jar and work your way in so they look pretty. Do the same with the orange slices. Next, add the walnuts and top with a thin layer of the goat cheese.

3 Secure the lid and chill until serving time.

Note: If you are going to prep the day before your event, you probably should add the dressing (recipe below) just before serving so everything doesn't get soggy. But you can prep up to four hours before with the dressing in the bottom of this recipe and you'll be fine. Just keep the jars chilled on ice, in the fridge, or in a cooler.

Poppyseed Dressing INGREDIENTS 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon honey 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice 1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon sugar 1/8 cup sweet white onion, like a Vidalia, chopped 1/2 cup plain yogurt (some people prefer mayo instead) 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil 3/4 teaspoon poppyseeds a bit of water to thin, if required DIRECTIONS 1 Add everything but the oil and poppyseeds to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth and there is no trace of the onion. Reduce to the lowest speed and stream in the vegetable oil.

2 Turn off the blender and add the poppyseeds. If you find it too thick (which I love for fruit) you can thin with a bit of water. I use an immersion blender for this recipe. It's fast and easy to clean up.

Fish in Parchment with Citrus Reduction Yields 6 servings Ingredients 6 fish filets/steaks, preferably grouper 2 lemons 2 limes 3 teaspoons olive oil 2 teaspoons salt, divided 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar 1 teaspoon honey 3 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley Zest of 1/2 lemon 1 clove garlic, minced DIRECTIONS 1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Juice 1 lemon and 1 lime and set aside.

2 Cut six parchment paper squares, large enough to fold into a package around the filets.

3 Slice 1 lemon and 1 lime into very thin slices. Place a few lemon and lime slices in the center of each parchment square. Place a fish filet on top. (The citrus will help to keep the fish from burning on the bottom.) 4 In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon each lemon and lime, juices and drizzle over fish. Top each piece of fish with a few slices of lemon and lime.

5 Tightly fold the parchment paper into packages and make sure they are sealed well. Put packages on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.

6 Put remaining citrus juices in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce by 1/2 , stirring frequently. Add 1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and honey.

7 Mix the lemon zest, parsley, garlic together with a slight pinch of salt and pepper for the garnish.

8 Place each parchment packet on a plate with a rim. Carefully tear or cut open the parchment packets and drizzle the fish with a teaspoon of the citrus reduction and garnish with the parsley and lemon zest mixture.

-- Food City Cooking School Schedule FRIDAY: 10:45 a.m.: News Sentinel food writer Mary Constantine 12:25 p.m.: George Ewart, Dead End Barbecue 3:25 p.m.: TLC's Next Great Baker Heather Grubb SATURDAY: 10:20 a.m.: Greg Eisle, UT Culinary Institute 12:10 p.m.: Martie Duncan, "Martie Knows Parties" blogger and former contestant on "Food Network Star" 2 p.m.: Hanah Curlee and Olivia Ward former contestants on NBC's "Biggest Loser" 3:50 p.m: Martie Duncan, "Martie Knows Parties" blogger and former contestant on "Food Network Star" SUNDAY: 1:50 p.m.: Martie Duncan, "Martie Knows Parties" blogger and former contestant on "Food Network Star" 3:20 p.m.: Brian Sonoskus, executive chef of Tupelo Honey Cafe ___ (c)2013 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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