Once upon a time, Cat Cora battled it out to win her title as Iron Chef on “Iron Chef America.” This was back in 2005, and she was the first and still the only female chef to do so. Perhaps that’s the thing she’s most known for, but that’s only a small part of what she’s accomplished in her career.
As young as age 15, Cat was already planning her restaurant, which wasn’t unusual. She was raised in Mississippi, the daughter and granddaughter to Greek restauranteurs. Both of those food cultures, Southern and Greek, influenced her as she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and launched her career as a world famous chef.
Cat has written three cookbooks and co-hosted several television shows on The Food Network, as well as the whirlwind Around The World in 80 Plates on Bravo. You’ll also find her restaurants at Disney World (Kouzzina), in three major airports (Cat Cora’s Kitchen), at Macy’s in Costa Mesa, California (CCQ), and most recently, Cat’s newest restaurant, The Ocean View, opened in Singapore. Cat also founded Chefs For Humanity after the 2004 tsunami disaster and serves as the charity’s president.
At home, Cat and her wife are the parents to four boys. I asked what that was like, and she said it’s pretty wild — in her words, a lot of “controlled chaos.” She and her wife, Jennifer, both grew up with brothers. Their family spends a lot of time outdoors, but her boys also love to spend time with her in the kitchen, helping and learning to cook. She’s on the road a lot of the year, but she will spend Thanksgiving with her family and a few other families for their traditional Thanksgiving and Turkey Cook-Off.
Some of Cat’s close friends and neighbors are gluten-free. This helped inspire her to develop some great gluten-free recipes that everyone could enjoy — not just those who are gluten free. She recently partnered with Pillsbury to create some gluten free Thanksgiving recipes, as well as other great everyday recipes using a new line of gluten-free refrigerated doughs. Her recipes reflect her “healthy gourmet” style.
In my interview with Cat, she said, “As a chef it is my responsibility to keep up with the industry and my customer base.” Even before she partnered with Pillsbury, she was already thinking of her gluten-free friends and customers by offering adaptations in her cookbooks and during her appearances, and on the menus of her restaurants. She said she is always “seeking out things that are delicious and convenient.”
For Cat’s Thanksgiving, she will be serving the traditional items, including a delicious White Chocolate Pecan Pie and the grilled and roasted turkeys from their cook-off. They like plenty of leftovers, she said. But she also is keeping her gluten-free friends in mind and said she’ll serve some of her new recipes for their enjoyment, including Stewed Green Beans with Gluten-Free Crumb Topping and Apple Cheddar Crumble. One recipe that really caught my eye is Cat’s Gluten-Free Toffee Pumpkin Pie. All of Cat Cora’s gluten-free recipes are available on Pillsbury.com.
Cat Cora’s Gluten-Free Toffee Pecan Pumpkin Pie
Toffee bits and pecan pieces update the traditional holiday pie to a 2-in-1 pie-lover’s delight.
Prep Time: 15 Min
Start to Finish: 1 Hr 15 Min
1/2 container (15.8 oz ) Pillsbury® Gluten Free pie and pastry dough
1/2 cup gluten-free toffee bits
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1. Heat oven to 375F. Roll 1/2 container pie crust between 2 pieces of waxed paper to 10-inch circle. Remove waxed paper; press into 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Flute edges of crust.
2. Sprinkle bottom of crust with toffee bits and pecans. In medium bowl, mix pumpkin, sugar, spice and salt until smooth. Add milk, cream and eggs; beat until mixture is smooth.
3. Pour into crust lined pie dish. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Refrigerate pie.
Recipe and photo used with permission courtesy of Pillsbury.com