Taste of Home Cooking School culinary specialist Dana Elliott talks to the crowd during the cooking school Tuesday at the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium at Madison Consolidated High School. Audience members received gift bags as they arrived at the event. The doors opened at 6 p.m., but a line started forming at 3 p.m. for those wishing to get seats up front. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Taste of Home Cooking School culinary specialist Dana Elliott talks to the crowd during the cooking school Tuesday at the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium at Madison Consolidated High School. Audience members received gift bags as they arrived at the event. The doors opened at 6 p.m., but a line started forming at 3 p.m. for those wishing to get seats up front. (Staff photos by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
About 700 people packed the Opal E. Sherman Auditorium at Madison Consolidated High School on Tuesday night to watch cooking demonstrations, hear cooking tips and possibly find a new favorite recipe during the Taste of Home Cooking School.

A line began to form for the sold-out show, sponsored by The Madison Courier and MainSource Bank, hours before the event.

A group of women from Kentucky and Georgia set up outside the high school to be the first to choose their seats as organizers worked to transform the auditorium stage into a kitchen for the biennial event. One of the 10 women began saving the group's spot shortly after 3 p.m.

"We did have chairs out, but we put them away," Linda Liter of Bedford, Ky., said, noting the group wanted to be ready when the doors did open. "We want a front row seat."

Liter expected to take a few new recipes home to try just as she did the first time she attended the cooking school. Tuesday's show was her second.

Charlotte Meadows enjoyed the shows so much over the years that she's been to several as well.

"I've been to about every one (of the shows)," she said.

For others, it was their first time to the Taste of Home Cooking School. Terri Reese, Kaitlyn Reese and Taylor Reese of Georgia came as part of a group of friends while on vacation.

Others in the group - including Whitney Boatman, Chris Boatman, Carol Boatman, Marla Fetterhoff and Donna Goolsby - looked forward to the cooking tips, but were especially excited for the gift bags and the door prizes.

Once the doors opened, the auditorium filled as cooks of varying skill levels prepared to learn new recipes while awaiting the announcements of door prize winners throughout the event.

Taste of Home Cooking School Culinary Specialist Dana Elliott began the show by energizing the crowd just as she has during her other appearances in Madison.

"I'm back, just like the poltergeist," Elliott joked at the beginning of the two-and-one-hour show.

Amid laughs, Elliott began the first of 10 recipes which included the raspberry barbecue sauce, chicken paillard with cherry sauce and parsley rice, Bud Light Lime creamy jalapeno soup, stuffed baby red potatoes, mango lime pie, Italian sausage pot stickers, French onion pizza au gratin, spicy gazpacho salad, mushroom turkey burgers and pineapple upside-down cupcakes.

A few of the recipes - like the soup - allowed Elliott to share a few cooking tips and techniques during preparation.

"What I want to get across to you is beer is not just for drinking," she said, noting the alcohol content would be boiled out of the soup making the dish a family-friendly recipe.

She also noted the healthy option of frozen fruit in the mango lime pie.

"They're still good for you even if they aren't fresh," Elliott said.

Elliott shared prior to the event that the audience makes the event fun time after time, even though any live event might be a little spontaneous every once in a while.

"It's live, anything can happen," she said.

Just like cooking at home, the show had a few "substitutions" to the delight of many in the audience. Instead of following the recipe exactly as printed, Elliott missed a step to fold the whipped cream into the mango lime mixture for the pie.

Instead of worrying about the error, Elliott created a layered no-bake pie - and another teaching moment.

"Do what you want," Elliott said of the recipes. "Do what you feel."

Even though the recipes have been tested doesn't mean that the recipe is perfect for everyone. Most recipes are easy to prepare and don't feature complicated preparation work or descriptions, she said, which allows for minor tweaks without reworking the entire recipe.

In fact, Elliott attributed the success of the Taste of Home Cooking Schools to the ease of the recipes and the recognition of the user-friendly Taste of Home magazine.

"The magazine speaks to them in many ways," she said before the show. "(The ingredients are) probably things they already have in their pantry."