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The path to success is often strewn with disaster, especially if you're an aspiring cook.

"I set the kitchen on fire when I was 14, while pan-frying a steak," said Marcy Smothers of Glen Ellen. "I was grounded from cooking for a month."

But that didn't stop this intrepid "food explorer" from continuing to chop and sear her way through classic cookbooks like Irma S. Rombauer's "The Joy of Cooking."

"Coming here in 1990 to Sonoma County was so inspiring," she said. "Like anything else, you get better with time."

In 2006, the TV producer turned radio personality joined forces with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to host "The Food Guy and Marcy Show."

That show, which aired on KZST and 15 other stations for two and a half years, was recently recycled by Smothers into a fun, breezy cookbook packed with tips, trivia and recipes from her own kitchen.

"Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle," set for release on May 7, grew out of a series of "snacks," or short bites, that Smothers and Fieri recorded to promote their show.

"I wanted them to be legitimate tips," she said. "They were meant to tide you over ... and really make you stay tuned in during breaks."

Written in the form of a riddle or question, the recipes for "snacks" reveal everything from how artichokes resemble a dog's toy (they both squeak) to how to crack an egg (on a flat surface rather than a sharp edge).

It was Smothers' close friend John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, who first suggested she write down the humorous tips.

"These are so good, they should be in a book," he told her. "And I'm going to take full credit."

The idea really took off after Smothers had lunch with cookbook author Mollie Katzen, who introduced her to her literary agent.

"Snacks" was sold to Harper Collins in July 2011, and Smothers started working on the cookbook in earnest in January 2012. She had been raising her two children with her husband, comedian Tom Smothers, but this was the first time that she felt like a real, working mom.

"For seven months, I did nothing but write, and it was very intense," she said. "It felt like a thesis because some of it is very scientific."

Luckily, she already had a collection of 200 cookbooks and a mind that naturally meandered to the next meal.

"On my run in the morning, I'm thinking about what I'm having for dinner," she said. "And I go to the market almost every day."

At the urging of Fieri, she went to boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, to learn how to develop her own original recipes.

"I had to learn to think differently," she said. "I'm not a food expert or a chef. I'm a home cook."

Smothers also tapped local resources like chef/owner Gary Chu of Osake in Santa Rosa and Sake O in Healdsburg, who helped her develop this sushi "snack": "What can a dead man teach you about tuna?"

"Rigor mortis," Smothers said. "You don't want to cook fish as soon as it's caught. The best flavor is a few days later, post-rigor mortis."

Smothers organized her "snacks" into 15 supermarket aisles that correlate with 50 easy and approachable recipes. Some of her favorites came about when she was under pressure.

"Produce and fish and meat were easy," she said. "But tea and bread got harder."

All the recipes were tested by Maxine Bloom of Santa Rosa, who also tests recipes for Napa Valley chef Cindy Pawlcyn.

The playful illustrations were created by Santa Rosa artist Sheryl Chapman, whose graphic posters adorn the walls of Rosso Pizzeria in Santa Rosa.

"The look I wanted was mid-century chic," Smothers said. "I love James Beard's 'Fireside Cook Book.' "

Of course, the foreword is written by her old friend and hiking buddy, Fieri.

"I call her the Marcinator because she is part woman and part machine," he writes. "I've never seen her in a situation she can't handle."

That kitchen fire? It barely ruffled her feathers.

"I very calmly walked upstairs and told my mom," she said. "Then she came and put some salt on it."

The following recipes are from Marcy Smothers' "Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle" (HarperOne, May 2013).

"Arnold Palmer made the beverage of half lemonade and half iced tea famous," she writes. "In this recipe, raspberry tea ice cubes slowly melt in the lemonade. Raspberry vodka gives the cocktail a blast of fruit and fun."

Raspberry Lemonade Mar-Tea-Ni

Makes 4 servings

2 raspberry tea bags

1 cup boiling water

Ice cube tray that makes 16 cubes

4 martini glasses, chilled in freezer

2 cups prepared lemonade

4 jiggers raspberry vodka (12 tablespoons0

Cocktail shaker

For raspberry tea ice cubes:

Add the tea bags to the boiling water. Steep until concentrated, about 30 minutes.

Pour the tea into the ice-cube tray and freeze. (It should take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how cold your freezer is.)

For the cocktail:

Remove the martini glasses and raspberry ice-tea cubes from the freezer. Place four raspberry tea ice cubes in each martini glass.

Put the lemonade and raspberry nodka in the shaker and mix well.

Pour evenly into the martini glasses, and serve immediately.

Postscript: For a nonalcoholic version, use a tall glass. Put eight raspberry tea ice cubes in each glassa dn fill with the lemonade.

"I took my son, Bo, to China when he was in the sixth grade," she writes. "We had a contest to see who would give in and eat Western food first. I lost. Bo's staple was fried rice. It's meant to be made with leftover rice, so plan accordingly. If you are making it for dinner tonight, make the rice as soon as possible, as it must be cold. For the char siu, I've never had success making it at home, so I buy an appetizer portion of sliced, BBQ pork from my local Chinese restaurant" (or G&G market).

Bo's Fried Rice

Makes 4 to 6 servings as side dish

1 tablespoon oil

? cup minced onions

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 cups cooked, long-grain rice, cold and best a day old

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 cup defrosted frozen peas and carrots

1 cup BBQ pork (about 8 ounces, cut into ?-inch dice)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in large skillet or wok. Be sure the cooking surface is completely coated.

When the oil is hot, add the onions. Saute them quickly until they are lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and stir frequently until they are starting to set, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and mix it well with the onion and eggs, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce, constantly moving the rice to blend and evenly color it. Add the carrots and peas, stirring all the time, about 3 minutes. Add the pork and continue stir-frying, about 1 minute.

Serve on a warm platter and sprinkle green onions on top.

Meat and vegetarian options: The Chinese often use sausage in their fried rice, so if you can't get BBQ pork, use Aidell's chicken and apple sausage or Aidell's pineapple and bacon sausage. Oyster sauce is readily available in the Asian section of supermarkets, but if you are omitting the pork to make a vegetarian version, look for "vegetable" oyster sauce, which is available at Asian stores and online.

"In a tribute to Kentucky and Burgoo's roots, I've included many of the traditional ingredients," she writes. "I've also added a Sonoma influence — wine! Burgoo can be cooked as long as 12 to 24 hours, but this version cooks in about three."

Sonoma Burgoo

Makes 10 to 12 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for veggies

1? pounds bone-in pork shoulder

1 pound beef chuck stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cups beef stock

1 onion, thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup hearty red wine

2 cups mini carrots

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups green beans, trimmed into bite-size pieces

2 ears of corn, kernels only

2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded

In Dutch oven or heavy pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Dredge the pork shoulder in flour and season with salt and pepper. Brown it on both sides, then remove and set aside. Dredge the stew meat in flour, season with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Reduce heat to low and add the onion. Cook 4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze pan, scraping the delicious bits of meat as you go. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring the mixture back to a simmer. Return the pork and beef to pan. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, roast the root veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the carrots and potatoes on a sheet pan. LIghtly coat them with olive oil. Roast 30 minutes, turning the veggies once halfway through. Set aside.

When the Burgoo has cooked two hours, turn off the heat. Remove the pork from the soup and cut it into bite-size pieces, discarding bones and fat. Set aside.

Stir the tomato paste into the soup. Add the pork, carrots potatoes, green beans, corn, and chicken to pot. Return to a simmer and cook uncovered 1 hour.

Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

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