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Cookin' with WWF heat
By RITA DEMONTIS -- Toronto Sun

If you can stand the heat, get into the wrestling ring.

It's easy enough with a real smackdown of a cookbook called Can You Take The Heat? -- The WWF Is Cooking! (Regan Books, $39.50), written with a savoury pen by none other than Jim "J.R." Ross, longtime announcer and the "voice" of the World Wrestling Federation.

Jim Ross and Debra cook up a storm.
J.R., who's been in the wrestling industry for more than 25 years, has teamed up with a whole cast of mat characters to create a surprisingly good cookbook with recipes that are fun, funny and easy to create.

The book is full of snippets and tidbits concerning the superstars of the wrestling scene -- like the secret ingredient in The Rock's famous rock-bottom pancakes (bananas) and the foods responsible for making Chyna the "Ninth Wonder of the World" (jalapenos).

"The thing is you don't have to love cooking to enjoy the book," says J.R., during an interview. "And it shows our WWF superstars in a different vein. When we initially set out to create this cookbook, we really didn't know what we were going to get. But we were pleasantly surprised.

"I have a close relationship with the talent and I know them quite well from a non-character perspective."

The recipes were thoroughly researched and strenuously tested, and reflect the different personalities of the wrestlers, says J.R., whose book is peppered with many of his own family's favourites. "I have wonderful memories of my own late mother's recipes. I found many of them in her own handwriting carefully preserved in between the pages of the family Bible. Plus my wife's Italian heritage is celebrated in this book as well."

Stone Cold offers several favourites including his Stone-Cold Texas toast that even put a smile on his face. And then there are goodies from The Hardy Boyz, The Undertaker, Trish and her Tasty Trish-Kebabs, Rikish's rump roast (for obvious reasons) and more. The recipes are easy to follow and the preface to each recipe offers a tidbit of harmless gossip and a chuckle or two.

And you don't have to be a WWF fan to appreciate the book, although by the time you're through reading it, you probably will be!



UNDERTAKER'S TURKEY AND SPINACH TETRAZZINI

Here's a meal that always makes the famous Mortician happy. Which is something you always want this awesome superstar to be! You can substitute chicken for turkey. Add a nice salad and you're ready to dine.

8 oz. spaghetti, broken into 4-inch lengths
Salt to taste
2 cups cooked turkey, diced
2 9-oz packages frozen creamed spinach, thawed
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups grated
Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling, salted water until tender. Drain thoroughly, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.

2. In a large bowl, mix spaghetti, turkey, creamed spinach, ricotta cheese, tomatoes, garlic, 1 cup Parmesan cheese and reserved cooking liquid. Season with pepper.

3. Spread mixture into two 9-inch pie plates and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 minutes, or until top is light golden colour.

Serves 4 to 6.



J.R.'S MASHED POTATO MEAT LOAF

"There's no doubt in my mind that if I had a very special dinner with my three biggest heroes -- my dad, John Wayne and Mickey Mantle -- this would be the entree," says J.R. Adding small red potatoes with their skins left on give this stick-to-your-ribs dish great flavour.

1 12-oz jar homestyle gravy
1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups hot mashed potatoes
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Paprika, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine 1/2 cup gravy with beef, bread crumbs, onions, egg, salt and pepper. Place mixture into 8x4-inch loaf pan. Bake one hour.

2. Carefully drain fat from pan and discard.

3. Spread hot mashed potatoes over top and sides of meat loaf. Drizzle melted butter over potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake an additional 20 minutes; let stand five minutes.

4. In the meantime, heat remaining gravy and serve with meat loaf slices.

Serves 6.



J.R. AND JAN ROSS' AWESOME OSSO BUCCO

"I don't suppose I'll ever be on death row and have to request a last meal," says J.R. "But folks, let me tell you -- this (recipe) is completely off the page. Wrestlemania level. Daddy like!"

3/4 cup flour
Salt, pepper to taste
8 2-inch thick veal shanks (6 to 8 lbs. total)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes, drained
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups beef broth
Zest of 1 lemon

3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Season flour with salt and pepper and dredge veal shanks through. Shake off any excess flour.

2. Heat oil and butter in a large, flameproof casserole or Dutch oven and sear veal over medium-high heat. Brown well on both sides. Transfer veal to paper towels to drain.

3. Add onions, garlic, basil and oregano to casserole and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add wine, then raise heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

5. Return veal shanks to casserole and add beef broth to cover meat. Transfer casserole to oven and bake, covered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove lid and bake until veal is very tender, about another 30 minutes. Add half lemon zest and half parsley and cook additional 10 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with remaining lemon and parsley.

Serves 4 to 5.



MCMAHON'S MILLIONAIRE PIE

"I seriously doubt Mr. McMahon has ever rolled up his sleeves and sauntered, chest out, into the kitchen to make this pie," offers J.R. "However, this is a family favourite and rumour has it Mr. McMahon once fired a chef for not using Eagle Brand milk." Duly noted!

1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup crushed pineapple,
undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
1 12-oz. can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. carton Cool Whip
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 premade graham cracker crust

1. Mix together first 7 ingredients and pour into crust. Cover with waxed paper and chill one hour or overnight.

Serves 8.



THE ROCK'S FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

These are true Wrestlemania cookies, although if you eat enough of them, you'll certainly not look like the famous Rock!

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups quick oatmeal, blended to a fine powder in a food processor or blender
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 8-oz Hershey bar, grated

1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or mixture)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cream butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Blend in flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add chocolate chips, grated chocolate and nuts.

2. Roll dough into 3/4- to 1-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until browned to suit.

Makes about 4 to 5 dozen cookies.



DEBRA'S MERLOT SORBET

Debra loves a nice glass of Merlot every now and then, and this adult recipe from the blond beauty is magnificent.

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups Merlot

1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan and heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in wine and set mixture aside to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, loosely covered, until mixture is chilled, about 2 to 3 hours.

2. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. If you don't have an ice- cream maker, put mixture in a shallow pan and place in freezer for 4 to 5 hours, stirring every hour until smooth. When slush-like, transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Can be served with seasonal fruit.

Makes 5 cups.

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