Rachael Ray: Hey, Tracey! Thanks for taking a break from all the cooking to chat with me. So, what's it like in the test kitchen on a normal day?
Tracey Seaman: It can get really crazy. Our three-person kitchen staff cranks out around 15 recipes a day, since we test every dish in the magazine. After we prepare each one, we talk it out: Is it easy to make, can you pick up the ingredients in a supermarket and does it taste good?
RR: That's a lot of cooking...and eating. Now, this is a fridge after my own heart -- it's filled with cheese
TS: We always have a lot of parmigiano-reggiano on hand. We also keep a stock of cheddar, goat, mozzarella and Swiss cheeses in here because we use them all the time.
RR: Everything tastes better with cheese. I see bok choy and wonton wrappers in there, too. What are you making with them?
TS: I'm developing Samurai Soup for our "Family Matters" page. I combine chopped bok choy with ground pork and spices, then stuff the mixture in wonton skins. Kids love to help assemble the dumplings, and it's a fun way to get in a serving of leafy greens.
RR: Stick the healthy stuff in a dumpling -- works every time. Who's your little friend sitting on the fridge? She's got a great view of the action.
TS: The teddy bear was a gift from a few former interns. They recorded an "I love you" message -- you can hear it if you squeeze her left paw.
RR: Do interns help out a lot in the kitchen?
TS: Totally! They can make a big difference in our day. We get referrals from a local culinary school, but some are pretty green when they start. A new intern once accidentally put laundry soap in the dishwasher. We didn't know until a bunch of bubbles came spilling out!
RR: I bet you had a spotless kitchen after that happened! So, the staff must love tasting all the great food you make.
TS: Oh, yeah. If we test recipes for larger crowds, we'll put it out for lunch and eat together like a family. Everyone appreciates it and we have a blast. When I make chocolate chip cookies, staffers actually come to the kitchen and hug me. They call me Mama Bird because no one goes hungry around here.
Our Top Five Test Kitchen Secrets
1. Don't be fooled by the egg holders on your fridge door. Place foods that spoil quickly -- like eggs, milk and butter -- in the back. It's the coldest spot.
2. Label and date the food you're freezing. Once it's frozen, it may be unrecognizable.
3. Rub lemon peel on your fingers to remove fish or garlic odors.
4. Store dried spices and nuts in the freezer to keep them fresh.
5. Can't decide what to make for dinner? While you're thinking, save time by preheating the oven or putting a pot of water on the stove to boil (throw in red pepper flakes or garlic for extra flavor!).