THOUGHTS: A SAD GOODBYE TO MY TEAM ALTON FRIEND CRISTIE SCHOEN

I don't often write about daily life... I mostly write to try to help with your plans for a get-together, a holiday, a celebration, or even just dinner with the family. I occasionally write about travel and bigger life events, like weddings. My end goal is to help you celebrate life with those you love.

Tragically, one of my Food Network Star friends and her little family will never be able to do that again. So today, I'm writing about Cristie Schoen so you might know her and remember her as a passionate Southerner, healthy living and eating advocate, athlete, outdoorswoman, caring friend, daughter, sister, chef, wife, and mother-to-be. Rest in peace, Cristie. You will live on in the hearts of all of those you've blessed, fed, and touched with your kindness and love.

Cristie had recently married her boyfirend J.t. Codd, was living on her dream farm and expecting their first baby, a girl to be named Skylar. The very last thing I expected to hear from or about my Food Network Star cast mate Cristie was that she was missing. I certainly never expected to learn that she had been murdered.

A neighbor Cristie and J.t. befriended is charged with their murder and the murder of their unborn child. Robert Jason Owens is a contractor and lived less than a mile from them. They not only hired Owens to help with projects around the farm, Cristie opened her home to this monster, inviting him to their wedding. She had also cooked Thanksgiving dinner for him and others in the area; she rented the local community center to feed everyone in her new hometown who had no place to go. Typical Cristie. She loved to love everyone through her food. I saw her post on Facebook and her open invitation for Thanksgiving. And she didn't just cook, she decorated the room in her signature yellow and went the extra mile to make the day really special with a menu that reflected her Mississippi roots.

I first met Cristie in Alton Brown's Atlanta studio in early November 2011. We were both there to audition for Food Network Star and were vying for one of only five spots on Alton's team from the fifty or so people assembled. I knew she would be in the cast... she was absolutely stunning, had a great work ethic, and sparkling crystal blue eyes that flashed... "I want this.... I really want this." So it was not a big surprise to see her there on the first day of filming. WATCH CRISTIE'S CASTING VIDEO

Our Food Network Star Season 8 teammates had this to say about Cristie: 

Food Network Star winner Justin Warner reflected on his first memory of Cristie saying: "I stepped out of the casting shoot to get some fresh air. Cristie soon joined me, only with the intent of introducing herself and offering me company. That's who she was. Bright, sunny, incredibly friendly and kind... a breath of fresh air indeed."

"Cristie was one of the first people I met during the Atlanta auditioning process! What wasn't to love about her striking appearance, but those big blue eyes and her southern drawl warmed my heart.  We shared a bond with our spiritual connection and roots to New Orleans. During the show, Cristie saw positive in everything!  She was a fearless firecracker'" remembers Judson Todd Allen.

Says Emily Ellyn: "I remember when I first saw Cristie Schoen. We were in Atlanta for our interview with Alton Brown.  She had beautiful blue eyes and a smile that shined between her positive pep talks, helping EVERYONE in that room feel more at ease, That positive encouragement, love, and joie de vivre was present in every conversation we shared. Cristie was like sunshine; a positive radiant woman, that warmed the hearts of everyone she met."

Cristie quickly became our Team Alton cheerleader. She was high-energy, highly competitive, and positive- all rolled up into a pint-sized but very powerful package. She was a true team player. I hated she was the first to be eliminated during the restaurant competition because she worked hard to help most of us with our dishes in spite of the fact she wasn't very happy about her own course. It hurt her feelings so badly that the judges misread her passion for healthy eating as anger. She was frustrated that she didn't communicate her point of view clearly because she truly wanted to help people live better lives through a healthier diet. WATCH CRISTIE'S FOOD NETWORK STAR BIO VIDEO

In her final challenge, Cristie raced around the kitchen like the Roadrunner, not scared, not intimidated, nor worried. She confidently told the story of her brother and cooking eggs for him upon his return home from the military. I thought she did a great job and was impressed with her calm in the face of elimination. I'm not sure I could have handled that pressure like she did. It was painful to watch her walk through those big doors leading out of the studio after her they let her go. She had given it her all.

I feel very sure that Cristie gave it her all in her final moments, too. I imagine that she gave that monster who killed her quite a fight, trying to protect her baby, her husband and her own life. As a former cop, my hope is the detectives are carefully compiling the evidence necessary to put Robert Jason Owens in prison for the murder of Cristie Schoen, J.t. Codds, and baby Skylar until the State of North Carolina executes him in punishment for his crimes. Until then, I hope the prison inmates give him a welcome party he won't ever forget and that his life ends so that he may never be able to hurt another human on this earth.

FYI-Owens is also a suspect in the cold case disappearance of Zebb Quinn, an Asheville teen missing since 2000.

To Cristie's family and closest friends: My prayers are with you as you struggle to comprehend what has happened.

Farewell, Cristie. We will all miss your beauty, passion, energy, positive attitude, and your kind heart. Rest in peace with J.t. and Skylar by your side. Gone too soon, gone way too soon.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. -John 3:16

HOW-TO TIPS: BEST WAY TO MAKE AND PEEL A HARD BOILED EGG

I’ve seen lots of posts on social media discussing how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg. None of them are the same. Most are similar but they all have their own twist or timing. I decided to do a hard-boiled egg study from some of the more prominent offerings on the Internet to see which hard-boiled egg is the best egg for those yummy deviled eggs.

Who has the best technique for hard boiled eggs

I compared hard-boiled egg cooking instructions from Julia Child, Alton Brown, Food Network, the Deen family, and the old school method of adding vinegar to the water to my own tried and true hard-boiled egg method. I also watched videos from Jacques Pepin and Food & Wine. The test was based on three criteria: texture of white, texture of yolk and ease of peeling. DISCLAIMER: This was not a blind taste test as I was the only person in the kitchen.

Hard boiled egg recipes: Which one is best? See tips and results below from five different methods.

Hard boiled egg recipes: Which one is best? See tips and results below from five different methods.

HERE'S WHAT I FOUND OUT: TIPS FOR COOKING THE PERFECT HARD-BOILED EGG

  • Farm eggs are harder to peel after boiling. Save your farm eggs for baking or ice cream. Fresh eggs from the store have thinner membranes which do peel easier so hard-boil super fresh eggs.
  • Don't use a non-stick pan for boiling eggs.
  • Do not cram too many eggs into a pot. You want to cover the eggs with one inch of water and leave room in the pot so you can stir the eggs around as they cook.
  • Stirring the eggs occasionally during the cooking process helps yolks stay centered and the whites have two sides which are equally thick; better for stuffing and not lopsided.
  • Use room temperature eggs and water or cold water and cold eggs. The result is about the same but eggs will crack more often if you add cold eggs to hot water.
  • You can peel the eggs easier if you run them under cool water or put them in an ice bath for 2-3 minutes only. Alton suggests 5 minutes in the ice bath but those were slightly harder to peel. I prefer to quickly rinse in cool water just until you can handle them. Crack and put back in the water; peel quickly by popping the large end with the air pocket on the counter-it seems to make the peel come off in larger pieces.
  • Some people suggest rolling the egg on the counter using the palm of your hand to crack the peel but I found all of those little pieces harder to peel. I used to do this but now prefer the "pop the air pocket" method.
  • Adding salt, vinegar or baking soda in the water does not make the peeling process easier and when you boil the eggs with vinegar, the whole house stinks.
  • The egg whites will become tough and rubbery if you cook more than the recommended time- you will not want to eat rubbery eggs ever again once you’ve had a properly cooked egg.
  • The ucky green ring around the outside is truly caused by overcooking and no other reason. The longer you cook the egg, the darker that outer ring becomes.
  • A soft or medium boiled egg yolk does not work as well for deviled eggs. The yolk was a little gummy when mixed with mayonnaise, etc. for the filling. However, the medium boiled egg (Alton Brown’s egg) was very delicious with just salt and pepper.

THE RESULTS: The Food Network method for hard-boiled eggs seemed to work the best because they peeled easier and had a better texture than the other versions but only slightly better than my own method. The instructions did not say how long to keep the egg in the ice bath so I left it in for 2 minutes. Follow the cooking instructions for the hard-boiled egg if you want to make deviled eggs. Here's the link...

My own cooking method worked just fine… tried and true. It was the runner-up to the Food Network method, but only because their method did peel slightly easier. Here's what I do:

Start with cold eggs; add cold water to the pot, covering eggs by one inch. Stirring the water occasionally, bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Boil on low for one minute. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand for 14 minutes, stirring from time to time. Immediately rinse in cold water until the eggs are just cool enough to handle. Pop each one- the larger side where the air pocket is- on the counter and put back in the water, working quickly to peel the eggs while they are still warm. Here's my deviled egg recipe. You'll love it.

Alton Brown’s method for hard-boiled eggs resulted in a medium/slightly undercooked yolk which tasted good but were not great for making deviled eggs. I could not find a link online but here's what Alton said about hard-boiled eggs on Twitter...

Alton Brown's hard boiled egg tips plus his method for oven cooked eggs.

Alton Brown's hard boiled egg tips plus his method for oven cooked eggs.

THIS JUST IN: ALTON BROWN'S GONE CRAY-CRAY. His words, not mine. Just hours after I posted this comparison, my former mentor has upped the ante and posted a game-changer... he's now suggesting that baking the eggs in the oven is more reliable and easier than "the harsh environment of a pot of boiling water" - SO I had to test that for myself. I found the technique to be more difficult as I had two escapee eggs jump off the towel and onto my floor. However, the result is equally delicious as his boiled version above but again, a little underdone for my preference for hard-boiled eggs for stuffing. Additionally, the egg yolks settle to the bottom of the egg making a very thin cup, not so great for stuffing. There was a video with instructions but he pulled it down.

UPDATE 2: Now, AB says you should cook your eggs in a pressure cooker! I'm going to skip that one but if you are curious, here's the link to Alton Brown's Eggs Under Pressure blog post.

Jamie Deen's method resulted in the worst results. They tasted fine but were harder to peel and egg white came away with the peel creating big “potholes” in the egg white; pretty unattractive for deviled eggs. So many people looked at the video today that they crashed the site. I'll add a link for you to see it later but basically Jamie said to bring the room temperature eggs to a boil in salted water. Remove from the heat and add a lid and wait 13 minutes. Put in an ice bath. Here's a link to Paula's site with their own test kitchen results. Read more... Paula's method is the same as Jamie's but she lets the eggs sit for 20 minutes which I found way too long and produced rubbery egg whites.

The Julia Child hard-boiled egg method took too long compared to the others and didn’t taste better so I scratched it from the test. Her former assistant and one of my favorite chefs, the legendary Jacques Pepin suggests to prick the egg with a pin before boiling. Watch Jacque's charming how-to properly boil and peel a hard boiled egg video here...

PEELING A HARD BOILED EGG: I did find something completely new when it comes to peeling a hard-boiled egg: using a teaspoon between the membrane skin and the egg as shown in this Food & Wine video from Justin Chapple from their test kitchen. I tried it and found it harder than just peeling it the classic way. Sorry, Justin. What is it with these quirky guys named Justin?

FOUR TO TRY: ALL ABOUT THAT BEEF WITH RECIPES FROM JAMIE, REE, MICHAEL, AND MING

I'm always running across interesting recipes from my favorite cooks, chefs, and blogs I want to try. Here are my recipe picks of the week from all around the web.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THAT BEEF. 'BOUT THAT BEEF...

Note: If you are unsure about what cut to buy at the store, (regions may label cuts differently)my friends at Certified Angus Beef have a helpful guide for buying beef on their website.

Ree Drummond's Braised Beef Short Ribs over Creamy Polenta PHOTO: Ree Drummond/ ThePioneerWoman.com

Ree Drummond's Braised Beef Short Ribs over Creamy Polenta PHOTO: Ree Drummond/ThePioneerWoman.com

BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIBS/REE DRUMMOND: Since she lives on a cattle farm and her husband is a cattle farmer, I figure Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, knows a lot about cooking beef. I make my beef short ribs in a similar way but don't always use red wine- I use beef stock because that's how my mom did it. And I rarely have a shallot so I use onion. And of course, I serve mine over creamy grits. Try her recipe-the photos are stunning; you can see the process step-by-step. Purchase bone-in short ribs if you can find them. The bone does really add so much to the flavor. Get the recipe... from ThePioneerWoman.com

Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Beef from JamieOliver.com PHOTO:  JamieOliver.com

Jamie Oliver's Perfect Roast Beef from JamieOliver.com PHOTO: JamieOliver.com

PERFECT ROAST BEEF/JAMIE OLIVER: The British are particularly good at Roast Beef. When I go over to England, my friend Gillie makes me her classic "roast dinner" with Yorkshire Pudding and all the trimmings! Roast was always one of my Mom's best dishes, too. Jamie's recipe is rustic with very few ingredients. He calls for "topside of beef" which I interpret to mean a rump roast or round cut which is off the backside of the cow. Homey, comfort food but special enough for Sunday dinner. Get the recipe... from JamieOliver.com

Chef Michael Symon's slow cooker recipe for his spin on a classic beef stew with root vegetables from an episode of ABC's The Chew.

Chef Michael Symon's slow cooker recipe for his spin on a classic beef stew with root vegetables from an episode of ABC's The Chew.

SLOW COOKER BEEF STEW WITH ROOT VEGETABLES/CHEF MICHAEL SYMON/THE CHEW:  While we're thawing out, most of the country is still frozen in. Nothing is cozier or more comforting than a good Beef Stew. Here's one for your slow cooker. Watch the video, Michael gives some great slow cooker tips on browning the meat first for the best flavor and reducing the amount of water if you're converting a recipe not created for a slow cooker. The root veggies are an interesting twist on the classic; Chef Symon uses parsnips, celery root, butternut squash, and carrots. Get the recipe... from ABC's The Chew. NOTE: I notice the recipe says you need to BAKE a bundle of thyme and rosemary. That should be MAKE.

Chef Ming Tsai's Beef and Broccoli beats take out any day. PHOTO: Ming.com

Chef Ming Tsai's Beef and Broccoli beats take out any day. PHOTO: Ming.com

BEEF AND BROCCOLI / CHEF MING TSAI: I don't live anywhere near a good Chinese restaurant and sometimes long for my days living in New York or Chicago where great Chinese was only a phone call away. I've made this recipe from Ming Tsai a couple of times and it is fast, easy, and delicious. In case you're not familiar with oyster sauce, you can buy it at the grocery, usually in the International aisle. Get the recipe... from Ming.com

My most popular beef recipe is my STEAKHOUSE STEAKS IN A CAST IRON SKILLET. If you haven't tried it, you're going to love it. Once you've tried steaks cooked this way, you'll only fire up the grill for a crowd.