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Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor

Michelle Stark

Michelle Stark is the Food Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, overseeing the food content online and in print, including cooking and restaurants. She also manages social media accounts for the Entertainment department, including food. Previously, she was part of the Things to Do crew and co-host of Play Tampa Bay. She has designed and edited the Times' daily entertainment page, and wrote weekly about television at The Feed blog. Stark joined the Times after graduating from the University of South Florida in 2010 with degrees in mass communications and international relations.

Phone: (727) 893-8829


Twitter: @MStark17

  1. We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought


    I sat at my desk eating chunked pineapple straight out of the can, reading about how much fruit and vegetables we should all be eating every day: 1 1/2 to two cups of fruit, 2 1/2 to three cups of vegetables, at a minimum, per the United States Department of Agriculture. But only a small portion of us are working that much into our daily diets.

    Combined, it's roughly the size of a basketball, enough to fill a 2-liter soda bottle....

  2. From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup


    When I first made this soup, Florida was in the grips of a cold weather snap, the likes of which rarely happens in this part of the state. We're talking a whole week of lows in the 30s. The 30s!

    It was everything I ever wanted and more — the rare winter temps, yes, but also this soup. It is not only warm temperature-wise, but warm with savory spices and full of deep flavor.

    I'm also happy to report that it holds up in any kind of weather, and tastes at least 60 percent better each day you let it sit in your fridge. The first batch was good; the second batch two days later was great; and the third batch that I froze and then reheated may have been the best one yet. ...

  3. From the food editor: Turkey meatloaf and potatoes cook together in this one-pan recipe


    January brings a weird dichotomy. I'm often exhausted from December, a month packed with lots of travel and merriment and comfort food. But I also feel energized for the new year, fresh planner in hand and lots of lofty goals ready to be set.

    It's the same way in the kitchen. I am so ready for healthful food, for meals that do not begin and end with a handful of Christmas cookies. But I am not quite ready to commit to something ambitious, what with my house still strewn with remnants of holiday decor and celebrations. ...

  4. From the food editor: Macaroni and Beef Casserole is a quick and delicious way to get dinner on the table


    It took about 10 minutes into making this recipe for me to realize that it was merely fancy Hamburger Helper.

    I originally made it for a Christmas gathering with my best girlfriends, and it was perfect: warm, hearty, comforting. But it's also a boon to the beginning of your 2018, when you haven't quite sloughed off all the buzz and stress of the holidays. Maybe you just got back into town. Maybe your house is still overstuffed with Christmas decor. Maybe you're back to work this week after a long while off and not loving life. This casserole will soothe you. ...

  5. Five Champagne cocktail recipes to drink on New Year's Eve


    Anything that sparkles. That is what your beverage of choice should be for New Year's Eve, a night when the drinks should glitter as much as that giant ball in Times Square.

    To toast to 2018, we've assembled five cocktail recipes using sparkling wine. A splurge on Champagne feels right for this occasion, but these would work well with cava or prosecco or any sparkling wine. (This is your annual reminder that "Champagne" gets its name from the region of France in which it is produced, so technically, if it's a sparkling wine that is not produced in Champagne, it can't be called "Champagne.")...

  6. From the food editor: For New Year's Eve, build a cheese board


    A cheese plate is an easy way to impress a crowd with very little effort. And it's great fun to get out your largest serving tray and build a custom mix-and-match medley of finger foods.

    That's how I usually do New Year's Eve, the wide variety of morsels a good fit for the grazing that happens from dinnertime till midnight. Plus, cheese goes great with bubbly.

    Here are my recommendations for building a low-key yet delicious cheese plate you can put together quickly for New Year's Eve noshing. See you in 2018....

  7. From the food editor: Four recipes for your Christmas Eve spread


    My family doesn't get into Christmas meal planning the same way we get into Thanksgiving preparations. For one thing, our main protein varies: usually ham. Sometimes beef. Rarely turkey. The sides are likely applesauce — served hot, like the German side of my family intended — and some sort of potato dish, but there isn't much we absolutely have to have every year.

    We do, however, go nuts on Christmas Eve, assembling a smorgasbord of different indulgences and eating them throughout the evening. There must be pigs in a blanket, mini hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury biscuit dough, two things we never eat during the year but without which it would not be Christmas Eve. Also on the dining room table are chips with salsa and some sort of cheese dip, potato skins, meatballs or mini hot dogs simmering in a warm barbecue sauce, some sort of fruit or vegetable, a wheel of Brie melted with nuts and dried fruit, and loads of cookies. ...

  8. Settle in for comfort and joy with these Christmas food ideas


    After the presents and the cheer, you need something comforting to round out Christmas Day.

    When it comes to food on Dec. 25, I always err on the side of being indulgent and lazy, choosing things that can be made in advance so that not much prep needs to be done amid the gift-giving commotion. All of these dishes fit that bill. It's a collection of pure comfort food that can be enjoyed throughout your Christmas celebrations. You could serve all of this as one big festive meal, or parcel it out during the day: bread pudding for breakfast, hot dish for dinner. ...

  9. From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes


    Sometimes, you just want a hot, crispy potato.

    I didn't get home from work the other night craving a full dinner; I arrived at my house with cartoon visions of potatoes in my head, and knew I had to make it happen.

    I wasn't looking for a fast food french fry, even a good one. I wanted chunks of potato that were soft on the inside but crunchy on the outside, salty and piping hot.

    These perfect potatoes often elude me. You know, like when you order home fries as your breakfast side and they're never quite as hot or as crispy as you think they're going to be, prompting deep regret that you didn't go with the cheese grits or even the dang fruit cup. ...

  10. Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions


    When we opened this year's call for reader submissions to any treasured holiday food tradition, I had no idea what to expect.

    That was kind of the point. I wanted to see what such a wide gamut would inspire. And you delivered.

    The stories that readers share on the following pages are varied and delightful, all inspired by food, that powerful driver of nostalgia, and all infused with the warm feeling of the holiday season. ...

    Lorraine Madison of St. Petersburg prepares her Christmas Day brunch dish of Bananas Foster in her kitchen. She has been making the dish for more than 30 years. [Photo by SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  11. We tried pickle-flavored candy canes (w/video)


    It is a bright December morning, and I am trying pickle-flavored candy canes.

    I eye the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, water, citric acid, artificial dill flavor, FD&C Yellow, FD&C Blue 1.

    All very upstanding.

    All very appropriate for a classic holiday treat.

    Well, except the dill.

    • • •

    Up until a few years ago, the pickle existed only as a plate component to be ignored, shrinking in the shadows of a sexier burger, briny juice threatening to sog a toasty bun....

  12. From the food editor: A weeknight dinner pork chop recipe perfect for this time of year


    It was one of those divine cooking evenings.

    I didn't have a plan for dinner, but I did miraculously have a number of ingredients on hand that work really well together: pork chops, sweet potatoes, apple cider leftover from a Thanksgiving gathering, lots of fresh herbs also from the holiday — and a bag of fresh pearl onions I had intended to work into stuffing but instead completely forgot about. ...

    Pork with Potatoes and Pearl Onions. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  13. Five ideas for slow cooker meals, from curries to cake


    Listen up. I know you and the slow cooker may have a tortured relationship. You chop, you season, you set the timer, hoping that a sultry, bubbling dish will greet you in 4 to 8 hours. What really happens is often more dry, more bland, more meh than that.

    But it is the season of hope, and we are here to offer you that, in the form of five slow cooker recipes that actually taste good. The secret is a lot of yummy ingredients that taste better the longer they cook, plus fats like coconut milk that keep flavor levels high and the fact that we are leaning into the slow cooker curve. If you want a perfectly cooked chicken breast or crispy potatoes, turn the oven on and go to town. This is not that. This is rich, hot soups and curries and gooey desserts that can be prepared with minimal effort during this time-strapped month. But I promise you, they don't taste like disappointment. ...

    Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce is perfectly spiced, colorful and delicious.
  14. From the food editor: Arugula, Carrot and Chickpea Salad, something light between the holidays


    Oh, boy. We need a break.

    Well, I need a break. Do you need a break? Let's take a break.

    I am talking about salad.

    November flew by in a haze of butter and sage, and now we are left trying to fit into our jeans before another round of holiday gluttony/cheer. I am hitting pause this week and sneaking in something healthy before turning my full attention to Christmas cookies.

    This salad combines all of my favorite things, smartly adding protein-packed items like quinoa and chickpeas to help bulk up salad greens. ...

    Carrot and Chickpea Feta Salad. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  15. Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)


    Take small bites.

    This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who don't have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the year's biggest cooking day.

    It's the first thing Tucker Shaw, editor in chief of Cook's Country and a member of America's Test Kitchen, said when I asked him how to prepare for a first-time hosting gig. And all of the best Thanksgiving wisdom tends to flow from that. By parsing the meal into smaller morsels, you can get a better handle on things without becoming overwhelmed. It's something even longtime hosts should keep in mind....

    Heidi Diestel’s grandfather started Diestel Family Turkey Ranch.