Calling all aspiring chefs!

If you’re like me, you’re wondering where 2011 has gone. It’s already mid-September and soon the leaves will change colors and fall to the snow-covered ground. While that thought might make you cringe a little, here’s something that should warm you up: with the changing seasons comes tradition, and what could be more traditional than The Times Leader’s annual Holiday Traditions cookbook?

Yup-it’s that time again! All cooks, aspiring cooks, or on-the-go-throw-something-together-quick cooks should start digging through their cookbooks for a favorite recipe they want to share. Don’t have a favorite recipe? How about trying out a new one? Or maybe there’s an old family recipe that you’re willing to share. Whatever the recipe, send it our way so we can include it in the cookbook.

As it was last year, the cookbook is divided into six different categories: Appetizers, featuring dips, finger foods, and anything you’d serve to start a party; Breads, a delicious staple for every meal; Soup, Salads and Sides, from dressings to casseroles and more; Main Dishes, featuring the main attraction of the meal; Sweet Treats, including ooey-gooey cookies, cakes and pies; and finally On the Simple Side, a new category introduced last year featuring speedy and simple recipes with six ingredients or less.

The Times Leader will once again team up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upper Ohio Valley for judging and selection of winning recipes.

Three semi-finalists will be selected from each of the six categories. The cooks of these recipes will then prepare their dishes during the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual Festival of Trees, which will be held this year at the Artisan Center at River City Brewery in Wheeling on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. The event is open to the public and everyone is invited to come out and cheer for their favorite cook.

The judges (who are still to be determined) will taste the top three dishes in each category during the cookoff. A winner and a runner-up will be chosen from each of the six categories. Those recipes will be featured dishes in the Holiday Traditions cookbook. All other submitted recipes will be included in the cookbook. Any overflow will be published in The Times Leader at a later date.

The winner with the top recipe in each category will win a prize package featuring gift cards and a gift basket. Runners-up will also receive a prize, and one of the top submissions will be randomly drawn for another special gift.

“Traditions are a wonderful part of our holidays, and it’s always fun to begin new ones,” said Judi Tarowsky, chair, Festival of Trees. “With this being the 25th annual Festival of Trees for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upper Ohio Valley, we are so honored to continue a new tradition and again welcome the Times Leader Holiday Traditions Cookbook Contest to our event at River City/Wheeling Artisan Center. Delicious recipes, talented cooks and beautiful trees-who could ask for more?”

So what are you waiting for? We’ve made it easier than ever by giving you multiple ways to submit your recipe. You can email your recipe to special email account set up just for this contest. Submissions can also be made through our Virtual Newsroom at by selecting the recipe button. And of course, you can also bring us your recipe in person or mail to Holiday Traditions Recipe Contest, c/o The Times Leader, 200 South 4th Street, Martins Ferry, Ohio, 43935.

The submission deadline is Oct. 28 at 5 p.m. To be fair to all contestants, no late entries will be accepted.

When submitting your entries, include your name and a phone number where you can be reached during the day. We also require your name, address and the category you would like us to judge your recipe.

Recipes must include concise information regarding amounts, ingredients, temperatures, cooking times, preparation methods, etc., WITHOUT abbreviations. Recipes that do not include the required information will not be included in Holiday Traditions.

This year’s cookoff is being sponsored by Riesbecks, Kroger, Wheeling Coffee and Casa de Vino.