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Judging a cookbook contest or simply: Yeah, we get paid to eat

November 20, 2009 - Taste Buds
The Buds have the BEST job on the planet!

We get to eat at a restaurant every week AS PART OF OUR JOB! Our boss not only EXPECTS us to eat out, she WANTS us to!

How sweet is that?!

As an added bonus this week, we were “forced” to be judges at the Times Leaders Holiday Traditions Recipe Contest. The event featured 15 of the valley’s best cooks showing off their skills. The event was held at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Upper Ohio Valley’s Festival of Trees at Oglebay’s Pine Room.

Talk about a rough gig! Try eating 15 dishes in the course of a hour! And then try to rate ‘em!

Thankfully, we were joined by Ron Kettler of St. Clairsville - a big Bud fan - so we weren’t out there on our own!

The good news is: three of us were eating like pigs and no one thought a thing about it.

The bad news is: there was judging to be done.

The dishes were broken down into five categories: Appetizer, Breads, Soups, Salads and Sides, Main Dishes and Sweet Treats.

Here a brief rundown of what we ate - try not to be jealous!

Bacon and Crab Stuffed Potato Bites from Kathy Fowkes of Bethesda were little hollowed out potatoes filled with a delicious bacon and crab filling. We would never have the patience to actually hollow out anything, let alone little potatoes - but we are willing to eat them any time! Fowkes said they are a hit with her family - especially the ones who don’t like stuffed mushrooms.

Donna Raimonde of Martins Ferry fried up luscious Zucchini Fritters right there in the middle of the Pine Room. These little gems were hot out of the grease and delicious! Talk about deep fried goodness! Raimonde’s family was on hand to cheer her on and noted when she makes them at home it is hard to keep up with demand!

Louise Pastre of Dillonvale has been featured in the Times Leader cookbook in years past and her dishes never disappoint. This year, she brought here Curried Chicken Puffs which are perfect for holiday gatherings.

The bread category was a tough one as bread happens to be one of Bud Em’s favorite food group. She also loves the butter, sour cream, cream cheese and mayonnaise food groups! We know! Her Food Pyramid is unlike any other!

Patty Phillips of Jacobsburg wowed us all with her Fresh Ground Wheat Bread. Yes! She buys the wheat and actually grinds it herself! What a nut! Still, what we thought would be a heavy bread was surprisingly light! Also, she had a homemade jam to go with the bread! We wish we had that kind of time.

The Orange Cranberry Nut Bread from Sherri Alig of St. Clairsville got us thinking about the holidays! It was just the right mix of fruits and nuts. Yum!

Cookbook veteran Helen Imhoff of Bellaire brought her Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls. Imhoff is an expert at making bread and her rolls never fail to impress.

The Soups, Salads and Side category was make up an impressive trio of dishes that had the judges stumped for a while.

Jill Predragovich of Martins Ferry brought her Fall Harvest Salad which was a beautiful mix of salad greens, blue cheese, pears, nuts and cranberries with a balsamic vinegar/honey mustard dressing. Predragovich, who also wore the cutest apron on the planet, said she dresses up her salad with a raspberry dressing in the summer with a mix of fresh fruit.

Barbara DeNoble of St. Clairsville served up Squash Casserole with a wonderful texture and tons of flavor. DeNoble is no stranger to The Times Leader’s recipe contest and has been featured before.

Newcomer Tammy Myers of Martins Ferry dished out a Chicken Cheese Chowder with Veggies. This creamy soup would be perfect on a cool fall day or perhaps when the leftover turkey runs out!

The main dishes were just plain good!

Alma Stocia of Lafferty was surprised by how much the judges loved her Mushroom Olive Burgers. Frankly, we think she was selling herself short! These babies were great! A lot of cooks think to add mushrooms to their burgers but the olives gave these burgers an added - and delicious - kick!

Julia Schafer of St. Clairsville’s Tarragon Pecan Salmon was very tasty! The Buds frankly love anything salmon related.

Newcomer Ann Marie Grayzer of Dillonvale brought an Old World Italian Beef Roll which tempted our taste buds.

Both Schafer and Grayzer are newcomers to the contest but we have a feeling we’ll see more from them in the future.

While judging all the categories was extremely difficult, the hardest one of all was the Sweet Treats.

This category features three fantastic cooks and picking a winner was difficult and required several bites of the goodies!

Sue Levi of Martins Ferry absolutely showed some of her best work with her Layered Turtle Cheesecake. Layers of caramel, nuts and cheesecake ... yum! As good as you thinks it sounds, trust us, it tastes even better!

Jean Baker of Adena made her Beets the Best Chocolate Cake and while it may not sound as good as a Layered Turtle Cheesecake, trust us, it tastes way better than it sounds! The pureed beets add a level of moistness not found in store cakes and a smattering of chocolate chips in the batter give it extra sweetness. Bud Tricia doesn’t even like chocolate but she liked this cake!

Leigh Ann LaRoche of Bellaire, who cooked up a fabulous soup last year for the contest, brought her Panettone Bread Pudding with Amaretto Sauce. Amaretto sauce! Enough said!

Judging was difficult all around. Picking a first place winner was relatively easy but the second and third place winners were difficult because they were all sooooo good!

Still, we had a great time judging and hope to do it again next year!

All the winning recipes plus about 100 more are featured in the Holiday Traditions Cookbook and Gift Guide which will be published in the Nov. 24 edition of The Times Leader.

If you’re hungry now and can’t wait to try the recipes, too bad! But, you can try this one from Heather Lengyel of Mt. Pleasant while you wait!

BUCKEYE CAKE

For Cake:

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 packets (1 ounce each) Nestle Toll House Choco Bake Pre-Melted Unsweetened Chocolate Flavor

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, grease.

Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl. Stir in flour, melted butter, Choco Bake, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake, cool for an additional 10 minutes. Invert cake onto serving platter. Remove pan and parchment, cool completely.

For Peanut Butter Layer:

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 powdered sugar

Beat peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract in medium mixer bowl until combined. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Spread mixture on cake. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

For Ganache:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups (12-ounce package) semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1/3 cup peanut butter and milk chocolate morsels

Heat cream in small saucepan to boiling, remove from heat. Add semi-sweet morsels, let stand 5 minutes. Stir, refrigerate 30 minutes or until mixture is spreadable. Spread chocolate on top and sides of cake.

Melt peanut butter and milk chocolate morsels in resealable plastic bag on medium-high power for 30 seconds. Knead bag to mix. If necessary, microwave at additional 10-15 second intervals until melted. Cut a small hole in corner of bag, squeeze to drizzle over cake. Store in refrigerator. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

The Buds can be reached at tastebuds@timesleaderonline.com

 
 

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