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Holiday Traditions Cook-Off:

November 23, 2011

On Tuesday of this week, The Times Leader's ever-popular Holiday Traditions cookbook and shopping planner hit the local newsstands.

This year's edition featured nearly 100 recipes from more than 30 Ohio Valley cooks. The recipes were separated into six categories: appetizers; breads; soup, salads and sides; main dishes; sweet treats; and on the simple side (speedy, simple recipes with six ingredients or less). The top three recipes in each category were chosen, and the cooks presented their dishes at a cookoff held in conjunction with the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual Festival of Trees. The cookoff was held on Nov. 15 at the Artisan Center at River City Brewery in Wheeling.

In the third year of collaboration with the Festival of Trees event, the crowd was enthusiastic, as were the cooks, who had meticulously prepared and presented their winning dishes. Bud Em was very happy to be part of the fun event and was more than willing to put her taste buds to the test and act as a judge along with fellow T-L staffer Glynis Valenti and River City chef Thomas McCardle. The Buds are always ready to fall on such a sword, though it was no easy task as each and every dish prepared was fab-u-lous.

Winning the appetizer category was Myra Herink of Bridgeport with her hot pepperoni dip. Who knew three simple ingredients could be so tasty! Second place was Sheri Alig of Barton with her stuffed mushrooms loaded with herb stuffing and parmesan cheese and ... butter! Yum- O! The third place winner was Louise Pastre of Dillonvale with her baked stuffed artichokes with pecorino cheese served with a vinaigrette for dipping. The effort that went into making these beautiful appetizers was apparent. Though Bud Em won't attempt making them, she would be more than happy to eat them any time!

Helen Imhoff of Bellaire was the first place winner in the bread category with her potato sourdough hamburger/sandwich buns. Over the years we've learned to expect great things from Imhoff in the bread department and we were not disappointed. The rolls were not only pretty to look at but delicious tasting as well. Second place went to Kathy Fowkes of Bethesda with her apple, cranberry, pistachio bread. What an amazing flavor combination! This recipe is a keeper for sure! Third place went to Patty Phillips of Jacobsburg with her delicious cracked wheat bread. The bread was the perfect texture and had loads of flavor. With a smear of butter on top it really hit the spot.

First place in the main dish department went to Calleen Dunfee of Jacobsburg for her spicy Mexican lasagna. Delicious layers of yummy beef, beans, cheese, tortillas, lettuce and tomatoes really stole the show. Second place went to Brandi Cornell of Martins Ferry for her mushroom beef stew. Wow! This hot and hearty stew will be perfect for the cold weather that is coming.

The soups, sides and salads category had three very different entries which were all very tasty. First place went to Linda Yanda of Dillonvale for her wonderful chicken gnocchi soup. Loaded with veggies and of course gnocchi, it was delicious. Second place went to Claris Daniel for her stuffed grape leaves. The Buds LOVE grape leaves! The tiny bundles of deliciousness were not hard to love. Third place went to Ann Marie Grayzar of Dillonvale for her feta cheese and pear salad. With not only those ingredients but also with avocado and pecans, it was a salad to behold!

On the Simple Side was a category created last year for recipes that have 6 ingredients or less. First place went to Chris Herink of Bridgeport for her yummy crescent layer bars. Refrigerated crescent roll dough topped with chips and nuts - they were pretty much to die for. Coming in second was Heather Lengyel of Mt. Pleasant with her BLT roll-ups. These little doozies pack all the punch of the BLT sandwich into little bite-size pieces. Delish! Third prize went to Barbara Ickes of St. Clairsville for her caramel corn. This homemade treat was an absolute delight.

Sue Levi of Martins Ferry took the top honor for her skyscraper devil's food cheesecake. Judging from the recipe, this divine dessert is no doubt time consuming to make but the final product is off the hook. Chocolate fans beware! Second place went to Marilyn Applegarth of Belmont with her cherry delight. The tasty dessert was light and refreshing. The third place prize went to Joyce McNear of Powhatan Point for her apple dumplings. These hearty sweets were rich and delicious.

Bud Em and the other judges had an extremely difficult time choosing between the finalists, but were delighted to have the chance to do so. The Buds, on behalf of The Times Leader, would like to thank all of the contestants for taking the time to prepare their dishes and attending the cookoff. We also wish to thank the Big Brothers Big Sisters, River City, and the event sponsors Riesbeck's, Kroger, Wheeling Coffee and Casa di Vino. The event could not have been successful without any of them!

The Buds may be reached at



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