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Taste Buds: Holiday Traditions Cook-Off

Buds on hand to judge annual cook-off

November 15, 2012

Just in time for the holidays, the Times Leader's popular Holiday Traditions cookbook and shopping planner will hit the newsstands on Tuesday, and the Buds have first hand knowledge that readers are in for a real treat!

This year's edition featured nearly100 recipes from more than 30 Ohio Valley cooks. The recipes were separated into six categories: appetizers; holiday-to-go; main dishes; soup, salad and bread; 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 cook-off held in conjunction with the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual Festival of Trees. The cookoff was held on Nov. 13 at the Artisan Center at River City Brewery in Wheeling.

In the fourth 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. The Taste Buds were once again called into action to act as judges for the contest. Bummer, right?! Joining them on the panel was River City head chef Brian Burkle who was more than happy to lend his expertly trained palate to the worthy cause.

Taking first prize in the appetizer category was Dian Baker of Powhatan whose tasty little Rotel Cups were a huge hit. With just a few simple ingredients, the Buds will surely be making some of them this holiday season. Second place was Louise Pastre of Dillonvale who prepared Stuffed Banana Peppers. The spicy peppers were packed with prosciutto and gooey mozzarella cheese. Yum! The third place winner was Kay McFarlan of Martins Ferry who brought along Taco Scoops. Taco meat, salsa and cheese nestled in a scoop chip, these tasty bites would be perfect for tailgating.

Jean Baker of Adena took first place in the holiday-to-go category with her Spinach Almondine. Spinach, stuffing, mushrooms and almonds - what's not to love! Claiming the second place prize was Ann Marie Grayzar of Dillonvale whose Baked Spaghetti, loaded with onions, peppers, black olives and cheese, created a delicious casserole. The third place winner was Loraine Wilson of Woodsfield who whipped up a batch of cheesy homemade Scalloped Potatoes.

Kathy Fowkes of Bethesda won top prize in the main dish category with her beautifully prepared Mediterranean Turkey Pot Pies. Oh my were these suckers GOOD! Each ramekin was bursting with all the favorite Mediterranean flavors: artichoke, tomato, olives, and pepperocinis. So good Bud Em added ramekins to her holiday wish list! Second prize went to Sue Levi of Martins Ferry who prepared Ravioli Lasagna. This new twist on an old favorite was delicious! Loaded with sausage, beef and plenty of cheese, this dish is sure to impress. Joan Husarik of Bridgeport took third place with her Cabbage and Noodles. Prepared with bacon, sour cream and paprika, the dish was a Hungarian delight.

Linda Yanda of Dillonvale won first place in the on the simple side category with her Easy Oreo Truffles. The Buds didn't know that three ingredients could make something soooo good. More please! Second place in the category went to Sherri Alig for her BBQ Jalapeno Poppers. With bacon and barbecue sauce involved, they are sure to be a hit. Claiming third place in the category was Murial Coleman of Martins Ferry whose Lazy Man Perogies tasted like New Year's Day and will be a fantastic way to use those holiday leftovers. Yummy!

Joyce McNear of Powhatan earned first place in the soup, salads and breads category with her Thyme Biscuits with Honey-Thyme Butter. These biscuits were packed with flavorful thyme, and the honey-thyme butter was a hit! Honey and jam were also served with these for a different taste twist. Second place went to Helen Imhoff of Bellaire, who put a lot of work into her Confetti Fiesta Bread. Packed with finely chopped bell peppers, this delectable bread tasted as good as it looked! Rose Piloseno took third place with her Cream of Asparagus Soup. Creamy and perfectly seasoned, this soup is sure to charm asparagus lovers.

Claiming first place in the final category of the day, sweet treats, was Barbara Balcar of St. Clairsville. Her Cranberry Pie absolutely blew the judges away! Filled with fresh cranberries, the tartness was balanced with orange juice and made for a divine flavor. The vanilla ice cream on top was an added bonus. The Buds will learn how to bake just so we can make more of this pie! Second place went to Brandi Cornell of Martins Ferry who served up some delicious Chocolate-Peanut Butter Dream Bars. Anything with chocolate AND peanut butter is a winner in the Buds' book! And finally, third place in sweet treats went to Chrystal Lucas of Powhatan for her Mocha Bread Pudding with Caramel Topping. This traditional dessert was served in a bar form with a creamy mocha flavor. The Buds agreed this would be great with a hot cup of coffee.

If these desserts all sound great to you (they should, because they tasted great to us!), make sure you pick up a copy of The Times Leader on Tuesday, Nov. 20 to get your Holiday Traditions Cookbook and Shopping Guide. Also, to see additional photos from the cook-off, visit

The Buds can be reached at tastebuds@timesleader



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