It’s a Win-Win-Win

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Lately, I have had a fun run of good luck in recipe contests. This recipe for SKILLET ROASTED SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER RED LENTIL PENNE took an honorable mention in the Explore Cuisine contest and this recipe, SALTED CHOCOLATE PEAR POUND CAKE, won the dessert category in USA Pears. Finally, my entry into the Coast Packing Company #lardlovers contest took a second place. Here is the recipe.

From Coast Packing: This Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake recipe, submitted by Lisa Keys of Kennett Square, Penn. took second place in our 3rd Annual #LardLovers Recipe Contest. The contest drew homegrown recipes — savory and sweet alike — from around the country. Her winning cake has a nice overall balance of sweet and tart. It is easy to make with readily accessible ingredients. And it can be made with or without a cast iron pan and still achieve great results!

Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake

  • ½ cup lard
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 5 fresh or frozen large strawberries, stemmed, sliced in half
  • 3 cups diced fresh rhubarb
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F. In a 10-inch oven-safe skillet (I use cast iron), over low heat, melt ¼ cup of lard. Add ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon; mix and spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat. Place 5 strawberry halves, cut side up, around the center of the skillet. Place remaining strawberry halves around them toward the edge of the skillet. Sprinkle rhubarb evenly over the skillet. In large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and remaining ½ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; blend well. Melt remaining ¼ cup of lard and add it along with the buttermilk, egg and ½ teaspoon of vanilla to dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with an electric mixture until well mixed. Pour and spread batter evenly over fruit in skillet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If cake is getting too brown then cover loosely with foil during last 5 minutes of baking time. Cool cake for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge and then inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish as desired.

I am so very grateful to the sponsors who run a good recipe contest with real food experts testing and mulling over the results. I just love being in the mix. I always feel quite lucky and proud to make the top 3.

Maple Blueberry French Toast Muffins

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It seems this is the third time I am experimenting with a version of one of my favorite recipes. It happens when “I spy” a new product in the grocery store. I am not sure how long Pepperidge Farm has been making thick sliced blueberry swirl bread, but upon seeing it on the shelf I was immediately inspired to create this new version of a French toast muffin. We love stuffed blueberry French toast, so why not a jazzed up muffin?

Loaded with healthy wild blueberries and the very best Vermont maple syrup I guarantee a batch of these warm muffins will get you through the coldest of winter days.

Maple Blueberry French Toast Muffins

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
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¼ cup milk

3 tablespoons Vermont maple syrup plus additional for serving

3 eggs

4 slices (thick sliced) blueberry swirl bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 cups all-purpose flour plus a teaspoon

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen 

Heat oven 400F. Grease 14 standard size muffin cups with no-stick baking spray or line with paper cups. In medium bowl, whisk milk, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1 egg until blended. Add bread; gently stir to coat all the bread pieces (this is the French toast topping). In medium bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined. In another bowl, whisk remaining 2 eggs for 30 seconds. Add buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and melted butter; whisk well.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry; blend just until the dry ingredients are moistened (do not over mix). Toss blueberries with remaining teaspoon of flour. Gently fold blueberries into batter. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon the French toast topping evenly over the batter; pressing down slightly. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert the muffins onto a wire rack, turn them upright; cool 5 minutes. Drizzle additional maple syrup over top of warm muffins just before serving. Makes 14 muffins.

And if you would like to see my previous versions of this recipe check them out here Pepperidge Farm also makes other flavors of this bread including Maple Brown Sugar and Apple Swirl, so the sky is the limit for muffin flavor combinations. Have fun with it and let me know what you come up with. BTW, this is not a sponsored post. I just love these products.

Friends First Competitors Second

My favorite kitchen helper at work measuring out the hot chocolate mix

One of the big advantages of being a competitive home cook is the meeting of like-minded people. In my recipe contest travels I have been fortunate to make friends all over the country. My competitors inspire me nearly every day with their creativity not only as winning cooks, but also as parents, craftsmen and entrepreneurs. Their ability to juggle family life, full time jobs and their desires to extend themselves even further in finding their passion is remarkable. Today, I just feel lucky to know so many kind and generous ladies and gents some of which I have never even met face to face.

Let me tell you about the award-winning cook and Etsy shop owner Shannon Imlay. Shannon and I are FB friends. I believe I first came to know and admire her in an online cooking group better known as The Real Women of Philadelphia. I will never forget my first impression when seeing her online profile photo and saying, “WOW”. Shannon is strikingly lovely. She is also an extremely talented party hostess and certified floral designer all the while taking care of a special needs son on her own. She is impressive.

Shannon has had her share of grief, but truly maintains a positive outlook on life. Her generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze me. Recently, she kindly sent me a most glamorous and decadent giftbox filled with products from her Etsy shop, Shannon’s Romantic Life. 

I could not wait to try both of her hot chocolate mixes inspired by the romantic-comedy movie Chocolat (thus the spelling of her products). Made from just a few high quality and organic ingredients her sipping chocolate is like none other I have tasted. Rich and creamy this is a luscious dark chocolate blend with just the right amount of sweetness. The Spicy Kiss version has a touch of chipotle chili which adds a smokey subtle burn in the back of the throat which was thoroughly enjoyed. All you have to do to make this decadent drink is add milk, whisk and bring to a boil.

If you need a gift (Easter & Mother’s Day) or a reason to spoil yourself then check out Shannon”s Romantic Life on Etsy. Everything in Shannon’s shop is crafted with love, kindness and the highest quality ingredients. She is also very happy to customize any order.

one of the many beautiful pieces Shannon makes…customized with me in mind