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

The Blend Mushroom Cook-Off

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fresh Kennett Square mushrooms

Sorry to say I have been MIA with the blog. I’ve been super busy with family stuff, some personal projects like my completely overgrown garden and working on our local mushroom festival cook-off. I’m just now taking a breather.

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chop them up

I really wanted to share the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival Cook-off information with all of you who love to cook and compete. This year’s incentive to enter is pretty awesome with sponsors including True Aussie Beef & Lamb, KitchenAid, Challenge Butter and the Mushroom Council. The prizes are generous and even include golden tickets to compete at the World Food Championships.

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brown them to enhance their flavor

The theme of this years cookoff is “the blend” of fresh mushrooms with True Aussie Grassfed beef & lamb. Healthy and full of flavor this combo can be made into anything from a stuffing to a burger to a taco or even a bolognese sauce.

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cool and season

For all the details of the contest check out the mushroom festival cook-off link listed above. Good luck. Hope to see you in September in my sweet little town.

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mix in the grassfed beef or lamb

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Best blend ever

 

Winner of an Applesauce

 

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This week I am happy to announce that I won third place in the Our Family Garden Applesauce recipe contest. Now, you might not think 3rd place is a big deal, but this contest was such a joy to participate in for so many reasons other than winning.

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First of all this is a real family business headed by a man named Darvin. Everyone including the children are involved in making the best applesauce I have ever eaten. The applesauce, made from a variety of apples, comes unsweetened or with a touch of honey +/or cinnamon. Darvin sent each participating contestant 6 full size jars of his well-made product plus a gift of a jar of jam….just because his is a kind and generous business. I already felt like I won and my recipe testing had not even started, yet.

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Inspired by such kindness and the perfect balance of fresh applesauce sweetness I went on to create 12 new recipes. (These days for most contests I only create 1 or 2 recipes at most.) Truth is this applesauce is so good on its own that it’s almost a crime to transform it into something else, but, my oh my, did it make every recipe I developed taste not only fantastic, but so much healthier to eat. I eliminated sugar and lots of fat without sacrificing any flavor in everything from baked goods to soups to a Korean style BBQ sauce. Win-Win-Win!

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The icing on the cake is that one of my recipe photos was chosen to dress the cover of the cookbook Darvin and his family are putting together. I am just thrilled the family liked my food photography and styling, too.

Here is my winning recipe which was a huge hit at Easter dinner. It’s a healthy carrot cake cupcake makeover utilizing a touch of honey for sweetness and some white whole wheat flour for a wholesome boost in nutrition. Try them for Mother’s Day.

Honey Frosted Carrot Cupcakes

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3-cup white whole wheat flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon fine salt

2 eggs

1/3-cup honey

½ cup canola oil

1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2/3-cup Our Family Garden Applesauce Touch of Honey

1 1/3 cups finely grated fresh carrots

Frosting

1 (8 oz) container mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In another large bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add honey, oil and lemon juice; whisk until slightly thickened. Stir in the applesauce and grated carrots. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture blending until dry ingredients are moistened and well mixed. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter. Bake about 20 – 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely before frosting. For frosting, beat mascarpone, honey and vanilla until well blended. Pipe or spoon the frosting on the top of each cupcake. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

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My favorite jelly bean and now taste tester in her Easter dress