Saturday, February 27, 2010

March Challenge - Test Winning Recipes

It is time to get serious about contesting! I need to find a way to take my recipes to a new level. Find that missing "something" that could make my recipe entries unique and interesting to judges and sponsors. I am dedicating the month of March to testing winning recipes. I will be making the recipes others have submitted and won in contests. What better recipe to kick off my March challenge then Carolyn Gurtz's Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies, otherwise know as The Million Dollar Peanut Butter Cookie. Stay tuned this month, I hope to post many other winners and my reviews.

Million Dollar Peanut Butter Cookies

Contest: 43rd Annual Pillsbury Bake Off Grand Prize Winner by Carolyn Gurtz

The following is the winning recipe in the last Pillsbury Bake Off. The winner, Carolyn Gurtz, created this recipe and won the grand prize of one million dollars. Imagine, a cookie worth a million. Well I made these cookies and they are pretty darn good. They are best after fully cooled so you get a good contrast on the crisp outside and soft inside. Hot from the oven they come off sort of chewy and the soft center is much hotter than a normal cookie, burnt my mouth. Amazing how a simple recipe with a small twist can create such a drastically different cookie. Not your average peanut butter cookie, it is so much better! Way to go Carolyn!

Million Dollar Peanut Butter Cookies

1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 cup confectioners' powdered sugar
1 roll Pillsbury Create 'n Bake refrigerated peanut butter cookies, well chilled.
1. Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix chopped peanuts, granulated sugar, and cinnamon; set aside.
2. In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely blended. Shape mixture into 24 (1-inch) balls.
3. Cut roll of cookie dough into 12 slices. Cut each slice in half crosswise to make 24 pieces; flatten slightly. Shape 1 cookie dough piece around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough and balls.
4. Roll each covered ball in peanut mixture; gently pat mixture completely onto balls. On ungreased large cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart. Spray bottom of drinking glass with Crisco original no-stick cooking spray; press into remaining peanut mixture. Flatten each ball to 1/4-inch thickness with bottom of glass. Sprinkle any remaining peanut mixture evenly on tops of cookies; gently press into dough.
5. Bake 7 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store tightly covered.

Chopping the nuts. Finally got to use my crazy Pampered Chef Chopper for something.

Mixing the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Actually a bit harder than it sounds. I could have used a bigger bowl, that might have made it easier.

All the little peanut butter balls. I used a small teaspoon or dessert spoon to size the balls.

Chopping some Pillsbury Dough and wrapping some peanut butter balls.

All the pictures I found online looked like this. I wish I had taken a picture of trying to seal them up, it isn't as pretty. The Pillsbury Peanut Butter Cookie Dough is gets soft real quick, so it doesn't exactly wrap up easy like a tortilla. It softened quickly, you have to move fast to close them all up nicely.

Rolling the cookies in the cinnamon, sugar and nuts. You have to give a bit of a push to get the nuts to stick.


Ready for the oven.

Pretty cookies! Seriously though, let them cool completely. They taste so much better when the crisp has set. Yum!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Golden Spaghetti Squash

Past contest entry: Star Flavors of the Mediterranean Recipe Contest

I thought I would share some recipes that have been entered and apparently lost, as I never got word from the sponsor. I keep saying I have only lost, but that is not exactly true. I did received a olive oil/vinegar decanter from Star, not because I had a good recipe, but because I followed directions properly and mailed my recipe in on time. Hey, I'll take anything and call it a win. Here is a nice picture of my one and only "prize" thus far.

My husband asked what kind of contest I had entered that sent me a bong as a prize.

Here is the recipe that "won" me my first "prize". I have always been intrigued and intimidated by spaghetti squash, however it turns out it is really easy to cook and takes to flavors very well. Maybe the most fun member of the squash family. Enjoy!

Golden Spaghetti Squash

2 whole spaghetti squash
2 tablespoon Star Olive Oil to rub squash
3 tablespoons Star Olive Oil (in skillet)
¼ cup diced red onion
2 cloves of garlic – pressed or minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons Star Golden Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut both squash in 1/2 lengthwise and scoop out all seeds. Rub them inside and out with 2 tablespoons of Star Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash cut side down on cookie sheet and cover with foil. Place in the oven and cook until the rind is slightly soft or gives with a little pressure, about 20-30 minutes. When they are done, scrape the meat out with a fork and reserve, keeping warm.

Heat 3 tablespoons of Star Olive Oil in large skillet over medium/high heat. Saute red onions and garlic in oil till soft, about 2 minutes. Add grape tomatoes cook till soft, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and rosemary then add the spaghetti squash and toss in the pan coating the squash with oil and herbs. Transfer to serving dish and drizzel with 2 tablespoons of Star Golden Balsamic Vinegar then top with crumbled feta cheese and cracked fresh pepper.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes total
Serves 6

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Focaccia Fish Cakes

Contest: Gorton's Grilled Recipe Renovation

I had to give my family a break tonight from recipe testing as we returned to a meal from "The Regular Rotation" as my husband calls it. That is actually how he rates new recipes, it gets either a simple "Good!" or "Ok, but not for The Regular Rotation". That is how I know it didn't work. I can also tell how bad a meal was by how many English muffins my husband eats later in the night. If the toaster oven is humming at 9pm, that means dinner was not up to par with "The Regular Rotation".

It has been a busy week of testing. This week I have been working with Bisquick and the Gorton's Grilled Fish. I also did a little Pillsbury experiment with sugar cookie dough, it didn't work out so well. But with every failure, comes inspiration for change, I plan another test with the cookie dough soon. I will share all my Pillsbury stuff in the future. Contesters are all very supportive people and are rarely dirty competitors, but I still am not posting any recipes or ideas until they have been submitted to the contests. Don't want anyone poaching my foods!

The following is something I came up with using the Gorton's Grilled Fish Fillets. Larger than crumb chunks of Focaccia bread give this fish cake a great texture. And you just can't go wrong with Panko for a great crispy and crunchy finish. Hope you enjoy!

Focaccia Fish Cakes

2 Gorton's All Natural Italian Herb Grilled Fillets (1 package)
3/4 Cup Stale Focaccia Bread cut into 1/2 inch crumbs
2 Eggs
3 Green Onions Chopped
1 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
1 Tablespoon Romano Cheese
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Jarred Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon Italian Salad Dressing
1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise

Microwave the 2 Gorton's All Natural Italian Herb Grilled Fillets on high for 5 minutes. Fish should be nearly cooked through. Chop the fish into small pieces and set aside to cool. In separate bowl mix Focaccia crumbs, eggs, onions, Parmesan Cheese, Romano Cheese and Parsley. Ensure the fish is now cool to touch, then mix it into the bowl. Create 8 fish cakes like you would a hamburger patty. Roll fish cakes in Panko bread crumbs until coated evenly.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium/high heat. Add fish cakes and cook each side for about 5 minutes until golden brown on each side.

To prepare sauce, mix jarred tomato sauce, Italian salad dressing and mayonnaise till smooth.

Serve fish cakes topped with sauce. Enjoy!

I really need to get a better camera or lighting or something to create better food pictures. I have been shopping the discount racks for a few good display plates. My boring tan Crate and Barrel plates are not doing the dishes any favors.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

I joined a farm co-op! Growing up with hippie parents, I always get pressure to do the green thing and I really want to, I do. Being earth friendly is not always financially appealing. I tried the local farmer's market last year and spent $40 on a very small bag of random vegetables. $6 for a pint of blueberries when they are $2 at Market Basket. The Community Supported Agriculture group is a great opportunity to buy local fresh produce at a reasonable price, $300 for a 1/2 bushel for 20 weeks. It is all from a local farm in Concord, MA (hope I get grapes!). During the weeks of harvest we just pick up a box of veggies (some fruits or berries) from our local nursery. We get a different variety each week based on what is ready for harvest. You know I won't let any go to waste. My only concern is that I might be hard pressed to find a use for everything we receive, so I will be looking for and creating many new recipes which I will share on my blog. Looking forward to a very veggie summer!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wonton Madness!!!

Not a contest entry - this is just something for fun.

Successful coupon and warehouse shopping is a science. It can save you tons of cash if you don't fall into the trap of buying more than you can use or things you don't use. I bought too much of something I don't use: wonton and eggroll wrappers. Saved a dollar, but now I feel the pressure to use all these wrappers before they expire on 2/14. I have been frying everything in the house, here are a few new ones.

Peanut butter and banana - excellent!!! My son loved this!

Oatmeal. Yea, I fried Oatmeal.

Add a slice of apple to the oatmeal.... just like a fried pie!

I still have half a package of wonton wrappers. Think I'll fry up some stuff for Valentine's Day. I will post any exciting finds. Wonton madness expires on Sunday.

Uncle Bernie's Fish Soup

Contest: Gorton's Grilled Recipe Renovation,

I learned to cook by closely following recipes. A rule breaker I am not, so I never swayed from the instructions even by a pinch. You can imagine how flustered and stressed I was when I started cooking with my artist uncles, Bernie and Joe. The Uncles are the very definition of Recipe Crashers, but they are also a great inspiration as I create new recipes. I swear, Joe can make a gourmet meal out of only condiments.

My first year in Boston I lived in The Uncles' basement and pretty much spent all my free time cooking in their fully equipped kitchen. We all gain a bit of weight that year and I learned that the meal will not be ruined by a little variation to the recipe. That did not stop me from totally freaking out when Bernie tried to add stewed tomatoes to my chicken fried steak, some things can't be varied. This is my Uncle Bernie's Fish Soup recipe, he swears he does not want any of the prize should I win this contest, he just wants his name on the recipe.

Challenge in this contest: Gorton's Grilled Fillets are all ready spiced and they each changed the soup and made it something different. Some flavors just didn't work well. The butter flavor was best with this simple broth recipe. The butter added a bit of depth to the soup. Hope the Gorton's folks like it.

Uncle Bernie's Fish Soup

3 Tablespoons Butter
2 Medium Onions chopped small
1 Carrot chopped small
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1/3 Cup Smooth Peanut Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Packages (4 Fillets) Gorton's Roasted Garlic & Butter Grilled Tilapia Fillets
1/4 Cup Half & Half
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Cups Fresh Bean Sprouts
1 Cup Fresh Watercress

Melt butter over medium heat in large deep skillet. Add onions first, cook a few minutes then add the carrots. Cook vegetables for 5-6 minutes until soft and the onions are translucent. Whisk in the chicken broth, peanut butter and cayenne pepper. Bring to a slow boil then turn down to a simmer for about 8 minutes. Add 4 Gorton's Roasted Garlic & Butter Tilapia Fillets, cover and cook for 8-10 minutes till the fish is cooked/poached. Stir in half & half, then salt and pepper, simmer for additional 2 minutes.

To serve use 4 large shallow soup bowls. Place a big handful of fresh bean sprouts (about 1/2 cup) in the bottom of the bowl. Top the bean sprouts with a smaller handful of fresh watercress (about 1/4 cup. Place a single fillet in each bowl on top of vegetables then divide the broth between all four bowls. Enjoy!

Sauteed Veggies

Peanut butter and broth

Poach the Gorton's Tilapia Fillets

Fresh bean sprouts and watercress. Crunchy goodness!

And serve!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sloppy Rolls

Contest: Best Messy Recipe Contest by Bounty Paper Towels on

Well this contest seemed right up my ally. There is not a meal in my house that does not end up messy. My next home improvement is installing a garden hose and large drain in my kitchen. Two young boys, enough said. Still initially I was stumped by this one, all I could think was Sloppy Joes. I love Sloppy Joes! Thinking... how can you make Sloppy Joes a party food? Eggrolls! And thus... Sloppy Rolls.

If you like this recipe go to and vote for it on the contest page under Best Messy Recipe, Sloppy Joes by Cooking4Fun. Contest ends 2/12/09.

Sloppy Rolls

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion - diced small
1 green bell pepper - diced small
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 package egg roll wrappers
1 cup vegetable oil (or your favorite frying oil)
1/2 cup Velvetta cheese
1 egg white

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add 1 lb ground beef, cook till fully browned. Drain off fat. Return to heat add the spices; salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder. Then add water and tomato paste. Mix well heating through then add corn starch to thicken. Simmer for additional 10 minutes until the mixture is thick.

Using egg roll wrappers prepare egg rolls placing 1 heaping tablespoon of sloppy joe meat and a few 1 inch chunks of velvetta. Roll the egg rolls as directed on the egg roll package using egg whites to seal rolls. Heat frying oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Fry egg rolls in batches, 5-6 at a time. Cook on each side 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on cooling rack with paper towels lined under. Serve hot!

This recipe is the first that I have received a buzz on. Very excited to see people are actually looking at the stuff I post and a few people liked it. Cool.

Forbidden Kisses -

Contest: Creative Desserts for Two Challenge

I had a coupon for eggroll wrappers and wonton wrappers. Made something cool with the eggroll wrappers and was wondering what to do with the wontons then I saw this contest. I took a tip from the Texas State Fair and I fried up a lot of different chocolates. Turns out my original idea was best - Hershey Kisses. The dark chocolate kisses are best. If you like this recipe visit and vote for me in the Creative Desserts for Two Challenge, this recipe is listed as Forbidden Kisses by Cooking4Fun. Enjoy!

Forbidden Kisses

6 Hershey Kisses (Dark Chocolate are best)
6 Wonton Wrappers
2 Cups shortening (or your favorite frying oil)
1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar

Heat oil in skillet, ensure the oil is about 1-2 two inches deep. Place one wonton wrapper on dry cutting board. Place Hershey Kiss in center of wonton wrapper. Pull all four corners up to meet on top of Hershey Kiss and seal with water. Should look like a star dumpling. Seal all edges well with water and pressing firmly. Place wontons in hot oil, cook each side 1-2 minutes, turning so all sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towel lined plate. Move to serving plate, dust with powdered sugar or coco and serve immediately.

Easy to make as many as desired. 2 or the whole bag! Enjoy!

All the chocolates I tried. I had high hopes for the chocolate covered cherries, but they kind of got lost in the fry. My husband's reaction to fried chocolate - "Isn't that going the wrong way with chocolate?" I think fried chocolate is a great idea!

Seal up all four corners so the chocolate doesn't slip out.

Fry them up! Golden brown on all side.

Dust with powdered sugar or coco powder and serve warm. They are really good!

Goal: Pillsbury Bake Off

I have heard that if you write a goal down on paper, you greatly increase the odds of achieving that goal. Not sure anyone will look at this blog, accept my family and friends maybe once to be polite, but I figure if I put it in writing and track my efforts maybe it will help me achieve it. So here we go......

My goal: Participate in the Pillsbury Bake Off

As a "contester in training" I am entering everyt contest I can find. I will post all entered recipes on this blog and a few of my not so good ideas for a laugh. Since I began contesting about a year ago I think I have entered about 12 original recipes. Stay tuned, there are many more to come!