Here are some happenings on the cooking-contest front:
• Two Utahns are finalists in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which takes place April 12-15 in Dallas. DeAnn Hilterbrand of Salt Lake City will compete with Chicken Mole Poblano, and Karry Edwards of Sandy will make Jumbo Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.
They will compete against 98 other finalists for a $1 million grand prize. Utah typically has at least one sometimes as many as four finalists, which speaks to the creativity of our state's home cooks.
• The National Chicken Cooking Contest is "restructuring." Instead of having one contestant from every state at the cook-off, only nine regional winners will compete in San Antonio in 2009.
Winners from each state will get a $100 prize and then move on to a regional competition. The regional champs get $1,000 in addition to the trip to San Antonio. The grand prize is $50,000 (down from the $100,000 awarded in the 2007 contest). (The rules for recipe entries will be posted on www.eatchicken.com.)
• This makes the National Chicken Cooking Contest less like the Pillsbury Bake-Off and more like the National Beef Cook-Off, which has a smaller number of finalists. The last beef contest, held in Chicago in September, had 25 finalists none from Utah. The $50,000 grand-prize winner was Christine Riccitelli of Incline Village, Nev., with Nuevo Chipotle Beef in Butternut Squash Boats.
• Contest veteran Erin Mylroie of St. George a past finalist in all three of the above cook-offs has a holiday season blog on Rachael Ray's Web site. Earlier this year, Mylroie won a Burger Bash contest sponsored by Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine and prepared her winning Salsa Verde Turkey Burger on Ray's TV show.
She apparently impressed Ray's folks, because a few weeks later she was offered a holiday-season blog. Mylroie shares contest experiences, family traditions and cooking tips, and answers questions at www.rachaelraymag.com/marketing/pyrex/
Preparation time: 25 minutes, cooking time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
1 1/2 pounds stew beef
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons each: brown sugar, balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 medium butternut squash, about 3 pounds
1 1/2 cups water
1 tomato, cored, chopped
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, cubed, optional
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine beef, water, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, chipotle pepper, cumin, salt and black pepper in a Dutch oven; cover. Bake until beef is fork-tender, about 1 3/4-2 1/4 hours.
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