Friday, March 23, 2012

Diet Drink Myths Busted

We've all heard rumors that diet soda actually makes you fatter. Well, that's not true, according to a study done by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Replacing caloric, sugar-sweetened beverages with diet beverages could be part of an effective weight-loss strategy. But drinking plain water appears to give more health benefits.  Researchers found that swapping out sugar-sweetened beverages for non-caloric ones resulted in average weight losses of 2 to 2.5%. The Lempert Report, a newsletter for food retailers, tells more about the study. 
Researchers had hypothesized that substituting a non-caloric beverage, whether it was water or diet beverages, would lead to significant weight loss. This study was  was one of the first randomized controlled trials to explore the issue of beverage substitution and weight loss. To prove their theory, researchers compared the replacement of caloric beverages with water or diet beverages as a method of weight loss with a control group, over a six month period in adults.

People who switched to calorie-free beverages were twice as likely to lose five percent or more of their body weight than those who were not counseled to change beverages
People who drank water  had lower fasting glucose levels and better hydration levels than the control group. But it was  slightly easier for the diet beverage group to reduce calories in the short-term, at three months – as compared to the water group. People may do better slowly weaning themselves off caffeine as they transition to water, says Dr. Brie Turner-McGrievy, one of the study’s authors and Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Turner-McGrievy and colleagues are exploring how sweet preference plays a  role in sticking to beverage substitution over time.
“Some people may drink caloric beverages, like soda and sweet tea, because they enjoy sweet foods or have a strong preference for sweet foods and drinks. The diet drinks, which still taste sweet, may have appealed to this group of sweet likers as an easier way to discontinue their caloric beverage intake,” says Dr. Turner-McGrievy.
A few years ago I reported on a study that found a link between overweight people and diet drinks. But it was hard to say which came first -- did the diet drinks make people overweight, or did overweight people drink diet soda in an attempt to lose weight? A lot of skinny people probably feel that they can drink whatever they want,and thus don't drink low-cal sodas.  Also, there's that "halo" effect that surrounds "diet" foods. Studies have shown that people tend to eat more when they feel they can get away with it. So instead of a sugar-sweetened Coke, they might have a Diet Coke along with a bag of chips or doughnut, with the thought that the Diet Coke is going to cancel out all those calories. 
If you are swapping beverages straight across, though, it makes sense that you could lose weight. 

Since over 20 percent of America's calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages, it makes sense to switch to water or lower calorie drinks.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Conda's Immunity

Once again, those silly folks on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" lost out on an opportunity to dump Conda Britt, arguably the most disliked player in the show's history.
Maybe it was the balmy Hawaiian air that kept them from thinking straight.  During the challenge, the group ran up and down a hill to gather leis and put them on their opponents' tikis. Once someone got 10 leis — or the death lei — they were out.  The last one standing got immunity that week — the most important prize you can win. And guess who got it? Conda — basically handed to her on a silver platter.
Kimmy had a chance to give someone the "death lei." Instead of giving it to Conda, Jeremy or Mark, who already have an advantage because of their alliance, she chose to give it to Kim, who was nearly out anyway.
  At the weigh-in, Conda barely did better than Megan, losing 1.81 percent to 1.52 percent.  Had Megan pushed herself a little harder to lose another pound, and had her mom thought about strategy rather than simply her dislike of Kim,  the mom and daughter duo might still be together the ranch.  I know what they say about hindsight, but really!
  Everyone sat back and let Conda dictate the game, telling Jeremy who to take out next, insuring her immunity. Jeremy is a faithful little brother — too faithful.  He's mentioned that he's never had a girlfriend. Maybe it's because he's too busy trying to please his sister? Something should have clicked when people commented on his letting Conda win, and rather than thanking him, she insisted that she "earned it." Really? How? By being bossy?
  Kim DOES have a target on her back, and she's partly to blame because she trusted Conda and helped Conda ruthlessly eliminate other players. Now she's paying the price. And Kim is not make herself any friends with her strident outspokenness during the voting. I thought it was interesting that Mark came to her and tried to reassure her that he's not out to get her. It will be interesting to see if he holds to his promise.     Chris has also been a target, but she is holding her own.  It's impressive that these two have managed to stay in the game this long without a partner.
  With Kimmy gone, Megan needs to kick into gear, or her days are numbered. Buddy is also disadvantaged because of his stress fracture. He couldn't participate in the challenge to try to get immunity, and he's limited on workouts.  But even without a partner from the very first week, he's held his own. He and Mark have ties to each other, and to Jeremy and Conda.  But they're smart enough to know that when push comes to shove, Jeremy and Conda won't think twice to throw them under the bus.
Jeremy's managed some steady weight loss, but Conda's numbers aren't that great. I can't figure out why everyone bows to her wishes, and those who don't are soon out the door.  Please, someone force-feed her a few chocolate milkshakes and bags of Oreos!  If she falls below the yellow line, will people be smart enough to vote her off while they can?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dutch Oven World Champions

Doug Martin, left, and Matt Pelton are the IDOS World Champs.
Matt Pelton of  Provo and Doug Martin of Draper won the International Dutch Oven Society's 2012 World Championship Cook-Off on Saturday during the International Sportsmen's Expo.
The event attracted teams from Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Washington, and Idaho, as well as Utah, the headquarters (or I guess you could say "hotbed") of IDOS. I covered the event for the Deseret News (you can look for the story posted on Tuesday evening).
Robert Love, an IDOS member who has photographed the competition for years, supplied the photos for my Deseret News story and for this blog. Thanks, Rob!  
This was the duo's first time at the World Championship — the first time a "first-time" team had ever won. Most of the contestants who were cooking in Saturday's finals had cooked in at least one or two past World Championships.
When asked the secret to their success, Matt said, "It's practice, practice, practice, every weekend for the past six months. We've probably cooked 60 loaves of our winning bread recipe, and about 40 of those cakes.  We've cooked for our friends and family, and we solicited people to cook for them if they would pay the food costs."
Winning Chocolate Four-Layer Cake. (Rob Love photo)
The investment paid off, as the two won with recipes of Hibachi Surf and Turf, Rustic Tuscan Bread, and a Chocolate Layer Cake & Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. 
 To get a berth at the event, teams had to win an IDOS-sanctioned cook-off in their region, and then qualify in the semi-finals held Thursday and Friday evening at the ISE at the South Towne Expo Center.  
Winning Hibachi Surf and Turf   (Rob Love photo)
Each team cooks three dishes: a main dish, a bread, and a dessert, all with burning charcoal as the only heat source. There were some with regional twists, such as a Cajun-seasoned Snap' N Pork with alligator stuffing from Bill Ryan and Jeff Jimes of Bossier City, La., and prickly pear cactus used in Duck Breast with Raspberry Sauce from George and Carolyn Dumler of Tucson, Ariz. The Dumlers took 4th place overall.  
Bill and Toni Thayn took second place with Asian Inspired Beef Tenderloin Filets with Sushi, Buttery Rosemary Rolls, and Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake. Third-place winners Mark and Cindy Romrell of Kearns did Blueberry BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Honey Wheat Bread with Five Tempting Toppings, and Caramel Spice Cake.  Fifth place winners, Jason Jensen and Mike Lambert, both of Stansbury Park, served New Mexican Pork Tenderloin and Sweet Potato Tamales, Five Topping Bread, and Apricot Cheesecake. 

The International Dutch Oven Society pays homage to the black cast-iron pots with a rich history. Pioneers lugged them across the plains, and they were an integral part of cowboy chuckwagons. But the dishes cooked at the World Championships have evolved w-a-y beyond the those simple stews and johnnycakes cooked over a campfire!

The recipes for all the contestants' dishes are sold at for $15 plus shipping. Also for those who want to learn about Dutch oven cooking, there's a spring convention May 5 at the Davis County Fairgrounds in Farmington. The convention features cooking demonstrations, seminars and samplings, and you can find out how to join IDOS and locate a chapter in your neck of the woods. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Emily Ousted By the Conda Curse

Well, one of the last likable players on "The Biggest Loser" fell victim to the Conda Curse tonight, with Emily's departure.

Emily fell below the dreaded yellow line  — couldn't she have just taken off those big hoop earrings and lost another pound? So when the vote came down to Emily and Kimmy, Emily got booted. Oh sure, Conda voted to oust Kimmy, but hey, she knew that everyone else was going to vote off Emily. That way she can make nice with Kim and do things like go shopping with Jessica Simpson and pretend they are still BFFs, while she's stabbing Kim in the back. 

I guess Conda can't be blamed entirely. Maybe Emily's self-doubts and fears deserve some of the blame for not showing better numbers. She was the black team's biggest loser last week, winning immunity when most of the other team coasted. It's hard to have big weeks back-to-back.

However, Conda effectively alienated Emily and Kim from the rest of the players last week by stirring the red team up against them. She told Buddy, Mark and Jeremy that Emily, Cassandra and Kim approached her to get rid of the men on the red team. We don't know if this really even happened, as we never saw any footage of it, and why would they ask her to get rid of her own brother? Whether it was true or not, the tale worked. Both Cassandra and Emily are now gone.  I used to dislike Kim as the triple trio of Conda, Kim and Mark. But now Kim seems on her own, with no real friends on either team. And shopping with Jessica aside, Conda is NOT her friend.  Still, Kim is a competitor, and if she can keep pulling numbers to stay above the yellow line, she can hang in there awhile longer. It will just be very uncomfortable.

I thought it was interesting that in the voting process, Chris mentioned how Kimmy reached out to her after Roy left. Apparently there are a lot of things viewers don't see, so maybe some of our perceptions are off with some of the friendships that have formed. Part of me wants to cheer for Jeremy, because he's pretty funny, and such a good brother; but he's a brother to Conda.

Buddy's injury (a stress fracture) makes me wonder about the trainers' intense workouts, and how much you should "trust" your trainer, versus listening to your own body when it's hurting.  He's not the first player to develop a stress fracture due to the intense training regimens.  A few years ago I interviewed Heather Hansen of Bountiful, one of the final four on BL Season 3. She said  when she left the ranch, she had a torn calf muscle, bursitis in her knees and tendonitis in her quadricep muscles. She had to do a lot of healing before she could start working out again. 
Yes, doctors monitor the contestants, "but you get a lot of pressure from the trainers to push your body beyond its limits," she told me. "The doctor would say, 'Don't do squats, hills or inclines,' but then the trainer would say, 'We're climbing up a sand hill today."'
That led to the angry exchange with trainer Kim Lyon.
"A few days before, I got dragged up the sand hill and tore my calf muscle. So when she said, 'Trust me, I won't hurt you,' I didn't believe her. But at that point, my legs were almost completely useless, and I couldn't afford any more injuries if I was going to make it to the final four. To Kim's credit, she wasn't malicious or cruel, just very competitive."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PILLSBURY BAKE-OFF: Two Utah Contestants

In a couple of weeks, I'll be going to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando. On March 27, the $1 million dollar winner will be announced on the Martha Stewart Show, and I'll be in the audience along with the contestants, their families, and other food writers. 
Two Utah contestants are among the 100 finalists. On March 26, Cameron Bailey of Salt Lake City and Elizabeth DeHart of West Jordan will cook their original recipes for the judges and master of ceremonies, Martha Stewart. Bailey's recipe is Bacon-Chicken Sliders with Raspberry-Onion Spread; and DeHart will cook her Falafel Sandwiches with Fire-Roasted Tomato Aioli.
This is the 45th Bake-Off, which was begun in 1949, now takes place every other year. It remains the premier national home cooking contest, as other long-running cook-offs have been downsized or discontinued.
For being a small state population-wise, Utah has a good track record for Bake-Off finalists, with at least one — and sometimes three or four — finalists in every contests. But so far, nobody from Utah has won the grand prize. Could 2012 be the lucky year?

Bacon-Chicken Sliders with Raspberry-Onion Spread

Falafel Sandwiches with Fire-Roasted Tomato Aioli.

I interviewed the two Utah contestants for a Deseret News story
Cameron Bailey hopes to be the second male grand prize winner (the first one was Kurt Waite in 1996). But the Bake-Off isn't his only competition that weekend.  He will get to Orlando a day early to run in a half-marathon near on Saturday morning.
"I wanted to come home with a medal even if I don't win the million bucks," he said.
A project manager at 3-Form, a building materials company, Bailey said began cooking at a young age.
"I was raised in a large Utah family with four siblings, all of us had to learn to cook because Mom and dad were both busy," he said.
He's been entering the Bake-off since 2002.
"Those first recipes I entered were horrible," he said with a chuckle during a telephone interview. "But I've learned how to play the Bake-Off game."
He's now realized that sponsors are seeking recipes that best showcase their products such as Pillsbury's "Poppin' Fresh" dough, Jif peanut butter, Smucker's jams, Hershey's chocolate, and Muir Glen Organics vegetables.
"My first recipes used a bare minimum of the sponsor ingredients," he said. "This time around, my recipe used seven sponsor ingredients. I used the greatest number of sponsor ingredients to raise my chances."
He also raised his chances by entering seven different recipes. "They were very concise and all winners, I thought. I was surprised that my appetizer recipe was the one selected, though, because I love to show off with my desserts."
He came up with his recipe during a time period where he was "on a kick to find wonderful things to do with balsamic vinegar."
After hearing a discussion on the radio program "The Splendid Table," he was inspired to make a reduction sauce of chicken broth with raspberries, balsamic vinegar and a touch of honey, "And it was wonderful. So when the Bake-Off came along, I thought I could take Smucker's preserves and use it instead of the raspberries to get the right degree sweetness and savory.  The balsamic spread sounds odd, but when it comes together, it's really wonderful."
He considers himself a home cook who makes "approachable" dishes using ingredients that he already has on hand.  So as far as food TV idols go, he enjoys watching Rachael Ray and Ann Burrell — "I think she's fun and sassy and stands up for herself in the way she cooks."
Martha Stewart has been a lifelong idol of Bailey's, "So I about died when I found out she was going to be the host.  I have watched her shows for years and take her magazine.  She's been a real inspiration to me."
If he wins the million-dollar prize, he will use the money to pay off his MBA student loans. for his MBA, buy a new used car, and have a down payment on a house, "all responsible choices," he notes.
Finalists can bring guests for a fee to watch from the sidelines during the Bake-off. Bailey, who is single, will have his parents from Cache Valley there cheering for him.

Elizabeth DeHart is a proponent of fresh, local, healthy food. And she has no trouble reconciling that the fact that she's competing in a contest sponsored by food industry giants.
"I'm an advocate of everything in moderation," she said. "And the only convenience foods in my recipe are canned beans and canned organic tomatoes which don't have a lot of processing or additives, and Grands biscuits. There's also fresh spinach in it, and that's very healthy. So it's really good food."
DeHart, a mother of two who works part-time as a medical sales representative, is also semi-vegetarian.
"I was on a quest to find a really good vegetarian sandwich that appeals to everybody. I came up with falafel."
The spicy sandwich gets added smoky notes from the fire-roasted tomatoes used in the aioli.
DeHart said she entered "five or six" recipes, and was surprised that the falafel sandwich was the one they picked.  "But my kids and my husband really like it, and it's a good recipe."
Dehart said that she is a self-taught cook. "My mother was a good traditional meat-and-potatoes cook.  I like cooking ethnic dishes — Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Thai, and Mexican."
She's dabbled in a few recipe contests, winning $500 for her use of Philadelphia Cream Cheese in a Creamy Tomato and Artichoke Gnocchi recipe. She's also had recipes published in Taste of Home magazine.
This is the first time she entered the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
 "I was ecstatic to hear I was selected," she said. "There's a lot of satisfaction in the realization that I can actually cook. Also the financial incentive would be a relief, as we have been hurt by the economy. I would like to be able to go back to school."
DeHart's husband, Timothy, is accompanying her to the contest. And, she's gotten a lot of cheering from family and friends.
As for TV food stars, "I'm a huge fan of 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.' He's a big proponent of fresh local food and an advocate for health, and I think that's important."
Bacon-Chicken Sliders with Raspberry-Onion Spread
1 can Pillsbury Place 'n Bake refrigerated crescent rounds
1 Land O Lakes egg, beaten
1 to 2 teaspoons McCormick poppy seeds
1 tablespoon Crisco pure vegetable oil
1 cup chopped red onions
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon McCormick ground black pepper
1 cup Progresso chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Smucker’s red raspberry preserves
1/4 cup Smucker’s apricot preserves
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked, thinly sliced
4 slices hickory-smoked bacon, crisply cooked, broken in half
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Place crescent rounds on cookie sheet; press each crescent into 2 1/2-inch round. Brush with egg; sprinkle with poppy seed.
2. Bake 8 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
3. Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, salt and pepper; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onions are tender. Add chicken broth and balsamic vinegar; cook 12 to 17 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Stir in red raspberry and apricot preserves; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until slightly thickened. Cool 5 minutes.
4. Cut each crescent round in half horizontally. Place bottoms of buns on serving platter; top each with 2 teaspoons of the onion mixture, chicken, bacon, cilantro and top of bun.
— Cameron Bailey, Finalist
Pillsbury Bake-off
* * *
Falafel Sandwiches with Fire-Roasted Tomato Aoili
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Muir Glen organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes (from 14.5-oz can), drained
3/4 teaspoon McCormick minced garlic
1 16.3-ounce can Pillsbury Grands! Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
5 tablespoons Crisco light olive oil
1 15-ounce can Progresso chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon McCormick chili powder
3/4 teaspoon McCormick ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon McCormick ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon McCormick ground roasted coriander
4 tablespoons Pillsbury all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1. To prepare aioli, place mayonnaise, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the minced garlic in food processor or blender. Cover; process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Heat oven to 350°F. Place biscuits on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops of biscuits with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
3. Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in food processor, place chickpeas, onion, remaining 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic, parsley, chili powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Cover; process, using quick on-and-off motions, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is well blended.
4. With wet hands, form about 3 tablespoons chickpea mixture into 3-inch patty. Repeat to make 7 more patties. In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook patties in oil 6 to 8 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown.
5. Split biscuits; spread a generous tablespoon aioli on bottom half of each biscuit. Top each with patty, spinach leaves and top of biscuit.
— Elizabeth DeHart, Finalist
Pillsbury Bake-off

Friday, March 9, 2012

Utah Woman Wins $20,000 Smuckers Recipe Contest

In Wednesday's Deseret News, I wrote about Carmell Child of Provo, who was headed to New York to compete for a $20,000 grand prize in a recipe contest. Today she was announced as the winner of the  fourth annual Spreading Smucker’s Traditions Recipe and Essay Contest.Her winning recipe, Chicken Bacon Burgers with Cherry-Chive Mayo, was inspired by a treasured dish her mother used to make their family for Sunday night dinners. 
Carmell will be able to celebrate her family’s traditions and create new ones with the $20,000 grand prize to host a family reunion and $1,000 to enlist a personal planner to help with the details.
Childs used Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Michigan Red Tart Cherry Preserves to give her burger a sweet-tart flavor boost. The addition was inspired by a treasured baked chicken and cranberry dish her mother, Delaina Nielsen, used to make for Sunday night dinners. Childs wanted to do a savory chicken dish with a similar sweet-tart dimension.
The second part of the contest was an essay, and Childs waxed poetic about her mother's cooking skills, with all the lines rhyming in poem.
"I wanted to stand out from the other entries," she said.  "I had a lot of fun writing it. I learned everything I know about cooking from her, and she was a self-taught cook."
Childs, a stay-at-home mother of three, said, "My kids don't consider me the best cook in the world, but my husband does."
She got excited about recipe contests when she entered the Utah's Own Ultimate Recipe Round-Up two years ago. "I didn't have much luck, but I didn't want to wait a whole year before entering another contest, so I looked online and found a wealth of contests to enter." 
Practice apparently makes perfect, because Childs ended up as grand prize winner of last year's Utah's Own contest, with her Utah Truffle Crepe Cake. and was also a finalist in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese "Real Women of Philadelphia" contest as well.
With the Smucker's contest, she chose to do a savory recipe instead of a sweet dessert in order to stand out from the competition.
"But the other finalists are on the same brain wave, because none of them did a dessert," she said.
Her ground chicken burgers have some chopped apple, "Because I wanted to add some moisture since ground chicken is so low in fat.  I used onions and apples, and they gave it flavor, too. The Smuckers cherry preserves add a little bit of sweetness — it's a great combination."
Since the prize money goes toward some type of family reunion, Childs said her kids are hoping to do a Disneyland reunion.
"I'd like to just have the whole family come over and have crab legs, because my family really likes seafood," she said.
Childs is just getting started in the recipe contest world. "The fun part for me is coming up with ideas. I lie awake in bed and come up with ideas when I can't sleep. I keep a notepad and pen under my bed."
Here is Child's winning recipe. The other finalists' recipes  are posted on
 Chicken Bacon Burger with Cherry-Chive Mayo
Crisco® No-Stick Cooking Spray
Tangy Cherry-Chive Mayo:
2/3 cup Smucker’s Orchard's Finest Michigan Red Tart Cherry Preserves
1/2 cup real mayonnaise or low-fat mayo
2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
Burger Patty:
2-3 teaspoons Crisco® Pure Olive Oil
1 cup Jonathan apple, cored and finely chopped
1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped crispy bacon
16-ounce roll of ground chicken
1 egg (or egg white)
1 1/4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning
Burger Assembly:
5 slices provolone cheese, for topping
5 sourdough English muffins, split and toasted
5-10 thin slices red onion
5-10 pieces, red-leaf lettuce

1. Heat broiler on high. Spray broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine the preserves, mayonnaise and chives in a small bowl; set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the apples and onions; season well with salt and pepper.
4. Cook and stir until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
5. Stir in the panko crumbs and then transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
6. Add the remaining burger ingredients into the apple mixture, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine.
7. Form the mixture into 5 patties (thinner at the center and thicker at the edges for even cooking). Mixture should be pretty sticky for a moist burger, but you may sprinkle in a little extra panko crumbs if needed.
8. Place patties on broil pan on the center rack. Broil 7-10 minutes, or just until centers are no longer pink, flipping once.
9.Place one slice of cheese on top of each patty during the last minute of cooking.
10. Assemble burgers on bottoms of split toasted muffins by layering lettuce, patty, Cherry-Chive Mayo, and 1-2 slices of red onion. Top with remaining split muffins and enjoy.

Carmell Childs' family essay:

Growing up in a family of eleven,
Mom knew how to cook with flavors from Heaven!
With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good,
Making 11 PB& J's, she did what she could.
It didn't end there, oh no, there's more Smucker's flair!
From savory to sweet, Mom won all at the fair!
Her tangy meatballs; their flavors divine
With real fruity goodness straight from the vine.
The thumbprint cookie with its strawberry sphere
Was always my Smucker's favorite this time of year.

Mom's love of cooking she passed down to me.
Her Sunday roast chicken with berries was inspirational -- you'll see.
My juicy chicken burger with cherries and chives
Is a tantalizing dish for your taste buds and eyes!
These flavor combinations are tried and true.
Mom shared them with me -- I'll share them with you!
On holidays this burger is always requested
For those are the days that we are truly invested
To creating good food and close family ties.
Mom's legacy is now mine. I'm the proud mother of three!
I create recipes for my family.
It just may be the preserves that hold us all together
Smucker's is the "sweetness" that we'll love forever!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Conda Takes Out Cassandra

Cassandra might have won the "face-off" battle with Conda (when Conda ungraciously accused her of cheating!) but she lost the "Biggest Loser" war last night.  Yes, Conda struck again. This week's twist played right into her hands — the team winning the weigh-in would be the one to vote off the a player for the losing team.

Although Conda played the role of the loyal black team mate, she was running to the red side and stirring them up against Emily and Cassandra.  Are the producers paying this woman to be the show's villain? She seems to be the instigator every time there's controversy.

The idea that Cassandra and Emily would try to vote off some of the guys would hardly be a big secret. After all, the idea is to get rid of your biggest threats.  But Conda made it sound sooo diabolical. And since no footage of this supposed coversation was aired on TV, who's to say that it even happened? Besides Conda, that is?

With family ties still on the red team, Megan and Condra knew they were safe, so they could coast into the weigh-in and show a better number for next week.  It apparently didn't bother them at all that they would be throwing another teammate under the bus. Lucky for Emily, she was able to pull out the best weight loss for immunity. Although it seems that Chris has no friends on either team, she apparently isn't perceived as a threat by Mark and Buddy. So Cassandra was sent packing. I wonder when it dawned on her that Conda sold her out.

But, Cassandra was foolish to trust Conda in the first place. She didn't mind game-playing with Conda to throw the weigh-in and vote off Daphne.  And her constant bad-mouthing of Chris last night didn't endear her to me either. It's weird how some people have so much time to worry about other people's workout efforts instead of paying attention to their own.

Although the other players complain that Chris is aloof and remote, maybe that's a protection mechanism for her... get too close to these people and they stab you in the back. Yes, she's been whiny, but she has played the game with integrity, from what we've seen on the show.  When everyone else deliberately gained weight in order to vote Daphne off,  Chris pulled out a five-pound loss, and she didn't vote for Daphne because she had promised Daphne she would never write down her name.  Chris doesn't have a family member to save her, and she is not in a clique, so she's vulnerable. But, she's not perceived as a threat, either.

 Of the remaining black team, Emily has the best chance to make it to the finals. But if she and Kim keep trusting Conda, they will both be sorry.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BIGGEST LOSER: Rumors, Twists and Turns

What will happen tonight on Biggest Loser is anyone's guess. This season has had so many twists and turns.  The rumor that two of the final four contestants will quit is still floating around.  One thing we do know: Chism Cornelison won't be one of them. 

In a stunning upset last week, Chism ended up just one pound shy of saving his team and giving himself immunity. Had he succeeded, it would have meant that either his father, Mark, or Kim would have been sent home.  I have a strong feeling that Kim would have been packing her bags, since Buddy and Jeremy likely would have saved Mark. 

Of course, Mark wanted to trade places with his son and be sent home. But he seemed a bit too strident and demanding, as if everyone should just change the rules because he said so. Many, many team members have watched their loved ones go home over the years. It's part of the game. Chism spoke out and realized that his dad can't always be there to fight his battles for him.

In media interviews since coming home, Chism has admitted the drama in the house was difficult. He said he tried to stay away from it, but got sucked in at times. (Like throwing the weigh-in to send Daphne home? Ya think?) 

Mark and Kim are likely to have a good week at tonight's weigh-in, but I think Kim is missing her kids and that's taking its toll. And Conda no longer has her back with the red team. And what about Conda? If she dips below the yellow line, her new teammates will feel less loyalty to her and send her home.

Maybe Daphne had some method in her madness by making Jeremy and Conda switch teams. It appeared to backfire and Daphne was sent home, but maybe Daphne realized she didn't have a chance anyway, as there were too many alliances already formed by the time she and Adrian showed up.  But switching Jeremy and Conda threw them off-balances as far as alliances go. Kim, and Mark aren't there to save Conda, and Chism is gone, so that clique is being chipped away. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pillsbury Bake-Off Winners

What recipe is worth a million dollars? 
Two Utah contestants, Cameron Bailey and Elizabeth DeHart, are competing in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I'll be there in Orlando on March 27 when the winner is announced on the Martha Stewart Show. And I'll be walking the contest floor as I have for the past seven Bake-offs.  I'll try to guess which of the 100 finalist recipes will win the million-dollar grand prize. 
I have to admit, I've never been able to predict the winning recipe. I've correctly guessed some of the category winners. But when the grand prize is announced, most of the food writers are looking at each other with a "Who knew?" expression.
Suzanne Conrad of Findlay, Ohio crushed up granola bars and mixed them with walnuts and chocolate chips to make a winning Oats 'n Honey Pie for the 2004 contest. 
"It's an obscene amount of money for a really simple recipe," Conrad told me in a telephone interview a few years ago. "I think it helped that it was simple, old-fashioned and has a different flavor. The granola bars are the only unique thing about the recipe."
The recipe has to taste good, but creative use of sponsor products also helps.  Since General Mills had recently bought Pillsbury, Nature Valley granola bars were one of the sponsor products, as was Fisher nuts, Hershey's chocolate chips and Land O'Lakes butter and eggs. 
I remember 2004 well, because Dick Clark hosted the Bake-off in Hollywood. It was pretty exciting to see the "American Bandstand" icon and marvel at how youthful he looked. Sadly, he suffered a stroke later that year. 
In 2006, Anna Ginsberg of Austin, Texas, won for her Baked Chicken and Spinach Stuffing. She made stuffing from Pillsbury Dunkables frozen waffle sticks and used the accompanying syrup to glaze the chicken. It was an innovative use of a sponsor product, although I wondered how many people would actually go out and buy Dunkables in order to make a chicken dinner.
"There are people who want to trash me for using waffle sticks," Ginsberg told me in a telephone interview. "But if I were a songwriter, I wouldn't expect everyone to like every song."
The judges — mainly food writers, supermarket consumer folks and food personalities — take their duties very seriously. But taste buds are subjective. Sometimes they have passed over recipes that ended up becoming classics with the public. 
For instance, Peanut Blossoms — peanut butter cookies topped with a Hershey's Kiss — didn't win anything when they were entered in the 1957 Bake-off. But the people fell in love with them, and they are still popular in kitchens across America. In 1966, the Tunnel of Fudge Cake took second place to Golden Gate Snack Bread, which was flavored with cheese spread and onion soup mix. But the cake with the molten fudgy center captured America's interest, taking the bundt pan from obscurity to booming sales almost overnight.
In its early years, the Bake-Off was considered the World Series of homemakers who spent hours making layered tortes and flaky pies from scratch. When Pillsbury raised the stakes to a whopping $1 million in 1996, Kurt Wait of Redwood City, Calif. won with Macadamia Fudge Torte, a moist chocolate cake with pockets of rich fudge and a macadamia nut streusel topping.
Then in 1998, the contest changed to a "Quick & Easy" format. Flour — upon which the Pillsbury empire was built — was no longer a required ingredient. Instead, cooks had to use at least one ingredient from a list of company products such as Old El Paso Salsa, Green Giant vegetables and biscuit dough. The point was to give the public recipes that were less complex so people would actually make them, and of course, to showcase the growing stable of convenience products.
That year, Ellie Mathews of Seattle won with Salsa Couscous Chicken, with salsa providing a flavorful shortcut to the North African-style dish. It took just 30 minutes to make.

That was my first Bake-off. I was in awe when I saw the Orlando contest floor buzzing with 100 finalists mixing, chopping and cooking as tantalizing aromas mingled in the air. I sat next to one of the judges at the press conference the next day, and was told in hushed tones that the judges had been deadlocked between Mathews' Salsa Couscous Chicken and Edwina Gadsby's Brownie Souffle Cake. The chicken narrowly edged out the cake, and Gadsby ended up with a $10,000 runner-up prize.
During the 2000 Bake-Off, Bobbie Sonefeld of South Carolina won for a Cream Cheese Brownie Pie — layers of brownie and cream cheese in a pie crust, topped with pecans and hot fudge. I remember it because I had suffered a skiing accident a few weeks before the contest, and I hobbled around the Bake-off floor on crutches. 
In 2002, Nashville accountant Denise Yennie won with Chicken Florentine Panini. She baked a refrigerated pizza crust and filled it with chicken breasts, frozen spinach, caramelized onions and provolone cheese. The morning after the 2002 Winter Games concluded in Salt Lake City, I stood in long lines at the airport to catch my flight to Orlando for the Bake-off. I had never seen so many people wearing those Roots berets. 
Carolyn Gurtz of Gaithersburg, Md. won in 2008 for Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies, which had a pocket of creamy filling inside.  When I got home from the Bake-off, I wanted to make the cookies but couldn't find Pillsbury's peanut butter cookie dough. I use my from-scratch dough recipe and added the peanut butter filling for a similar version. 
In 2010, Sue Compton's Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups took the top prize. It happened that this was the last entry I tasted as I left the Bake-off floor. I loved the pretty raspberry garnish, and they had a nice mouth-feel of cold, creamy and crunch. But I certainly didn't predict that it was THE recipe to win the big bucks.
A lot of people criticize the Bake-Off because it uses convenience products. It's not necessarily about baking or cooking skills, but innovative use of those sponsor products.  

To me, the cachet of the Bake-Off is that an "everyday" home cook can use a little creativity and walk away with a million dollars.
Whether from scratch or not, that's still the stuff American dreams are made of.