Eggs or words–cracking your way into creation.

Just about ready to finish and bake!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Iowa Egg Council’s 26th Annual Cooking Contest concluded on Saturday as we ten finalists measured, stirred, cooked, baked and presented our individual recipe creations to a panel of 4 judges at the Botanical Center  in Des Moines.

I took 2nd Place, good for a $400.00 check. This was pure fun, mixed in with perhaps a few butterflies when it looked like the table-top gas plate wasn’t going to boil the water for my pasta and the ovens were not keeping up with our baking requirements. 

You will be able to access a copy of all the contestant recipes and view pictures of the Cook-Off Event on the Iowa Egg Council web site at www.iowaegg.org within a few days. I am not allowed to post it here as one of the stipulations for entering the contest was that the recipes become the property of the Iowa Egg Council for their marketing/promotion for the egg producing industry in our state. This doesn’t bother me in the least—I believe in supporting our local people and small business owners to the max. 

200 recipes were submitted for this year’s recipe competition. From those the field was narrowed to 30 which were then tested in the kitchens at Iowa State University. Ten finalists were selected from that pool to compete at a live cook-off. There were two classes for this contest: Junior (6th -12 grades) and Adult—anything over 12th grade. ☺ 

It was a brand new experience for me as the event was open to the public, and people were welcome to come up and ask us questions and watch as we cooked. That not only added to the fun but to the challenge, because one didn’t want to forget to dump in the right amount of flour, or forget to stir in the parmesan cheese, yet one wanted to expand on and answer the questions about one’s recipe. You find out how well you function and respond under pressure, and I highly recommend challenging yourself in this fashion at some point. You may surprise yourself. 

People wanted to know how I came up with this idea of creating an egg-bound angel hair pie crust that I then filled with a different type of quiche filling that used no milk or cream. Instead, I combined havarti/dill cheese with cottage cheese and sour cream, tightened with a little bit of flour with crispy bacon and pimento thrown into the mix. It worked. The quiche pie has a chewy al dente crust that underscores a creamy, tangy filling. 

The process for creating new recipes isn’t a whole lot different than coming up with story ideas for writing. The new recipe idea came to me from a lifelong habit of reading cookbooks and other people’s recipes. I pulled something from one recipe, along with a unique element from a still another source, and then my desire to have a different kind of crust instead of the usual pastry type, and thus Angel Hair Pasta Quiche came into being.

The usual trial-and-error system comes into play for cooking or baking something new the first time, just like the beginning drafting work on a written piece. If something bakes crooked, or refuses to reach the done phase, you toss it out and start over again. Just like the writing process. If the sentences won’t come together to make the point you thought they would, you pull up a clean sheet and take another whack at it. 

The Food Network logo is indelibly embossed across our flat screen. My husband and I follow many of the shows and we learn something new practically every time we tune in. New food combinations are happening because people aren’t afraid to try using baking spices along with beef, or combine Italian spices into muffins or cake mixes. The old rules are acknowledged, but free-spirited creative souls realize that old rules must be broken if anything new is to come about. This is where breakthroughs are born. 

I will continue to read cookbooks, and study their beautiful pictures and descriptions just like I read and study other novelists, columnists and poets, allowing their input to blend with the way my brain works until one day—Voila! There will be a new idea waiting at the bottom of the mixing bowl to be left there or to be added to and finished into something. The choices or decisions will always be mine. 

The competition bug has bitten. I’m ready for another cooking competition. As I tried to lure my adrenaline-soaked brain to sleep Saturday night, a few ideas for the next egg recipe competition started swirling. 

The invigorating magic that happens when you befriend the creative juices inside your cranial cavity is worth the possibility of failure, because one day something clicks, and there is just nothing quite like it when that happens.

Baked to perfection and ready to rock and roll before the judging panel.

 

It ain’t all about writing—

What you see isn't necessarily what we got!

      It’s official. Last week I received my formal letter from the Iowa Egg Council notifying me that I am a finalist for their egg recipe cook-off to take place in Des Moines next month. Out of nearly 200 entries I am one of five finalists in the adult level; there are five finalists at the student level. The ten of us will have to prepare/plate and serve our recipe in front of judges and spectators as we vie for generous cash prizes. 

     I’d noticed their ad calling for original recipes using eggs in the Food Section of the Cedar Rapids Gazette back in February. I can’t help myself: I love to enter cooking competitions every now and then. I’ve managed to earn second and third placements in a couple of competitions in the past, and I’ve taken first in a couple of others. 

     At this time I cannot share the recipe, but I can tell you I will be competing in the entrée category with a recipe that requires 6 eggs. We were to submit an original recipe creation of our own and we had a limit of 12 ingredients for it. The egg content only had to count as one ingredient. 

     I read cookbooks. I’ve done this since I was little. I think the word for it is inherent. It won’t surprise me if I ask them to wait with the last nail on my coffin someday: 

     “Can’t you give me just one more day? I didn’t get a chance to make that black-bottomed pie yet . . .” 

     You could say I’m obsessive when it comes to cookbooks or clipping recipes. There are 4 wide shelves of cookbooks down in our kitchen and big accordion folders full of “want to make someday” clipped recipes. It really is an addiction, but I can think of far worse so I don’t let it bother me. 

     Writing can stir up a nervous energy in me that borders on hyperactive, and the best way for me to funnel that into something manageable is to involve myself in a different kind of creative project for a while. This is where the dirt flinging and yard work–or communing with the mixer, measuring spoons and a cookbook comes in handy. 

     It’s interesting that in both writing and cooking, you really end up being in competition with yourself. You might give it your best try the first time around, or what you think is your best, and somehow it doesn’t read right, or it doesn’t turn out like the picture in the cookbook. So you try it again, and the results seem to be a little better this time. You’re encouraged, but you want to change a few more things and give it yet another try, and so it goes–a new business article, the personal essay or a novel–soufflé, crème brulee, or the healthiest chocolate chip cookie around. 

     I am so pumped for this upcoming cook-off! I plan to have fun with the whole event. I also intend to give it my best shot.☺

Author’s note: The cake pictured in this post is a birthday cake I made for my husband a couple of years ago. Looks perfect, doesn’t it? Guess again—it was the worst tasting cake I’ve ever made in my life. Give me ordinary white flour over ‘cake flour’ any day!