Winning recipes don't have to come from years of experience or be family heirlooms. They often spring from a moment of inspiration and a simple belief that you can win a recipe contest, according to information from the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off.
For example, Maria Baldwin of Mesa, Ariz., won the GE Profile kitchen appliance in the 2002 contest. Eating lunch at a local restaurant inspired her to create her own version of a menu item, flavorful Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps.
Another 2002 Bake-Off finalist, Misty Waltman of Lyons, Ind., used her love of seafood to invent seafood recipes; the result was Seafood Appetizers made with Pillsbury crescent rolls.
Four recipe categories in the 2004 Bake-Off include: Breakfast Favorites; Weekends Made Special; Dinner Made Easy, and Fast Snacks & Appetizers. Recipe entries must use one of the eligible products.
Creative cooks interested in vying for the contest's $1 million grand prize should start working on recipe entries. Contest deadline is March 10. Consumers can enter online or print a copy of the entry form by visiting the Web site, www.pillsbury.com/bakeoff.
McCormick Best Holiday Recipe Contest offers a grand prize of a $35,000 kitchen makeover. Submit an original recipe for an appetizer, side dish, or dessert with at least two McCormick spices, herbs, or extracts. Describe in 100 words or less how the spices and herbs are an integral part of your holiday celebration. For an official entry form, visit www.mccormick.com. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 1.
Kelly Johnson, executive chef of Evans Street Station in Tecumseh, Mich., has launched his Guest Chef Series for January and February. Each week, a multiple-course menu will be offered at dinner along with the regular Evans Street Station menu.
"We'll have a different chef each Monday, who will prep with the staff and then talk to restaurant guests when the restaurant opens," Mr Johnson says. Regional chefs will feature Tom and Wendy Guffy from Chefs at Home Catering Co. & Lovin' Spoonful of Farmington, Mich., tomorrow; Chef Kevin Thomas of Monroe Community College on Jan. 27 (Tuesday), and Chef Dave Serafin of Fratello's in Trenton, Mich. on Feb. 2.
On Feb. 9, seven chefs will converge on the restaurant: Michael Alvarez of Cappy's in San Antonio; June Jacobs of Feastivals, New York City; Mike Eisner of the Vineyards Restaurants in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Paul Silva of Food Network in Canada; Brenda Palmer of Sunflower Hills Culinary Service in Hollidaysburg, Pa.; Chef Jean Denham of A Chef's Journey in Wimar, Calif., and Todd Waite of Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, Mass.
The special menus will range from $35 to $65, says Mr. Johnson, who recommends reservations for the four to seven-course dinners. Information: 517-424-5555.
You won't find many sandwiches on restaurant low-carbohydrate menus, but you may find a wrap or two.
Atkins Approved Menu Items are now on the menu at 520 TGI Friday's restaurants. Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., is partnering with the restaurant chain. Among the approved items: Cheeseburger Cheeseburger (two burgers, no bun); Garlic Chicken with Mixed Vegetables; Sizzling NY Strip with Bleu Cheese with a side of broccoli (hold the fries); and a Tuscan Spinach Dip served with fresh vegetables.
Ruby Tuesday's includes a Smart Eating Menu with 30-plus additions of low or healthy-carb choices and a switch to cooking with canola oil instead of oils that contain trans fats. A Low Carb Catch is Cajun-seasoned broiled tilapia with broccoli and creamy mashed cauliflower. A Spring Chicken Salad is Cajun-seasoned chicken on a bed of spring mix with toasted almonds, tomatoes, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and vinaigrette dressing.
Also counting carbohydrates is Stouffer's Lean Cuisine with 11 entrees containing 12 to 25 grams of carbohydrates.
There's very little carbohydrate (20 grams) in Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps, Ms. Baldwin's winning recipe in the 2002 Pillsbury Bake-Off.
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 (1 pound, 5 ounce) package Green Giant Create A Meal Frozen Stir-Fry Lo Mein Meal Starter
2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons water
8 large leaves Bibb lettuce
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
To flatten each chicken breast half, place boned side up between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Work from center, and gently pound chicken with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/4-inch thick; remove wrap.
Place frozen sauce from meal starter in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 15 to 30 seconds or until thawed. Add chili-garlic sauce and soy sauce; mix well. In medium bowl, combine chicken, 1/4 cup soy sauce mixture, and 2 tablespoons oil.
Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken mixture; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from skillet; cut into 1-inch pieces. Cover to keep warm.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 3 tablespoons soy sauce mixture, garlic, and frozen noodles and vegetables from meal starter; cook 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring frequently.
To remaining soy sauce mixture in small bowl, add sugar, peanut butter, and water; mix well.
Arrange lettuce on part of large serving platter. Spoon carrots onto platter next to lettuce. Arrange cooked vegetables and noodles on platter. Place chicken over vegetables and noodles. Sprinkle chicken with peanuts, onions, and cilantro.
To serve, spread peanut sauce in center of each lettuce leaf. Top with chicken and vegetable mixture, and carrots. Wrap lettuce around filling.
Yield: 8 servings