Competitive Cooking Contests, Earn Big Money And No Entry Fee

May 5, 2010


             Competitive Cooking Contests

     The food channel is a ratings juggernaut.  Their stars have achieved a level of fame that they are known by their first names only.  Giada, Paula and Rachael et al.

     This is indicative of  a modern day Renaissance in the cooking arts.  Sponsors are quick to react to this and sponsor cooking contests with big money prizes to attract attention to their product lines.  They have a ready participant and a free advertising forum with international ties in the contest information site called:  Cooking Contest Central owned by Betty Parham.

     In an interview with her, this author repeatedly tried to tie Ms. Parham down as to how many members she had.  She consistently side stepped the question.  She did allow that her site currently averages 40,000 visitors per day.  Since her site is a fee paid membership site, one can only conjecture as to the total members she has.  One can do the math at $25 per year for the membership.  This is an issue that her members clearly don’t have a problem with.  They view it as a bargain for the services that they receive plus the value added things like online forums where people of like interest can chat with each other.  Ms. Parham takes pride in the fact that many of her members have been with her since the site’s inception 13 years ago before there was a Food Channel.  She also notes that her site features over a 1/3 of the Pillsbury Cook-off winners.  One can admire the fact that Ms. Parham does not have commercials on her site and that she does not sell her membership list to other advertisers where she could clearly make a lot more money.

While she clearly does well financially, it is obviously true when she says she does it because she loves it.

     I got to interview a couple of her members, a newbie to the contesting world and a more seasoned one with almost 6 years experience.  Michaela Rosenthal is the more seasoned contester with a lot of wins under her belt.  She prefers to enter the contests that feature all expense paid vacations.  She claims to have won at least 3 per year since the beginning of her contest career.  She has also won over $30,000 dollars as well.  I have included some of her wins below.


From Food Network: January 2009 Ultimate Recipe Showdown – Comfort Foods

  ~ Cream of Parsnip Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
  ~ Apple-Date Fritters with Lemon Curd Cream and Candied Ginger

From Everyday With Rachael Ray: 2006 Stuffing Contest Winner

  ~ Black-Eyed Pea and Cornbread Stuffing

From the National Pork Board: “America’s Favorite Family Recipes Contest”

  ~ Pork Schnitzel with Lemon-Caper Cream

From Bertolli Olive Oil: “What’s Your Med Style” Contest

  ~ Feta Lamb Burgers

From Thai Kitchen: February 2006 Recipe of the Month Winner

~ Thai-Exotic Coconut And Pineapple Bread Pudding

From Simply Manischewitz: 2006 Cook-Off

  ~ Whitefish and Potato Knish

Jennifer Tidwell is the newbie, young, stay at home mom and housewife.  She has just this year won a $1,000 prize from a medium contest for her cheesecake recipe and another $600 prize.  She aspires to be a personal chef and a cookbook writer.  She has connections in the publishing world as well as a professional photographer as a friend who will give her a leg up into the publishing world.

    The bottom line is… there is real money to be made in competitive cooking contests. 

      The contests are all free to enter. It is also a way to get your kids involved not only as a bonding experience in learning to cook, but a way to engender excitement with  the kids. It also can serve to teach your kids persistence in pursuing a dream as well as patience.

 You have to cook and eat anyway.  Ms. Parham says that they have had first time contesters win big first place prizes on their first try as in this years Pillsbury Bakeoff winner.  Ms. Parham also notes that there are a lot of men on her website as well, one of which is a finalist in this years  Pillsbury Bakeoff. Who knows, maybe you could be  the next Food Network star?  You can’t win if you don’t enter, is Ms. Tidwell’s mantra.

     As to this author’s philosophy of cooking, I say that you can achieve artistry in months rather than years as in other artistic endeavors.  You create edible art by applying judicious amounts of heat to food to change the molecular structure to render a more palatable creation.  Put on your thinking cap and invent some recipes and try your hand, its free, fun and a great hobby.  The next winner could be you.

How To Make Super Easy Low Cal and Low Fat Home Fries

February 22, 2010

One of the most common dietary downfalls is French fries. They are dietary suicide for all of the fat and the salt. Another big problem is commercially prepared hash browns. I am here to tell you that you can prepare potatoes at home with a much lower fat and salt content and actually make them healthy. I must first explain the science of French Fries to you.


Commercially prepared French fries or hash browns are soaked in running water to remove the potato starch. What happens is that this process makes the potato a virtual sponge, sucking up the oil that they are fried in. Also salt will dissolve much more readily and also be sucked into the potato yielding additional flavor. This is why French fries or hash browns or hash brown patties are so greasy. They are literally oozing grease that they have absorbed. I have a magic trick that you can do at home to prevent this so that you can have your potatoes and eat them to without guilt.

In stead of making traditional fries, make home fries that are sliced potato rounds with the skins left on. You can make home fries that are fast, easy, non greasy that are crisp on the outside and yet tender on the inside. Here is how:

You use one large russet potato per person. You microwave it like you are making a baked potato. Instead of cooking it all the way through to a tender fluffy baked potato, you cook it part way or about three fourths of the way. It is tender enough to slice easily with a serrated knife but is not tender to crumbly like a baked potato. You have to experiment with your particular microwave. A rule of thumb is if it takes 5 minutes to make a baked potato, you set the micro for about 3 and half minutes. You then immediately slice the potato while it is hot into quarter inch rounds. These rounds will be steaming. Two things happen here to your benefit. The starch is retained in the potato and the potato is steaming still containing moisture inside the potato. As you probably know, oil and water don’t mix. Between retaining the starch which seals the surface of the potato, you also have residual moisture that will keep the potato from absorbing oil. I cook the home fries in olive oil which is a rich and flavorful oil filled with anti-oxidants which are heart healthy. You cook the potatoes until they are golden on one side about 4-5 minutes and then turn them once and fry on the back side until that surface is golden. You will find that the fries are sealed and don’t absorb any grease. You immediately salt them when you remove them but again, since the surface is sealed, they won’t absorb salt and much less salt will stick. You cover the bottom of the pan with enough olive oil to have the oil be about one half inch deep. You can keep and filter this oil and re-use it again and again, because once your family tastes these fries, they will ask for them over and over.

There are two additional upsides to this article. Putting frozen potatoes in oil inevitably involves spattering of hot oil. This is of course dangerous, especially for children. My technique does not cause the potatoes to spatter. My method is far cheaper than purchasing frozen potatoes from the freezer case. You can check prices for yourself from frozen potatoes to individual Russet potatoes purchased in bulk.

Finally, by leaving the skins on, you add additional flavor but also a lot of nutrients that are outlined from this direct quote from a website called: The Wise Geek:

The potato , as well as the potato skin, is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper , potassium , manganese , and dietary fiber. Potatoes and potato skins contain 18% of the recommended daily allowance of iron and 7.5 grams of protein which is rarely found in vegetables in such high concentrations. Potato skins also contain a variety of phytonutrients which are a natural source of antioxidants that help to prevent cellular deterioration of the body. The phytonutrients found in the potato skins as well as the flesh include carotenoids, flavonoids , and caffeic acid.

Potatoes are classified as a tuber , meaning bulb or root, which contains a protein called patatin specific to these types of vegetables. Patatin also works as an effective antioxidant as well as lowering blood pressure. Overall, potato skins help to provide protection against heart disease and cancer .

Amazing Tastes While Cutting Calories and Fat Grams

February 16, 2010

We are all constantly fighting the Battle of The Bulge. As we get older, the fight becomes harder. There is one inescapable fact; 3,500 calories equals one pound of weight. There are so many hidden calories that we don’t think about.

Julie Andrews sang about “a few of her favorite things” in the Sound of Music. I am going to give you re-workings of recipes for a few of your favorite things to help you fight that battle. Once you read through my recipes, you can do the same thing by using your creativity and your imagination. Let your “inner child” come out to play. While that “inner child” is playing, ignore your mother’s admonition about not playing with your food.


I got deathly ill from spoiled mayonnaise when I was 16. I vowed to avoid it in the future. While you may not have gotten sick from mayonnaise, it is sickening what mayonnaise does to your diet. Mayonnaise has a whopping 100 calories per tablespoon. You can substitute non-fat sour cream or low fat for any recipe calling for mayonnaise on an equal basis. What is not equal is the calories. A tablespoon of low fat sour cream is 15 calories and a tablespoon of non-fat sour cream is 10 calories verses the 100 calories for mayonnaise. Here are just a couple of recipes to get you thinking. Creamy salad dressings are made using a mayonnaise base. It is 100% fat of consisting of oil and egg yolks. My recipe gives you that satisfying creamy consistency for a fraction of the calories.


1 cup non-fat sour cream

1 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)

1 tsp onion powder

1-3 ozs of skim milk


Put the sour cream in a mixing bowl, add the powders and the milk a little at a time whisking constantly until you get the satisfactory creamy consistency that you desire. In truth, a serving of salad dressing is 2 tablespoons, but few people actually stick to 2 tablespoons. It is more like 4-6 tablespoons. If you split the difference and say use 4 tablespoons, my recipe comes in at 40 calories whereas the regular dressing can weigh in at as much as 400 calories. If you have a salad every day, that can mean 2,800 calories. Kinds of defeats the diet plan doesn’t it?

Most people love potato salad, especially southerners. This is a typical southern recipe substituting the one half cup mayonnaise for an equal amount of sour cream. You really won’t taste the difference.


4 medium russet potatoes cut into small cubes

one fourth cup sweet relish

1 green onion finely chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp celery seed

2 tbsp prepared mustard

One half cup non-fat sour cream

2 hardboiled eggs finely chopped


Put about a quart of water into a large pot and bring the water to a boil for the potato cubes. Put a second sauce pan of water on the stove, place the two eggs in the water and turn heat on and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off heat and place a lid on the pot and allow eggs to set in hot water for about 15 minutes. Rinse eggs in cold water to cool. Crack and peel egg and chop. The potatoes should also cook for about 15 minutes but in rapidly simmering water. Drain the potatoes but do not rinse. Put in the fridge for about one half hour to an hour to chill. Fold in the remaining ingredients and chill for at least 4 hours. This is a great recipe to serve at a picnic. You don’t have to worry about the salad spoiling because the sour cream does not spoil when it gets warm. By making this easy substitution that no one will notice, you save a whopping 175 calories per portion. This recipe serves 4. You can double it to serve 8.


Recipes for Buffalo Hot wings call for about equal mixes of melted butter and hot sauce. Most all of the recipes call for a stick of butter. That is a whopping 800 calories. Not only that, it calls for deep fat frying the wings first. This not only adds additional fat grams but seals the chicken fat inside the wings. My recipe eliminates the frying and the butter.

16 wings about 3 lbs

One half cup Kraft Barbecue Sauce

2 tbsp hot sauce mixed in the sauce


Put wings on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. (This allows the chicken fat to render off rather than sealing it in with frying. Chicken fat is also 100 calories per tablespoon. Mix the barbecue sauce and the hot sauce thoroughly and brush on the wings. Turn heat up to 450 for 15 minutes to crisp up the wings. Remove when crispy but don’t allow the sauce to burn. This serves 4 as an appetizer. The buffalo wing sauce with the butter is adding another 800 calories or 200 calories per person. The Kraft sauce at 39 calories per 2 tablespoons only adds 39 calories and it tastes just as good, many have claimed that they taste better; definitely not as greasy. Many people have asked me for my recipe because they liked it better. Imagine 161 fewer calories and it tastes better.


1 8 oz fat free cream cheese

1 16 oz box confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract


Mix slowly at first and gradually increase speed of mixer. Beat until creamy and frost cake

This recipe uses non-fat cream cheese which contains only 224 calories. If you used conventional frosting recipes typically calling for one half cup butter or shortening you are looking at 906 calories for shortening and 814 for butter. Most people like the taste of cream cheese frosting better than conventional icings. If you slice the cake into eight slices, you are looking at over a 100 calories per slice for conventional icing verses 28 calories for the cream cheese icing.

I encourage you to begin to watch calories and look for ways to reduce those calories. The figure that you save is not only your own, but that of your family. I am sure that most of you are just as smart as I am if not more so. Put that imagination and intelligence to work to eat and cook better. If I can do it, so can you.

John Wilder is a marriage, relationship and sexual coach.  He helps people either on the phone or on Yahoo IM.  This enables you to maintain anonymity.  He offers help also by posting informational articles that can help you in your relationships.
He has a degree in Behavioral Science and Bible.  He has additionally attended graduate school for Clinical Psychology and attended Nursing School as well.  He deals holistically with all 3 aspects of our being: mind, body and spirit.
He can also be followed on his blog
you can also contact Mr Wilder on his private email address

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