You could say it's a talent to be able to look into a pantry, see what's there, and whip up a meal that not only incorporates all the half-used packages and containers of leftover ingredients but actually tastes good.
Donna Beck, of Bonney Lake, has been cultivating that talent for as long as she's been married with children (she wasn't big on cooking prior to that, she said), and her appetizer recipe was recently named the winner of a $1,000 prize in the Hungry Jack Use Up the Box Recipe contest.
Beck developed her bacon potato fritters with spiced honey creme fraiche sauce recipe, perhaps not surprisingly for Seattle-are sports fans, during a Seahawks game, she said.
She literally took what was in her pantry and made up the snacks for her football-watching family. For the contest, the only change was using creme fraiche rather than mayonnaise, which she used initially.
A Creative Outlet
Beck said that while she works as an oncology nurse by day, cooking is her creative outlet. With two children, ages 17 and 13, she aspires to feed her family good food and continues to create new recipes to to try on them.
Beck said inspiration comes from many places, including restaurant menus, cooking shows and her own imagination. "I'll take a classic dish and giving it a twist," she said. "And I try to think outside the box."
She's no stranger to cooking contests, having recently been named a finalist in the 7th Annual Manischewitz Cook-Off.
She didn't win that one, but she did pick up the $10,000 grand prize in the America's Great Recipe Challenge at Avalon Winery in California. She's on several online contest cooking groups to she's alerted to new contests coming up.
This weekend, Beck will be in Oregon at the Tillamook Cheese Factory to compete in Third Annual Amateur Grilled Cheese Contest Cookoff. What she's most excited about is being named a finalist in the prestigious Pillsbury Bake-Off. The grand prize is $1 million and culminates in a final event in Las Vegas this November.
Beck submitted a Ham and Creamy Sriracha Pizza recipe for Pillsbury.
That's currently her favorite recipe, she said, and her kids enjoy it too.
Favorites change in her house, however, because of the nature of formulating recipes; she has to make her recipes repeatedly in order to perfect them for a given contest, so her family reaps the benefits there.
In spite of a full-time career, Beck said she still prioritizes cooking for her family and having everyone sit together for dinner at least a few times a week. "Hopefully, my kids see how important it is to cook at home and will continue to do it in their lives," she said.
Bacon and Potato Fritters with Spiced Honey Crème Fraîche Sauce
1 1/4 cups of water
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup Hungry Jack® Instant Yukon Gold and Red Mashed Potato Flakes
2/3 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 lb crisp cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Hungry Jack® Instant Yukon Gold and Red Mashed Potato Flakes
Canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Heat water, butter, and salt to boiling in saucepan.
2. Remove from heat. Stir in milk and Hungry Jack® flakes with fork until potatoes are well combined.
3. Combine prepared potatoes with the chopped bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese and egg until thoroughly incorporated.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Pour the additional dried potato flakes into a shallow dish.
6. With a teaspoon, add spoonfuls of the potato mixture onto the potato flakes. Roll in the potato flakes so each mashed potato ball gets thoroughly coated (approximately 1 inch in diameter).
7. Set the coated potato balls aside on a plate and repeat with the rest of the potato mixture.
8. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add approximately 2 inches of canola oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees.
9. Fry the potato fritters a few at a time.
10. Once they are golden brown on all sides, remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
11. Repeat until all the fritters are fried.
12. Place all completed fritters in a 400 degree oven, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, until they are heated through and crisp.
13. Mix crème fraîche, honey and cayenne together.
14. Serve on a platter with dipping sauce in the center.
Recipe Cook Time: 30
Recipe Yield: 6