Saturday, August 17, 2013

My First Ever Blue Ribbon

Ladies and Gents, I have the bug! I have the Iowa State Fair Bug!!! 

I won my first and second blue ribbons last week in the Beginner's category.  I won the Beginner's Dessert, and then they took the winners of Beginner's Dessert, Beginner's Main Dish and Beginner's Bread, and they named first, second and third.  AND I WON GRAND CHAMPION!  I feel like Toddler's in Tiaras right now.  Speaking of... they should have a reality show about the Iowa State Fair food.  It's cut throat! Did you know that the winner of the Tones Spices Cinnamon Roll contest wins $3,000?!?!  DANG! Get ready to see some cinnamon roll recipes on here. #testing

So my winning recipe was Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Bean Buttercream.  I've made similar cupcakes before, but these were LCLCVBB 2.0.

The ingredients weren't anything outstanding, but the assembly was, as the judge stated, "ambitious".

Take your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, crush some lavender, and toss it in.  Around 2 Tablespoons.

Lemon curd can be purchased, or made... But let me warn you, homemade lemon curd is one of the most delicious things in the world.  It's sour, sweet, buttery, warm... It's irresistible. 

Take your cupcakes and use a pairing knife to cut a pretty little hole.  Little enough to keep the cupcake from falling apart when filled, but big enough to get a good dollop of delicious lemon curd.

I even went so far as to cut a little cap to top the curd with.  I actually tried to use a special long frosting tip to fill the cupcake, and as soon as I lifted it back out, all the curd came squirting out the hole on the top... so I scrapped that and cut a well.

The frosting I used was a fairly basic American buttercream with butter, crisco, vanilla, vanilla bean paste, powdered sugar and cream. 

I watched the judging, and I was so nervous, but then they started to ooo and ahh over it, and then I overheard one of the judges say to the other, that was amazing... and then he replied, yes, the lemon was a fantastic surprise.  FIRST PLACE ALL AROUND.  Now, at this point, they hadn't even tasted all of the desserts, and hadn't even gotten started on the breads!  I tried to play it cool, but I was secretly celebrating and picturing where I plan to hang my blue ribbons.

I had two more entries after this, and I won one more ribbon after this one... so stay tuned! More recipes in the days to follow. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chicken Bacon Ranch Bites

I've been so busy this summer that I've been eating out WAY too much.  So lately, I've gotten pretty good at some quick dinners I can make at home. 

Enter Chicken Bacon Ranch Bites.  I made these bites the other day and brought them over to the BF's house and he was pretty pumped.  Meat wrapped in meat always gets a thumbs up from the men. 

These bites take all of 15 minutes to make...  less time if you don't have a single-serving Foreman grill.

All you need is....
2 chicken breasts
10 strips of bacon
Ranch Dressing Powder (you know, the stuff you mix with yogurt or whatever to make the dressing)

I cut each chicken breast into 10 bite-sized pieces and toss them in some ranch powder.  I never use the whole bag, so you can put it in a little baggy for the next time. 

Wrap each bite in 1/2 a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick. 

Slap those puppies on the George Foreman Grill until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crispy.  I love using the Foreman because I feel like the bacon grease rolls off and it makes this completely fat free!  Right? RIGHT?!?!?! 

This makes 2-3 servings, depending on how hungry you are. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lavender Shortbread with Lemon Glaze - State Fair Recipe

So we continue with my losing recipes... 

This one is a real show stopper though.  Who cares what those people over at All Spice say.

Again, a last minute change on these was a detriment.  I overheard a judge say I should have left the lavender flowers whole for a more intense lavender flavor...  However, I was put off by the whole flowers that got stuck in my teeth and lingered in my mouth.  So I took a spice grinder and crushed them up.  That made the cookies AMAZING in my opinion. 

But my opinion doesn't win me any ribbons.  Jerks. 

Ahem, anyways... Here are my Lavender Shortbread cookies with Lemon Glaze. 

Makes 3 dozen
3/4 lb butter
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
4 t crushed lavender flowers
1 t lemon zest

Juice and zest of one lemon
2 cups of powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy (3 minutes)
Add vanilla and beat well. 
Mix in flour, salt, lavender flowers and lemon zest.
Chill mixture for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out dough and cut out cookies with a fluted cookie cutter. 
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes
Cool on a wire rack. 
Mix the lemon zest, juice and powdered sugar until you get to the desired consistency.  Drizzle lemon glaze over cookies once they've cooled. 

I feel like this one had a chance.  I'm excited to see what the judges said. 

PS, do you think I could get free food at this place? 

Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies - State Fair Recipe

Well, now that I know I didn't win any ribbons in the Iowa State Fair for these next few recipes, I can share them with you guys!

Growing up, my grandma made loads of baked goodies for the Iowa State Fair.  Her entire basement was covered in blue, red, white and purple ribbons.  Her freezer was always full of the "rejects" and practice batches, and soon she became just the local bakery of the neighborhood.  We would take 3-4 bags of cookies home with us every Sunday. 

I love baking, and I'm always making her recipes for my friends and coworkers... So this year I bought 5 entries to the fair and decided to try my hand at some competition.  Just to see if the Blue Ribbon winning gene was passed on...

Well................. I haven't won anything yet.  But they at least let me in the doors! 

So here's my first ever State Fair entry, Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I had made the cookies before and I was pretty happy with them, but I felt like it was missing something, so I added chocolate chips, because I love chocolate chips.

WELL GUESS WHAT?!?! They didn't like the chocolate.  It overpowered the bacon.  Honestly, I prefer a subtle bacon flavor in my dessert, so these were pretty delish to me.

I got there and immediately felt a sense of dread.  I had just made some plain 'ol chocolate chip cookies... and people had made entire cheesecakes, pies, cake pops, ice cream sundaes... The list goes on and on.  Everyone was vying for the $200 prize.  I just wanted to bake with bacon.  

Of course, as soon as my stone-faced judge was done with the cookies they put them right next to the fancy cheesecake.  Clearly my little cookies had a little inferiority complex happening.

My little league bench warmer in the big leagues...

Anyway, they taste darn good, and they're a fun twist to an old favorite.  So give them a shot.  

Maple Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes 3 dozen)
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t maple extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy (3 minutes)
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one
Add vanilla and maple extracts
Mix in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt)
Add the chopped bacon and chocolate chips

Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

I even added a little sprinkle of sea salt to the top of the cookies to give the bacon flavor something to hold on to...  But alas, no ribbon yet. 

I have a few tricks up my sleeve for next time, so these cookies aren't going down without a fight.  I get my scores back after the fair, so I'll let you know what they said.