Saturday, October 2, 2010

Feeling Lucky

I have never felt like a particularly lucky person.  Pragmatic, bordering on pessimistic, is more like it, a trait firmly entrenched and passed down through much of my family tree.

I've had a string of what most people would consider really bad luck.  The kind that tests your resilience, your friendships, and in my case, my life as a corporate citizen.  It took awhile to squeeze lemonade out of that particular batch of lemons, and ultimately what I ended up was a new career that doesn't feel like work, which came with new like minded friends, and the realization that I am pretty tough.  And pretty lucky. 

I've been entering contests and sweepstakes with abandon, and instead of thinking there is no way I'd win,  I've been visualizing actually winning.  It's probably the influence of a few too many Oprah episodes playing in the background while I'm working, but it seems to be working.

After last year's Fabulous Food Show, I entered a contest sponsored by Adams Reserve Cheddar, and won with a Sweet and Spicy Bacon Pecan Cheese Ball.  (The new Adams Reserve recipe booklets are out, and my recipe is in the back, along with a photo of me and Robin Swoboda.  The finals were judged on her show). 

I submitted this tip to Fine Cooking, born of frustration when I made a pot pie last winter.  I was pleasantly surprised to be selected to be published in the April/May 2010 issue, and I won a nice electric knife sharpener.

A while later I won a random blog comment drawing, also courtesy of Fine Cooking, a copy of Pig: King of the Southern Table.  (I really need to bust that out and use it to make something with the quarter of a local pig that's in my freezer).

In August I commented on Gluten Free Girl's Blog for a chance to win a $250 Spa Play Date courtesy of Greek Gods Yogurt (who has a fig flavor that I adore).  I was ecstatic to receive an e-mail from Shauna Ahern that I'd won - perfectly timed as I received after catering the biggest all day event I do all year for one of my clients.  I was seriously in need of a massage after that one.

I used part of it today to get a massage from my favorite therapist, Shelly, from Antoine's le Jour Spa and Salon in Broadview Heights.  And I also got a fresh pedicure with a cute new color from OPI.

Last weekend I was honored to be selected among 48 finalists in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight contest.

My winning recipe for an Asian inspired wrap with quinoa, black beans, yam, ground turkey and Chinese Five spice powder is here.  The Cleveland finals were held at the RIPE Festival held at the beautiful Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

I was excited to participate with my friends Lisa Waldschmidt, of Eat...Think...Blog... Woman, and Mary Beth Brinkerhoff from For Goodness Taste Personal Chef Service in Rochester, NY.   Despite the 2 hour delay in cook off rounds (there were groups of 6, Lisa was scheduled at noon, me at 2:00 and Mary Beth at 4:00), we had a blast cooking our recipes and presenting them to the judges.

The recipes were pre-screened the Culinary Institute of America for nutritional analysis; there were very specific criteria for submissions, including a $12 limit on ingredient cost.  The live judging was scored on presentation and on taste.

I thought we were presenting five individual plates, so I found these awesome Asian inspired napkins, the bambo napkin rings, and I had rounded plates and small angled dishes for the garnish of organic ponzu.  And the lime green chopsticks, of course.  But it turned out we did one presentation platter and the judges were served tasting plates.

Me with Franck, the Chef in Charge 
Despite some less than stellar live band 'entertainment' during my round, I managed to have a good time while making my recipe and chatting with festival attendees and the judges.  (It was kind of funny - some of the attendees thought we were doing live action sample stations.  I've done enough sampling to recognize them coming).

Mary Beth had better entertainment during her session and did a little singing and dancing for the crowd.

Mary Beth Brinkerhoff making her recipe 
Mary Beth's stew with Butternut Squash, Black Beans, and Chipotle with Brown Rice looked pretty stunning in one of my lime green soup bowls.  Franck, the chef in charge, told her she "Really brought it' on the presentation side.

Mary Beth's Stew
Lisa's dish was also visually stunning - a Butternut Squash and Apple Pasta Sauce with Turkey Sausage and Fresh Sage:

Lisa's Dish
Me being me, walked up and talked to every contestant in Lisa's and Mary Beth's rounds to see what they were making.  There were some pretty tasty looking dishes.

There was a second round of 24 contestants on Sunday, and Sunny Anderson from the Food Network, was on hand to judge on Sunday. (The Saturday rounds were judged by Botanical Garden and Aetna employees).  We were told that it might be up to a week before the winner was announced.

I was hard at work cooking for a client the other day and didn't hear my phone ring.  When I checked my messages, I had one from an Aetna representative congratulating me for winning the Cleveland cook-off!!  I called Mary Beth and Lisa to let them know, and I have to honestly say, that I really would be just as excited if either one of them had won.

I was sent an affidavit to complete and have notarized, then we'll talk travel arrangements.  The final cook-off will be held in Los Angeles, and as I understand it, we will be given ingredients to cook a healthy Thanksgiving dinner and it will be judged by Bobby Flay.  The Grand Prize is $10,000 in kitchen appliances courtesy of KitchenAid and Lowes.  So I am already thinking of what I might be cooking.  I've cooked many Thanksgiving dinners, and am looking forward to it.

And my winning streak continues.  I am a fan of the Playhouse Square on Facebook who posted an opportunity to win tickets to Dixie's Tupperware Party this weekend.  You guessed it - I won tickets!  So I had a great night out with my BFF.

At Dixie's Tupperware Party

Yep, I am feeling lucky.  Very lucky indeed.


  1. You are not only lucky but very talented and smart Tami. The Food Fight WAS a blast and you have inspired me to enter more contests myself. (I never win ANYTHING, but I am determined to change that this year!) Congratulations on your winning streak Diva and I can't wait to see what you do next!

  2. Congrats, Tami! Well deserved- hope you win the big contest in L.A! How cool would $10,00 in new kitchen gadgetry be??!

  3. Congrats!! Sounds like a lot of fun. I will be cooking at the Houston cook-off. A little nervous because I have never done something like this before. Once again congrats and good luck in LA!!!


What Do You Think? Comments welcome, but Spam & Self Promoting ones will not be approved.