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With $5,000 in prizes at stake, cooks from all over co-op country baked, boiled and braised to create more than 300 recipes for Texas Co-op Power’s annual Holiday Recipe Contest, sponsored by Pioneer Brand products.
With so many home chefs incorporating clever combinations of Pioneer’s gravies and dry mixes to make tantalizing-looking recipes, I found whittling them down to the top few a daunting task. Texas boasts a lot of creative culinary talent, and the entries reflected it.
I think you’ll be pleased with these winners, which cover appetizer, main dish, side and dessert. The grand prizewinner is a familiar name, Donna Deteau, a runner-up the past two years. Creativity runs deep in Deteau’s creations, and her Kickin’ Christmas Confetti bars deliver a complex sweet with a bite.
This is my first year handling the contest, and I certainly had my work cut out for me. But I also had a lot of help from my friends and co-workers here at Texas Electric Cooperatives and Texas Co-op Power. Many thanks to those who cooked and tasted and to former TCP Food Editor Shannon Oelrich, who offered me invaluable advice. And thanks especially to C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc., the Pioneer Brand manufacturer, for sponsoring the contest and to Guenther’s Julie Lyssy and the food research staff, who helped choose the semifinalists.
$3,000 GRAND PRIZEWINNER
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative
Donna, who lives in the small town of Paige, 15 miles northeast of Bastrop, is a woman of many hats. She works with the Children’s Advocacy Center in Bastrop and has sidelines catering and remodeling. She also keeps her willing cadre of taste testers busy trying new culinary creations. They must have finely honed taste buds. In 2006, her recipe for Chipotle Bean Burrito Cheese Tarts was a runner-up in the Holiday Recipe Contest, and last year, her Double Corn Casserole also brought her runner-up honors. Her breakthrough dish, Kickin’ Christmas Confetti, was named by one of her testers.
The inspiration came from a pecan pie recipe, which through trial and error she turned into something quite different.
“I think I only did four versions of that,” she joked of her process of testing and revising.
She said it was a last-minute decision to add cayenne to the glaze, giving her bars the “kick” that several of our testers remarked upon. “I like to experiment with different flavors. When it comes to cooking, I think outside the box,” she said.
That out-of-the-box thinking brought her the grand prize: $3,000.
“Boy, howdy, man oh man, I am just so excited!” she exclaimed. “This is my biggest win so far.”
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons Pioneer Buttermilk Biscuit and Baking Mix, divided
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 cup dry roasted pistachios, chopped, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
3 beaten eggs
1 packed cup flaked coconut
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped, divided
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 squares vanilla almond bark
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups Pioneer mix, oatmeal and 2/3 cup chopped pistachios. In small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup to boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and stir until everything is moist. With fingers, press into bottom of a 9x9-inch pan. Bake for 7 minutes, then remove from oven.
While first layer is baking, mix in same bowl eggs, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup corn syrup. Beat well for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons Pioneer mix, coconut, 2/3 cup cranberries and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Pour over hot, baked layer, return to oven and cook 30 minutes. When cool, cover with glaze made by mixing powdered sugar, lime juice and lime zest. Meanwhile, melt bark according to package directions and mix with cayenne. Drizzle over top of glaze, then, before it sets, sprinkle remaining pistachios and cranberries over top. Cut into 16 bars.
Serving size: 1 bar. Per serving: 395 calories, 4.8 g protein, 14.4 g fat, 62.8 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 259 mg sodium, 58 mg cholesterol