Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Can you imagine eating 11 1/2 pounds of fried mushrooms in 10 minutes?  

Yeah, me neither, but you should have seen it - Molly Schuyler, the world’s  #1 ranked competitive eater, crammed all those 'shrooms into her little body yesterday, beating out some pretty big guys - saw it with my own eyes or I wouldn't have believed it!  Was kind of gross and exciting all at the same time.

Mushroom eating isn't the only competition at the festival.  They also host the Amateur Mushroom Cook Off which used to feature mushroom soups and now showcases mushroom appetizers.  I competed in the cook off for the past four years, so I was thrilled when I was asked to be a judge this year!  I will admit that It felt kind of weird to be on the other side of the table this year.  But, it was certainly fun to be able to taste all the delicious entries!

Amateur Mushroom Cook Off:

Congrats to all the finalists!  You all did a great job!

(The winning recipes will soon be posted on the Mushroom Festival website)

Jane Henry (Avondale, PA) – Baby Bella Shrimp Bangers
Katie Hagerty (Garnet Valley, PA) – Mushroom Medley Flatbread
Danielle Sanderson (Philadelphia, PA) – Cremini & Caramelized Onion Tartlets - Second Place
Devon Delaney (Westport, CT) – Saigon Summer Salad Rolls
Nancy MacKenzie (Newtown Sq., PA) – Baby Bello ‘Shroom Taco Bites - Third Place
Kathleen Harman (Abbottsown, PA) – Mushroom Taquitos - First Place 

Cooking Demonstration:

Along with the judging, I was asked to do a mushroom cooking demonstration and talk a little bit about my cooking contest experiences.  I decided to use my favorite mushroom flavor combination, caramelized crimini mushrooms, bacon and shallots, in three different dishes: Macaroni & Cheese, Nachos and Empanadas.  There was a really great crowd despite the high heat and humidity! …maybe the smell of mushrooms cooking in bacon fat lured them in ( :

Recipes:

Click Link to go to the post and scroll down:

Kennett Square Ultimate Mushroom, Bacon & Shallot Nachos 

Spinach, Bacon & Mushroom Nachos w/ Gruyere Cheese Dipping Sauce

Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese Recipe:

Christina Verrelli - epicuricloud

Serves 8-12 depending on serving size

Ingredients:

Mushroom Mixture:

6 strips bacon, cut into thin pieces

1 cup shallots, thinly sliced

6 cups crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons dry marsala wine

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley

Cheese Sauce:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups each fontina and gruyere cheese, shredded

Macaroni:

3 quarts water

3 tablespoons kosher salt

3 cups uncooked macaroni pasta

Toppings:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flat leaf parley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Mushroom Mixture:

In large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy.  Use slotted spoon to remove to paper towel lined plate.  Pour off all but two tablespoons bacon fat.  Add shallots, mushrooms, salt and pepper to pan.  Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the released mushroom juices have cooked off.  Deglaze the pan with the marsala wine and add the parsley.  Cook for about 15 more minutes or until the mushrooms and shallots are caramelized.  (If they start to stick to the pan, you can add a tablespoon or two of water - it will loosen the mixture up and then cook off.)  Stir the bacon into the mixture, cover and keep warm.

Cheese Sauce:

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat.  Stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper.  Cook and stir for a minute or two.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Cook over medium low heat, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens a bit, (about 8 minutes and 155- 160 degrees on instant read thermometer.)  Take pan off heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce and cheeses.  Stir until cheeses are melted and smooth.  Cover and keep warm.

Macaroni:

Bring water to boil over high heat.  Add salt and stir to dissolve.  Stir in macaroni and cook about 1 minute less than box directions.  Drain and pour into 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish.

Assemble & Bake:

Stir cheese sauce into the macaroni.  Sprinkle the mushroom mixture evenly over the macaroni mixture.  Top with the bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Top with parsley and lemon zest, if desired.

Printable Recipe: Mushroom Festival Macaroni and Cheese

Thank you for spending some time in the cloud with me!  I hope you enjoy the recipes!  Tina ( :

Judging The Great PhillyMag Cookoff!

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The Other Side of the Hot Seat

There's a first time for everything.  When you participate in cooking competitions, you are used to being the one in the "hot seat" while the judges do their business.  So, when I was asked to be the judge for Philadephia magazine's first Great PhillyMag Cookoff!  I was thrilled and honored to do so!

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Callahan, Executive Editor for Philadelphia magazine, at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Vegas this past November.  Inspired by the Bake-Off excitement, he decided to organize a casual in-house cookoff among the editors at the magazine.  They each chose and prepared one of the 100 Pillsbury Bake-Off finalists' recipes.  My job was to judge each dish on taste alone - no bribes accepted (and yes, they were offered)!  This was going to be a tough job as everything looked and smelled delicious!  Woo Hoo!  Let the tasting begin!

 Emily Leaman, Health and Fitness Editor, made Sandy Reiter's   Easy Chili with Twisted Cheesy Cornsticks  .  The chili was hearty, warming and really flavorful.  A perfect dish for this "Polar Vortex" weather we're experiencing!  The cornsticks were delightful for dipping!

Emily Leaman, Health and Fitness Editor, made Sandy Reiter's Easy Chili with Twisted Cheesy Cornsticks.  The chili was hearty, warming and really flavorful.  A perfect dish for this "Polar Vortex" weather we're experiencing!  The cornsticks were delightful for dipping!

 Art Etchells, Editor,  Foobooz.com , made Frances Pietsch's   Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad on Walnut Flatbread  .  Yum!  Love at first bite!  This sandwich had great flavor balance and texture!  i would like another bite right now please!

Art Etchells, Editor, Foobooz.com, made Frances Pietsch's Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad on Walnut Flatbread.  Yum!  Love at first bite!  This sandwich had great flavor balance and texture!  i would like another bite right now please!

 Rich Rys, Senior Editor, made Julie Pando's   Fudgy Chocolate Hazlenut Bars  .  These were a moist, fudgy, chocolate lover's dream!

Rich Rys, Senior Editor, made Julie Pando's Fudgy Chocolate Hazlenut Bars.  These were a moist, fudgy, chocolate lover's dream!

 Michael Wilson, Design Director, used his eye for detail to craft Jennifer Fisher's   Spicy Beef & Sweet Potato Samosas  .  They were cooked to golden brown perfection and had a balanced savory/sweet flavor with just a touch of spice.

Michael Wilson, Design Director, used his eye for detail to craft Jennifer Fisher's Spicy Beef & Sweet Potato Samosas.  They were cooked to golden brown perfection and had a balanced savory/sweet flavor with just a touch of spice.

 Sandy Hingston, Senior Editor, baked up Nancy Fahey's   Almond Cafe Cookies  .  They were big, gorgeous cookies with the perfect amount of chew and crunch.  I loved how the almond flavor was not overpowering. 

Sandy Hingston, Senior Editor, baked up Nancy Fahey's Almond Cafe Cookies.  They were big, gorgeous cookies with the perfect amount of chew and crunch.  I loved how the almond flavor was not overpowering. 

 Tom McGrath, Editor, baked Marie Sheppard's   Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake  .  Mmm... this would be perfect for a relaxing weekend morning with a steaming cup of joe!  The cake was loaded with fresh blueberries which melded beautifully with the cinnamon and citrus flavors.  Toasty pecans topped off the dish and added a wonderful crunchy texture.

Tom McGrath, Editor, baked Marie Sheppard's Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake.  Mmm... this would be perfect for a relaxing weekend morning with a steaming cup of joe!  The cake was loaded with fresh blueberries which melded beautifully with the cinnamon and citrus flavors.  Toasty pecans topped off the dish and added a wonderful crunchy texture.

 Brand Editor, Ashley Primis, made Carolyn Westerback's adorable   Chipotle Meatball Appetizers  .  Each bite of these meatball cups was packed with tons of flavor.  I loved how the avocado pieces cooled the spicy bite of the chipotle sauce.  These would be perfect to serve at your game day party! 

Brand Editor, Ashley Primis, made Carolyn Westerback's adorable Chipotle Meatball Appetizers.  Each bite of these meatball cups was packed with tons of flavor.  I loved how the avocado pieces cooled the spicy bite of the chipotle sauce.  These would be perfect to serve at your game day party! 

 Brian Howard, News Editor, made headlines with Cathy Wiechert's gorgeous   Orange Cardamom Blueberry Crostata  .  The beautifully pleated golden brown crust of this dessert holds a whopping 2 cups of blueberries that are sweetly spiced with orange marmalade and cardamom.  I just love the rustic simplicity of this crostata. "Crostata Boasts Blueberry Bonanza!"

Brian Howard, News Editor, made headlines with Cathy Wiechert's gorgeous Orange Cardamom Blueberry Crostata.  The beautifully pleated golden brown crust of this dessert holds a whopping 2 cups of blueberries that are sweetly spiced with orange marmalade and cardamom.  I just love the rustic simplicity of this crostata. "Crostata Boasts Blueberry Bonanza!"

 Senior Art Director, Jamie Leary, crafted Denise Pounds'   Chicken Lettuce Wraps & Sesame Crescent Noodles   with artful detail.  The color and crunch really made this dish pop!  I loved biting into the buttery lettuce, tender chicken and crispy noodles.

Senior Art Director, Jamie Leary, crafted Denise Pounds' Chicken Lettuce Wraps & Sesame Crescent Noodles with artful detail.  The color and crunch really made this dish pop!  I loved biting into the buttery lettuce, tender chicken and crispy noodles.

 Christy Lejeune, Editor at Large, baked Joan Cossette's   Lemon Pistachio Blackberry Thumbprints  .  These large soft cookies had great texture and were bursting with flavor.  I loved the hint of lemon and that drizzle of honey glaze.

Christy Lejeune, Editor at Large, baked Joan Cossette's Lemon Pistachio Blackberry Thumbprints.  These large soft cookies had great texture and were bursting with flavor.  I loved the hint of lemon and that drizzle of honey glaze.

 Research Editor, Malcolm Burnley, discovered a great recipe in Mindy Beaumont's   Honey Roasted Corn and Crab Puffs  .  One bite of the sweet corn and crab in these little nuggets transported me right to my summertime happy place.  I could practically feel the sand on my feet! 

Research Editor, Malcolm Burnley, discovered a great recipe in Mindy Beaumont's Honey Roasted Corn and Crab Puffs.  One bite of the sweet corn and crab in these little nuggets transported me right to my summertime happy place.  I could practically feel the sand on my feet! 

 Claudia Gavin, Assistant Photo Editor, made Donna Beck's   Ham and Creamy Sriracha Pizza  .  For a sriracha lover like me, the spread on this pizza was a hit.  It had that addictive spicy quality that made you want to come back for more!  

Claudia Gavin, Assistant Photo Editor, made Donna Beck's Ham and Creamy Sriracha Pizza.  For a sriracha lover like me, the spread on this pizza was a hit.  It had that addictive spicy quality that made you want to come back for more!  

 Wedding Editor, Carrie Denny, united 3 gooey ingredients in heavenly matrimony to make Wendy Wiseman's   Peanut Butter Caramel Sticky Rolls  .  These spirals of warm baked goodness will make you laugh, cry and will definitely leave you with sticky fingers.  

Wedding Editor, Carrie Denny, united 3 gooey ingredients in heavenly matrimony to make Wendy Wiseman's Peanut Butter Caramel Sticky Rolls.  These spirals of warm baked goodness will make you laugh, cry and will definitely leave you with sticky fingers.  

 Jack Cotter, Digital Projects Editor, presented Sonya Goergen's   Mini Italian Shepherd's Pies  .  These savory morsels practically pack a full balanced meal into 2 bytes!  I loved the spinach in the mashed potato topping.  

Jack Cotter, Digital Projects Editor, presented Sonya Goergen's Mini Italian Shepherd's Pies.  These savory morsels practically pack a full balanced meal into 2 bytes!  I loved the spinach in the mashed potato topping.  

 Executive Editor, Michael Callahan, whipped up Craig Partin's   Malted Milk Ball Peanut Butter Cream Squares  .  I loved the whimsical quality of this dessert with its chocolate squiggles and sprinkling of fun candies from my childhood.  The crunchy peanut butter cookie base was a perfect contrast to creamy dreamy topping.  

Executive Editor, Michael Callahan, whipped up Craig Partin's Malted Milk Ball Peanut Butter Cream Squares.  I loved the whimsical quality of this dessert with its chocolate squiggles and sprinkling of fun candies from my childhood.  The crunchy peanut butter cookie base was a perfect contrast to creamy dreamy topping.  

The Big Decision!

After the tasting was complete, I was sequestered to ponder my decision.  Whew!  Judging proved to be challenging as everyone did a really great job.  In the end, I chose 4 dishes that were not too sweet, not too salty and left me wanting more!  

Congratulations to:

4th Place: Rich Rys, Fudgy Chocolate Hazlenut Bars

3rd Place: Sandy Hingston, Almond Cafe Cookies

2nd Place: Michael Wilson, Spicy Beef & Sweet Potato Samosas

1st Place: Art Etchells, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad on Walnut Flatbread 

The first place winner, Art Etchells, won a $100. gift card to Tashan Restaurant.   

Thanks Philadelphia magazine!  I had a great time!

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Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me!  Tina ( :

Back to the Bake-Off

Back to the Bake-Off:

I just knew it was the place I had to be!  The 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest was quickly approaching and I really wanted to be a part of the excitement.  I reached out to the Pillsbury Bake-Off Team and was thrilled to pieces when they invited me to come and be a part of the action!  I could not wait to cheer on the finalists in Vegas!  The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is the "Super Bowl" of cooking contests with an amazing history that dates back to 1949.  I was lucky to be a finalist in the 2010 and 2012 contests and I can tell you there is nothing quite like it.  The energy is contagious and the people are just the best.

The finalists this year had no easy task to earn their slot at the Bake-Off.  The recipe requirements this year were tightened up and I think pretty challenging.  Pillsbury was definitely looking for streamlined recipes that anyone could pull together in a jiffy.  The entrants had to create an original recipe using two different eligible ingredients, not to exceed seven total ingredients (besides salt, pepper and water) and the active prep time could be no more than 30 minutes.  They also had to make it through a stressful voting period that narrowed down 200 semi-finalists to 100 finalists.  So I say a huge congrats to all the 200 semi-finalists that had their recipes chosen from the tens of thousands that were submitted!  I hope you feel very proud!   

I had my big Bake-Off moment in March of 2012.  Since then I have experienced a whirlwind of excitement and made thousands upon thousands of Pumpkin Ravioli!  It was going to be a unique experience for me to come back to the Bake-Off.  This time I wouldn't feel the pressure of the competition for myself, but I knew exactly what the finalists were going to be feeling and I felt like a mother hen who wanted to make sure all her chicks were feeling great and having an amazing time!  I wanted them to walk away with wonderful memories just like I had!

Plans for the next Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Nashville are underway.  The rules and details will be posted at Pillsbury.com sometime in January.  Hope I get to cheer for you in 2014! 

Bake-Off Pre-Game:

The logistics of the Bake-Off always amazes me.  It is a huge undertaking that used to take place every other year.  This year, the event was bumped up to take place every year, so the prep time for this event was even more condensed this year.  As I'm sure any finalist would agree, the General Mills team working there are some of the nicest and most hardworking people around.  From the runners who look after your every need when you are a finalist (even clearing the way through the crowd when you have to walk your recipe to the judges table) to the photographers, to dedicated kitchen staff, they all are some of the nicest and most hardworking people around.  Thanks to you all!   

The Venue: The Aria Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV

100 mini-kitchen stations with brand new GE ranges getting set-up, calibrated and pre-heated.

The calm before the storm.

Was thrilled to meet up with these two talented ladies: Jessie of Cakespy and Angie of Bakerella.  

I had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer Buege who writes for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Blog.  You can check out her post here.

I participated in a Twitter Chat with Kevin Hunt of General Mills.  Check out his blog about it here.

Game Day: Let the 46th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Begin!

Leading the Grand March with the Doughboy!

The event started off behind the scenes with the finalists getting lined up and ready for the traditional Grand March onto the Bake-Off floor.  I had the honor of leading the Grand March alongside the Doughboy!  

This day was a blur of delicious aromas and tasty nibbles!  The Bake-Off floor was buzzing with energy, nerves and excitement!  I tried to make my way to each finalist to offer some encouragement!  The best part of the event for me was meeting so many great people!  

One of my favorite moments was getting to meet these two great ladies.  Mari Petrelli who won the Bake-Off in 1966 and Padma Lakshmi!

Here is Nancy Fahey with her Almond Cafe Cookies.  Such a sweetie!  I got to chat with her and her husband on the shuttle bus from the airport.

Denise Pounds is preparing one of her yummy Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Crescent Noodles for me to taste!  Lucky Me!!

Bake-Off Buddies!

Here is Donna Fogel of Whitehall, PA working on her Creamy Coconut Mocha Hazlenut Pastries!  Looks great Donna!

Post Game: Awards Show & Dinner!

Anticipation was thick in the ballroom as everyone eagerly awaited the awards announcements!  I was on the edge of my seat!

The Pillsbury Kitchen Band got the party started!

Padma Lakshmi announcing the winners!

First up, are the special award winners.  Here is Julie Beckwith of Crete, IL.  She won the "Crisco is Cooking Award" with her Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tartlets.  Yay Julie!!

Then Padma called up the 2nd, 3rd & Grand Prize Winners in no particular order...

The big winner, Glori Spriggs is announced!

Big hug from Padma.

and the confetti flies!  Woo Hoo Glori!!

Big Hugs & Congratulations to all the Winners!!  

Way to go ladies!!

Check out their award winning recipes below:

Grand Prize Winner:

Glori Spriggs of Henderson, NV

"Loaded Potato Pinwheels"

2nd Place Winner:

Sheila Suhan of Scottdale, PA
"Easy Caprese Pizza Bake"

Third Place Winner:

Antoinette Leal of Ridgefield, CT
"Cherry Almond Brunch Tart"

GE Imagination At Work Award:

Kellie White of Valley Park, MO

"Honey Sesame Bagels"

Jif® Peanut Butter Award:

Kim Doyle Wille of Carbondale, CO

"Thai Shrimp Pizza"

Crisco Is Cooking™ Award:

Julie Beckwith of Crete, IL

"Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tartlets"

Eagle Brand® Signature Recipe Award:

Karen Harris, Castle Pines, CO

"Bacon Corncakes with Warm Maple Cream"

Thanks for spending some time in the cloud with me!  It was fun to share my Bake-Off experience with you!  Tina ( :