Fair time beckons in San Diego County (June 8-July 4), and among the many fun contests (for me, at least) are those about cooking. Besides traditional competitions for best jam, jelly, cake, brownie, etc., food companies also sponsor contests, including the famous Spam contest. (I once entered a baking contest at a county fair when I was younger and dumber. I got schooled. I’ll tell you more about it in another post!) Consider trying one or more of these competitions, several of them new this year. For full info, visit the contest section of http://www.sdfair.com or call (858) 792-4207. No registration needed; just bring your entries in by 12:30 p.m. on contest day:
— Great American Spam Championship: adults, 1 p.m. June 8; kids, 2 p.m. June 23. This year’s contest is all about the sandwich — from Dagwood-style to a Monte Cristo to a Reuben and everything else in between. But you are limited to 10 ingredients or less. First prize is $150 and a shot at the grand prize, a trip to the Spam Jam Waikiki Festival. Judges will be looking for taste, creativity and presentation.
— New this year is a Pie Baking Championship sponsored by Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts: 1 p.m. June 15. So yes, you have to use at least one. Categories are dessert pies and savory pies. Top dessert pie wins $200; top savory pie wins $75. Judging based on creativity, simplicity, taste and presentation.
— Ghirardelli Chocolate Championshiop, 1 p.m. June 22. Using Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (and as much Ghirardelli baking chocolate as you like), create a bite-size delicacy for this contest. Top prize is $150, and the top three winners and a randomly chosen contestant will win a gift basket full of the company’s chocolates. Judges are looking for appearance, taste, creativity and ease of preparation.
— Another new contest, this one sponsored by Bisquick: Family Favorites Recipe Contest, at 1 p.m. June 23. Use Bisquick mix to “reinvent a classic appetizer or revitalize an everyday main meal.” That gives you creative cooks a lot of leeway! Top prize is $100; judging based on appearance, flavor and texture.
— Also new, and also focusing on bite-size goodies: Sweet-Treats for Sweet-Hearts Contest, 1 p.m. June 29, sponsored by Karo Syrup. Judges are looking for taste, creative use of Karo, presentation and ease of preparation. Top prize is $125 for the Top Sweet-Treats (any size), with an extra $100 for Best Bite-Size Treats.
— Last, and also new: Scratch Bakers Cookie Challenge, 1 p.m. July 4. Sponsored by the Gold Medal Flour folks. Use the flour to create any kind, size or style of cookie from scratch. Top prize is $100. Judging is based on appearance, flavor and texture.
To get you started thinking of winning ideas, here’s a recipe from the Bisquick folks:
Impossibly Easy Mini Chicken Pot Pies
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 12 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.
In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in center. Add onion and chicken broth; heat to simmering. Add frozen vegetables and seasonings. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally until almost all liquid is absorbed. Cool 5 minutes; stir in cheese.
In medium bowl, stir baking mixture ingredients with whisk or fork until blended. Spoon 1 scant tablespoon baking mixture into each muffin cup. Top with about 1/4 cup chicken mixture. Spoon 1 tablespoon baking mixture onto chicken mixture in each muffin cup.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of pies from pan; remove from pan and place top sides up on cooling rack. Cool 10 minutes longer, and serve. Makes 6 servings (2 mini pies each).