Thursday, October 24, 2013

Self Doubt in Recipe Development: Or the story of how I won an iPad

A really beautiful thing happened to me at the end of September. I won second place in a recipe contest. But, wow - it was a big surprise. Especially since it happened right as I thought I was losing my "touch" with regard to recipe development.

The contest was sponsored by Hodgson Mill. It was called "Summer Pastabilities," and it was a project I took on because I was going through a pretty fallow period in the kitchen and I needed something to get my creative juices flowing again.

I can't say the process was easy. In fact, I had a number of moments when I wondered what right I had to be entering any sort of recipe contest. I felt like I'd lost every modicum of inspiration I'd ever had.

All told, the original recipe I created was alright -- though better in theory than in practice. It incorporated myriad end-of-summer ingredients like cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, fresh basil, bacon, and feta cheese. And it was dressed with a lovely lemony dressing. But, there was something about it that just didn't feel right.

It wasn't great. And no matter how many times I went over the recipe in my head, I couldn't think of a way to make it better.

So -- despite the fact that I didn't really have the time or energy to put toward a new recipe --at the very last minute I changed my mind and decided to go with a completely different concept, a Thai-styleshrimp salad with fresh cucumbers, red and yellow sweet peppers, cilantro and a coconut-lime dressing augmented with fish sauce for a bit of umami and a bit of kick from Thai red curry paste.

The recipe took a bit of finessing. But, I finally got it to a stage where I felt like it was "good enough."
So, we got the pasta salad together, shot the photos, and then enjoyed the salad for dinner.

But, by the next day, I was having misgivings about the recipe. Maybe it was too spicy... too limey... not flavorful enough... maybe the slices of cucumber were too big... But, there was no time to give the recipe another round of tweaking, so I sent it off to the judges.

When I received an email that I'd been chosen as a winner, I think I just about fell out of my chair. I was stunned. And thrilled. And really honored. But, despite the awesome news, the self-doubt started to creep back in.

I started to wonder what all the other recipes were like. Maybe they just weren't very good -- or maybe mine just happened to get lucky. That had to be it -- right?

But, as I perused the recipes that had been submitted for the contest, I found myself in a place I've not been for quite a while -- a good place. It was a spot where I really felt honored to be doing something that I really loved and that... maybe... I was even good at. After all, there were a lot of really creative recipes out there. And most of them sounded like they would have been more-than-worthy of placing in the contest.

The moment wasn't about ego. But, it was an affirming moment -- one of those times when you become acutely aware that you are in the right place at the right time... doing the right thing.  I'm sure many of you can relate! Such a great feeling.

The iPad I won came in the mail last week... and every time I look at it, I think about how blessed I am. And how awesome it is to be in the kitchen, doing what I love.

Check out the entire list of entries, including my Bow-Thai Pasta HERE.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Business and Turkey Meatballs with Blackberry Barbeque Sauce

Where has the time gone?

Seems like just yesterday we were complaining about the heat and humidity of mid-summer. And now, suddenly, we've jumped full-on into the lap of autumn.

I'm not one to complain, as I really love it when there's a slight chill in the air and the breeze smells of musty leaves. But, I'm shocked that I didn't even see it coming this year.

One of the reasons is that I've been spending quite a bit of my free time doing research, talking with designers, and crunching numbers for a new endeavor that Peef and I are taking on this fall.

The business will be called "From Milwaukee With Love" and it will be an online retail store specializing in gift boxes filled with artisan food products made right here in the Milwaukee area. 

The concept has been a long-time in coming - and more details are forthcoming - but for now, let's suffice it to say it's been a labor of love that's really served to bring together my freelance writing, my love for the city of Milwaukee, and my desire to really showcase all the amazing food that's being produced right here.

I won't bore you with too many of the details here, but I'll let you know when we get things up and running, and you'll be able to follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter in the upcoming weeks.  Until then, I hope to keep up with at least a modicum of the recipe development and delicious food sharing I've always enjoyed so much here at Burp!

For today, I figured I'd dig down in my recipe file and share something deliciously different -- but seriously useful. I know you've all got football parties and family gatherings coming up, so I thought I'd take the time to share a recipe that should come in handy for any number of those things.

Barbequed meatballs commonly make their appearance on appetizer spreads or church pot-lucks. This homemade version made with blackberry barbeque sauce capture all the sweet-tart-vinegary goodness of a traditional sauce, while offering up a beautiful color and distinctly fresh flavor. 
Meatballs made with turkey lighten things up a bit, but maintain a rich flavor and caramelized exterior when browned in real butter. And this recipe is perfectly amiable to the use of either fresh or frozen berries, so you don't have to wait for the next batch of fresh berries to make it happen.

Serve as part of your next party spread, or simply served alongside mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables for a distinctly different weeknight meal.