Savory or sweet? That was the decision facing judges of the 2011 Holiday Recipe Contest sponsored by the Texas Pecan Board. More specifically, it was the decision faced by one judge. The ballots had all been returned and counted except one, and the contest was too close to call. Anticipation filled the room as the deliberative judge tasted, thought and tasted again, then finally marked her ballot.
That vote made Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative member Linda Morten’s Pecan-Cranberry Bread Pudding with Lemon Hard Sauce this year’s grand-prizewinning recipe. “That’s amazing,” said Morten of the win that earned her $2,000. “I’ve been doing that (recipe) for years for Thanksgiving” in response to numerous requests, she said.
Morten, who works for the Brenham State School, is no stranger to cooking contest victories. In 2005, she won the National Beef Cook-Off, claiming a $50,000 prize with which she and her husband, Michael, bought their house, just minutes away from Lake Somerville. One of her three daughters, Natalie, is following in her mother’s footsteps as an avid cook and is attending the Culinary Arts Institute in Houston.
This year, prizes were also awarded to category winners and runners-up. Bandera Electric Cooperative member Sativa Rasmussen-Sanders’ entry, Twisted Texas Chicken Diablos, was named Savory Category winner with a prize of $1,000.
The Sweet Category winning prize, also $1,000, went to Luke Canatella, whose home is served by Bryan Texas Utilities, for his pecan-laden Breakfast Cookies.
The category runners-up, who each won $500, were: J-A-C Electric Cooperative member G.W. Quick for Texas-Style Savory Deviled Eggs and Rusk County EC member Jean A. Bunyard for Fig Pecan Pie.
You can find the other winning recipes in the Also in This Issue box.
$2,000 Grand Prizewinner
Linda Morten, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative
Morten said she got a broad range of culinary experience growing up. She was born in Venezuela, and her father was in the oil business, which took the family to destinations around the world, including a stint in Singapore. “If it wasn’t for traveling, I wouldn’t be exposed to many tastes,” she said. “That’s where I got my cooking ability.”
Morten said she loves to create desserts, making things that look pretty and taste good. She also loves to enter cooking contests. “Formulating recipes for pay,” she said with a laugh. “That’s my love and my passion.”
Pecan-Cranberry Bread Pudding with Lemon Hard Sauce
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted Texas pecans, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, divided
1 loaf (16 ounces) raisin bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
Lemon-Vanilla Hard Sauce
Pumpkin Shell Serving Bowls, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 8×8-inch pan. In large mixing bowl, stir together eggs, sugar, butter, half and half, vanilla, 1 cup pecans, 1 cup cranberries and cubed bread. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Immediately top with Lemon-Vanilla Hard Sauce and allow to melt. Sprinkle with reserved pecans and cranberries. Serve in Pumpkin Shell Serving Bowls, if desired (instructions follow).
Lemon-Vanilla Hard Sauce
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Cream butter, zest and juice on medium speed with electric mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until light and fluffy.
Pumpkin Shell Serving Bowls
12 pie pumpkins (1/2 pound each)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted and divided
1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
Cut tops off pumpkins, reserving lids with stems. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Brush inside of each with about 1 teaspoon butter and sprinkle inside of each with about 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Top with lids. Place pumpkins on baking sheet and bake along with pudding for 25 minutes.
Allow pumpkins to cool slightly and spoon pudding evenly into each pumpkin shell. Top each with 1 tablespoon of Lemon-Vanilla Hard Sauce and allow it to melt. Sprinkle with reserved pecans and cranberries.
Servings (pudding with sauce only): 12. Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 465 calories, 6 g protein, 27.5 g fat, 47.5 g carbohydrates, 3.5 g dietary fiber, 138 mg sodium, 26.8 g sugars, 77 mg cholesterol
Cook’s Tip: Try Lemon-Vanilla Hard Sauce over other warm baked goods such as scones or muffins.