Sara & Kate at the Better Homes and Gardens Cook-Off!

CATEGORIES: General News
In case you have been stranded in a jungle without internet connection for the past week or so, we spent a couple of days last week in Des Moines, IA at the test kitchens of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. We had so much fun with the kind folks from both Better Homes and Gardens and Walmart, and the crew from NMS who helped arrange the event. Not to mention our fellow Cook-Off Companions! Here’s some highlights:
First of all, one of the best parts of the trip for Kate and me was to hang out with each other! I live in Idaho and she lives in Louisiana so we don’t get to see each other in person very often. One of the most commonly asked questions of the trip was, “How did you guys end up starting a food blog together??” We must have told that story 30 times!
Sara on left, Kate on right
(In case you don’t have pictures of us up around your house to remember who’s who…)
When we arrived in Des Moines we got a quick rest at our hotel and then jetted off to the BHG Test Kitchens where we met Test Kitchen Director Lynn Blanchard. The famous kitchens didn’t disappoint! Check out this gorgeous space- it’s called the Show Kitchen.
We also got to meet up with our fellow Cook-Off Contestants as well. We had such a fun group!
L-R Daniel (Consumer King), Amy (Mom Advice), Kate, Sara, Aly (She Knows), Jenny (Picky Palate)
Kate and I decided when we grow up we want to live/hang out for fun work at the BHG test kitchens. For one thing, it’s full of beautiful things, like this:
Even their books are beautiful.
If I’m ever rich and famous I’m going to employ someone to be my full time wrap-all-of-the-books-in-my-house-in-white-paper wrapper upper. Just because it looks awesome.

And this might actually be the best part. If you work at the BHG test kitchens, you get all kinds of fun things, like a computer, a stapler, free pencils, full use of the copy machine…oh, and a gourmet kitchen.

That’s our amazing new friend Julie. She was assigned to babysit help us out for the day and we got to invade her space! Seriously. That’s her office. How cool is that?! Julie was so fun to hang out with, and we quickly found we had a lot in common. All three of us are grads from the same university! She also has a sister named Kate and a sister named Sara. What can I say, it was meant to be!
After we took a look around the test kitchens we headed out to dinner at a great restaurant called Django. “All French-No Attitude” great tag line. We feasted on all sorts of deliciousness.
That top left picture is actually samplings from the appetizers. Sure wish I had worn something with an elastic waist! I had Parmesan Encrusted Chicken, Kate had that succulent Fillet, and she Jenny and I all got different desserts so we could try them all. Kate’s Crème Brûlée was probably the favorite (as evident by the fact that Jenny and I stole it when Kate was immersed in deep conversation and finished off half before she noticed. Dessert theft: one of my many talents).
The next morning, we gathered for a fantastic breakfast in the test kitchens. I loved that the food we ate was all made from the new BHG Cook Book! It was amazing. I can’t wait to make this rolled egg souffle and share it with you guys. They served it with some sort of awesome cheese sauce I could have drunk from a shot glass.
After full tummies (again, why didn’t we bring the elastic pants?!), we had time in our kitchens to prep for the cook off. Along with our awesome burgers, we also made a fresh corn with smoked paprika butter, and roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes. We had to do corn–we were in Iowa for pete’s sake! It was so fresh and delicious. (Note to self: add refrigerator drawers to dream kitchen list…)
After prepping we took a break for lunch. Again, awesomeness from the BHG cook book! These roasted veggie sandwiches were amazing.
And so were these fudgy brownies with macaroons on top.
Then it was game time! We made our burgers and simmered our sauce. Fried our onions, and boiled our corn. Fun fun fun!
We were too busy to take pictures during most of this part, but you can see tons of video here.
After our dish was finished we threw it on a plate (literally. We were down to the last second! Wasn’t our best plating job, but hey, it tasted awesome.) and were off to face the judges.
That’s Richard Swearinger Senior Food Editor at BHG, Catie Bielecki Digital Editor, and Deb Wagman who writes the BHG Live Better Blog.

The judges were kind. I was especially excited that they loved our tip about cooking bacon. You can see here in the judging video where they comment on how perfectly crisp it is.

After some final comments the cook-off was officially over. So much fun! Since we were at the BHG buildings, we got to sneak off for one of my favorite parts of this trip–a tour of their photo studios.

“Studio” isn’t really the right word because it’s a huge space. As a food blogger, I was in heaven. Check out some of the props they have for photo shoots:
Note I said “some” of their props. Besides dishes and place settings they have endless back drops of doors, windows, walls, furniture, surfaces, etc. So they can pretty much create any room they want. It was pretty amazing.
We even got to walk in on an actual food shoot!
We had a blast meeting new friends. I’m pretty sure we’d all hang out if we lived in the same neighborhood. And we’d have killer dinner parties.
L-R Amy, Sara, Kate, Jenny
We have so many pictures from our trip that we’ll be adding them to our facebook albums during the week so you can all take a peek!
Speaking of facebook, maybe we should give away some cookware right now–what do you think? Yes?? Okay! Head over there to the discussion tab (click here) and someone will win a set of the Non-Stick Hard-Anodized! Hurry it’s a quick one, winner announced Wednesday!
To see the current Cook-Off Standings and vote for us, click here!

40 comments

  1. Bummer! I don't do Facebook because of their privacy issues(except to like corporations for their coupons). Still glad you guys had fun and glad to see that your likely to be the bride rather than the bridesmaid this time around. 🙂

  2. Looks like a great trip! you need to includ a link to the story of how you started a blog together–I can't find a post on it and I want to know the story too 🙂

  3. Nice. It makes you realize it's all about the finishing touches on an extraordinary meal.

    I'm new to your blog and love it. The recipes are real and the attitudes hilarious.

  4. So glad you all had a wonderful time! Yea, elastic waisted pants. I would have definitely needed those! The food all looks so divine!

    Welcome back you guys!!!

  5. Oh, WOW…BHG has an amazing kitchen! Those refrigerated drawers are just awesome. Looks like y'all had a great trip – can't wait to see the pics on facebook! =)

  6. SO COOL!!! That looks like a dream vacation- seriously. I would love to sample all the food, mingle with food people and just be surrounded with all the glorious kitchen props and utencils. I am so glad you girls got to experience that together.

  7. What a COOL trip! And a dream job for the people that work there I bet. It looks fantastic. Congratulations on getting there!

    I've been cooking bacon like that for a few years now and I can't believe I ever fried bacon on a stovetop. SO much easier, and completely mess free.

  8. Thanks for sharing all of the neat photos! Looks like you had a wonderful time! I want to go with you! Just too drool and eat of course! Just voted for you! Hurry and post some new recipes!~

  9. What an awesome time! And by the way, I just used your bacon cooking suggestion last week and ended up with perfect bacon for the first time in my life!

  10. You guys finally got a picture together that wasn't photoshopped! 🙂 Woo hoo! Great pictures and how fun to be able to go there! You guys rock (and your bacon does too!) Glad to see that you had a great time!

  11. What a fantastic adventure! I'm so happy for the two of you. I am also glad that y'all got more pictures together. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Blessings,
    Kristine

  12. WOW! What an amazing opportunity! I LOVED all the test kitchen and prop room pictures! Beautiful! I also loved watching the video of them judging your food. You can tell they were totally impressed (as they should be). Way to go!!!

  13. Thanks for sharing about your visit to the BHG Kitchens. How FUN!!! I love all of your recipes and tips. I hope you win the cookoff. The recipes that you share have brought a lot of fun back into our family meals. We love your site. Hope you win the challenge. Good Luck.

  14. read you. check. love you. check. voted. check.!!! You are the best…
    1st: hard anoized
    2nd:porcelain
    3rd: stainless steel
    can't wait to go read more!!!

  15. I voted! I love your recipes! I am addicted to your website.
    1-stainless steel
    2- anodized
    3-porcelain
    Thanks for all the hard work both of you put into the website. It is much appreciated!

  16. Hi There! I love your blog!! Love the personal stories, tips and love love love the recipes! I voted for you!!! I check you out every day. Thank you!
    1. hard anodized
    2. Stainless steel
    3. Porcelain

  17. What an amazing trip! Thanks for letting us live it vicariously (hope I spelled that right, lol) through you. 🙂 And hey, I didn't know you were an Idaho girl. Yah!

  18. Love your recipes! Looks like you're winning in a landslide! I'd love the stainless steel set 1st and it's a toss-up between the other 2!=)

  19. Your numbers are looking great on the BH&G website!! I love all your recipes you girls give out! Good, good stuff! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  20. I'm so happy I discovered your blog! I absolutely love all the recipes:) I've voted too many times to count!! Can't wait for you ladies to be announced as the winner.

    I'd love to win one of the cookware sets – 1st choice, stainless, then anondized then non-stick

    Thanks

  21. I am new to your blog and wow! I. Am. Amazed. I've tried several recipes now and none have failed me. Hope you win the contest. I'd be happy with any of the cookware sets. I like the look of the red so that would be my first preference, then the anodized and then the stainless steel.

  22. Hi there,
    I just voted for ya'll. looks like you are doing great. and I will keep voting and pass the word to my friends. I have already told my friends about your website. I love the pics and all the receipes. what totally got me was the pie in the jar. I've been looking for years. YES. you girls rock!. I really like the stainless steal that is my #1 choice. 2 is red because the color and 3 is non stick. have a great day.

  23. I am thankful for my family, living and waiting for me in heaven
    I am thankful for my friends,
    again, living and waiting
    I am thankful for social networking
    for reconnecting lost connections
    I am thankful for my pets
    They are the only kids I can have
    I am thankful for a love of reading
    it has opened up the world
    I am thankful for a love of cooking
    It helps me to spoil my family
    I am thankful for your website
    It has never failed to teach me

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