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

CATEGORIES: General News
better homes and gardens logo
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 I 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!
Kate and Sara
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.
better homes and gardens show kitchen
We also got to meet up with our fellow Cook-Off Contestants as well. We had such a fun group!
Sara and Kate with cook off contestants
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:
Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen
Even their books are beautiful.
Better Homes and Gardens bookshelves
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.


Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen with computer
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.
Django dinner
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.
rolled egg soufflé
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…)
Sara in the test kitchen
After prepping we took a break for lunch. Again, awesomeness from the BHG cook book! These roasted veggie sandwiches were amazing.
roasted veggie sandwich with soup
And so were these fudgy brownies with macaroons on top.
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!
Our Best Bites burgers sauce and corn
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.
Better Homes and Gardens 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:
props for photo shoots
additional props for photo shoots
glass props 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!
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.
Sara and Kate with new friends
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!
non stick hard anodized collection of pots and pans
To see the current Cook-Off Standings and vote for us, click here!


  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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


  5. 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!!

  6. 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!=)

  7. 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!

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