Saturday, March 31, 2012

New York Strip with Sherried Mushroom Sauce and Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

There is nothing I enjoy more on a Friday evening than a nice glass of wine and a well cooked, restaurant quality steak dinner.

Join me as I show the step by step directions for creating this gorgeous meal for yourself!

New York Strip with Sherried Mushroom Sauce and Gruyere Mashed Potatoes!
For the printable recipe click HERE.

Ingredients
  • 2, 8 oz New York Strip steaks
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt or truffle salt
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp of the steak seasoning mixture
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh cracked black pepper
For the Potatoes
  • 6 russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • truffle or sea salt to taste
Directions
  1. Bring the steak to room temperature.
  2. Mix the salt, garlic, herbs, and pepper together and sprinkle each side of the steaks with about 1 tsp of the mixture. Let steak rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce and potatoes.
For the sauce...
  1. Saute the mushrooms in the butter just until they begin to release their water. Season with the salt blend, add the sherry, continue to boil, and reduce by half. Add the cream and continue to simmer until reduced and slightly thickened.
  2. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft and tender. Drain and gently mash.
  3. Heat the milk, and stock and melt the cheese in a saucepan. Mash into the potatoes. Continue to mash and whisk until smooth. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Broil the steak app 5 minutes per side for medium *or* sear it 2 minutes a side in hot a pan with oil and butter and the place in a 325 oven for 5 minutes.
  5. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Serve the steak with the potatoes, boiled or steamed spinach with the mushroom sauce drizzled over all.

To learn how to make this spectacular meal, please watch today's video.


 

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Snacktacular! Snacktacular! Celebrating the Glory of Food Addictions!

Yesterday after work my husband called and asked me to meet him at our local grocery store and I was excited!

Keep your date night at the club people; the Man I Married and I like to lay our boogie down in aisle five right next to the peanuts and Doritos.



Except for one thing...

The two of us foraging around a grocery store prior to eating dinner is akin to setting a pack of wild dingoes loose in a barnyard full of chickens.




In other words, not your best idea.

Although I managed to pick up a few healthy items; the t-bone steak, Kettle Crunch potato chips and Tiramisu cheesecake that somehow made their way into my cart taunted me the entire way home.

I am an all or nothing kind of gal.

If I'm eating in a healthy manner, it's easy for me to keep it up providing I don't stray from the chosen path.

'Give me your lentils, your Wasa Crisp, and the mighty chick pea and, verily, I shall eat.'

But set my foot off the path of high fibre, and my mind begins to wander.

Especially after that first slice of cheesecake.

Or in my case; tiramisu.

But I'm proud to report that I successfully hid the two bags of Kettle Crunch chips in order to protect my husband's cholesterol.

What a wife! (I know)

Then I enjoyed a grilled t-bone with a lovely side salad, a glass of red wine and even allowed myself a small piece of tiramisu because "everything in moderation" seems the sensible way to live.

Right?

Right.

I put on my flannel pyjamas and furry socks, made a pot of peppermint green tea, lit some candles, and settled into the couch for a round of tv watching, relaxation, and self care where I caught the end of CHOPPED.

Then I put on a DVD called Angel Falls starring Heather Locklear.


The candles were twinkling, my movie was playing, and the fragrance of peppermint and lavender swirled up from the tea cup and candles by my side.



The moment was pure Zen.

In fact, the only thing missing was a voice over singing 'Celebrate the moments of your life...'

And all I could think about as I watched Heather Locklear frolic about on screen - besides the fact that she really shouldn't have had her lips done - was:

I wanted the chips.

And the longer I sat and obsessed about them, the worse the craving became.

So I rationalized.

What harm could one small bowl of chips do?

***

I crept ever so quietly to the cabinet - careful not to make any sudden noises that might alert the man snoring down the hall as to my whereabouts - and set the super sized bag of balsamic vinegar and sea salt chips free.

Then I read the nutritional info on the back.

Twelve chips had 172 calories and 9 g of fat.

Chump change people.

I could afford to eat twelve chips, get over my craving, and return to the movie.

So that's what I did.

Carefully counted out 12 chips, and then folded the bag and placed it quietly back into the China cabinet.

*Cue the dramatic silence followed by two claps of thunder*

By the end of the evening, I was hiding empty bags.

Just sayin.

***

Do you ever wonder why all the good stuff is so easy to give up?

If you told me tomorrow I could never eat another carrot, indulge in a serving of low fat cottage cheese, grapefuit, or celery, in the immortal words of Miss Gloria Gaynor - I would survive.

But take away my chips, sugar, butter, or T Bone steaks and I would be a mess!

***

Stay tuned this weekend for the announcement of the winner for my first giveaway, a video for "Nutbars" and a fabulous recipe for birthday cake!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How a Pork Tenderloin Saved My Life - Part 7 - "And the Entree Finalists Are..."

When last we left, our cooking competitor (aka me) had come up with two recipes for the entree round of the Real Women of Philadelphia.

If you missed the last installment click HERE.
 To read from the beginning, start HERE.

***

It’s strange how passion can take over your life. Less than two months prior to all this I was living a life devoid of cream cheese.



Oh sure, I was known to sneak it into the odd dish or two, but at this point I was dreaming in it. And I wasn’t alone – the posting boards at the Real Women of Philadelphia were replete with conversations from home cooks all over Canada with the same longings - and in those early days, the community surged with hope. There were still chances to succeed and even though we were technically in competition with one another for coveted spots, something amazing and somewhat magical was beginning to occur: not only were we a part of a contest, we had become a community.

Although it is popular opinion to believe that a group of women pitted against one another in this way might cause the claws to come out, in reality nothing could have been further from the truth.

Maybe it’s because we all came to the community with a common love for food and cooking, or maybe it’s that cream cheese just naturally binds people together – whatever it was, the overwhelming feeling in this already tightly knit community was one of support and friendship that continued to grow as the contest went on making the early days of the experience when we all marveled over our collective creativity and concocted new recipes in our sleep ones I will remember with fondness the rest of my life.

The conversation and cream cheese camaraderie took me out of myself and some of the more stressful elements of my life and gave me something else to think about and look forward to. It gave me a sense of hope and excitement I hadn’t felt in years and helped me realize the importance of taking risks and pursuing passion – whether that be skydiving, deep sea fishing, or talking on camera while chopping pistachios.

As corny as it may seem, it was at that point I realized I had already won – for real this time, I was learning how to let an experience provide my reward without attaching its validity to outcome and had been gifted with the knowledge that living life in pursuit of a dream was a lot more fun and rewarding than living without it.

In the process I had begun to make real friendships and connections with the other women in the community and had come to the conclusion that, though the contest itself was going to be a lot more difficult to conquer than I had initially anticipated, I was in the company of cooks who were in the same boat and I gained a new found understanding of our shared vulnerability.

With that in mind, I set out to conquer dessert. We were now entering week four of the competition and while eagerly awaiting the announcement of the two entree finalists, the collective consciousness had begun to switch gears and the serious cream cheesers were locked, loaded, and ready for action.

While cream cheese has been traditionally well known as a dessert ingredient the sweeter side of cuisine has never been my forte. As well, even though I had lost the white spandex, I was still going strong with my weight loss efforts and knew an entire week of creating cream cheese desserts could ultimately result in my own ruination.

For that reason, I decided to submit just one recipe – a cream cheese and apple turnover drizzled with cream cheese frosting – and call it a day, knowing I would never be able to compete with the big guns baking up soufflĂ©s and other cream filled amazements.

As a result of this, however, I surprised myself because my apple turnovers weren't half bad - giving me yet another unexpected gift - I could come up with a dessert idea that was edible!

Truth be known, at that point in the experience I had become so invested in the community and my friendships there that I lost the obsessive desire to constantly check the boards. I was in a good place and would have been overjoyed to see the names of any of my new friends announced that next Wednesday because I knew how hard everyone was working. 

After all of the disappointment in that first contest, my determined dieting, and effusive enthusiasm for cream cheese, I was at peace. If my name wasn't called that Wednesday the day would not be black. Knowing in my heart that I would be genuinely happy for another person, was emotional growth I would never have thought to achieve had it not been for The Real Women of Philadelphia and I was excited to see who the first two entree finalists would be.

The next Wednesday at 9 am Pacific Standard Time, a new video from Anna Olson was loaded onto the home page and to my surprise and excitement, along with Danielle Abray and her recipe for Philly Trout Cookout there I was!

Me, and my pork tenderloin - you know, the one that was eventually going to save my life..




















Stay tuned next week for another installment!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nutty Mandarin and Bacon Chicken Salad

Happy Wednesday everyone!

With our lunch themed week well underway and my first ever Kitchen Witch giveaway going on strong, I'm excited to share a really great, easy chicken salad recipe.

I came up with this because I was looking for a salad to take with me to the office that would mimic a sandwich but be high in crunch factor and flavour.

And as a lover of blending flavours; sweet, salty, nutty, creamy, this adaptation of my Fruity Chicken Pasta Salad seemed like the perfect idea.


And it was!

People, this little concoction is so darned DELISH you don't even need the lettuce!!

Serve it on its own, in lettuce cups, over a tossed salad, or with pasta - any way you crunch it, this one's a winner!

Want the recipe? Just click HERE and print it off!

Or watch my How To video here.http://youtu.be/DLSpRn3h8aM


Stay tuned later today for the next installment of How a Pork Tenderloin Saved my Life, and don't forget to come on over and like The Kitchen Witch on Facebook and subscribe to my channel on YouTube, CHARMED,  for more chances to win in my giveaway!



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cream of Broccoli and Gruyere Soup

Remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld?



"No soup for you!"

Well I swear, we have our own version in this funky downtown bakery/cafe about 10 k from where I work. The chef owner is a tad on the reclusive side but her soup (and accompanying home made baking) is so good that I often take the ten minute drive and fumble around with downtown parking just get a cup of her liquid gold and a butter tart (or two).

But when I began adding up what I've been paying for my little cup of creamy, cheesy, heaven - not to mention the drive over, it occurred to me there might be a better way.

"Self," I said because that's what I call myself when no one is listening, "You are a food blogger, you cook for comfort and share the shere zippidy doo dah joy of it everyday with people from far and wide. Surely, and given all that, you could come up with your own soup and a brownie or two?"

*Cue the dramatic music*

And that's what inspired me to blog about lunch this week. I'm cheap and I want good soup.

Check out today's step by step how to video to learn how to make this quick and easy (not to mention Soup Nazi worthy) Cream of Broccoli and Gruyere Soup. Prepare the recipe as is or lighten it up with my suggestions in the video.

Click here for the Printable Recipe. 

Ingredients
  •  1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken  or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese
Directions
  1. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and butter. When the oil is hot, add the onions, cayenne powder, and celery.
  2. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add broccoli and saute for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic and saute just until fragrant. Add chicken stock and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil reduce heat and cover, add the cream and simmer another 10 minutes. Puree the soup.
  4. Add a cup and a half of ther the Gruyere cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Pour into a soup bowl and top with remaining Gruyere cheese and croutons.
Enjoy!!





***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Kitchen Witch's First Ever Giveaway!!!!

Good morning everyone and welcome to a brand new week!

And what a week it's going to be because I have the most fabulous giveaway in store - an amazing prize package to send to one lucky winner with several opportunities to increase your chances to win!

The prize package is as follows:

1 new copy of the Best selling cook book Whitewater Cooks at Home.











1 new copy of the book Slow Cooker Revolution


And a souvenir apron from The Real Women of Philadelphia Canada like the one I am wearing in the picture to your right!









From now until April 1, 2012, I will be keeping track of every "like" The Kitchen Witch gets on Facebook; every share, subscription, tweet, comment, follow, or thumbs up on YouTube and will submit that person's name into the draw every time they do such action so the more you do, the more chances you have to win!

As a bonus, on Facebook this week I will be featuring some of my favourite bloggers. Jeanine from the Baking Beauties, Cindy from Hun, What’s For Dinner! Cathy from The Hungry Hollow,  Heather from Buttery Bites Caramels,
Chantal at Let's Eat! and a new comer to the blogging world Marisa from Tasty Delights!

Go over and like them when I share their links or subscribe today and let me know for even more chances to win!

To learn more about the contest and the fabulous prizes, just click play! Link HERE
 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Macho Nachos

Back in the day when seeing and being seen was a priority Saturday nights, I loved to go for drinks to a variety of favourite hangouts and then end the evening with some kind of snack - which in my day was either one of two things: chicken wings, or nachos.

 

While I'm more likely to be spotted watching the Real Housewives most Saturday nights now, the urge for pub food still hits every now and then and what could be better than a hot tray of oooey, goooey, cheesey nachos?




 To get things started, saute one chopped white onion in a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.

















Saute until just translucent and then add one pound extra lean ground beef and one diced jalapeno pepper.

















Continue to saute until ground beef is browned.

Add:
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 can tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup salsa
 
















Place a layer of tortilla chips onto a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet.

Top with ground beef mixture, sliced black olives, green chiles, and 2 cups cheddar cheese.

Bake in a 400 over for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and the tortilla chips begin to brown.















Top with tomatoes and green onion and serve with cold beer.





***

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Friday, March 23, 2012

How a Pork Tenderloin Saved My Life - Part 6 - The Recipe!

When last we left our culinarily crazed cooking competitor - aka, me - I had just discovered my brilliant - albeit somewhat labour intensive - recipe for Philly Nibblers did not pass go in the appetizer round of The Real Women of Philadelphia recipe contest and knew it was time to re-group and get back to work...

To read How a Pork Tenderloin Saved My Life from the beginning start HERE
If you missed last week's installment, check it out HERE.

***

 At the same time I was at work swallowing my pride and disappointment, I had a support team on the sidelines comprised of my mother, and my best friend from childhood, Cindy, who were both hard at work trying to analyze why my nibblers had not been selected. Feedback from both camps was surprisingly congruent: I needed to change things up, lose the Determined Dieter outfit, and do a better job at displaying my food on camera.

Timing wise, I had already submitted a side dish that I didn’t hold much hope for, and had shot my last determined dieter video for a recipe I really liked called Philly Chicks in a Blanket; Tex Mex inspired chicken wrapped in delicious cream cheese infused crepes.


Although I had a lot of hope for this last dish, the appetizer round had taught me an important lesson to not put all of my eggs into one basket and so I set to work researching the components of what I would do next.

I began by checking out the food trends; what foods were hot and what foods were not, narrowing my search until I finally settled on something that would feature pork tenderloin, pistachios, and mango chutney.

I worked on the recipe into the wee hours of the morning researching the best methods for roasting and stuffing a tenderloin, trying to come up with a formula that would result in a moist and tender cut of meat.

I already knew cream cheese was going to be included as part of a couscous, cranberry, and pistachio stuffing for the pork, but I still felt the dish needed that extra bit of wow factor – and that’s when I came up with an idea for the sauce: a creamy, decadent mango chutney libation that would be drizzled over a savoury, stuffed pan seared and oven roasted pork tenderloin.

With that settled, I shut my laptop at app 3 am and went to bed literally dreaming of cream cheese.

The next day was a Saturday and after a first cup of coffee and planning session with Vaughan followed by a phone consultation with my mother, I headed for the grocery store and brought home enough for two complete dishes: One for the prototype, and the second for the recipe I would be submitting.

By now the man I married and I had filming down to an art and we would set up the kitchen with our well used and time worn table on DVD storage boxes to replicate an island - cream cheese strategically placed on the table to cover old paint splatters from my crafting days.

We cooked the first tenderloin that Saturday morning according to recommendations from Google that the meat be roasted to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Unbeknownst to me, though - a person who grew up in the 70's when pork chops were cooked to within an inch of their lives - 145 degrees resulted in a roast that was still pink; and as my latent fear of tape worms began to grow more powerful, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to eat my creation.

Rare pork prototype #1 ended up in the garbage.

***

Two tenderloins and a box of couscous later, I believed I finally had the recipe perfected. 



When we were done filming I got into my car and drove it across town to my mother’s house (because who could eat anymore of it?) and still thinking my Philly Chicks in a Blanket were my ticket to the big time, I promptly forgot all about the tenderloin and carried on with the rest of my day.

***

Stay tuned next week to find out what happens next!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sweet Gingered Pork Tenderloin and Green Bean Stir Fry

Like a student who has been skipping classes, I feel so truant lately.

Maybe it's because March, April, and May seem to be the pinnacle months in my work life - I put so much creative energy out that it becomes difficult not to feel like a wet mop most days - not to mention string a few words together!

Anyways, with everything in full swing now, it becomes that much more important to practice good self care and to have a few healthy in a hurry go to recipes for weeknight dinners.

Today's original recipe fits that bill!

Tender pork marinated in a soy and ginger infused dressing stir fried and tossed with fresh green beans and button mushrooms make for an easy and delicious meal.

















Sweet Gingered Pork Tenderloin and Green Bean Stirfry
For printable recipe click HERE

















Prep/Marinate Time: 80 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6

 Ingredients
  • 1 whole pork tenderloin sliced into thin medallions
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans
  • 5 large white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef stock
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
Directions
  1. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic, minced ginger, vinegar, Hoisin sauce, cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp of the dark sesame oil to form a marinade. Marinate sliced pork tenderloin in this mixture for 1 hour.
  2. Saute the onions, green beans, and mushrooms in vegetable oil and the remaining sesame oil over medium high heat until the mushrooms begin the release their water and the onions turn golden.
  3. Add garlic powder, black pepper and 1/4 cup of the beef stock and stir until the stock is almost evaporated. Remove to a bowl and set aside. 
  4. Remove pork from the marinade (set marinade aside for later) In a non stick pan or wok that has been coated with cooking spray, stir fry the pork over medium high heat. Remove any additional sauce from the pan and add to the marinade.
  5. Place a Tbsp of cornstarch in the reserved marinade and stir well to incorporate.
  6. When the pork is cooked through, add the reserved vegetables and marinade and bring to the boil. Add 1/4 cup beef stock to thin sauce out if needed. 
  7. Serve over jasmine rice.


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Friday, March 9, 2012

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

All determined dieting aside, sometimes the urge for creamy and sweet unctuousness is so strong I have to succumb - and this week was such a time!

My easy to make Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Cream Pie is decadently delicious but not overly rich or too sweet.

But beware... it has a tendency to call out rather loudly all the way from the fridge... "Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!"

Alas, I have succumbed (more than once)


Click HERE for the printable recipe.

To watch my step by step "How to video" come on over to The Kitchen Witch cooking channel and watch this episode of CHARMED!
 


 

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Pork Tenderloin Saved my Life - Part 5 "Hi Candice!!"

When we last left our long suffering heroine, she bravely asked herself:

"Can I cook with cream cheese and remain true to myself as the Determined Dieter - and can I stand another disappointment if it doesn’t go my way?"

Click here for the previous chapter.

***

Despite prior contest related heartbreak, I decided to bite the bagel - so to speak - and came up with two recipes for the first round of The Real Women  of Philadelphia: The Philly Nibbler, an updated version of my Gobblers – this time the cornbread muffin batter made with cream cheese and the inside of the muffin stuffed with cocktail shrimp, and The Philadelphia Holy Roller, a crab and cream cheese stuffed salad roll.




It was also beginning to dawn on me that this was going to involve a lot more than coming up with recipes and the shooting of videos because Kraft Foods Canada had created an entire website and online community devoted to the experience.

What I didn't understand, however, was how much these women - all vying for spots as finalists - would come to mean to me.

There would be sixteen finalists in total; four cooks to represent four categories: Appetizers, Side Dish, Entree, and Dessert. Each week cooks from across Canada would submit videos of their recipe creations, starting with appetizers over an eight week period and would wait in nervous anticipation for Wednesdays - the day two finalists were selected each week.

The sixteen finalists would be flown to Toronto, all expenses paid, to compete in a live cook off where the winner in each category would take home $20,000.00, have their recipes published in a cookbook by KRAFT, and host the Real Women of Philadelphia website, taking over from food network celebrity chef Anna Olson when the contest was over.

With all that at stake, I and my trusty production assistant/husband, Vaughan, began to plan the first video and wanting to make the best first impression possible, I scheduled myself to release it at 12:01 am Toronto time on the first day of the competition.

There were a few challenges with my early videos though. First, I had no idea how to edit so that anytime I made a mistake we had to start all over again. And somewhere in the planning process I came up with the notion that cue cards would be a good idea which meant my husband not only had to film me, he had to hold my cue cards up and in the right order.

I would emerge on camera, a super host in white spandex with a beaming smile - and though I have no idea how many Philly Nibblers we actually ate that first day of filming, suffice it to say, if I never see another Nibbler again, it will be too soon.

After six hours, fifteen tries, and several threats of marital litigation, we finally had a version I could sign off on, and true to my promise, it was submitted during the first minutes of the contest.

In the meantime, I was making myself known on the Real Women of Philadelphia posting boards where everyday Anna Olson would post a message or a question for the community - and in the spirit good first impressions, I spent a little over an hour my first morning crafting a response to a question Anna posed about our morning routines beginning it with the statement: “Great question Candice!”

It is my unfortunate fate that there is a well known HGTV host named Candice Olson, and I, who can whip up a casserole in no time flat or create a fabulous dinner party at a moment’s notice, have never quite mastered the art of getting people’s names right. Shortly after my reply, the site's go to gal, "Miss Philly" sent me an email that read: “Out of curiosity, who’s Candice?”

I remember the moment in tunnel vision. Not only had I publicly called our celebrity host by the wrong name, it occurred to me I might have done the same thing in my video. In a panic I went back to watch, and sure enough, there I was, my spatula fabulously flashing by the stove while I gave a great big hello to “Candice” during the opening two seconds of the video, and because I insisted on posting so early almost 300 people had already viewed it.

I had no other recourse but to offer a public apology to our host on the posting boards and wrote her a heartfelt “I’m so sorry” praying the people of Kraft wouldn’t kick me out of the competition convinced to the core of my neurotic soul that I had completely blown my chances.

It bears mentioning that I have lived the greater part of my adult life in a state of  “conspiracy theory” – fully believing that the truth isn’t only out there, it is lying in wait to gobble me up and spit me out.

However, the “Candice Affair,” as I now call it, was apparently not as earth shattering to the rest of the world as it was to me and aside from sharing a few good laughs with members of the community who were as into the contest as I was, life continued onward at The Real Women of Philadelphia as though I had never uttered the offending sentence.

By the following Monday, we were all in a new state of angst. The first week of the competition was over and we had already moved onto side dishes. I was crafting something clever to do with potatoes as the community waited for Wednesday - the day the first two finalists would be announced!

I wonder to this day if the site tracks its visitors because if this is the case, I was already establishing myself as a full on lunatic literally visiting the posting boards and my profile hundreds of times from Friday to the following Wednesday in the hopes my name was going to be the one in lights.

Wednesday morning. 7 am – nothing. 8 am – nothing. 8:30 am – a tip from Anna Olson, and I couldn’t wait anymore - I had to go to work. I drove to my office trying to unravel the puzzle... “If I was a finalist, surely I would know about it by now... unless... no...” and on it went so that by the time I got to the office I was a mess – which I couldn’t really share with anyone because,what was I going to say?

I sat down in my office, fired up my desk computer, and placed my laptop beside it. I would monitor the Real Women of Philadelphia website with the left side of my brain while going about my regularly scheduled business and was just in the middle of responding to a work related email when the post went up. The first two finalists were announced!!!!!!!

Slowly scrolling down the page, I hoped and prayed my name would be listed as appetizer finalist. This was it. Today was my day. It was all coming together.  And then... Nothing. Two finalists were named and neither of them was me.

I would like to tell you that I was happy for the two women listed. That in the spirit of good sportsmanship I thought “Well done!” But unless running to the washroom to hide my disappointed tears and crying my mascara off because the world was apparently not ready for the Determined Dieter constituted a feeling of team spirit, I was not your girl.

It was black Wednesday for the second time in my life and I had to pick up the pieces of my appetizer shattered dreams, put on a happy face, and carry on as though nothing had happened.

This was, for sure, the last time I would ever enter a contest. Except...

There WERE still 14 more chances to win!

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