Tag Archives: Epicurious Recipe Contest

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Fish Chowder

30 Jan
I absolutely loved this fish chowder last week!

I absolutely loved this fish chowder last week!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this or not, but a few years back I developed an allergy to shellfish. Not all shellfish, but a lot of my faves are no longer on my menu.

To live in New England, a summer oasis of ocean and seafood, it’s terribly sad for me to have this allergy. I have always loved all seafood. Luckily there’s only a handful I can’t eat, and there are still some things I can eat.

Clam cakes and chowder after the beach were one thing that I’d been missing in particular, so my heart did a little leap this summer when I was walking through Washington DC on my way to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, with the winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge from Virginia, Madeleine Steppel and her mom, Debra, while Caroline and I were there as the Rhode Island winners.

Madeleine's recipe was so easy to follow. Caroline made most of it by herself!

Madeleine’s recipe was so easy to follow. Caroline made most of it by herself!

The most common question we all asked each other on that first day of our trip was, “Where are you from and what was your recipe?”

When I asked that question to Madeleine and Deb, I was thrilled by their answer: Fish Chowder. Madeleine had chosen to make a chowder that I could actually eat! When I asked Debra what was in their chowder, she said that any white fish would do. I was so excited!

Unfortunately, it took me five months before I had a chance to try out this recipe, just last week. It was one that Caroline had been asking for also, and she was so excited when I said I had everything for it.

The recipe was super-easy and didn’t take long at all to make. We substituted a couple of items to suit our tastes and our diet, but overall we followed her recipe almost to a T.

And let me tell you….I was in chowder heaven. It has been several years since I’ve been able to have chowder. I savored every.single.bite.

I went to school to work the school book fair after dinner. Then I came back and had a second bowl. That second bowl was all I could think about when I was at the book fair.

I already have plans to bring this chowder with me this summer to our annual Labor Day Weekend cookout, the one that’s almost entirely seafood, so that I too, can partake in the summer yumminess that I’ve been missing terribly.

One of the best things about this recipe was that it was easy enough that Caroline could handle almost the entire thing by herself. I chopped the onions (we both cried), and she did just about all the rest.

Below are the ingredients and directions, along with any notes stating the changes I made for us. I would definitely make this again.


And all summer long.

And on Labor Day weekend for our cookout.

And any time in between.

Fish Chowder

By Madeleine Steppel, age 9


Madeleine’s page in the recipe book states, “‘Senator Mark Warner’s recipe for ‘creamless’ Asparagus Soup, which I found in the Celebrate Virginia Cookbook, inspired me to create a chowder recipe,” said Madeleine, who used milk in this recipe because it is the State Beverage of Virginia. She would serve this with a fruity salad of spring greens, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, dried cranberries, and a citrus vinaigrette, with whole-grain bread.”

Makes 4-6 servings

Caroline loved being able to make the majority of this herself.

Caroline loved being able to make the majority of this herself.


3 white potatoes (about 12 ounces total) peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes.

1 pound bag of frozen peas and carrots, thawed (We skip these.)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion finely chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (we use gluten free Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour as of 2015)

4 cups low fat milk (we used skim)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds skinless white fish fillet, such as bass, tilapia, or flounder cut into 2″ pieces (I used 2 one pound bags of frozen flounder from Aldi’s.)

Salt and white pepper

(I also sometimes add in 1/2 tsp dried dill weed for color and flavor, which is what my dad always does when he makes his chowder every summer.)

There's nothing like a pot of hot chowder on the stove!

There’s nothing like a pot of hot chowder on the stove!


1. Place potatoes in large glass microwave safe bowl. Add enough cool water to just cover the potatoes, and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and microwave on high until the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside (or boil the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes).

2. In a large saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and the garlic, and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to moderately low, add the flour, and whisk for 2 minutes to make a roux. Gradually whisk in one cup of milk and stir until hot and creamy, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Gradually whisk in the remaining three cups of milk and cook, whisking, until steaming hot, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the fish and the cooked vegetables, and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the fish is cooked through and flaky. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Baked Zucchini Fries

12 Sep

I have had lots of requests for the Baked Zucchini Fries recipe ever since I posted this photo from the Washington DC Kids’ State Dinner.

I’ve had a lot of requests for this recipe for Baked Zucchini Fries, ever since I posted this photo on my blog and on Facebook recently. It being zucchini season, it’s a perfect recipe to make at the end of the summer, and really throughout the year.

We actually made this recipe at the end of the summer ourselves, using a garden zucchini. They were delicious and they were easy. We used the recipe in our new The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge cookbook that epicurious gave us at the White House dinner. The recipe comes from Sydney Brown, age 11, from North Carolina. She submitted it with her winning Homerun Meatloaf Burger recipe as the side dish to accompany the burgers.

There are so many recipes in this cookbook that I want to try out, and slowly but surely I’m trying them one at a time.

This was a perfect summer meal!

We had our fries with oven baked chicken, garden tomato salad, and green beans. Don added a dip on the side for the fries which consisted of a mix of mayo and cocktail sauce.

Here is Sydney’s recipe, just as she has it in the cookbook. Enjoy!


1 large egg white

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

2 large green or yellow zucchini, peeled, trimmed, and cut into strips (2″ long 1/4″ thick)

Place your zucchini fries on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 425 degrees.


Combine the egg white and milk in a small bowl and combine the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in another small bowl.

Dip the zucchini slices first in the milk mixture and then in the cheese mixture. Shake off any excess, then move to the baking sheet and place in the oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: What was for dinner Monday?

23 Aug

Our meal began with Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad. Haile Thomas is 11 years old is from Arizona. Caroline and I devoured this salad and we cannot wait to make it for our family. When we do, I will post the recipe for you.

As you may know, this week my blog posts have been featuring all of the events and details from our two days in Washington DC as participants in the 2012 Kids’ State Dinner.

The winners’ recipes were compiled into a cookbook and each child was given a full-sized color copy of the book in their welcome bag upon arrival on Sunday afternoon. Additionally, we were given two more spiral-bound copies at the dinner itself on Monday. All of the kids used their color copy as a yearbook type of book, and spent

Caroline was so excited to see herself published in this commemorative cookbook, printed just for the 54 winners.

Sunday evening during the Welcome Pizza Party (healthy pizza of course) running around trying to get as many of their new friends’ signatures as possible. Each child would sign the page with their recipe on it, for the others. It was fun to watch them. They also each signed a cookbook for Michelle Obama and for Tanya Steel, the Editor-in-Chief at epicurious.

Our place settings included a menu listing each course and where it was from.

On Monday, our new friend from Kansas, Rori Coyne, found out from White House Chef Sam Kass that her recipe, Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes, was going to be the featured main dish at the luncheon. She was beyond excited.

Sure enough, when we got to our seats our menu was front and center with Rori’s recipe as the main dish. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to try it out. We were not disappointed. Rori’s Sloppy Joes were amazing. She did tell us later on that it was slightly different than the way she makes it, that hers has more of a chunky vegetable consistency. Either way, they were fabulous.

So today, for my What’s for Dinner Wednesday post, I am going to share Rori and her mom Mary’s recipe for Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes. I would definitely make them again!



Dinner was Rori’s Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes with a side of Baked Zucchini Fries from Sydney Brown, age 11, from North Carolina. The fries were awesome and we’ll be making them again as well. When we do I will post that recipe too!


1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, shredded or diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 sandwich rolls, split (optional)

We spent just about all of our waking time with Rori Coyne and her mom Mary Wolarik. It was as if we had known them forever and we sad to have to part ways with them on Monday afternoon.


1. In a large skillet, cook the beef until cooked through, about five minutes. Drain the fat from the skillet and reserve the meat on a plate.

2. In the same pan over moderate heat, cook the onion, zucchini, celery, red pepper and cabbage until all the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the cooked beef to the pan and stir to combine.

3. In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into the pan with the beef and vegetables and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes.

4. While the sloppy joes are simmering, toast the buns in the oven or toaster oven.

5. Evenly divide the mixture among the toasted bun bottoms, top with the other halves and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Here is Caroline autographing her Rhode Island page in the cookbook for Michelle Obama on Sunday night at the pizza party.

The most exciting news EVER….

24 Jul

What could my exciting news be??


You won’t believe it.

I’ve been keeping this a secret for SO LONG, more than a month, and it was SO HARD!

Okay I told *a few* people.

And of course my immediate family.

But that’s it.

Do you want to know??? I know you do!

Okay here it is.

I would sit down if I were you. It’s big.

Caroline and I are going to Washington DC.

We’re going to meet THE FIRST LADY!!!!

That’s right! Michelle Obama!! We’re meeting Michelle Obama!!!

Yes, seriously!

Okay. Let me regroup. Here’s how it happened….

Back around the end of May, my editor at the Cranston Herald, Meg, received a press release from Senator Jack Reed’s office announcing a recipe contest that Epicurious was putting out in conjunction with the White House. One winner, a parent/child team, would be chosen from every single state. You can read a similar press release here.

Now Meg is a big fan of The Whole Bag of Chips. She emailed me the press release and said, “You should enter this with one of your kids.”

I took a look, and thought, “Hmmm….maybe I should.”

So I broached it to my kids, but there was one problem: you could enter with one child at a time, ages 8-12, but if you entered with more than one child, only one could win and if one was a winner, the whole family doesn’t get to go to Washington, just the one winner and their parent.

Right off the bat, Alex is seven, so I couldn’t enter with her. My first initial thought was to enter with Caroline because she cooks more in the kitchen than Liz and is slightly more independent in the kitchen, and additionally, she’s 12, the top age. She couldn’t enter again if it ran next year.

But, Elizabeth, upon hearing about the contest said, “Well, I’m between 8 and 12 I want to enter too.” So I explained the whole thing about not being able to win with both, even though I could enter with both.

Elizabeth said, “That’s okay, if Caroline won, I’d be happy for her.”

Caroline said, “I don’t know. If you won, I think I’d be too sad. I don’t know if I can do it.”

I was stumped. I didn’t know what we should do. We had some time though, I let them think on it, and I hoped that Caroline would come around and both of them could enter.

One day at the beginning of June, I received an email from Caroline that said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” (I’m pretty sure she wrote that email from in our house, with me right in the house with her, but it didn’t matter to me. She wanted to do it.)

And so, we did it.

Elizabeth and Don with their contest entry, a tuna wrap and all the fixins’!

On June 9, after dinner we got down to business.  Separately we had to come up with our meals, cook up our meals, type up our entries which included the recipe with ingredients and step-by-step instructions and a photo of a complete meal including side dishes and beverages, as well as a short essay.

We have a tiny kitchen. We had to take turns.

Elizabeth had chosen to enter with Don because their healthy lunchtime recipe was one he makes for her lunch a lot: a tuna wrap with lettuce and tomato. On the side she had celery and carrots and a glass of coffee milk (a delicacy here).

Lunch anyone?

Caroline and I came up with an egg white omelette with broccoli and mozzarella cheese because she will only eat egg whites, and she loves broccoli. On the side we had wheat toast and mixed fruit (kiwi and nectarines).

We sent in our entries that night. The deadline was June 17, the night before the last day of school.

That Friday afternoon, following the deadline, I received an email. Caroline and I were finalists for our state. I couldn’t believe it. I asked Don if he’d gotten one, but he had not.

We had to tell them.

I let Caroline see the email first. Then we told Liz. I was worried at how she’d react. Her eyes got bright, but she said, “Caroline, I’m so happy for you. Here, have my lollipop stick,” and she handed her the empty stick. That was the end of it.

I emailed Meg, “We’re finalists! OMG” and began filling out all the paper work needed to complete the next level of the contest. We had five days to get it filled out, notarized and postmarked.

Then, we waited.

We knew from the rules that there could be up to three finalists per state but that’s all we knew; that and the fact that only one of those finalists would win.

And waited.

We wondered. We’re a small state. How many entries could there be?

And waited.

It was agonizing. The original notification date was supposed to be by July 16. I slept about ten seconds the night before.

But we didn’t hear anything.

I checked in. “Just checking to see if all the winners had been notified yet?”

No. Not yet. No one.

We were still in the running. The winners would be notified that week.

So we waited and waited some more. Every day seemed like a week. I checked my email ten million times a day if we were home, to see if we heard anything yet.

By that Thursday I checked in again. A formal email went out. Competition was tough this year. They needed more time. The official notification date would now be Tuesday July 24. We’d hear either way.

And now here it is, Tuesday, July 24.

And guess what???  Well you know already. WE WON!!!!

Caroline and I will be traveling to Washington to represent the state of Rhode Island at the Kids’ State Dinner, which will be held next month!!

I’m so incredibly excited!! But even more so, I’m so incredibly proud of my kids. I’m proud of them for taking the risk to enter, proud of them for being healthy eaters, for being cooks in the kitchen, and for loving each other and us, enough to want to compete against each other and yet be willing to support each other at the same time. To me, and I’m choked up as I write this, that says a lot about the strength of their bond with each other and their bond with us. I love my kids so much, and I’m so, so proud.

I am incredibly proud of my kids!!

I will keep you updated as the trip takes place and you can be sure there will be photos to go along with it. They are creating a free downloadable eBook containing all the recipes from all the winners for each state, so our recipe will be published in that cookbook. I’ll let you know when that becomes available as well.

We won. Can you believe it?

Our healthy lunchtime recipe: Egg white omelette with broccoli and cheese.