GREAT recipe contest - deadline soon!

The folks at Mezzetta are holding a GREAT recipe contest, called "The Mezzetta Make That Sandwich Recipe Contest" and the deadline is soon. September 7, to be precise. I've been around the block when it comes to contests, and have a list of criteria for what makes a great recipe contest. This contest meets them all:
1. It has a great prize. In this case, it's $25K and a trip to the Napa Valley. It doesn't get much better than that.
2. There's more than one winner. In this case, two other finalists win $1,000. Also not small change.
3. There's NO ONLINE VOTING. Enough said.
4. They have good taste. Last year's winner, by my good friend Edwina, was a Spanish-Style Grilled Cheese sandwich. It sounds divine but doesn't have too many ingredients or complicated steps. In fact, I've been meaning to try the recipe.

The folks from Mezzetta sent me a couple of their products to try -- olives stuffed with jalapenos and sliced peperoncini. Thanks, Mezzetta people! I'm thrilled with them both, because one son loves olives and the other loves peperoncini. I had planned to use them to work on recipes for the contest or the blog, but but the boys keep eating them right out of the jar. The olives in particular are disappearing quickly. My son says he loves the way they "start off tasting like an olive, and end up hot."

Off to snag what's left in those jars and start experimenting for the contest. If you'd like to enter, here's a link.

Whatcha Got Cookin in Fairport

I'm pretty sure this restaurant is out of business ... but if you want to hear about it anyway...

My husband and I were taking a walk along the canal in Fairport and caught a glimpse of a restaurant across the way.

Whatcha Got Cooking, Fairport NY

I peered across the water and saw that it was called Whatcha Got Cooking. I remembered that it had been located in a gray building on the other side of the street, also on the canal. I remarked that the quaint new location seemed to be a better fit with its folksy name. A few days later, I went to dinner there with a friend of mine.

Whatcha Got Cooking, Fairport NY
The old building had been decorated with an Americana flair. We snagged the last open picnic table on the front lawn. We went on a nice evening (which were unfortunately rare this summer), and a lot of people must have had the same idea. The servers seemed to be overwhelmed, and it was 40 minutes from the time we sat down until we got our food. We didn't mind, though, because it was a pleasant evening and location. My friend spotted a family she knew and invited them to join us at our table. We enjoyed chatting with them.

Whatcha Got Cooking, Fairport NY
The food was worth the wait. I had macaroni and cheese, which was served in a crock. Its creamy, cheesy sauce was studded with bits of bacon, and the whole dish was topped with whole cheese crackers and melted cheese. The combination of flavors and textures was decadent and delicious, but I forced myself not to devour the whole thing so that I could take some home for my son to try. (That turned out to be a bad idea. He liked it so much that he now adds bacon and a cheese cracker topping whenever he makes mac and cheese.)

Whatcha Got Cooking, Fairport NY
My friend ordered a Philly Steak sandwich with a side order of sweet potato fries. I doubt Philly natives would call the sandwich authentic, but my friend enjoyed it. I snatched a few fries because I've become a sweet potato fry aficionado. They were well cooked, but the sweet-on-sweet addition of cinnamon and sugar wasn't to my taste. (I seem to be in the minority, though, because I've seen that topping on several menus.)

Nice setting ... good food ... reasonable prices. I'll be back.

WhatchaGotCookin? on Urbanspoon

A wonderful Pom cooler (Surprise! It's nonalcoholic.)

I consider beer to be the nectar of the gods, and no one likes fun alcoholic drinks more than I do. But for various health reasons, I rarely drink alcohol. In the greater scheme of things, this is not a big deal, because I certainly can have a good time without booze. But my non-alcoholic beverage choices are usually limited to soft drinks, which I'm tired of and usually have a lot of sugar or caffeine, both of which I try to avoid. And there's nothing like sipping a glass of ice water while the people around me are enjoying beers and colorful tropical drinks to make me feel like I'm not a part of the party.

When the folks at Pom Wonderful offered to send me some samples, I happily accepted, with the goal of coming up with a summery nonalcoholic drink that wouldn't have me staring wistfully at other peoples' strawberry margaritas. What I came up with is very simple and probably unoriginal. I just mix the pomegranate juice with diet lemon-lime soda, add a lime wedge, and it's done. The tart taste of the pomegranate juice makes the beverage refreshing and not too sweet. The juice even has health benefits. I've served it when people come over for dinner, and my kids always want one when I make them.

Now I have a nonalcoholic beverage that makes me feel like a part of the party. (Thanks, Pom Wonderful.)

Wonderful Pom Cooler
Makes 2

1 small bottle pomegranate juice
1 can diet lemon - lime soda
2 lime wedges

Divide the juice and soda between two glasses. Add ice and garnish each glass with a wedge of lime.