Good times, good recipes and good friends ‘Just a Pinch’ away

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Just a Pinch Notebook columnist Janet Tharpe writes for Just a Pinch Recipe Club.

by Janet Tharpe/Just a Pinch Recipe Club


Add one part friendship to one part fun, toss in a heaping helping of Florida sunshine, tons of laughs and Just a Pinch of healthy competition, and you’ve got one amazing recipe for lasting memories.
A southern Florida state park was the site of the most recent www.justapinch.com member meet-up and, by all accounts, it was a weekend filled with good times and lots of good eats.
“It was such a big thrill for us all to get together in my kitchen and do some cooking together,” says Jane McMillan, home cook and meet-up organizer. “What a dream come true – all your friends in one spot.”
The weekend’s activities included a special cake decorating class led by Dee Stillwell of California, a night on the town following in the footsteps of roving Food Network foodie Guy Fieri and culminated in the mother of all potlucks, complete with Just a Pinch door prizes.
A highlight for all in attendance was clearly the weekend’s wonderfully orchestrated “Chopped”-style cook-off.
Split into three teams, the meet-up gals cooked up a storm, preparing their entries in the categories of appetizers, entrees and dessert.
Judged by a panel of very lucky park rangers, the teams’ dishes were ranked based on flavor, creativity and overall presentation. At the end of the day, the team of Juliann Esquivel of Key Largo and Connie Ottman of Orlando came out on top.
As we understand it, their win was thanks, in no small part, to their stellar Mango Papaya Compote dessert.
“What a wonderful time,” Esquivel exclaimed. “We laughed, ate, cried, ate, sang, cooked, ate and became good friends.”
The talented cook-off runners-up included Sherri Williams, Nancy Robeson, Thea Pappalardo and Dee Stillwell.
“It was an epic and wonderful experience,” Williams said. “I laughed so hard my tummy still hurts. I will cherish each and every moment spent with the best group of sisters for the rest of my life.”
The crew and I are just tickled pink to see all the creative get-togethers like this one that are being cooked up all around the country.
Cooking is a real joy – one that’s even sweeter when it’s shared with friends.
“I’m really happy to say that each [attendee] was truly like I expected them to be after talking to them here on Just a Pinch,” says New Yorker Pappalardo. “I can’t wait till the next time. It sounds like it will be in New Orleans. How perfect is that? Beads, anyone?”
Applesauce Bars a tasty stress reliever
After a long day, blow off a little steam with this fun and delicious baking project by Angie Walker of Stryker, Ohio.
Angie Walker’s Applesauce Bars will satisfy your sweet tooth and provide some a little stress relief in the process.
The recipe comes together fast and, like Walker’s daughter, you may find the mixing, beating, blending and spreading therapeutic. The eating part is pretty relaxing, too.
“My daughter came home from a stressful day at school,” Walker said. “After she talked everything out with me, she tore into the kitchen and created these awesome applesauce bars!”
See step-by-step photos of Angie’s recipe and thousands more from other home cooks at www.justa pinch.com/applesaucebars.
You’ll also find a meal planner, coupons and chances to win. Enjoy and remember, use “Just a Pinch!”

Applesauce Bars

Bar ingredients
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup Craisins
Frosting ingredients
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
• In a medium bowl, mix together butter, brown sugar and egg until smooth. Stir in applesauce. Combine the flours, baking soda, salt and spices; stir into the applesauce mixture until well blended.
• Stir in Craisins. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
• Bake for 25 minutes (check at 20 minutes with a wooden pick) or until edges are golden. Cool in the pan over a wire rack.
• In a small bowl, mix together the confectioners’ sugar and margarine. Stir in vanilla and milk until smooth. Spread over cooled bars and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
– Recipe by Angie Walker of Stryker, Ohio

Want to join the fun?
Just a Pinch Recipe Club, launched April 1, 2010, is known as America’s Great Recipe Swap. Each week, blue ribbons are awarded to club members for outstanding recipes. Local cooks can enter their recipes in the Just a Pinch Recipe Club. If a local member’s recipe is selected, Just a Pinch Recipe Club will write a story about the winner and send it to the local newspaper for publication. For details about Just a Pinch Recipe Club, visit www.justapinch.com.

© 2011 Just A Pinch Recipe Club, used with permission