I’m not going to lie to you beautiful people. Though I adore my corporate public relations job, if the Travel Channel called tomorrow, told me that if I got a personal trainer and lost 25 lbs, they would give me my own Big Hungry Shelby show, I would be on that like white on rice. I wouldn’t say I’m eager for fame, exactly, but I wouldn’t shy away from that kind of success if it came knocking at my door. So when Chris Dziedzic, legislative assistant for the Broome County Legislature, contacted me to help out with the Legislature’s August farm to table agricultural event, I was flattered and agreeable.
Chris asked me to judge the organization’s Fresh from the Farm Blueberry Throwdown, held in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The purpose of the event is to teach young people in our community about where their food comes from, creative ways for it to be used, food safety, and kitchen skills. The various groups of competitors, ranging from Girl Scout troops to 4-H and Urban Mission, received blueberries from local farms, and were asked to prepare a dish that could be served to the BC Legislature and to the three “celebrity” judges. In addition to yours truly, our panel included Paul Vansavage, a shining gem of a foodie and the original founder of the Spiedie Festival, and Kristen Cox Roby, a longtime lifestyle journalist and handler of the @STierEats Twitter extravaganza.
I can’t even tell you guys how excited these young people were to share their creations, not only with us, but with everyone in the room. Broome County executive Debbie Preston was there to greet the kids, and the whole shebang really served to validate the efforts of the youts, and the value they can bring to our local culinary scene. I love the recognition they all received, and that they were really treated as the celebrities of the day. They were all so enthusiastic and professional!
|Don’t mess with my food, man|
Are you ready to hear the results? Team 1, otherwise known as Girl Scout Troop 30256, comprised of Olivia, Vanessa, and Emily, delivered blueberry cheesecake rounds in adorable little cupcake wrappers. Their table was thematically apropos, and the blue of the blueberries topping the cheesecakes contrasted beautifully with the red and American flag-decorated napkins they brought to show off their wares. The cheesecakes were meticulously presented as well, and the flavor was uber rich, creamy, and sweet – just like cheesecake lovers like it! We awarded Team 1 with Best Presentation.
Team 4, or 4-H Teen Action Group, was made up of Haley, Alexius, Kristal and Zach. These little wizards cooked up the People’s Choice winner and our Best Taste choice – Blueberry cheesecake bars with goat cheese. Obvs, the kicker here was the goat cheese, which was locally made, but also leant the bars a creamy tartness not present in any of the other dishes. These kids also picked their own berries! The goat cheese cut the richness of the cheesecake flavor, and the whole works was lusciously complex and creamy. OMG.
Finally, Sunny, Jaineiqua, and Nosa repped Team 5, from Citizen U Youth. Their Most Creative-winning dish was Scandinavian Blueberry Bisque, a tart, fruit-packed cold soup. This cup of YUM was citrusy and light, very refreshing for a summer sip. We loved how much thought Team 5 put into this dish!
I am not flattering anyone when I tell you how delicious every single one of these dishes were, but the recipe I’m going to share with you today comes from the Best Taste winners, 4-H Teen Action Group. These kids gave us a cheesecake bar we couldn’t stop eating, and every single morsel they brought with them was gone at the end of the event!
4-H Teen Action Group Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with Goat Cheese
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 oz goat cheese, room temperature
- 6 oz sour cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- Pinch of salt
Blueberry syrup / topping:
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine crust ingredients. Push down into bottom of a 9x13 pan. Bake for five minutes or until crust is just set. Set aside to cool.
3. Combine blueberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small non-reactive sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until mixture reduces into a syrup, about five minutes. Add pinch of salt, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain syrup with a fine mesh seive, and separate fruit for topping (optional).
4. Cream cheeses together in stand mixer. Scrape down sides of bowl and add sour cream and sugar. Beat until well combined, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and salt and mix on low until incorporated.
5. Pour cheesecake filling over prepared crust and smooth out with a small off-set spatula. Using a spoon, drop dots of blueberry syrup over the top of the cheescake. Pull the blueberry syrup through the cheesecake batter to make a swirled pattern. You can use as much or little of the syrup as you like, we went by how it looked rather than an amount.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until center is just set. Remove to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. Top with reserved fruit and additional syrup (or not) and enjoy!
I want to congratulate every participant of the Blueberry Throwdown, and thank Jerry Marinich, chairman of the Broome County Legislature, for inviting us to participate. We need more education for our children on the importance of agriculture, real cooking, whole foods, and local ingredients, and events like this one really help to teach future generations of parents and chefs what to do with produce.
BHS’ Blueberry Goat Cheese Puffs
- 1 can Immaculate Baking Co.’s refrigerated crescent rolls
- Farm fresh blueberries
- ½ C Goat Cheese, softened to room temp
- 1 tsp Organe zest
- Pinch of Salt
- 2-3 T Superfine sugar
- 2-3 T Skim milk
- 1 T Powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. In a small mixing bowl, mix cheese, zest, milk, salt, and superfine sugar with a hand mixer, or whizz up in your Kitchenaid if you are so lucky as to own one
3. Roll out each crescent roll a bit, dollop a tablespoon of goat cheese mixture and 5 – 7 blueberries into the widest end of each, then press edges together to make a packet.
4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on a cookie sheet or baking stone
5. Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar
I’m going to post the recipe for the blueberry cobbler with blueberry ice cream on my Big Hungry Shelby Facebook page, so if you’d like that one, pop on over there to get it. I want to recognize once more every budding chef who cooked for us on Thursday – you were amazing! I look forward to eating your food many years from now, when you’re heading up the kitchens of the Southern Tier’s best restaurants. Go forth and COOK! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!