It took two years but Mary Jo Bergland's "aha" moment in the kitchen is now on the menu at Walker Bros.
She spied leftover ingredients from the previous night's s'mores-making session on the counter while she was making pancakes, so she chopped some of the chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers and sprinkled them onto the pancakes sizzling on the griddle.
"My nephews and nieces were visiting and loved them," says Bergland, a retired food writer whose resume includes a stint as the Daily Herald's Cook of the Week columnist.
She and her husband, Gary, a former business executive, and their neighbor Tom Henry, who had worked in product development for ConAgra, joined forces to create Crumble-Ons Research Kitchens and started testing ingredients and formulas. The end result is a mix of graham- and marshmallow-flavored candy-coated crumbles that look something like chocolate-covered peanuts and taste just like a campfire treat.
In March, marketing of their S'mores Crunch went into full gear with a focus on restaurants and other food service operations that can use the crumbles in pancakes and waffles and on ice cream and frozen yogurt.
"My dream was to get on the menu at Windhill Pancake Parlor (in McHenry)," Mary Jo says.
With that dream fulfilled, the company also cemented deals with Red Apple Pancake House in Carol Stream as well as Millie's Restaurant in Delavan, Wis. and Gooseberries Market in Lake Geneva, Wis. At Walker Bros. (with six suburban locations), the product will be featured throughout August on the S'more's Crunch Waffle.
While they're not in local grocery stores (yet), you can buy the product online at crumbleons.com. A 2½-pound bag costs $15. While you're on the site, print out some of the recipes (Mmm ... s'mores cheesecake) and you'll use up that bag in no time.
S'more fun facts: As you feed another log into the backyard firepit this evening to mark Aug. 10 as National S'more's Day, here are some facts (courtesy of the Hershey's folks) to impress your kids with:
• The first printed s'mores recipe appeared in a Girl Scout handbook in 1927 (and no, Mommy was not alive then).
• Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows every year. During the summer months, 50 percent of those are toasted over the fire.
Share you favorite s'mores memories (photos encouraged) on the Hershey's brand Facebook page at facebook.com/hersheys for a chance to win a camera, photo printing gift card, outdoor fire pit, roasting skewers and all of the ingredients needed to make more s'mores.
Cook of the Week Challenge update: The suspense is killing you, isn't it?
The deadline to enter our cooking competition has closed and we're in the process of contacting our 16 finalists. If you entered and you don't hear from us by Friday, Aug. 12, better luck next year.
As I've been reading entry recipes and lining up judges, our advertising representatives have been busy securing sponsors and prizes. Quaker Oats and Whole Foods Market have signed on, as have Rose Packing, Fisher Nuts, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Ying's Kitchen, Cooper's Hawk Winery, Holland House Red Wine Vinegar, Gale's Root Beer, Pampered Chef and Bunn.
The final cook-off on Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg is shaping up to be a top-notch event. When ticket information is available, I'll pass it on here. You can also join us on Facebook at facebook.com/cookoftheweek for updates.
That's one big grill: The Johnsonville Big Taste Grill rolls into the suburbs this weekend and will cook up thousands of its famous brats.
The semi-truck-sized grill measures 65 feet long, 20 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. It can hold up to 10 grillers preparing 750 brats at a time -- that's 2,500 brats an hour.
Look for the grill from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at Mariano's Fresh Market, 802 E. Northwest Hwy., Arlington Heights, and from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sunday at Mariano's new store at 1720 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills.
Proceeds from brat sales will benefit the Elk Grove Village Rotary Club.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com, debpankeydailyherald or follow her on Twitter @PankeysPlate.