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updated: 9/3/2014 5:31 PM

Cook of the Week Challenge: Garden bounty inspires mystery basket ideas

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  • Tara Riley of Arlington Heights

    Tara Riley of Arlington Heights

  • Jamie Andrade of Elk Grove Village

    Jamie Andrade of Elk Grove Village

  • Joan Huenecke of Palatine

    Joan Huenecke of Palatine

  • Pam Larson of Mundelein

    Pam Larson of Mundelein

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

This summer tomato plants have taken over my small garden plot. I love a good BLT sandwich and, as I gathered the ingredients to make yet another one, I started thinking ... What else could I do with bacon, lettuce and tomato? Then it hit me: I was looking at mystery ingredients for the first Cook of the Week Challenge recipe matchup.

While some people might think I blindfold myself and wander the grocery aisles and others think I cavort with the devil (2013 Challenge champ Dan Rich still won't forgive me for the Twizzlers in his basket), I'm generally inspired to create mystery baskets when I spy a bottle in the back of my pantry, discover something at the store or read about a trending food. Of course, I do work in ingredients from our sponsors, hence the Twizzlers.

Today you'll find out what Tara Riley of Arlington Heights and Jamie Andrade, an Elk Grove Village mom who's taking a third shot at the Challenge, do with bacon, lettuce and tomato. They could use whatever bacon and greens they wanted and were provided an assortment of tomatoes from Whole Foods Market.

And to make it a bit more, well, challenging, they couldn't add more than six ingredients. I bet you'll make one or both of these recipes before tomato season ends.

Pam Larson of Mundelein and Joan Huenecke of Palatine share their recipes made with Pure Leaf Peach Tea, pork ribs, apricots and radishes. I'm always surprised by the different directions our contestants go with the ingredients.

The judges also have these recipes and will rate each one on creativity, use of ingredients, appearance, ease of preparation and perceived taste. The results will be published next week and the cook with the better recipe in each challenge will advance to Round 2. The final four cooks will compete in a live cook-off Nov. 3 (note the new date) at the Hyatt Regency Schaumburg.

Readers can weigh in on their favorite recipes as well. Head to and vote for your favorite recipes. The results of online voting also will appear in the following week's Food section and each week a random voter will be selected to receive a prize from one of our sponsors. At the end of the two challenge rounds, the cook with the most votes will receive a special price.

Here's another way to get involved: Head to and tell us what you might have whipped up with the mystery ingredients or suggest ingredients for future baskets.

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