Crockpots rule at NENA

BY STEPHANIE FOX

The First Annual Great Nokomis East Crock-Pot Cook-Off is history and taking home the championship trophy was Jakob Gant, whose Creamy White Chicken Chili received 33 votes. The Feb 4th event, held in Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church’s basement, raised $400 for community projects, including the Bossen Renters Fair, the Annual Nokomis East Garage Sale Day and the Nokomis Naturescape and Gateway community gardens.
It was also a chance for neighbors, stuck inside until spring, to visit with each other. “The best part,” said NENA’s Executive Director Becky Timm, “was seeing the neighbors mixing, talking and making connections. The room was filled with smiles.”
Each attendee got to wander the room, filling up their bowls with eight different crockpot concoctions and using their four voting tickets to choose their favorites.
“It’s my first cooking contest and my first win,” said Gant. “I got the recipe from a friend.” His chili contained both heavy cream and sour cream.
The second place winning recipes, tying with 21 votes each, were both Minnesota wild rice recipes. Taya Schmid, who brought a Chicken Wild Rice Mushroom Soup, claimed that she was always a recipe follower. “But, this one I invented. I love wild rice and chicken and I just started sticking stuff in a crockpot. It’s really the first time I made something up from scratch.”
Vince Grube, the “door opener” at the church, called second place winner Reed Mitchell’s Butternut Squashed Rice one of his favorites. “The goat cheese made it really delicious,” he said.
The selections ranged from the classic to the unconventional, with both meat and vegetarian choices, several chili variations, a spicy beef sandwich, a beef stew and a Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich.
Toward the end of the evening, once everyone had the chance to try all of the offerings, Timm and board member Larry Ouellette retreated to the kitchen to count the votes. “I wonder which will win,” Timm said. “The traditional or the exotic?”
About 30 people attended, including 2-year-old Mikaela Somsteby, who, despite her father, Alec’s, attempts to interest her in the food, seemed more interested in dancing. She ended up making friends with another 2-year-old, Annabelle Keeler.
Rory Thompson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, heard about the event from NENA’s online announcements and said he thought it would a fun thing to do on a Saturday night. He sat with his wife, Marian, and friend Ginny Rudloff trying all of the samples. “We go to church here,” he said, “and we like to eat. So, it seemed like a great idea.”
Board members are calling the event a success and are already planning on having another Crock-Pot Cook-Off next year. Anyone wanting to compete in 2018 can start trying recipes now.

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