Dining By Debbie

How Harmons Sliced Cooking Competition Turned Into My Own Episode Of I Love Lucy!

I hope you have seen some of the I Love Lucy episodes from the 50’s. If not I would Google to find one. You will love her and find out just why I would use this title!

The day arrived May 2, 2014. The competition for Desserts started at 7:00 PM. Competitors needed to be there at 6:30. I got up early and baked to my little hearts content. Finally at about 2:00 PM I decided there was nothing else I could do. It was time to get cleaned up and relax my brain and body a little bit before heading downtown to Harmons Sliced Cooking Competition.

I was the first one to arrive. Chef Aaron took me back to a section in the cafe where we were going to meet. Soon after the rest arrived. I told them that I was going to have by daughters family with 4 of my grandkids cheering me on. Chef Aaron has 5 children of his own with a set of twin girls so had no problem with that. He told us all what was going to happen. I was able to pick when I wanted to go and what station I wanted. We were going in 1 at a time in 5 minute intervals so the black box could be revealed. The camera men were going to film our reaction to the ingredients. I picked the 1st station and time. I wanted to get started.

harmons sliced competition 01

I walked in, opened the Black Box and…Captain Crunch are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe it. I had practiced with everything I could think of. Captain Crunch didn’t even make the list. I don’t even like Captain Crunch. I was so paralyzed by the Captain Crunch that I barley acknowledged the other ingredients. My mind was racing on what I was going to make with this then I realize I also have raspberry jam, melting chocolate and pears. I gotta tell you pears  probably one of my least favorite fruits. At least I had practiced with pears. The one thing I thought of making was a pear crunch. What else do you make with Captain Crunch? All of a sudden it came to me that I should do a cheesecake. But not just any cheesecake. I didn’t want to just replace graham crackers with ground up Captain Crunch. I needed to make it better than that. I decided to take a another recipe and revise it.

harmons sliced competition 02

I’m not sure when this turned into a made for TV episode of I Love Lucy. Maybe it was destined to be with my red hair. Hey Lucille Ball would have been proud. Anyway I asked for some small spring form pans. I was quickly told they didn’t have any but might be able to find a larger one. So okay I’ll take that. As I’m preparing the crust which I did by crushing the disgusting cereal added flour, finely chopped roasted almonds, shredded pears, butter and brown sugar. After a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar I decided I to taste. Good thing I did before adding all the brown sugar. Right on for sweet.

Sorry Pictures Taken Though Glass

Sorry Pictures Taken Though Glass

Chef Aaron came in to let me know my family had arrived. I looked out the glass to see all 4 grandkids waving and blowing kisses. What a wonderful site. It made feel so good to see them out there along with my hubby, daughter, and son in law. I have to say it was also comforting to see Sean, Sandee and Brooklyn from the winners circle for appetizer and entree . I felt so blessed to have this support. Every time I would look out there the kids would start waving at me. Two girls one 11, one 9 and 6 year old twin boys. Those huge smiles made it so worth it. You have to understand these children love watching the Food network. To them it was just like watching Chopped Live.

I brought my own fans. Grandsons cheering for Grandma

I brought my own fans. Grandsons cheering for Grandma

Granddaughters supporting Grandma too!

Granddaughters supporting Grandma too!


By now all the dessert competitors were in the room, along with Chef Aaron, Neal, Tyler, several camera men, assistants to help us keep things clean  and Bob Harmon. Bob was interviewing Erin who happened to be in station 2. I overheard her saying she was going to make a pear crunch. Hmmmm happy I had a plan B?

So here it is finally the Dessert Youtube!

After my interview with Bob Harmon, Tyler came in with a few spring form pans. With NO BOTTOMS. Not one of them had a bottom. Well part of this is about making due with what you have. I quickly decided to use the pans. I got a cookie sheet, lined it with parchment paper and put the bottomless pan on top. Next I formed the crust inside of this. Baked it for a few minutes while preparing the cheesecake portion. This consisted of mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, shredded pear and vanilla. After putting this together I could tell it was not thick enough. I added a couple more egg yolks. I topped it off with caramelized sliced almonds.

Didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t going to be done in time. I got the attention of Chef Aaron and told him of the situation. He asked where my water bath was. I explained that the pan didn’t have a bottom so I couldn’t. Erin is such a sweetheart she suggested that I put a few sheets of foil under it so I could do a water bath. We quickly rolled out foil. Trying to lift the cheesecake as carefully as possible. I’m really surprised I didn’t just laugh out loud at this point. As soon as we would try to lift it at all it would leak out. We tried a few times and having the same effect each time. Chef Aaron suggested using a ramekin. I told him I couldn’t get it out to plate pretty. He told me to just keep it in the ramekin. If you really picture this whole thing you should be able to picture Lucy in there. The only thing that would have made it better is if Chef Aaron could have used a Ricky accent and yelled out “Lucccccccy, what are you doing”?

I pulled out some ramekins and used some of the left over crust. Next scooping out the cheesecake portion from the one partially baked. So now the caramelized almonds are not sprinkled on top but mixed in the middle. Not a problem, I figured it would still taste good. While baking I set about to make a topping and decor to present a beautiful plate. I ground up some more Captain Crunch to sweeten the pureed pears. Now I’m looking around and realize I completely forgot about the raspberry jam. Not a problem I added this to the pureed mixture. That was even better. I then melted together the Dulce chocolate and cream. Meanwhile I asked the assistants if they would throw away the old cheesecake. Had to get that out of there before judges could see it. Didn’t need to point out the flaw.

I got my plate ready with a the raspberry puree making some flower and a dollop of chocolate in the middle. All was ready except the cheesecake finishing. Wasn’t sure it was going to get done. I told Chef Aaron even if it didn’t get done i was going to plate it. I had decided before starting I wasn’t going to cry, get mad or any of those things. I had watched enough Chopped shows to know that even professional chefs failed and that was on national TV.

It finally got done. I rushed it into the freezer with 10 minutes until my showing. The assistants were back there eating the one I told them to throw away. When they saw me laughing they told me how good it was. Even when I told them it wasn’t done they said they didn’t care because it was good. That was an endorsement I enjoyed. There was nothing to do at this point but wait as long as I could to give it time to cool. I went back in the kitchen leaned up against the counter and took a much needed drink of my Diet Dr. Pepper. Little did I know that my granddaughter was watching every move. She looked at her mother and said “What is grandma doing drinking her Dr. Pepper? Doesn’t she know there is only 5 minutes left”?

Really, do you think they have watched too much Food Network? Maybe

One minute before presenting to judges I grabbed them out of the freezer. I put some of the topping on each cheesecake and sprinkled with a few more caramelized almonds. One went for pictures and I presented the other. I told them what it was made of and part of that was I told them there was almond all the way through. Kind of making like the caramelized almond in the cheesecake was planned. I finished it off my presentation with “what can I say I like nuts”. The judges agreed they did too. Then I was rushed out of the room while the judges talked about my dish and tried it out.

So what do we call it Captain Crunch Cheesecake?

So what do we call it Captain Crunch Cheesecake?

As soon as I got out there I was greeted by cute grandchildren. Abbie wanted to run in and eat every drop of that cheesecake. It was all she could do to wait for the others to get done. One by one they all came out and said what they had made and the experience they had while in there. Finally they had all the guests go in through the back and the contestants file in front of the judges. I figured mine had turned out good just because of the assistants eating mine before it was even completely cooked. Judges were great as they told us what they liked and what we might have done differently. And then the winner was announced, Amy Johnson!  She had made a pear pound cake and other things to go with it. I was so happy for her.

As we finished the congratulations and pats on the back,  Abbie hovered over my cheesecake waiting for all the pictures to be done. It was only a matter of seconds before she gulped down as much as she could. I have at least one more fan of my recipe.

Just couldn't keep this sweet girl from cheesecake any longer.

Just couldn’t keep this sweet girl from cheesecake any longer.

This picture should have Abbie with fork in hand.

This picture should have Abbie with fork in hand.

Harmons was great I didn’t walk away with nothing. Oh yes don’t get me wrong I would have loved to win but always knew it was a long shot. It was still lots of fun. We each got a gift basket, my Harmons apron, a $25 Harmons Gift Certificate and a ticket to the Grand Finale Dinner. The winner of each category also got a $250 Harmons Gift Certificate along with an extra ticket the the Finale dinner. And finally is all the new friendships made with camera men, all involved from Harmons, the other contestants and their families. Anytime I can meet some new friends, I’m a winner.

Winners with Chef Aaron

Winners with Chef Aaron

May 10th was the night of the Harmons Sliced Cooking Competition Dinner. They had about 50 people attending. All of us were to vote which dish we thought was the best out of

Brooklyn’s Appetizer – Seared Scallops with Cauliflower Puree and Curry Chickpea Soup

Sean’s Entree – Lamb Loin with Black Rice and Pickled Gold Beets with a Wasabi Sauce

Amy’s Dessert – Pear Pound Cake with Raspberry Coulis and Dulce Truffle

The winners of each category had been working with a professional chef for the last few days to perfect their dish. The one with the most votes won $500 peoples choice. There was also a judges choice which got $500 cash as well. We really enjoyed the evening and the food was wonderful. Congratulations to Amy Johnson won both judge and peoples choice bringing home $1000 cash. I was really excited for her again.

To all you guys…eat your heart out. My husband was at a table with 5 women. He didn’t mind at all.

After dinner I got my apron signed from other contestants, Bob Harmon, Chef Aaron and others. I thought it would be a fun keepsake. Lots of pictures followed. What  a fun evening and Mother’s Day.

Harmons finale night 02

Brooklyn, Bob Harmon, Erin, Shannon, Me and Chef Aaron

Neal and Tyler

Thank you Harmons for a great experience.


1 comment on How Harmons Sliced Cooking Competition Turned Into My Own Episode Of I Love Lucy!

  1. Cindy C Bennett
    May 23, 2014 at 4:42 am (3 years ago)

    I’m so proud of you, Deb! This is so awesome, and took such courage. I only wish I’d been able to try your dishes. I know firsthand how delicious your “mistakes” are.


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