Great cooks embrace secret ingredient

For 56 years, The Wichita Eagle has been bringing the Holiday Cookbook to you, from you. You must be applauded for taking the time to develop and create such great food.

Once again, Kansas cooks embraced the "secret ingredient" challenge and used cinnamon in very creative ways. Who knew cinnamon was such an important part of so many cultures and tastes?

I think you will be wowed by the way cinnamon is used in this category. I hope it will encourage you to experiment with this seemingly common spice.

The category that was the most-entered was desserts. Readers submitted more than 70 recipes, and they all sounded so good.

This time of year brings out the baker in me. I may not like ice and snow, but I certainly like the cooler weather and making food for friends and family during the holidays.

And you will, too. This cookbook has some great recipes that can become family favorites.

How does a cookbook like this get produced? First, I have to thank you for sending your contest submissions in typed.

Once I had all of the recipes — more than 400 — I carefully narrowed each of the six categories down to the top 20 entries. Then three people with discerning taste and talent joined me in choosing the top five. Collectively, we based this on what sounded good, was relatively easy to prepare and showed a decided creative spark.

The judges — who took their job to heart (and stomach) —evaluated the food based on presentation and appearance, taste, aroma and overall opinion.

This year's judges were: Bobby Lane, chef/owner of Chester's Chophouse & Wine Bar; Ed Frey, certified BBQ judge, cooking instructor and winner of last year's dessert category; Barbara Baan, host of KSN TV's "Baan Appetit" and "Hello Kansas"; Guy Bower, wine instructor and host of "The Good Life" radio talk show on 1330 AM KNSS; Beth Tully, owner of Cocoa Dolce and Master Chocolatier; Sierra Scott, host of "It's ALL Good!" television show; Adriene Rathbun, food blogger and owner of Social, in-home cooking classes; and foodie Gina Sanders. Thanks so much for taking your help with the contest.

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