Meet the top 12 finalists who will compete in the final cook-off at Cooking Light in September.

July 09, 2009

Congratulations to the top 12 finalists of the 2009 Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest. Three finalists in each of four categories will compete for a $5,000 category prize at an on-site cook-off held in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen this fall. One grand-prize winner will recieve $20,000, and her $5,000 category prize will be donated to the charity of her choice.

This year's contest saw nearly 3,000 entries. After months of evaluating, tasting, and testing, our food editors and Test Kitchen professionals narrowed the field to the dozen best recipes. The top contenders were creative and flavorful, met certain nutritional standards, and made use of at least one sponsor product.

Entrée salads have taken the grand prize for the past two years, but this year could see some surprises.

"The desserts category was probably the strongest category this year," said Projects Editor Mary Simpson Creel, MS, RD. "That's usually the hardest type of recipe to develop because baking is such a science."

The cook-off will take place September 14 and 15, 2009, in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen, located at the magazine's editorial headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. Watch for more updates on this fall and see the winning recipes in the magazine in early 2010.

Starters and Beverages

  • Apricot-Ginger Bellinis by Karen Coyne, Hagerstown, Md.
  • Jalapeño, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid by Angela Spengler, Clovis, N.M.
  • Steamed Clams Fagioli by Christine Losurdo, Campbell Hall, NY..

Family Dinners

  • Black Bean Burgers with Mango-Avocado Salsa by Marina Delio, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Chili-Spiced Chicken Soup with Stoplight Peppers and Avocado Topping by Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, Minn.
  • Greek Chicken and Barley Salad by Suzanne Rumsey, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Sides and Salads

  • Fresh Mediterranean Salad by Michele Zanta, Plantation, Fla.
  • Mixed Citrus Green Salad by Debra Keil, Owasso, Okla.
  • Tart ‘n Tangy Bulgur Salad by Mary Howard, Orlando, Fla.


  • Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies by Helen Worthington, Meridian, Miss.
  • Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies by Marcie Dixon, Arlington, Heights, Ill.
  • Mexican Spiced Shortbread Cookies by Jennifer Brumfield, Bellingham, Wash.