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Cookin’ with Kristin

Whenever Kristin Caudill gets near a kitchen, she has a way of making your mouth water.

The Thorsby sophomore’s Southwestern dish, “Simply Santa Fe,” earned her second place at this year’s State Beef Cook-off in Montgomery.

For her efforts, Caudill took home $125 and the assurance of what she already knew — if there’s something you love to do, with a little training and your best effort, it can take you places.

“I grew up in the kitchen,” said Caudill, whose recipe is her own interpretation of her grandmother’s Santa Fe soup.

“My grandmother has made that recipe for years, and it’s just something that ran in the family,” she said. “It’s simple, and quick.”

When tasting her dish, Caudill noticed a difference between her own recipe and her grandmother’s. To make it her own, she added a few things to change it up a bit — most notably, ranch mix.

“I’ve got this huge thing about ranch. I eat it on anything and everything,” she admitted.

Caudill started making her own dishes in about sixth grade. In her freshman year, the food dynamics course at Thorsby School made her realize just how much she loved it. Pretty soon, food was more than just a hobby.

“The class not only teaches kids to cook for themselves, but it also enables them to explore a career in culinary arts,” teacher Rachel Rachels said.

In her freshman year, Caudill entered the Chilton County Beef Cook-off sponsored by the Cattlewomen. She entered again this year and won with Simply Santa Fe, garnering a spot at the state cook-off.

The hardest part about state, she said, was getting the dish to look like a Southwestern dish. At state, they judge based on appearance, taste, and ease of recipe.

“You’ve got to really set that dish apart,” she said.

If there’s anything Caudill would tell up-and-coming chefs, she would tell them to compete, because they have a lot to learn and nothing to lose.

“Competing can lead to new things,” she said, adding a challenge: “I’m gonna win it next year.”

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground chuck

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cans tomato paste

1 can tomato sauce

1 can pinto beans

1 can black beans, drained

1 can northern beans, drained

2 cans whole kernel corn, drained

2 packs ranch dressing mix

2 packs taco mix

8 oz. sour cream

2 cups shredded cheese

tortilla chips

Directions:

1. Brown your meat

2. Sautee chopped onion in 2 TBS. butter

3. Drain the grease

4. Place meat in large cooking pot

5. Add all 3 cans of beans

6. Add both cans of corn and cooked onion

7. Mix both packs of ranch dressing mix with 2 cups of water

8. Pour into pot

9. Mix both packs of taco mix with 2 cups of water

10. Pour into pot

11. Stir well

12. Let cook for 30 minutes

Optional: Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and tortilla chips to form a dip. Dish can be garnished with fresh cilantro, lime, tomatoes or peppers for the finishing touch.