Karen and Bill Fausz of Thompson Draw I are the typical Rim Country retirees. They bought their little cabin in the mountains while living and working in the Valley — Karen in education and Bill in sales — and then retired to become full-time residents of the area six years ago.
They love to travel in their fifth wheel and go to NASCAR events. They were at one such event at Phoenix International Raceway in April when Karen did something that has opened a whole new world for the couple.
While wandering through the vendor booths at the race, she stopped at a Libby’s Vegetables booth.
“They were offering free coupons and I never pass up a free coupon,” Karen said.
She collected her coupon and was told the company was collecting recipes for its “Get Back to the Table” campaign and asked if she’d like to give one.
The only one she could think of off the top of her head was something she has been making for the nearly 50 years she and Bill have been married: Scalloped Corn.
3, 16-ounce cans Libby’s corn (do not drain)
1 full roll of Ritz crackers, crushed
1-1/2 pounds cheddar cheese (more or less to taste)
Pepper to taste
Combine, by hand, corn in liquid, eggs, crackers and about two-thirds of the cheese in a bowl. Spray 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter well. Put corn mixture in pan, top with remaining cheese (and extra crushed crackers if desired) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until egg is set and cheese is gold and crusty.
Karen said this makes about a triple batch, so if you wanted to make a smaller amount you can reduce it accordingly.
“But make the full batch first. It’s good,” she said. She added it is especially good the second day.
“It’s so simple and uses what most people already have in their kitchens.”
Karen said Libby’s had invited recipe submissions over the Internet earlier in the year and then was visiting four different NASCAR events to collect more entries.
After giving the people at the booth her recipe, she went on her way.
Soon after, the couple had a family emergency that took them back to Indiana, where they had to stay longer than expected.
When they returned to the Rim Country, Karen had messages from people trying to get in touch with her.
Their daughter, Debi Digirolamo, was visiting from Amarillo, Texas and went on the Internet to help Karen sort out all the messages.
When they came across the one from Libby’s, Debi asked her mother if she’d entered some sort of contest and that is when she remembered giving the recipe at the NASCAR race in April.
“The most I hoped to win was a year’s supply of vegetables. What I won was so much more,” Karen said.
The contest organizers tested a total of 25 recipes to pick the finalists: five from the Internet submissions and five from each of the four NASCAR events. Karen said the organizers tested all of the recipes to make the final selections and then Chef Mark Gonan prepared the final contest dishes, instructed by the contestants.
As one of five finalists in the national contest, Karen and a guest were awarded a trip to New York City, including airfare, accommodations and transportation for three days. Her daughter was going to go with her, but couldn’t get the time off from work, so she “made” her husband accompany her. He was reluctant, but as it turned out, he was glad he went with her.
“We met wonderful people,” Karen said, and added the people at the contest were some of the nicest.
Two of the other finalists were from New York — one from upstate and the other from Staten Island; another was from Charlotte, N.C.; and the other was from Missouri. Judges were country music star Sara Evans, Jill Nicolini of PIX Morning News, Beth Feldman of RoleMommy.com and Isabell Kallman of AlphaMom.com.
The finals were held Sept. 15 at South Street Seaport in New York City.
Karen’s prize wasn’t a year’s supply of Libby’s Vegetables; it was an all-expense vacation to Florida. She and Bill are going to Daytona Beach for the NASCAR 500.