Congratulations to Donna Marie Ranucci of Coventry, who was selected to appear on the Rachael Ray Show as part of the “Hey, Can You Cook?” cooking challenge. Although she was not the grand prize winner, Donna had an experience she will never forget. Not only did she have to fly to New York where the show is taped, she went on to Mexico, making 10 airplane trips in one week. For the first challenge, the contestants went to a chocolate factory in Oaxaca and learned how to make chocolate.
For their next challenge, they had to use the five basic food staples of Mexico: corn, chili, cactus, squash and verdolaga, an herb. The contestants were given 500 pesos to purchase everything they needed in as little as 30 minutes from vendors in an open-air market.
Each contestant had to overcome perhaps the biggest challenge of all, the language barrier. They also had to use an authentic Mexican grill, using charcoal, a few sticks and matches.
Despite generally good comments from the judges, Donna did not survive the first elimination round. She was paired with Timothy Morris of Washington. Their dishes – which included a stuffed chili pepper with peach mango salsa, olive oil and garlic, drizzled with chocolate, and a dessert of sliced pineapples with hollowed-out centers and melted chocolate with vanilla beans and Mexican liquor – just did not rate high enough.
Donna is the author of Donna’s Dishes: Cooking for a Cure, a collection of 150 hearty, healthy and inexpensive family recipes. She donates 30 percent of the proceeds from the book to different charities. For more information about Donna’s book, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.