Rocklin mom dishes up plenty of prizes with recipes

Local author has won trips, cash thanks to skills in kitchen
By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald Editor
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Joni Hilton has parlayed her time in the kitchen into a series of prizes. On average, the Rocklin resident explained, she enters 30 cooking contests a year. “I research them online,” she said. “If it’s something I think I can do something with, I’ll enter.” She pays particular attention to the prizes offered. “If it’s just another apron or potholder, I pass,” she said. “I’ve got plenty of those.” Since she started entering contests more than 10 years ago, Hilton has claimed trips to France, Hawaii, Florida, New York and a cruise to the Caribbean Islands as well as “tons of appliances and cash.” Last week, Hilton captured a $500 second-place prize with her recipe for Caramel Lentil Brownies sprinkled with sea salt at the National Lentil Festival Cook-Off in Pullman, Wash. “I loved these brownies — moist with a nice sea salt garnish,” wrote one of the festival judges. “I like to cook. I like experimenting with different ingredients,” she said. “I love making up recipes. It’s fun to discover things that work really well together that you wouldn’t have thought of.” Her success at winning can also be attributed to her focus on creating recipes that capture the attention of the judges. While the family dogs have sampled a few of her cooking “failures,” Hilton often finds a way to salvage her efforts. “There was the fudge that never set up,” she said. “I served it to our company as a hot fudge sauce over ice cream. They all wanted the recipe and I gave it to them.” Bob, her husband of 25 years, enjoys cooking as much as she does. They often work together to create meals out of ingredients they picked up at the market, she said. When she’s not in the kitchen, however, Hilton can disappear into a world of her own making. She is the published author of 17 novels as well as numerous articles for Church of Latter Day Saints and national publications. “I just sold another book,” she said. “It’s coming out in the spring.” Hilton describes her writing style as mostly comedy with a hint of sarcasm. The majority of her books are inspired by the Mormon lifestyle. “We’re a funny culture,” she said. “We’re as funny as any other group, but there are a lot of very funny things about our culture. We have our quirks.” Of course, many of the books include recipes since potlucks are a tradition at church gatherings. “When I was little, the only thing I wanted to do was to write,” she said. “That is my main career. Everything else is a hobby on the side.” In addition to the books and articles, Hilton has written a series of sermonettes for the weekly radio broadcasts featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. “I write to entertain and sometimes do teaching,” she said. “When I first started writing LDS novels, I was thinking I wanted to teach through humor instead of a heavy-handed approach. A lot of my LDS writing does have a message.” After earning a degree in writing from USC, Hilton ventured into writing plays and screenplays. “Right now I’m trying to get some of my plays done,” she said. “One play will be performed this fall in Palm Springs.” Her success as a writer and contest winner is due, in large part, by her tenacity and professionalism. “Whatever (an editor) wants. Whatever they need, I’m tenacious about giving them the word count, meeting deadline. I’m not afraid to add or rewrite. I’m flexible about that.” ________ Joni Hilton's award-winning recipe Rocklin resident Joni Hilton claimed a $500 second-place prize in the National Lentil Festival Cook-off, held Aug. 20-22 in Pullman, WA. Ingredients Caramel Lentil Brownies Sprinkled with Sea Salt Ingredients 1 cup cooked lentil puree 2 cups flour 2-1/3 cup sugar, divided ¾ cup cocoa 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt ½ cup water ½ cup vegetable oil 2 tsp. vanilla, divided ½ cup caramel ice cream topping 8 oz cream cheese, softened 1 egg Sea salt for garnish Directions Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, stir flour, 2 cups of the sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Beat in water, oil, lentil puree and half of the vanilla. Pour into a greased 9”x13” baking dish. In a small bowl, beat remaining sugar with caramel topping, cream cheese, egg and remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Swirl through brownie batter with a knife. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a knife tests clean when inserted into center. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cool then cut into squares and serve.