Many of you might read “4-H” and think, that’s only for country folk.  Not so, not so!

As a  nearly 10-year 4-H member myself, I did just about every project except the animal ones.  It wasn’t for lack of trying.  I lobbied hard for a horse project, but we didn’t have any one to stable it for us, so I finally gave up and tried everything else!  4-H is in every county, in every state.  Just google your state name and 4-H and click on your state’s website.  You’ll find a wealth of information.  I think the thing I love most about the organization is that you can find any interest and make it your project.

We started off slow and with something familiar for Will’s first foray.  In November, he competed in the county food show, in the main dish category with his Sausage-Stuffed French Loaf.  He won (yea!) and qualified for the district show, held in Fredericksburg.  Last Monday, we headed south for the big day and I couldn’t have been more proud.

He selected the dish to make, prepared it (mostly) by himself and learned quite a bit along the way.  The contestants are required to do the following:  prepare the dish, plate it and then present it to two judges who then ask seven questions.  The questions include food safety, nutrients and their functions specific to the dish, preparation steps, food pyramid guidelines, a description of a key ingredient and its function and a few others.  I remember getting butterflies in my stomach, so when Will finished and told me, “Mom, my armpits are sweating!” – I knew exactly how he felt!

Thank the good Lord he was one of the first ones to go in for judging.  I would’ve been a nervous wreck otherwise.  A few procedural things have changed since I had my first food show back in 1983 (yikes), but much is still the same.  Poise, articulation, public speaking, kitchen safety/nutrition knowledge – those are all things Will learned and will benefit him for life.

Because the show was on a Monday, we weren’t able to stay for the afternoon awards ceremony.  We did make time for a quick and slightly cool picnic lunch, a photo at the Museum of the Pacific War and a celebratory Sonic blast, though.  We were super thrilled to get the email from our county agent later in the day that Will placed in the Top Four!!  Way to do it right, big man.

Hopefully, we’ll venture into shooting sports, a little consumer buying and perhaps some photography in the next year.  I’m looking forward to being a Volunteer 4-Her this time around!

Ah, and the ever-reliable and super delicious Southern Living recipe…here you go!  (p.s. Mom, aren’t you proud?  I’m already collecting photos for Will’s first record book this summer.  Old habits die hard.)

Sausage-Stuffed French Loaf

1 (16-ounce) loaf unsliced French bread
½ pound ground pork sausage
½ pound ground chuck*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup (4-ounce) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 large clove garlic, crushed

*We usually just use sausage, no beef, personal preference

CUT off ends of loaf; set ends aside. Hollow out center of loaf with a long serrated bread knife, leaving a ½-inch shell. Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add bread removed from inside loaf. Process to make coarse crumbs. Set bread shell and crumbs aside.

COOK sausage, beef and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat until meat is browned, stirring until it crumbles; drain. Add 1 cup of reserved breadcrumbs, cheese and next 6 ingredients; stir well. Spoon meat mixture into shell; replace loaf ends, securing with wooden toothpicks.

MELT butter in a saucepan. Add garlic; cook about 1 minute. Brush butter mixture over loaf. Wrap loaf in aluminum foil, leaving open slightly on top; place loaf on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until loaf is heated and cheese melts. Cut into 4 pieces.

YIELD: 4 servings

1 Comment

  1. Verdina Louisa on January 18, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Way to go, Will!!! I hope you keep up your interest in cooking. My husband was the best cook and he loved to cook for our friends and family… always made a meal special.

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