Eleven-year-old Carly Terensky knows what it feels like to be blocked because of Spam.
When her mother, Lori, learned in January that Carly was going to be the National SPAM Kid Chef of the Year, it was with the caveat that the Washington County family not say anything about it yet.
Because Carly had guests over, her mother called her into another room to quietly tell her the news.
"I was really excited, but I had to kinda keep it under control," Carly said last week, once Hormel Foods, maker of the iconic canned meat, officially announced the winners of its Great American SPAM Championship.
Carly, of Cross Creek, put herself in the running by winning a blue ribbon at last year's Washington County Fair for her Spam contest entry, SPAMASHED Potato Perogie Casserole.
She received a SPAM apron and chef hat, as well as $125.
"She was just excited to win at the local level," says her mother. "We'd actually forgotten" that she was in the running for the national title, too.
Last year was the second time Carly had entered the SPAM contest. Inspired by another local girl who'd won, she entered the 2011 Washington County Fair with a Star-Spangled Egg SPAMwich and came in third.
At last year's fair, the Clover Patch 4-H member also entered an apple pie.
Her mother said Carly does like to cook, usually using the microwave, and cooked up this year's winning casserole after trying unsuccessfully to use lasagna noodles as roll-ups.
The name is hers, but Hormel trademarked it, and tweaked the recipe a bit, including some of its other brand names.
"They kinda did it healthier," Mrs. Terensky said. "She used a lot more butter."
Carly won $2,000, which is in her savings account, "so I guess it's going to college," she says, though she wants to buy an iPad. She did donate $125 to the American Heart Association through the Jump Rope for Heart campaign.
And now that her win has been officially announced, she's allowed to talk about it, and did so during math class at school. Says her mom, "She's been telling everybody." She even made what she called "my $2,000 recipe" for family and friends on Easter.
The contest's adult winner is Albuquerque, N.M., home cook Caroline Burgess, whose Thai-Style Meatballs won her an all-expense-paid trip to the SPAM Jam Waikiki street fest in Honolulu later this month. For that recipe, visit spam.com/recipes/SPAM-Thai-Style-Meatballs.
SPAMASHED Potato Perogie Casserole
2 24-ounce tubs Hormel Country Crock Homestyle mashed potatoes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
12-ounce can SPAM Classic, diced and sauteed
1 small onion, diced and divided
1/3 cup melted butter, divided
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and cooled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Heat potatoes according to package directions. Spoon hot potatoes into large bowl. Add cheese, sour cream, 3/4 of SPAM and onion; mix well. Spread 2 tablespoons butter into bottom of dish. Place 3 lasagna sheets in single layer over butter. Spoon 1/3 of potato mixture over noodles. Repeat layers twice. Pour remaining butter over the potatoes. Sprinkle with reserved SPAM. Cover with foil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until hot. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 12.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.