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Moorhead woman wins National Beef Cook-Out regional contes

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 08/21/2013 7:52 AM

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MOORHEAD, Minn. —Sonya Nelson Goergen admits she has a hard time following recipes.

While she may not measure ingredients, she has a way of adding the right spices and flavors as proven by her most recent cooking win.

Goergen took top honors in the National Beef Cook-Out Regional Competition with her recipe for pesto steak and artichoke sandwich.

The recipe, which earned her the Region III win, is a version of a skirt steak she makes using basil pesto, grilled grape tomatoes and artichokes.

"I thought it would make a really great sandwich without the tomatoes because I thought that would be messy," Goergen said.

She submitted the recipe with a few others in the contest.

"The National Beef Cook-Out is one of the big three cook-offs in the nation, so I am excited to finally be a part of this one," she said.

She's participated in most of the big cook-offs and will take part in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in November.

She entered her first cooking contest in 2007 on a whim after watching a TV show.

"I thought, 'I could do that,'" she said. "Since then, it's been a good hobby because my family has to eat anyway, and they participate by being my taste testers. My husband, kids and siblings are the most honest critics. Everyone else is too nice."

She learned to cook from her father in their home in Hitterdal.

"I learned to cook standing on a chair next to my dad stirring in the kitchen," she said. "The town's population is just over 200. It's a small community with great cooks."

Her father cooked for Lions meetings and church dinners, she said.

"I've always been interested in food, and he was a good cook," she added. "He appreciated good home-cooked food and passed that down to all his kids and grandkids. He died in 2002, and we all miss him and his doughnuts."

Goergen and her sisters have been competitively cooking against each other since 2001.

"Our brother once told me that my sister made a recipe better than mine," she said. "So, we started family festivals to outdo each other. She usually wins."

Now, they plan family events around a theme. They compete on the type of food they are making, whether it's a festival of soup, a festival of Norwegian food or a Hawaiian luau.

"It's kind of a family joke," she said of the festivals. "But it's fun."

Goergen works at North Dakota State University in Fargo in public relations and marketing where her husband, Troy, is the college's associate athletic director. They have two children, Olivia, 5, and Gabriel, 2.

"Our kids are adventurous eaters, which makes contesting fun," she said. "Olivia orders grilled shrimp and fish at restaurants and has the foodie gene like me. She can also crack an egg better than most people and knows her way around the kitchen. I think getting my kids to cook with me encourages them to eat foods they helped make."

She cooks from scratch.

"Our kids eat nearly anything, so it's fun to cook when there is very little complaining."

She loves to read cookbooks and said old church cookbooks are her favorites. She usually tweaks the recipes by adding a little bit of this and pinch of that.

"I am not a good baker because there is a science to baking," she said.

Goergen will receive $1,000 for her Region III win. The region includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. The other finalists will move on to a national competition where the winner will receive $25,000.

She plans to use the money to purchase her children an iPad, Goergen said. She might be borrowing it from time to time to look up new recipes on the Internet.