Helena resident comes up with yum-o recipe

While Helena resident Lisa Adams spends much of her time cooking for her family and friends, her time in the kitchen was spent in relative anonymity — up until February 26.

That was the day that, spurred on by her children, she decided to enter the Rachael Ray March Menu Mania contest, which focused on casual party recipes. The next day, a phone call went a long way towards pulling her into the spotlight.

“My son is always telling me that he loves the recipes I make up my head,” Adams said.

After reviewing the contest recipe rules, Adams had decided to submit a recipe called Southwestern Chicken Dip, which incorporated crowd-pleasers like cream cheese, chicken and corn chips. “Rachael Ray Show” producers enjoyed her recipe because of its simplicity and appearance.

After a flurry of phone calls, Adams found out on March 6 — her birthday — that her recipe had been chosen as one of the top 16 finalists in the contest.

“They said, ‘You’re one of the top 16 in the country,’” Adams said. “It was incredible to me because cooking is just my life. To be recognized on a national level for something I enjoy so much really meant a lot. It’s validation.”

After making it through the first round and defeating a Bacon-Wrapped Smokies recipe, Adams found herself with one of the top eight recipes in the nation. That was her final stop in the competition, though, as a recipe for Italian Chicken Sliders defeated her bid for a spot in the final four.

However, Adams said she wasn’t discouraged by the end of her stay in the competition. The week before she lost, she was on spring break in Orlando and knew without her constant urging, it’d be hard to get the same number of votes she had gotten in the first round. Despite that, she lost by a close margin with 48 percent of the vote.

“I was so thrilled to make it into the top 16. Knowing that I made it into the top 8 was further than I ever dreamed,” she said. “My friends made me feel like the winner.”

Adams said she plans to continue to cook for her family and for local events. She didn’t receive anything other than national recognition for her participation in the contest, but said the fun of it was worth everything. She did say, however, that she hopes that recognition hits close to home.

“Well, I hope that my husband appreciates what he eats for supper a little more,” she said, laughing.