Clearfield woman's Carbonara Muffins win Governor's prize at Utah State Fair

Cheryl Phipps, of Clearfield, won $150 for her first-place Carbonara Muffins at the Utah State Fair...

Story by Valerie Phillips
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Fri, Sep 6, 2013
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A bacon-laden Carbonara Muffin took the $150 prize at the Governor’s Favorite Muffin Contest at the Utah State Fair on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Cheryl Phipps, of Clearfield, a veteran of State Fair cooking contests, said she used savory flavors over sweet because she wanted to do “something different.”

In announcing the winner, Gov. Gary Herbert said this muffin was the personal favorite of first lady Jeanette Herbert, who also helped judge. There were 15 entries in the contest.

Phipps said her muffins first started out using ham and cheese, but the ham flavor didn’t come across very well.

“So I decided to use bacon because I felt I needed something that comes out a little more,” she said. “Someone trying them said they taste like carbonara, and that changed the whole way I thought about it.”

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish with a sauce based on eggs, bacon and cheese (usually Romano or Parmesan).

Phipps is an experienced competitor. She won the Spam contest twice, was named Grand Champion Canner twice, and took second place in the 2012 Governor’s Muffin Contest. She’s also won in contests sponsored by Land O’Lakes and Mrs. Fields.

It’s been a long-standing tradition for Utah’s governor to judge a State Fair cooking contest. During the terms of Mike Leavitt and Jon Huntsman, it was called the Governor’s Favorite Pie Contest. In 2011, Gov. Herbert broke with tradition and went with meatloaf — one of his favorite meals. In 2012, the contest switched to muffins.

Bakers had some creative ideas. Third-place winner Naomi Kress’s Chocolate Heaven Muffins had avocado as a secret ingredient, and second-place winner Elena Davis made Utah Apple Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Muffins.

Phipps’ savory muffins would make a hearty breakfast or lunch, but are probably not what you’d choose for dessert.

Carbonara Muffins

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped portobello mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 green onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 large muffin tins with cooking spray.

Fry bacon until crispy. Reserve 4 tablespoons of drippings. Coarsely chop up bacon. Set aside.

Saute onion, mushrooms and garlic in 2 tablespoons bacon drippings until tender. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese with a whisk.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, Alfredo sauce, eggs, 2 tablespoons bacon drippings and green onions.

Gently stir wet mixture into the dry mixture along with the bacon (reserving some bacon to garnish the tops of the muffins) and the sauteed vegetables, just until combined.

Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full. Sprinkle tops of muffins with reserved bacon.

Bake 10 minutes. Sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan cheese over muffins. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until muffin tests done in the middle.

Serve warm. Delicious for breakfast, or a nice dinner with a Caesar salad.

Valerie Phillips blogs at

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