home-chef-challenge

Home Chef Challenge winner: She's a little bit country, and all cook

Aug. 23, 2011 at 3:56 PM ET

Courtesy of Megan Pence /

This week's Home Chef Challenge winner Megan Pence, better known as "Country Cleaver," shared a recipe for a delicious, easy snack: Garlic Parmesan oven fries. Get her recipe, and read on to learn more about her (bet you'd be shocked to learn she was once a competitive lumberjack)!

Name: Megan Pence

Age: 25

Hometown: Renton, Wash.

How does it feel to win the Home Chef Challenge?

Being a part of the TODAY’s Home Chef Challenge has been a wonderful experience. The outpouring of support from friends, family and the blogging community has been very moving and humbling. It was a stiff competition, and I feel very fortunate to be able to share my love of food and cooking with the loyal TODAY community.

How long have you been cooking?

I began baking at a very young age, mastering the art of the chocolate chip cookie by the time I was 10. The cooking bug didn't bite until college and it's really taken off the last two years since I began writing my cooking blog Wanna Be A Country Cleaver. It's given me the gumption to go out and try new things that I might not have otherwise had the audacity to try. And when my cooking flops, at least it makes for an entertaining story!

Megan Pence /
Try Megan's garlic Parmesan oven fries.

Share your favorite cooking tip

Always have a glass of wine on hand. If that's not your style, use this one: When baking with watery fruits like strawberries, nectarines, or blueberries, use only a few whole fruits, and turn the rest into jam before adding them into your baked goods. Reducing them in a saucepan over the stove with some sugar will concentrate the flavor and eliminate the excess moisture that would otherwise water down whatever it is you're baking. This trick has yet to fail me.

What would your ideal last meal be?

Hands down it would be my grandmother's traditional Czech dinner. Her schnitzel with lemon, potatoes and sweet and sour cabbage just can't be beat! And a couple of her blueberry kolaches for dessert wouldn't hurt either!

More about Megan:

The "Country Cleaver" nickname came from my best friend in college. Our senior year of college at Washington State University, her final photography portfolio included modern-day incarnations of the typical ‘50s June Cleaver housewife. As her subject, the June Cleaver name kind of stuck. And with my days as a competitive lumberjack and cowboy boots-wearing country kid, the "Country Cleaver" nick-name was born. I try to maintain bits of my once country lifestyle, even while living in the city.

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