It's not uncommon for people to make a hobby of cooking, but Rancho Santa Fe gardener and kitchen whiz Lynn Scully takes her interest in cooking one step further: She's in it to win.
Her contest entries have garnered local and national success, with her most recent entry finaling in Simple & Delicious magazine's Beat the Heat contest.
Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Salad is one of the many original recipes Scully has developed for family and friends to enjoy. While she usually focuses on creating cookie concoctions, she developed this salad to make the most of the season's fresh produce.
"This one is kind of a natural for us in Southern California," Scully said of her warm-weather dish. "I think it's just a great combination of flavors, especially if you have a garden."
Scully, 46, works at the Carlsbad Police Department and lives on a 3-acre ranch with her husband, Rick Scully.
While Lynn Scully has enjoyed cooking and entertaining for years, it wasn't until she moved to Rancho Santa Fe that she had an opportunity to try her hand at gardening.
"We love working outside, and the gardening is just one of our things we love to do," she said.
Because she and her husband are also health-conscious, they prefer to dine at home in order to enjoy high-quality, nutritious, flavorful food. It was her interest in food and flavors that led Scully to begin creating her own recipes. The contests are just another way to have fun and share her love of cooking.
"It gives me a little incentive to come up with new ideas," she said.
Every year, Scully enters the San Diego County Fair contests and walks away with honors.
"Pretty much every year I take home some ribbons," she said.
Her most prestigious - and exciting - contest win came about four years ago when her Almond Rocha Cookies earned her a place amid four winners selected in a nationwide cookie contest sponsored by professional chef and television personality Emeril Lagasse. As one of the winners, she was flown to New York City to appear on Lagasse's TV show.
In an interesting twist, the Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Salad is one of the dishes Scully served to Lagasse's film crew when they came to her home to shoot footage of her cooking.
When it comes to developing recipes, Scully said she starts with a basic concept such as a bar cookie or drop cookies and then brainstorms new flavor combinations.
"Every year I go through this process where after the holidays … I start working on recipes for the fair," she said. "I make them and remake them and adjust them and send them to my husband's work every week and they send feedback."
The toughest part is fine-tuning the small details. Is the recipe better with sweetened coconut or unsweetened coconut? Does the cookie taste better with frosting or a glaze?
"Every once in a while, I'll have something that's a total flop that ends up in the garbage can, but not very often," Scully said. "The one that won the Emeril contest was truly an awesome recipe."