Will you be my valentine and go on a culinary adventure with me? All you have to do is attend Youth Progress’ fifth annual Soup Smackdown Feb. 26 at the Tiffany Center. I promise this culinary adventure will be fun, the food delicious and the entertainment delightful.

Here’s the scoop: I’ve been asked to serve as a celebrity judge at the Soup Smackdown. The chefs are going to bring their A game and I can’t wait to see what they will present. Guest chefs competing in the Soup Smackdown are Marco Roberti, owner chef of Gilda’s; Michael Uhnak, chef of Besaw’s; Vito Crews, owner chef of Streetcar Bistro; Carl Momberger, chef at Rafati’s Catering; Robb Hengerer, chef at Grand Central Baking; and Michael Allen Harrison, who is not only a gifted musical talent, but also very talented in the kitchen. Harrison will present a concert at the event in honor of Youth Progress’ 50 years serving Oregon’s youth.

This is Youth Progress’ major fundraiser. In addition to gourmet soups, attendees will receive a wine tasting pass good for up to six wine samples and will have the opportunity to bid on auction items, such as Caribbean resort stay certificates, art, ceramics and wine. Proceeds support Youth Progress’ provision of educational coursework, safe housing, vocational training, mental health therapy, substance abuse treatment and ongoing support through YP’s Extended Family Program.

Since 1964, thousands of Oregon’s highest-risk young people have received help and guidance from YP. The mission statement of the organization is to “provide a nurturing environment where youth gain the skills necessary to progress socially, personally, academically and vocationally. We support and enhance the growth and development of Oregon’s youth through healthy and productive partnerships.”

The folks at YP believe that educational success is the key component to clients becoming productive community members. At the onsite learning center clients can earn a high school diploma or GED, and then take college readiness classes. There are even scholarship programs in place to help reduce the financial burden of higher education for present and past YP clients.

They believe involvement in the community helps to gain an understanding of each other and a sense of human compassion. They are committed to promoting cultural diversity in their work with youth, each other and the community.

How could you not want to be at the Smackdown and support Youth Progress? Come on, when will you have another opportunity to sample delicious soups by this stellar lineup of chefs? Be my valentine and get tickets today.

The Soup Smackdown begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Tiffany Center, 1401 SW Morrison St., Portland. Tickets are $50 for the Soup Smackdown and concert. If you wish to attend just Michael Allen Harrison’s concert at 8 p.m., you can. Those tickets are $25. All tickets can be purchased online at

Learn more about Youth Progress on the website and also learn other ways to support the organization.

I know the valentines in your home will be expecting a little something sweet Friday and our friend Miffy Jones has offered a fun recipe for Strawberry Meringue Boats, adapted from an Ina Garten recipe. I took Miffy’s recipe a step further and added some pink food coloring to the meringue. Rather than making disks of the meringue I filled a plastic baggy with the meringue and then piped it into heart shapes on the parchment paper. Try either or both methods to create a fun festive dessert.

Bon Appetite! Make eating an adventure!

Miffy’s Strawberry

Meringue Boats

Prep time: 30 mins / Cook time: 2 hours (+ 4 hours cooling)

Makes 12


6 extra-large egg whites (room temperature)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Large pinch of kosher salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Cream:

1/2 pint (1 cup) heavy whipping cream

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pint fresh strawberries (finely chopped, leave 3 whole for garnish)

12 fresh mint leaves

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and using a pencil, draw around a 4-ounce ramekin or glass (3 1/2 inches) and make 6 circles on each sheet. Turn paper sheets face down.

On medium speed, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and kosher salt in the bowl of a large mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment until frothy.

Add 1 of cup sugar and increase speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Add the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and mix in.

Take the bowl off the mixer and gently fold in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.

Spoon the meringue inside the circle lines so it’s about 1 1/2 inches high and make a little divot in each to hold the strawberry cream. You may have to shape the divot with your fingers.

Bake both sheets in the oven for 2 hours or until the meringues are dry and crisp, but not browned. Check every 5 minutes or so after 1 1/2 hours.

Turn off the oven and let the meringues sit in there for 4 hours or overnight.

Make the strawberry cream by mixing the finely chopped strawberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir and let sit for at least an hour.

Whip the cream, adding the vanilla extract and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Just before serving, mix the strawberries into the whipped cream and spoon onto the meringues.

Garnish with a slice of strawberry and a little mint leaf.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe for Meringues Chantilly.

Barb Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by calling 503-636-1281, ext. 100, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter at @barbrandallfood

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