Beth Velatini's Best Buffalo Chicken Chili wins SparkPeople slow-cooker recipe contest

Beth Velatini's Best Buffalo Chicken Chili notched another win – this time one that Velatini will surely savor.

Her slow-cooker recipe won the SparkPeople’s Split-the-Pot contest which netted a $10,000 prize that she’ll split with a hunger-fighting organization. SparkPeople recently held a slow-cooker recipe contest to celebrate the re-launch of their recipes and cooking website, SparkRecipes.com.

When Velantini learned her Best Buffalo Chicken Chili recipe came out on top in the competition she was "jumping up and down," although perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise since her recipe has won cook-offs for not only for her blog readers but also her sister’s co-workers.

 "I started making my buffalo chicken chili in January of 2010," Velatini said.  "I love anything with hot sauce, so chicken seemed like an obvious choice once I decided to add Frank's Red Hot Sauce." 

●  See WCPO story - 9 Q&A: Got a good slow cooker recipe? How to enter a split-the-pot contest for you & charity

Her choice and her spicy recipe for it certainly captured the taste buds of SparkPeople, a Cincinnati-based company that provides free online nutrition, health and fitness tools for people to lead healthier lives.  Its recipes website, SparkRecipes.com, offers free healthy recipes, kitchen tips and cooking videos.

 ● Connect with SparkPeople on Facebook

Fifteen recipes were chosen to enter the final round in November. SparkPeople has since made the fifteen recipes and rated them by taste, appearance and ease of preparation.

"Picking the winning recipe was incredibly difficult," Joe Robb, digital marketing manager for SparkPeople, said.   However, the team at SparkPeople were at-the-ready to prepare the recipes.  "Because of the nature of our company, many of the people who work here are very interested in - and good at preparing - healthy, delicious food.  There wasn’t a bad dish or bad preparation among any of our final recipes."

Velatini is particular about grinding her own chicken meat, because store-bought ground chicken "grosses her out." 

"I always think that after they do what they do with chickens, they take the scraps and wrap it up and label it "ground chicken," she explained.

● See Beth Velatini's winning Best Buffalo Chicken Chile recipe

Velatini plans to use a portion of her prize money to catch up on bills.   "My husband and I will be celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary in December so I know we'll be having a nice dinner out somewhere," she said. The rest of the money will go to savings.

Velatini will split the prize money of $10,000 with Common Threads, an organization dedicated to teaching children in under-served communities how to cook wholesome and healthy meals.  According to the Common Threads website, the curriculum-based after-school program teaches children "serious culinary skills, a taste for healthy food from different countries, and the confidence to make healthy choices about what they eat."

● Find out more about Common Threads

SparkPeople will feature the winning recipe in its weekly email to its members.  "The winning recipe will be featured there next week, reaching millions of SparkPeople members around the world. We’ll also write a blog post about the grand prize winner, the recipe, and the hunger-relief charity the winner has chosen to receive the $5,000," Robb said.  SparkPeople has also set up a pin board to feature all of the recipes in the finalist round.

● Click to see pin board of finalist recipes

SparkPeople is compiling the best recipes from this contest into a free, downloadable PDF cookbook, available to anyone in the world.  "The original goal of this contest was to find the best slow cooker recipes in the U.S.; now that we’ve found them, we want to make them available to anyone who is looking for delicious, easy-to-prepare, and healthy recipes," Robb added.

SparkRecipes.com was recently re-designed to make the site more user-friendly and visually appealing.  According to Robb, the Split-the-Pot contest has been a "nice way to introduce new visitors to our site, as well as bring back users who hadn’t been to the site in awhile."

Robb describes the response to the new SparkRecipes.com as being "overwhelmingly positive."

SparkPeople was careful not to make changes that would end up frustrating their long time users.  "The most frequent responses we’ve received have been compliments on the new, streamlined design and our new seasonal and party pages, pages we’ve created that gather the best recipes for a particular holiday in one, easy to find place," Robb said.

● Click to see SparkRecipes.com

SparkPeople hopes to send the prize money to Velatini and Common Threads within the week.  The other fourteen finalists will be receiving their Amazon gift cards soon.

Velatini has an idea what helped her win the contest.

“I think what helped is that chili is universally liked,” she said. “It has readily available ingredients, but it's a twist on a classic."

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