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Yes, that’s what it took to sweep first-place prizes at Mass Mental Health’s December 16 Throwdown! holiday party loosely modeled on a Bobby Flay Food Network competition and conceived and organized by Center Director, Laura Rood.

Olive cream cheese penguin

March of the penguins

Holiday party/food competition

Judging the entries were Area Director of Metro Southeast Department of Mental Health and Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Cliff Robinson, and Jules’ very own Anita Baglaneas. The three categories for contest submission were: Appetizers, Flans, and Desserts. “I have a lot of Latino colleagues and I happen to love flan,” explained Laura Rood, “so the initial concept centered on a flan competition. But we’re a multifaceted group with good appetites, and the competition expanded to include appetizers and other desserts.”

Jules Catering's Anita Baglaneas volunteers as judge of Mass Mental Health Food Competition

Cliff and Anita assess food presentation while Mass Mental Health staff patiently wait to dig in

While criteria for the judges’ assessment were: Creativity, Presentation, and Taste, the popular vote was primarily based on the “mmm-mmm, good!” factor. And, hotly contested though the competition was, we are pleased to report that there were no voting irregularities and no hanging chads!

Jules Catering helps Judge Food Contest at Mass Mental Health

          The voting process was orderly; polls closed promptly, at 3:15 p.m. 

Cash prizes!

Six $100-prizes were awarded (three donated by Jules), but just five contestants cashed in because Mass Mental Health psychologist Jude Leung, PhD (below), won both the Popular and Judged votes for Best Appetizer. “It was just such an over-the-top fabulous and creative presentation,” enthused Judge Anita. “It was painstakingly prepared, the penguins tasted good, and it made us all laugh!”

Jules supports good causes

Center Director Rood also waxed enthusiastic: “Jules Catering has been a longtime supporter of Mass Mental Health, donating food for parties and picnics that are enjoyed by both clients and staff. This year, Anita gave her time to help judge our event, and now we’re pleased to give a little something back–that is, a recipe for edible penguins!”

Party with penguins!

Penguins are entertaining creatures with interesting eating habits of their own, so if you feel inclined to invite some into your home and share with family and friends, please see below:

Cream Cheese-Olive Penguins Recipe

Food contest prize winner at Mass Mental Health

Penguin innovator

18 small black olives
4 oz. onion and chives cream cheese, softened
4 oz. block of cheddar cheese
1 carrot
(optional) bell pepper, various colors
(optional) one or two 8 oz. block of regular cream cheese
(optional) blue Jell-O

  1. Cut a section from top to bottom, lengthwise, into the side of each jumbo olive.
  2. Using a piping bag, carefully insert into each olive about 1 teaspoon of cream cheese.
  3. For the beaks, cut 18 small, thin, triangular wedges out of the carrot. Cut a small horizontal slit into each small olive and insert a carrot wedge to form the beak.
  4. Slice the cheddar cheese into eighteen 1/4-inch thick rounds; cut a small triangular notch out of each cheese slice to form feet.
  5. Set a big olive, large-hole-side down, onto a cheese slice. Set a small olive onto the large olive, adjusting so that the beak, cream cheese chest, and notch in the cheese slice line up. Secure with a toothpick.
  6. (optional) Cut long, thin strands out of brightly colored peppers and wrap around the penguins’ necks to form scarves.
  7. (optional) Use slices of cream cheese and blue Jell-O to form a winter wonderland background of icebergs and sea.

Yield: 18 penguins.
Advance preparation: You can prepare several hours ahead and refrigerate.
Mass Mental Health psychologist Jude Leung, PhD, adapted this recipe from one she found at allrecipes.com.

Olive cream cheese penguin appetizer

           After the votes were counted penguins roared, “We’re Number One!”

Photo Credits: Liz Muir