Residents face off in chocolate-themed competition

Chocolate was all that stood between two competing teams of residents and chefs during the Messiah Lifeways “Iron Chef-style” Chefs Challenge May 19. Messiah Lifeways, formerly known as Messiah Village, is a Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based nonprofit provider of services for adults aged 55 or more years in South Central Pennsylvania.

As on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” show, each team had 60 minutes to prepare three plated courses (appetizer, main entrée and dessert) using a secret ingredient that was revealed the day of the show. In this case, the ingredient was chocolate. Resident participants and chefs also had access to pantry items, including flour, sugar, spices, fresh herbs, produce and proteins. 

Teams were required to prepare two servings of each food, with one show plate per course, for a panel of three “celebrity” judges who awarded the Golden Whisk based on a 20-point system, with a maximum of 10 points given for taste, five for presentation and five for originality.

The panel of judges—who critiqued foods based on taste, presentation and originality—included Mitch Possinger, president and founder of Cura Hospitality, a dining services and hospitality provider serving senior living communities and hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region; Tom Long, proprietor of Ice Works and executive chef at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa.; and Char Magaro, owner of Char's at Tracy Mansion in Harrisburg, Pa.

“We organize these events for our residents to promote LivingLife, Cura's  philosophy that strives to nourish, heal and uplift the spirit and body through memorable dining experiences,” Franklin Oiler, RD, LDN, Cura Hospitality general manager of dining services at Messiah Village, told Long-Term Living. “Most importantly, we want people to be surprised with the exceptional food they find in a ‘retirement home.’ ”

Team “Rose Between Two Thorns”—Lindsey Clinton and Eldon Blosser, Cura Hospitality chefs who both serve Messiah Lifeways; Susan Vogeney-Fulginiti, a 24-year veteran cook at Messiah Lifeways; and Jesse Weigel, MD, a Messiah Lifeways resident—prepared the winning chocolate-inspired meal:

  • Appetizer: Chili- and cocoa-crusted seared scallops with bacon, sweet corn and pepper relish, topped with toasted walnuts.
  • Entrée: Smoky cocoa- and chili-crusted flank steak with sautéed wild mushrooms and chocolate vinaigrette, with braised red cabbage and white beans.
  • Dessert: Peanut butter chocolate mousse with vanilla wafer crust.

Recipes appear below.

Chili- and Cocoa-Crusted Seared Scallops with Bacon, Sweet Corn and Pepper Relish and Toasted Walnuts

Serves 2

Sweet Corn Bacon Relish

  • 1/2 of a white onion, diced small
  • 1/4 C bacon, diced
  • 1/4 C red pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C scallion, chopped
  • 3/4 C fresh corn cut off the cob
  • 1/4 C white wine
  • 1/8 t chili powder
  • 1/8 t cumin
  • 1/4 C unsalted butter
  • 1 T chopped fresh chervil
  • 1 T chopped fresh chives
  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the bacon and sauté it until the fat is rendered out and the bacon begins to become crisp.
  2. Add the onions, red pepper, garlic, scallions and corn. Sauté the vegetables until they are tender, on medium-high heat.
  3. Add the spices and white wine. Cook until wine is almost all evaporated.
  4. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted.
  5. Add the chopped herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Keep it warm until served.


  • 8 large fresh sea scallops
  • olive oil
  • 3 T cocoa
  • 1 1/2 T chili powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  1. Clean the scallops, removing the muscle.
  2. Heat the scallops in a nonstick skillet until they begin to just smoke.
  3. Add olive oil just to coat the bottom of the pan. 
  4. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and coat them with the cocoa mixture.
  5. Place the scallops in hot pan, flat side down.
  6. Sear the scallops for two minutes on each side.
  7. Remove the scallops from the pan and serve them atop corn relish.
  8. Drizzle the chocolate vinaigrette on the plate, and sprinkle toasted walnuts on top. You also can garnish with chopped fresh chervil.

Smoky Cocoa- and Chili-Crusted Flank Steak with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and Chocolate Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

Flank Steak

  • 1 small flank steak
  • 1/2 C cocoa
  • 1/3 C chili powder
  • 1 T mesquite seasoning
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • 1 t kosher salt
  1. Trim the flank steak and pat it dry with a paper towel.
  2. Mix the seasonings together and heavily coat the flank steak on both sides. Set it aside.
  3. Heat the grill on high heat until it is very hot. Mark both sides of the flank steak for about two minutes on each side. If you have a thicker flank steak, then remove it from grill and place it in a hot oven for about five to 10 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness of meat (chef recommends medium rare). The internal temperature of the meat should reach 135 degrees.
  4. Set it aside and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before carving.


  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 C onion, minced
  • 1 C sliced shitake mushrooms and 1 C sliced oyster mushrooms (or use any combination of mushrooms that you like)
  • 1/4 C chocolate vinaigrette
  1. In a sauté skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions and mushrooms until they are tender and slightly browned.
  2. Add the vinaigrette and sauté the mixture for several minutes. You will get some residual fat from the vinaigrette that you can pour off if you do not want that extra fat.
  3. Slice rested flank steak on a bias and present the mushrooms on top of the flank steak.
  4. Drizzle with a small amount of vinaigrette.

Chocolate Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 C melted dark chocolate (50 percent cocoa)
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 C pure olive oil
  1. In a blender, add the melted chocolate and vinegar and blend until smooth.
  2. Add the honey and salt, blending until combined.
  3. With the blender on the medium setting, slowly trickle in the olive oil until all is added.
  4. Taste and adjust the acidity with more honey, salt or oil depending on the intensity you prefer.
  5. Use as a sauce or garnish on the plate.

Braised Red Cabbage with White Beans

Serve with the flank steak and mushroom recipe.

  • 2 C sliced red cabbage
  • 1 C canned northern beans
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 C diced onion
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 2 T chopped chervil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a sauté skillet, melt down the butter and sauté the onion until tender.
  2. Add the red cabbage and sauté it until it is wilted.
  3. Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce the sauce down until it is almost evaporated.
  4. Add the northern beans and heat through.
  5. Finish with chervil, salt and pepper

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Wafer Crust

Serves 4

Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse

  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 C very cold heavy cream
  • 3 large egg whites (no traces of yolk), at room temperature
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)
  • 2 T peanut butter powder
  1. Fill a medium saucepan with two inches of water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Place the chocolate and 1/4 C of the heavy cream in a large heatproof bowl. (Place remaining cream back in the refrigerator until ready to use.) Nest the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring it occasionally with a rubber spatula until smooth and combined with the cream. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set it aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place egg whites in a second large bowl and whisk vigorously until stiff peaks form, about three minutes (make sure the bowl and whisk have no trace of oil or fat, or the whites will not whip properly); set aside. (Alternatively, you can use an electric mixer.)
  4. Clean and dry the whisk (or your beaters if you’re using an electric mixer). Place the remaining 3/4 C of heavy cream in a third large bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. (Alternatively, you can use an electric mixer.)
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold half of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate, and then gently stir in the rest (try not to deflate the whipped cream). Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate cream mixture just until there are no longer large blobs of whipped cream or egg white (do not overmix)
  6. Fold in the peanut butter powder.

Vanilla Wafer Crisp

Serves 4

  • 2 1/2 C vanilla wafers, ground finely
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 4 T melted butter
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 t peanut butter powder
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. The crumbs should be moist but not wet with butter. 
  2. Using a ring mold on a silpat (silicone cover for cookie sheet), press the cookie mixture into ring molds about 1/2-inch thick.
  3. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven for eight minutes minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Remove and let cool before removing from ring mold. 
  5. Using a spatula, gently remove the cookie from the cookie sheet and place it on a serving plate.
  6. Pipe peanut butter mousse on top of the cookie and serve.
  7. You can garnish with chocolate ganache on the plate.

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