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Middle schooler's breakfast creation could win her a $25,000 scholarship

Date: 1/25/2010

Jan. 25, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW -- Although she's only 11 years old, Maria Marsian Boucher is already being recognized for her culinary skills.

Maria was recently named a top 10 finalist in the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest for her creation, the Peanutty Cristo Breakfast Sandwich. It's made of peanut butter, cream cheese, Smucker's preserves, fresh fruit and "powdered sugar, because everybody loves powdered sugar," according to Maria.

Her mother, Elizabeth Boucher, said Maria has always been a good helper in the kitchen.

"It is in her character to come up with something like this [breakfast sandwich]," Elizabeth said. She and her daughter brainstormed ideas for the sandwich after Elizabeth had come across the contest while searching for scholarships online. Jif will provide a $25,000 scholarship grand prize to the winner, and four runners-up will each receive a $2,500 scholarship fund.

A sixth grader at Birchland Park Middle School, Maria said she's always really liked cooking in the kitchen with her mom.

"I've been cooking since I was little," she told Reminder Publications. "I really like making cakes and making desserts. It's fun. It's a more fun process [than making other dishes]."

Maria said she tried out several different ideas before settling on the Peanutty Cristo Breakfast Sandwich, because "it tasted the best."

Jif agreed. Maria is now one of 10 children from across the country to be a finalist in the Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest, and it will be up the people of America to decide which sandwich they would like to see win. Votes are being taken online.

"My first reaction [to Maria being named to the top 10] was 'Wow!' I couldn't believe it," Elizabeth said. "I was really impressed by my daughter to be at this point. She's really made me proud."

Maria said she's really excited to be in the top 10 and, when asked why people should vote for her sandwich, she said, "It's special because it's a breakfast sandwich. Peanut butter is usually for lunch or dinner. I think it's creative. I also tried to make it healthier with whole wheat bread and egg substitutes."

She added that she plans to keep cooking as she grows older, but isn't sure what she wants to do when she grows up.

In its eighth year, the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest has encouraged kid chefs across the country to join their parents in the kitchen and flex their creative muscles in hopes of earning a scholarship fund for college.

It is up to America to vote for the five aspiring kid chefs who will make it to the next round, and one step closer to the $25,000 scholarship grand prize. To vote, visit between now and Feb. 10. Voters must be at least 13 years old.