With the help of local voters, Helen Fields of Paradise is headed to Las Vegas.
But the big winnings she hopes for won’t come at the slot machines or the craps tables.
The amateur culinary artist will gamble with an array of ingredients and an oven as she attempts to cook her way to the $1 million prize in the 2013 Pillsbury Bake-Off in November.
“I greatly appreciate all of the help people gave me,” Fields said.
Fields’ Honey and Bacon Brussels Sprouts Pizza was among the 33 recipes – out of 60 – that garnered enough online votes to make them finalists in the national contest’s “Amazing Doable Dinners” category.
Those winners, along with 34 finalists from the “Simple Sweets and Starters” (for which entries are being accepted through May 9) and 33 from “Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts” (category opens July 4), will vie for the grand prize money and appliances at the Bake-Off Nov. 10-12. Second-place receives $10,000 and third-place, $5,000.
Until then, Fields can’t do much more than wait. But she does intend to practice the “simple” recipe several times.
She concocted the easy-to-prep dish in a simple manner – adherance to the contest requirements, a little bit of innovative thinking and allegiance to a favorite food.
“What I normally do with cooking contests is, first, read the rules carefully,” she said. “I see what’s required to be used in the recipe and I start looking at what ingredients work well with together.”
In this contest, a recipe cannot call for more than seven ingredients, and its prep time has to be short. Contestants also have to use a couple of items from lists outlined by Pillsbury – one of which is Brussels sprouts.
“If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, you’re just not going to like this recipe,” Fields said. “But Brussels sprouts go good with cheese and bacon.”
Carrying forward that match, Fields continued the recipe’s development by incorporating a little creativity.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is usually used this way. What can I do different?’,” she said. “Think of taking a side or salad and making it into a sandwich or pizza. I like pizzas. Not just the plain red pizzas with pepperoni. Veggie pizzas and white pizzas are my favorites. Brussels sprouts are a side dish, but I thought, ‘I wonder how they’d do on a pizza crust?’. But in order to be a pizza, there has to be some kind of sauce. Honey is a nice complement to the bitter taste of the Brussels sprouts. So I tried that.”
And for the most part, she said, it worked well.
“It was a little sweeter than what I wanted it to be,” she said. “I didn’t add any salt because I thought the flavor of the bacon would offset the honey. But it needed it – less honey and a little bit of salt.”
She adjusted the recipe based on her observations and submitted it to the contest. That first and only run-through proved to be all she needed.
It was one of 60 chosen from a pool of thousands for the contest’s first category. Now, after online voting, it is one of 33 that will advance to the $1 million Bake-Off.
It’s the second time Fields has qualified for the competition. She competed in the 2010 Bake-Off in Orlando with her Cup of Joe Chocolate Chip Cookies.
“I’m so blessed to have made it in the first round this year,” Fields said. “The way we were notified was a little bit different than the past. Last time, I received a phone call. I was running through the house saying ‘It’s Pillsbury! It’s Pillsbury!’”
This time, she learned via a group message board on Facebook.
“We have a private group on Facebook called Pillsbury Wannabees for those who have entered their contests,” she said. “Somebody said they were trying to post their recipe but they couldn’t. Since you can only make it to the Bake-Off with one entry, it locks you out of submitting a new recipe if you were named a finalist … So when you went to log in, like that person had tried, you couldn’t submit anything.
“After reading that post, I went to log in, and there was a message congratulating me on being a finalist. Then later that night, I received an email from Pillsbury. It’s so different this year.”
Maybe the outcome for Fields will be different this time around as well.
If so, it will certainly have been worth the gamble.
HONEY AND BACON BRUSSELS SPROUTS PIZZA
Prep time – 20 minutes
Total time – 30 minutes
Yields 6 servings
- 1 box (10 oz) Green Giant frozen baby Brussels sprouts & butter sauce
- 1 can Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust
- 1 tablespoon Crisco Pure Olive Oil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (4 oz)
- 6 slices packaged pre-cooked bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1. Heat oven to 400 F. Spray 15×10-inch pan with sides with Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray. Microwave Brussels sprouts as directed on box. Remove from cooking pouch. Drain; reserve sauce. Coarsely chop Brussels sprouts; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
2. Meanwhile, unroll dough in pan; press dough to cover pan. Brush with olive oil. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from oven; immediately spread with honey.
3. Top with Brussels sprouts, cheese and bacon; drizzle with reserved butter sauce. Bake 8 to 12 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, in 8-inch skillet, toast pecans over medium heat for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove pizza from oven; sprinkle with pecans.