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National News / Food

Friday, 13 April, 2012 12:46 PM

Holy Ravioli! Pennsylvania Woman Takes Home $1 Million at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest

Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream was her winning recipe

Photo credit: Pillsbury

Confetti flies as Christina Verrelli celebrates being named the $1 million grand prize winner of the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. The Devon, Pa., woman’s recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream was selected from tens of thousands of entries. The announcement came during a special live broadcast of Hallmark Channel’s “The Martha Stewart Show,” at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida.



ORLANDO – Christina Verrelli of Devon, Pa. is surrounded by history – from the Liberty Bell to Valley Forge. Today she wrote her own page in history as she was named the $1 million grand prize winner at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest for her original recipe, Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream. The winner was announced live from Orlando, Fla. today on Hallmark Channel's “The Martha Stewart Show” (airs weekdays at 10:00 a.m. ET/P) by Martha Stewart, who served as Contest host.

Verrelli’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream was inspired by a local favorite of hers, sweet donuts with three dipping sauces. “It’s a unique use of the products and is something different for people to try and make at home, says Verrelli.” She remembers making her grandmother’s recipes with her mom. “This recipe reminds me of that. I can picture generations rolling out dough at home together.”

Made with simple ingredients such as Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® dough sheets, LAND O LAKES® Butter, McCormick® Pumpkin Pie Spice, Pillsbury® Flour, Fisher® Pecans, and Hershey’s® caramel syrup, not only is this delicious dessert right on trend with its savory and sweet topping of salted caramel whipped cream, but it’s a refreshing twist on a classic pumpkin pie at the same time.

“It was truly reminiscent of the crispy pie crust my grandmother used to make,” said Lynn Blanchard, Test Kitchen Director at Better Homes and Gardens. “This recipe really pushed the boundaries on the definition of a ravioli,” added Jeff Houck, food editor at the Tampa Tribune. “The pastry was an absolute knockout and the filling is so versatile – it can be a wonderful dessert for Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July.”

“Christina’s recipe is an innovative and sweet take on a traditional, savory favorite: it's not like any ravioli I've ever tasted. This will be a fun dish to make, and even more enjoyable to eat,” said Martha Stewart. “I can see how this winning recipe dazzled the judges, and I think it will inspire other home cooks around the country to make it for their family and friends.”

Christina’s recipe also won her GE kitchen appliances valued at $10,000 as part of the grand prize. She beat out 99 other home cooks in the country’s premier cooking competition, sponsored by General Mills, The J.M. Smucker Company, GE Appliances & Lighting, Fisher® Nuts, The HERSHEY Company, Land O’Lakes, Inc., McCormick & Company, Muir Glen®, and Progresso®.

In addition to the grand prize, several other finalists took home a slice of the pie. Three additional category winners were awarded $5,000 and $3,000 in GE kitchen appliances.

  • Breakfast & Brunches - Sausage-Pomodoro Brunch Bake
    Maria Vasseur of Valencia, Cal.
    Weekday mornings are usually a blur of activity for Maria, her husband and two daughters, so the family loves to savor a leisurely brunch on weekends. Maria tried her recipe one Saturday morning at home, incorporating fresh basil grown by one of her daughters. The brunch bake pairs well with a side of fruit, and it also makes a good weekend lunch.
  • Dinner Made Easy™ - Chicken Empanada Cones
    Donna Wolfe of Hamilton, N.J.
    An accomplished cook who loves to entertain, Donna finds particular joy in passing on her passion and creating “signature dishes” for loved ones’ birthdays. She delights in learning about new ingredients on her travels, and she finds inspiration closer to home at the local farmer’s market.
  • Entertaining Appetizers - Asparagus, Artichoke and Red Pepper Pizza
    Terri Sherman of Palos Heights, Ill.
    Terri and her two daughters love to act out their own cooking competitions in their suburban Chicago home. They take turns between creating the recipes using what they have on hand and being the judge. When she’s not in the kitchen or working, Terri is busy planning her wedding.
Salmon Crescent Sushi Rolls by Julie McIntire of Independence, Mo. was named the most innovative recipe by judges. She was honored with the GE Imagination At Work Award and $5,000 in GE kitchen appliances. Julie is always willing to try new things in the kitchen. For this recipe she combined her favorite foods, salmon and avocados, with Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® to create a simple and colorful sushi-inspired appetizer.

A handful of finalists were also rewarded for their use of specific ingredients in their recipes, each taking home a $5,000 prize for their culinary creation. The Jif® Peanut Butter Award was presented to Sandra Hilbert of Fort Littleton, Pa. for her Chewy Peanut Butter-Caramel Bars, which was the best recipe using at least 1⁄4 cup of Jif® Peanut Butter.

Linda Blakely of Berne, N.Y. won the Crisco is Cooking™ Award for Indonesian Chicken Turnovers with Spicy Peanut Sauce, which was the best recipe using at least one tablespoon of Crisco® Cooking Oil.

The Eagle Brand® Signature Recipe Award was given to Brett Youmans of Reading, Pa. recognizing his Orange Cream-Macadamia Torte for the best recipe using at least one 14 ounce can of Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk.

The 100 finalists included 95 women and five men, representing 35 states and ranging in age from 25 to 77. Each of the 100 finalists won a trip to the contest finals, including airfare, a two-night stay at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida, daily event-sponsored meals, a GE countertop microwave oven (estimated retail value of $200), and $125. On March 26, the 100 finalists prepared their recipes for judges at 100 GE mini-kitchens set up at the Peabody Orlando Hotel. The contest judges consisted of a panel of twelve food experts who evaluated the entries based on taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal.

Tune in to Hallmark Channel's “The Martha Stewart Show” at 2:00 p.m. ET/P on Wednesday, March 28 to see the grand prize winner announcement again.

Visit to see the million-dollar recipe as well as other finalists’ recipes to try at home.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest originated in 1949, with the first competition at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City. The contest was held annually from 1949 to 1978, when it switched to an every-other-year schedule. The $1 million grand prize was first awarded in 1996 in Dallas, Texas, to Kurt Wait, who was also the first man to win top honors in the contest.

Source: Pillsbury

Related Story: Attendees enjoy 3rd Annual Taste of La Quinta fundraiser



Additional finalists:


Peanut Butter Crunch Layer Bars

Becky Pifer
Blanchard, MI

Peachy Cream Cheese Appetizers

Shana Butler
San Diego, CA

Mushroom-Mozzarella Appetizer Cups

Michelle Hayes
Livonia, MI

Bacon-Date Scones with Orange Marmalade Glaze

Joanne Opdahl
Venice, CA

Chicken Primavera Crescent Braid

Cheryl Kassin
Sterling Heights, MI

Brie and Candied Tomato Tartlets

Kelly Drost
El Cajon, CA




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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.