Linda Gaetz Blakely of Middleburgh is teaming up with the Pillsbury Doughboy.
If the partnership is a success, Blakely will become the Pillsbury dough woman — she’ll win a cool million dollars. She’s one of 100 finalists in the upcoming Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Orlando, Fla., and the grand prize winner will receive a colander full of cash.
Home bakers and chefs know all about the competition, which Pillsbury began in 1949. The first exercise was held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, and it was held annually until 1978, when it switched to an every-other-year schedule. The $1 million prize has been up for grabs since 1996.
Blakely’s original recipe for Indonesian Chicken Turnovers with Spicy Peanut Sauce will be taste-tested against 99 other sensations, such as Smoky Onion-Custard Tarts from Arlene Erlbach of Morton Grove, Ill.,; Citrus-Shrimp Wraps from Sandra Gallant of Forestville, Calif.; and Sweet Potato and Apple-Chicken Sausage Pizza from Angela Greig of Mableton, Ga.
Blakely, 61, a 1967 graduate of Guilderland High School and a 1971 graduate of Skidmore College, entered the 45th version of the contest last spring. She learned in mid-September her turnovers had earned a spot on the piping hot and poppin’ fresh list.
Blakely wins $5000 Cooking with Crisco prize. Click here to read more.
“I was incredulous,” Blakely said. “I thought they had made a mistake, somebody was going to call me back and tell me they’d goofed. I’m not sure I can take it all in to this day, that I got in on my first try with one recipe.”
A lot of emails
Pillsbury receives plenty of email from prospective millionaires — only emails are accepted. “Tens of thousands,” said Pillsbury spokeswoman Jamie Travis.
Blakely is one of eight New York residents in the finals; the others are from Amherst, Buffalo, Brightwaters (Suffolk County), Cold Brook (Herkimer County), Fairport, Livonia and Staten Island. The Capital Region has been represented before. Linda Jankowich of Latham watched judges consider her recipe for Cheesy Ham and Apple Cups in 2010. She did not win any of the big money prizes.
Blakely’s recipe followed the rules — some ingredients used in all recipes must be produced by General Mills, the corporation that owns Pillsbury, Gold Medal flour, Green Giant vegetables, Yoplait yogurt, Progresso soup and bunches of other food companies. Blakely used Jif peanut butter; McCormick curry, cayenne pepper and garlic powder; Pillsbury crescent rolls; and Crisco oil to please General Mills’ team of independent judges. She also packed her rolls with chicken, chopped onions, scallions, raisins and shredded coconut.
Blakely ran her own taste test. Her parents, George and Dorothea Gaetz of Middleburgh, endorsed the turnovers. With her flavors in favor, Blakely made sure the recipe fit the other chief Pillsbury criteria for the “dinner made easy” category — the quick dinner can be made in less than an hour.
Food has always been in Blakely’s family. Her grandfather, Philip Raeder, operated the Albany Pork Stores in Schenectady and Scotia from 1941 through 1947. In 1948, Raeder and his wife, Meta, bought the former Canterbury House restaurant on Route 5; Philip and Meta divorced in 1952, and Philip returned to Germany. Meta ran the business alone until 1954, when she married Frank Fischer. The couple operated the Canterbury until they retired and sold the restaurant in 1978.
Event in late March
Blakely has already won a free trip to Orlando to cook her dish during the Bake-Off, scheduled for March 25-27. Hotel accommodations are on Pillsbury, and she’ll take home a General Electric countertop microwave oven and $125 in cash. She has already won a free black and gray Pillsbury apron decorated with multicolored flowers.
The grand prize will come from one of four recipe categories — in addition to “dinner made easy,” chefs have entered recipes in the “breakfast & brunches,” “entertaining appetizers” and “sweet treats” categories. The $1 million will be awarded as an annuity payable in installments of $50,000 each year for 20 consecutive years (no interest), with the first payment showing up in early May. The grand prize winner will also choose $10,000 in General Electric kitchen appliances. The winners in the remaining three categories will each receive $5,000 and choose $3,000 in GE kitchen appliances.
But wait, there’s more. Awards worth $5,000 have been offered by General Electric, Jif peanut butter, Crisco and Eagle products. Blakely is eligible for the GE award — for imagination and innovation — and for the Jif and Crisco awards because she has used those products in her recipe.
Blakely, a former flight attendant for Overseas National Airways and a retired medical editor for the MedQuist medical information processing company, owns 700 cookbooks. The collection includes every Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe book.
If Blakely wins the big money, she could afford a few more. She hasn’t made plans for money that would come at 100-1 odds but said part of a windfall would go to parts of Schoharie damaged last summer by Hurricane Irene.
Right now, she’s just thinking about turnovers. The 100 finalists will prepare their recipes on Monday, March 26, in 100 mini-kitchens at the Peabody Orlando Hotel in Florida. Judges will taste and make their decisions.
“I’m just going to go in there to make dinner like I’ve done lots of times in my life, hope I don’t scorch anything and have a good time,” she said.
Here’s Blakely’s recipe, courtesy of Pillsbury. Other Pillsbury Bake-Off recipes are available at www.pillsbury.com.
Indonesian Chicken Turnovers with Spicy Peanut Sauce
8 tablespoons Crisco pure canola oil
3⁄4 cup finely chopped onions
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (from 2-pound chicken)
1 tablespoon McCormick curry powder
3⁄4 teaspoon McCormick garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon McCormick cayenne pepper
1 can (6 ounces) pineapple juice
1⁄4 cup canned crushed pineapple
1⁄4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped bread-and-butter pickles (not pickle relish)
2 cans Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1⁄4 cup Jif creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion with top
In 10-inch skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add 3⁄4 cup onions; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onion is softened. Add chicken, curry powder, garlic powder and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in pineapple juice, crushed pineapple, raisins, coconut and pickles. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll both cans of crescent dough; separate dough into 8 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Press each piece of dough into 7-by-31⁄2-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 2 squares. Place about 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture onto center of each square; fold dough in half diagonally to form a triangle. With fork, seal edges. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, combine peanut butter, remaining 5 tablespoons oil, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and green onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wire whisk, or until thoroughly heated.
To serve, place 2 turnovers on each of eight plates. Drizzle each turnover with 1 teaspoon of the sauce. Serve with remaining sauce. Sprinkle turnovers with additional chopped green onion, if desired.
Nutritional information, 1 serving. Calories, 510 (calories from fat 300). Total fat, 33 grams (saturated fat, 7 grams, trans fat, 3 grams. Cholesterol, 35 milligrams. Sodium, 900 milligrams. Total carbohydrates, 37 grams. Dietary fiber, 1 gram. Sugars, 15 grams. Protein, 15 grams.