- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ronna Farley of Rockville is no stranger to the Pillsbury Bake-Off. She was a finalist in 1975 when she was 20. The recipe she prepared, ham and cheese crescent snacks, was selected for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Hall of Fame during the celebration of a half-century of the contest in 2000.

For months prior to the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando last week, she had a feeling her choco-peanut butter cups were good enough to be a winner. The judges agreed.

She wasn’t the top prizewinner, but she did win $10,000 and a GE Profile oven for her recipe. The snack-size tarts look elegant, but are easy to assemble and require only five ingredients: refrigerated cookie dough, white and semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter and a granola bar.

The only step that takes much time is the hour or so of refrigeration to set the filling.

Mrs. Farley and husband Neal have been married 33 years and have two grown children. She is a file clerk for Giant Food, where her colleagues call her “Sugar Mama” for bringing them her samples of dessert snacks.

Mrs. Farley said of her creation, “I feel like their mommy — I can’t believe I made them.” She plans to use the prize money “as a down payment on a nice addition to my kitchen,” and she hopes her success will inspire others in the area to enter the next Bake-Off in 2008.

Sweets are the frequent Bake-Off winners, but Austin, Texas, resident Anna Ginsberg won the $1 million top prize for her savory chicken dish.

Mrs. Ginsberg’s baked chicken and spinach stuffing includes common freezer items — spinach and frozen waffles. Her idea was to cut Pillsbury Dunkables frozen waffle sticks into cubes to substitute for bread in the stuffing.

She used the accompanying syrup as a glaze for the bone-in chicken breasts by mixing it with peach preserves and Worcestershire sauce. The judges were intrigued by the twist on a traditional chicken dinner.

Mrs. Ginsberg is a stay-at-home mother of a 4-year-old daughter. Her dream to open a coffee house and serve homemade cookies and cater to young families is $1 million closer to reality.

To see the prize winners and all the recipes from this year’s competition, go to www.pillsbury.com/bakeoff.

Choco-peanut butter cups

Ronna Farley’s recipe won a $10,000 prize in the 2006 Pillsbury Bake-Off.

1 18-ounce roll Pillsbury refrigerated peanut butter cookies

1 cup (6 ounces) Hershey’s premier white chips

1½ cups creamy peanut butter

1 cup (6 ounces) Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup crushed Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey crunchy granola bars (4 bars from 2 pouches in 8.9-ounce box; see note)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray or shortening. Cut cookie dough into 24 slices. Press 1 slice in bottom and up the side of each mini muffin cup, forming 1/4-inch rim above top of cup (dust fingers with flour, if necessary).

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes. With tip of handle of wooden spoon, press dough down in center of each cup to make room for 2 tablespoons filling.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, melt white chips and 3/4 cup of the peanut butter over low heat, stirring constantly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon mixture into each dough-lined cup. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

In another 2-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips and remaining 3/4 cup peanut butter over low heat, stirring constantly. Spoon about 1 tablespoon chocolate mixture on top of peanut butter mixture in each cup. Sprinkle crushed granola bars over top of each. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Remove from muffin cups before serving. Makes 24 cookie cups.

Note: To easily crush granola bars, do not unwrap; use rolling pin to crush bars.

Baked chicken and spinach stuffing

This recipe from Anna Ginsberg won the $1 million prize in the 2006 Pillsbury Bake-Off.

9 Pillsbury Dunkables frozen waffle sticks with 3 syrup cups (1-pound box)

2 tablespoons peach preserves

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts (1 pound)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

½ cup chopped (1 medium) onion

1/4 cup chicken broth

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

½ teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1½ cups frozen cut leaf spinach (from 1-pound bag), thawed, squeezed to drain well

1 tablespoon beaten egg white

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate or 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. In small bowl, mix contents of syrup cups from waffles, the preserves and Worcestershire sauce. Place chicken, skin side up, in pie plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon syrup mixture over chicken. Bake uncovered 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast waffle sticks as directed on box. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes.

Cut waffles into 3/4-inch cubes; set aside. Spray 1-quart casserole with cooking spray (or use 9-by-5-inch nonstick loaf pan; do not spray).

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in waffle pieces and broth, breaking up and moistening waffle pieces. Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and sage.

Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Cool about 5 minutes. Stir in egg white and pecans.

Spoon stuffing into casserole; place in oven with chicken. Bake uncovered 15 to 25 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (170 degrees) and stuffing is thoroughly heated. Serve chicken with stuffing, spooning remaining sauce in pan over chicken.

Makes 2 servings.

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