Wednesday March 27, 2013 | 11:52 AM

Over the past five years, Sarah Malikowski has found a new hobby: entering cooking and baking contests.


It’s working out well for her.


Last year, she was one of eight finalists in the Beringer Great Steak Challenge, competing for a first place prize of $25,000. She flew to the Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley, where she was treated to a weekend of first-class accommodations, decadent dinners and VIP tours of the valley.


The contest was hosted by the Deen brothers and will air June 6 on the Cooking Channel. You’ll have to tune in to find out how Malikowski fared.


This year, the Hampden engineer has moved on to a bigger kitchen and a much bigger carrot: the $1 million grand prize in the 46th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off. She is the only semifinalist in the competition from Maine.


The Bake-Off redesigned the $1 million competition this year, selecting some recipes to go to an online vote. To go any further in the contest, Malikowski needs votes from the public for her Southwest Chicken Biscuit Sandwiches in the “Doable Dinners” category – and there’s only 24 hours left to vote. So go here and do your duty as fellow Mainers!


Voting will be open through noon Thursday.


The contest redesign also limited recipes this year to seven or fewer ingredients, and the dish must take only 30 minutes or less to prepare, not including baking or cooling time. The changes are designed to encourage simpler original recipes.


Malikowski said her recipe (see below)  was “kind of spur of the moment. I tried it a couple of different ways, and it probably took me a couple of weeks to figure it all out. I had a couple of different recipes that I entered, and this one was picked.”


The other recipe was a lobster ravioli that used Pillsbury pie crust as ravioli dough.


“The flavors were good,” Malikowski said, “but the pie crust was a little weird.”


If it seems like the change in the Bake-Off rules favors who has the most friends instead of the best recipe, that thought hasn’t been lost on Malikowski, either.


“I guess I’m a little disappointed,” she said. “I feel like it’s a little bit more of a popularly contest. I think that’s a little bit unfortunate just because I think there’s probably some people that enter that don’t go on Facebook or Twitter, so maybe that puts them at a little bit of a disadvantage.”


The 100 finalists will compete Nov. 10-12 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.


What would Malikowski do with the $1 million prize?


“We love to travel, so we’d probably go on vacation,” she said. “Maybe pay off the house.”


Help a girl out, Maine.




SOUTHWEST CHICKEN BISCUIT SANDWICHES

Prep time 25 minutes
Total time 25 minutes


Ingredients

1 can Pillsbury Grands! Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (8 count)

3 tablespoons Crisco 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken

2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese (12 ounces)
1 cup thinly sliced poblano chile pepper (1 medium)
2 tablespoons fajita seasoning or chicken taco seasoning mix

Step 1
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place biscuits on large ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Sprinkle each biscuit with 1 tablespoon of the cheese; press in lightly. Lightly sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden brown.

Step 2
Meanwhile, in 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add sliced pepper; cook 3 minutes or until softened. Stir in chicken, fajita seasoning and tomato sauce. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3
Split biscuits. Spoon hot chicken mixture on bottom half of each biscuit. Top each with about 1/3 cup of the remaining cheese and biscuit tops.


About the Author

Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.

Meredith can be contacted at 791-6332 or mgoad@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @meredithgoad


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