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Gresham woman needs help to win Bake-Off


Carolyn Westerback and her Chipotle Meatballs so close to Pillsbury finals

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Carolyn Westerback, here with her children Genevieve, left, and Henry, shows off her Chipotle Meatball Appetizers, one of 60 recipes people can vote on online. She hopes to win the chance to go to the finals in Las Vegas where 100 recipes will vie for the $1 million prize.Call it beginner’s luck.

Gresham resident Carolyn Westerback has made it into the Pillsbury Bake-Off semifinals with the first recipe she’s ever submitted to a cooking contest.

Her “Chipotle Meatball Appetizer” is one of 60 semifinalists in the newly revamped 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest that Americans can vote on whether to advance them to the finals.

The recipe, in the Simple Sweets & Starters category, needs online votes in order to become one of 100 finalists that will compete at the Bake-Off finals Nov. 10-12 in Las Vegas. The grand prize is $1 million.

That’s a lot of dough, but for Westerback, she’d be content to just make it to the Vegas finals.

“That’s the fun of it for me,” she said. “The million dollars would be nice, but I really want to go to the bake-off.”

Her recipe is one of 34 in the Simple Sweets & Starters category, but other categories include Amazing Doable Dinners and Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts. Voting in Westerback’s category ends June 27. Visit www.pillsbury.com/BakeOff/Voting-Home to vote.

It is the first time in the contest’s 64-year history that America will determine which semifinalists compete at the Bake-Off.

And it’s the first time Westerback has entered a cooking contest.

The rules were simple: Use no more than seven ingredients, including two from a list of eligible products from sponsors, and take no more than 30 minutes to prepare.

She used Pillsbury crescent rolls and string cheese — both staples in her fridge — to craft her creation. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Carolyn Westerback's Chipotle Meatball Appetizers.

Her two children, Genevieve, 6, and Henry, 3, were testers. The latter gave rave reviews and ate five in one sitting.

“Which is quite an accomplishment for me because usually he only eats things that are white,” she said. And that’s why she always has crescent rolls and string cheese on hand.

Her husband, Mark, as well as her sister Christine Binnicker in Denver, also served as taste testers, with her sister making the recipe and trying it in Colorado.

“Some of these people I am up against have their own food blogs,” Westerback said. “I am not sure how I got into the mix.

“I am not a foodie. I’m a home cook. Believe it or not I’m really not that talented of a cook. But I can look at an empty refrigerator and figure out what to cook.”

Westerback, 44, grew up in Minnesota, where Pillsbury is based. Pillsbury is a brand name used by Minneapolis-based General Mills and Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Company.

The brand is such a part of local culture, everyone knows someone who works for Pillsbury, and children dress up as the Pillsbury Dough Boy for Halloween.

She has vague recollections of watching the competition on television, and to this day, she saves box tops for education. “It’s the granddaddy or the grandmother of recipe contests,” Westerback said. “It’s nostalgic. It’s Americana.”

And being named a semifinalist, “it’s quite a kick.”

Carolyn Westerback’s Chipotle Meatballs

Seven ingredients

30 minutes prep time

50 minutes total time


• 1 can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (8 count)

• 1 tablespoon Crisco Pure Vegetable Oil

• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

• 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from 7-oz. can)

• 12 frozen Italian-style meatballs (1/2 oz. each), thawed, halved

• 4 pieces mozzarella string cheese (1 oz. each)

• 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled, cut into 24 small slices

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Separate dough into four rectangles; press perforations to seal. Cut each rectangle into six squares. Press each square in bottom and up side of mini muffin cup. Bake 6 minutes. Remove from oven. Using handle of wooden spoon, immediately make 1-1/2 -inch indentation in center of each cup.

Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in chipotle chili and the adobo sauce, meatballs and 2 tablespoons water. Cover; reduce heat to low. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally or until thoroughly heated. Remove meatballs from skillet. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of the sauce into each cup. Top each with one meatball half, cut side up.

Cut each piece of string cheese lengthwise in half; cut each half crosswise into thirds. Top each meatball with 1 piece string cheese. Bake 6 to 10 minutes longer or until edges are golden brown and cheese is melted. Cool 1 minute; remove from cups.

Top each meatball cup with 1 avocado slice; secure with wooden toothpick. Serve warm.