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Zionville’s Amy Nelson Named Category Winner in Pillsbury Bake-Off

Amy Nelson, Zionville wife, mother, nurse and woman of many talents, is receiving nationwide notoriety for her Bejeweled Cranberry-Orange Rolls. Photos and information provided by Pillsbury.


By Sherrie Norris

After competing with thousands of cooks from across the country, Zionville resident Amy Nelson has been named a category winner in the 48th Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Claiming her title in the Breakfast Category with her Bejeweled Cranberry-Orange Rolls recipe, Nelson is among four category winners who will be featured in Food Network Magazine, receive a trip to New York for an appearance on Food Network’s hit show The Kitchen, a suite of GE Appliances and $5,000 in cash.

Nelson will also be competing for the grand prize, which includes a trip to New York for an appearance on The Kitchen, a kitchen makeover from GE Appliances and $50,000 in cash.

The winner will be announced during the 11 a.m. edition of The Kitchen on February 24.

According to a spokesperson representing Pillsbury, Nelson is a first- time Pillsbury Bake-Off category winner, and found inspiration for her winning recipe in memories with her mother, who discovered Pillsbury’s Orange Rolls during an out of town trip and embraced the product in her home.

“My mother was born in 1925 and was never a fancy or adventurous cook,” said Nelson. “We had the same meal for every holiday, whether it was Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas. She never wavered for fear of familial uprising!” But, Nelson contends, “Those meals together were unforgettable,” as she recalls that every holiday table always included the cranberry congealed salad, a familiar mixture of chopped fresh cranberries, orange, celery, pecans, pineapple and Jell-O.

“We devoured it,” she added, saying her husband “may have even married me because of it.”

“I have a handwritten notebook of recipes, and at the top of the cranberry-stained, well-used page that holds this one, it reads, “Called Mama every year (for the recipe). Wrote it down Thanksgiving 2000.”

While not a family of convenience foods and “having to eat homemade food at every meal,” Nelson shared, she thought of canned spaghetti and frozen dinners in aluminum trays as treats. “One year, though, we were visiting my sister and she had bought Pillsbury orange rolls for breakfast. They were so different from anything I had ever had . . . way before the gourmet cinnamon roll craze . . . and I loved them.”

Apparently, so did her mama, she recalled. “Because, fairly often after that they would show up in our fridge at home. They were a convenience food my mom took a liking to, and eating them takes me back in my mind to our kitchen table on mornings before school.”

In her recipe, Nelson said, the cranberry, pineapple, walnuts and ginger perfectly punctuate and complement the orange rolls.

“Yes, these rolls are ‘just food,’ but can food not, with its profound taste and olfactory power, send us, in an instant, back to a place of familiar and immediate happiness in our hearts? Yes.”

A later entry on the cranberry salad recipe page reads: “December 24, 2010: Didn’t make (the salad) for Thanksgiving this year. This is the second year without Mama and Daddy. I miss them terribly, but every motion during the holidays makes me remember them in happy, vivid detail. I will cook these rolls and remember . . .”

Nelson’s claim to fame evolved after she decided to answer the call to Pillsbury’s Oct. 2017 announcement that its bakeoff was back “with a new twist.” Partnering with Food Network and The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, the 2017 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest grew into “a celebration of family memories” and sought those family favorite recipes and the storied inspiration behind them.

Contestants were asked to submit their original recipe using Pillsbury refrigerated dough, along with the inspiration behind it, to any of the following categories: Cozy Breakfasts, Appetizers for Any Party, Dinners with Heart, and No-Fuss Desserts at BakeOff.com.

The original press release quoted Drummond saying, “Baking traditions have always been important in my family, and the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, which is a baking tradition in itself, has shaped the way many people bake for their own families today “

She anticipated the partnership between Pillsbury and Food Network in celebrating the memories made by American home cooks every day in kitchens around the country as “heartwarming, fun, and totally delicious.”

Other winners in the 2017 bake-off include:

Appetizers for Any Party Category: JoAnn Tucker for her Toasted Spinach Pesto Ravioli;

No-Fuss Desserts Category: Sandy Reiter for her Cookies ‘n’ Cream Caramel Candy Bars;

Dinners with Heart Category: Sarah Campbell for her Octoberfest Pizza

Rustic Pear & Almond Tart Recipe

According to Pillsbury, since its inception in 1949, the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest has been about inspiring home cooks everywhere to share their recipes, and celebrating the stories behind them. Over the years the contest has grown and changed to reflect what’s happening in real homes across the country.


Bejeweled Cranberry-Orange Rolls

Prep; 20 minutes

Total; 55 minutes

Ingredients: 7

Servings: 8



1 cup fresh cranberries

½ cup crushed pineapple, undrained (from 8-oz can)

½ cup strong ginger beer or ginger ale

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 can (13.9 oz.) Pillsbury™ Cinnabon refrigerated orange rolls with Orange icing

Heat oven to 400°F. Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. In 2-quart saucepan, cook cranberries, pineapple, ginger beer, orange juice concentrate and ginger over medium-high heat 10 to 14 minutes, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed and mixture is very thick. Remove from heat; cool 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in 10-inch skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Open can of dough; do not separate rolls. Set icing aside.

Carefully unroll dough onto cutting board, being careful not to separate. Spread cooled cranberry mixture evenly on dough; sprinkle with walnuts. Carefully reroll dough. With serrated knife, cut each roll at perforations, wiping blade of knife after each for clean cuts. Place rolls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet, reshaping rolls if necessary.

Bake 9 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Spread icing evenly over warm rolls.