Ellie Mathews from Seattle, Washington wanted to dream up something to do with a can of refrigerated biscuits that no one had tried before. What would happen, she wondered, if she boiled a tube of refrigerated biscuits. Why not? After all, bagels are boiled before baking them, right? Don’t try it, she advised. But it’s a good thing she tried, because after that experiment, a million dollar recipe was born.
Ellie prefers to keep her cooking simple. “I typically buy ingredients that look good and wrestle them into a pan and serve a meal,” she related in an interview a few years ago. “I don’t do a lot. I’m not a fussy cook. I don’t put four kinds of sea salt into something or 18 different kinds of vinegar or whatever. I wouldn’t say I’m a plain cook, but I’m fairly practical.”
Initially, Ellie thought her winning recipe, “Salsa Couscous Chicken,” would be a way for her to hopefully make it to the Bake-Off with the idea of being “in training” so she could get a feel for how the contest worked, so she could “go back another time in earnest.” Instead, Ellie nailed it on her first try. The dish is easy and delicious, using couscous, a trendy item at the time.
Ellie and her million dollar dish!
Ellie is a former cartographer and graphic software designer, and proud mother and grandmother. She is also an award-winning author, one book being about her experience at the Bake-Off titled “The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir.”
Ellie was featured on “Oprah,” and “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” along with other appearances preparing her now famous dish. Here is a link to a fun and interesting interview with Ellie on NPR:
I love cookbooks. I mean I really love them. I love to read them, treasure them, learn from them, and, of course, cook from them. To me, cookbooks take on a life all of their own. They are history, family, and memories. I have been collecting cookbooks and writing down treasured recipes of family, friends, and neighbors since about age twelve, which means I now own thousands of cookbooks, recipes, and clippings. Now I want to share them with you along with the many other culinary treasures of my cellar." - Debbie Vanni
The closest I ever got to the million dollars was sitting next to Ellie during the awards ceremony :)Her recipe is terrific, but my all time favorite bake-off recipe is Edwina’s 10K winning cake.
I have heard that Edwina’s cake is amazing. It’s on my Bake-Off-recipes-to-make-list!
I’m thoroughly enjoying reading all of your Bake-off Blogs…your writing is lovely and really funny.
Thank you, Natalie! I am so happy you are enjoying all the blogs. Only six more to go before the next Bake-Off. I will miss writing them, because after the contest in March, there will not be another for two years!
I enjoyed reading about Ellie! A Facebook friend had sent me her book and it was fun to read. I love anything about the Bake Off, and your blog postings are great, Debbie! I’m putting Edwina’s cake on my “to make” list!
Thank you, Ronna! I think we should tell Edwina everyone wants to make her cake!
I had to Google Edwina’s cake. Is it the one with brownie mix that everyone is referring to? Sounds like a good one for Cookie Madness.
Yes, Anna. It uses a brownie mix and has a mint cream served with it. Sounds wonderful!