Amy Winters makes Chicago-style deep-dish pizza
Nine years after their wedding, Amy and Jonathan Winters are finally going to have a short honeymoon when they travel next month to the Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando.
Amy is one of 100 finalists competing for $1 million in the 44th contest, a thrill in itself; but the opportunity for these high school sweethearts to break away from their three children for a few days is, shall we say, the whipped cream on their strawberry shortcake.
Married at 20, "we had no money," says Amy, 29, so "our mini getaway was an Amtrak trip to Detroit to visit family."
The three-night trip promises to be memorable, if whirlwind. The Winters have to pay a guest fee for Jonathan, but Amy's expenses are covered, including airfare, posh hotel room and all meals, including a formal dinner for all contestants, awards show and celebration in the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom.
"I've never entered anything before," says Amy, whose Deep-Dish Sausage Patty Pizza whisked her into April 12 contest. "They called in September and I was completely caught off-guard; I had almost forgotten about it."
The Winters all fell for Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza when they moved to Bartlett four years ago.
"When you have three young kids it gets kind of expensive to eat out," she says. "This tastes like pizzeria pizza for under $10."
She prepares and bakes it in a cast iron skillet for a crispy bottom, topping it off with chunky, homemade tomato sauce in the classic Windy City style.
Since she became a finalist Amy has been making her pizza over and over, experimenting with turkey sausage, eggplant and other vegetables.
"We have it every weekend; I've gained 10 pounds," she says.
Raised by a single mother, and with two younger siblings, she started cooking early to help out at home, relying on a Betty Crocker cookbook, her first. When her mother died 10 years ago Amy developed a new outlook on life.
"If you want it, go for it," she says. "I want to have lots of pleasant experiences while I'm still here."
Amy works part-time at home fielding customer service calls while the kids are at school and cooks on a budget with coupons and a lot of slow-cooker meals.
Today she shares her crockpot chicken and dumplings plus a hearty Greek pasta salad with whole grain penne and that potentially million-dollar pizza.
"I'm kind of superstitious; I'm trying hard not to think about what I would do with the money," she says. "Starting a college fund is up there."
Stay tuned. We'll let everyone know how she does after the contest.
In the meantime, good luck Amy!