Two locals are Bake-Off semi-finalists

By: Laura O’Brien, Loomis News Correspondent
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Bake-Off Semi-finalist Recipes

To vote for both of these recipes, go to You will need to register and can vote for more than one recipe. Voting ends at 9:59 a.m., this Thursday, March 28.

Balsamic Chicken Cranberry Panzanella

Created by Kalani Allred (nee Swickard) of Loomis


1 can Pillsbury® refrigerated classic pizza crust

4 uncooked chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces (about 6 oz)

3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1/4 cup balsamic dressing

3 tablespoons Crisco® 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce

Heat oven to 400°F. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unroll dough on cookie sheet. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove to cooling rack; cool 5 minutes. Tear crust into bite-size pieces; set aside.

Meanwhile, in 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally or until chicken is no longer pink in center and onion starts to caramelize. Stir in cranberries; cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Place chicken mixture in large serving bowl. Keep warm. Wipe skillet.

In same skillet, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil; heat over medium heat. Add bread pieces; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook 2 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown and toasted.

Add romaine, bread pieces and dressing to chicken mixture; toss well.


Tandoori Chicken Soft Tostadas

Created by Carolyn Harkonnen, Of Loomis


2 containers (6 oz) plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika

4 cups chopped cooked grilled chicken breast (18 oz)

4 cups tri-color coleslaw mix (shredded green and red cabbage and carrots)

7 tablespoons Crisco® Pure Olive Oil

3 to 4 teaspoons cumin seed

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

In medium bowl, mix 1/3 cup of the yogurt, the paprika and chicken. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, mix remaining yogurt and the coleslaw mix. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of  cumin seed. Cook and stir a few seconds; remove from heat, stir into the coleslaw mixture. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Place 2 biscuits on waxed paper; flatten slightly. Sprinkle each with 1/4 teaspoon of the remaining cumin seed. Cover with waxed paper; roll each biscuit into 5 1/2 to 6-inch round. Add 2 biscuit rounds to skillet; cook 1 minute on each side or until golden brown and no longer doughy. Place in foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and biscuit rounds.

Wipe out skillet; heat over medium heat. Add chicken mixture; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.

Top biscuit rounds with chicken mixture and coleslaw.

Two Loomis semi-finalists in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest have a shot at the $1 million grand prize.

Kalani Allred and Carolyn Harkonnen are trying to get the word out to as many people as possible because the public is participating in the voting process this year for the first time.

Online voting in the Amazing Doable Dinners category closes Thursday at noon, Central Standard Time.  Of 60 contestants in the dinner category, 33 advance to the finals along with 67 others who submit starter, dessert and breakfast recipes. Judges select winners from each category and a grand prize winner at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in November.

The bake-off began in 1949 in New York City. 

“I don’t remember how long ago I found out about it. I think it’s just something I’ve always known about,” said Allred, who began cooking during her girlhood in Loomis. She recently returned to the area after living Folsom for 16 years, where she raised her children.

Allred, née Swickard, attended Loomis Grammar School and graduated from Del Oro High School in 1981.She baked homemade bread for her family when she was a teenager.

“It’s a good skill to develop. Once you know the principles behind it—the science behind the bread—it actually becomes pretty easy.”

Bread plays a large role in Allred’s bake-off recipe, “Balsamic Chicken Cranberry Panzanella.”

A panzanella is a bread salad. Allred’s recipe features pieces of torn Pillsbury pizza crust sautéed in olive oil until crispy. 

Bake-off contestants may use a maximum of seven ingredients, with two required from a list of Pillsbury’s or sponsor companies’ products. 

Allred works as a graphic designer and describes herself as a home cook. Loomis resident Lori Jones, her friend since fifth grade, has enjoyed Allred’s cooking on several occasions.

“It’s almost kind of that old-school thing in taking pride and being able to be a good homemaker,” Jones said. “She understands how flavors and things go together.”

Although Allred entered recipes in at least four past Pillsbury bake-offs, this is her first trip to the semi-finals. She said the prize money, paid as a $50,000 annuity for 20 years, would take some earning pressure off her husband.

Carolyn Harkonnen’s recipe, “Tandoori Chicken Soft Tostadas,” also made it to the semi-finals round.

“I was just brainstorming for a while and wanted to come up with something that had sort of an exotic flavor to it, but would be easy for an average or novice cook to make,” Harkonnen said.

Life-long Loomis resident Harkonnen, 55, works as a greeting-card merchandiser and part-time bookkeeper. Her past cooking contests include Eggland’s Your Best Recipe Contest, Jose Ole Coolest Mom Recipe Challenge and the Simply Manischewitz Cook-Off. She was a 2004 finalist in the Pillsbury bake-off.

“Most people who know me fairly well know that I’m actually not a good cook,” Harkonnen said. “A lot of it has to do with being able to understand the rules and follow them and to be creative.”

To vote for both of these recipes, go to You will need to register and can vote for more than one recipe. Voting ends at 9:59 a.m., this Thursday, March 28.

Got a great recipe? It’s not too late to enter the bake-off. The entry period for the Simple Sweets and Starters category begins April 4.