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Cooking up votes: San Mateo woman competing in Pillsbury bake-off
March 25, 2013, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Sandy Reiter, a Stanford nurse and mom from San Mateo, shows off her easy chili with twisted cheesy cornsticks, the recipe that made her a semifinalist in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Sandy Reiter didn't grow up cooking.

While her mother taught her much about life, cooking from scratch definitely wasn't one of them. It was watching food shows on television that piqued the interest of the 49-year-old mother of two who is married to a San Francisco police officer. A nurse at Stanford, Reiter began trying to make the recipes at home for her family. And, to her surprise, her attempts often turned out nicely.

Reiter has clearly learned a thing or two since really trying out her skills in the kitchen. Earlier this month, she was named one of the 60 semifinalists in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. The competition relies on votes from the public to pick the 33 finalists who will travel to Las Vegas to compete for $1 million at the Bake-Off finals held at the Aria Resort and Casino. Although 64 years old, the contest had a new twist this year: a focus on simpler, original recipes that are limited to seven or fewer ingredients and must take 30 minutes or less to prepare, not including the baking time.

Reiter is actually more of a baker but decided to enter the Amazing Doable Dinners category with her recipe for easy chili with twisted cheesy cornsticks. Getting it down to one recipe took time and a lot of taste tests by Reiter's 18-year-old son Marc.

The idea is to keep it simple. Reiter had two list of ingredients, from which she needed to pick on thing from each. Then she had five other items left -- ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, a can of beans and cheese. To get the seasoning she wanted, Reiter opted to go for a pack of taco seasoning as the last item.

Being chosen came as a welcomed surprise for Reiter who is now entering the world of social media in hopes of gaining the support she needs to make it to the next round.

Online votes from the public decide who makes it to the finals. Voting continues until noon central time Thursday, March 28. She's changed her Facebook page to include a beautiful picture of her creation as well as a new profile picture of Reiter donning her official contestant apron. An email blast to everyone Reiter has ever met resulted in a 24-hour shutdown by Yahoo who thought she may be spamming others.

For Reiter, who is kept in the dark about the voting until it's complete, is enjoying the competition of it all. She's previously been a participant in both "Wheel of Fortune" and "Family Feud." This will be a new kind of competition for the San Mateo mom.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest started in 1949, with the first competition held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

For more information, or to vote for Reiter, visit Voting stops at noon central time Thursday, March 28.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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