Three nervous cookie candidates faced each other today at the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens for the final round of the Land O’Lakes Cookie Classic, a nationwide search for America’s best cookie recipe. The big winner was Eileen Schantz of West Hurley, N.Y. who has never entered a contest before and won $25,000 for a Pecan Carrot Cookie recipe passed down from her Irish grandmother.

“My friends at home will never believe this,” said an emotional Schantz, whose own mother convinced her to enter the contest after reading about it in a magazine. “Holidays were spent with `Nanny,’ which is what we called my Irish grandmother, in Riverdale, New York, and tea was served in an old china teapot. When I bake these cookies it brings back fond memories of `Nanny’s Tea Party Treats.”‘

Schantz, who is married and the mother of two, plans to use her prize money to help pay for her 14-year-old daughter’s future college education.

All three finalists baked their cookies for a panel of judges this morning. The three original recipes were selected as finalists by consumers across the country from more than 6,000 entries.

Sherry Little of Sherwood, Ark. with her Peanut Butter Turtle Bar and Susan Hrncir of Cleveland, Ohio creator of the Toasted Coconut Toffee Cookie, were both awarded runners-up prizes of $5,000 each.

“Baking cookies from scratch with loved ones is a special, family tradition that is passed down from generation to generation,” said Lydia Botham, Director of the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens and Consumer Affairs. “That’s why we created the Land O’Lakes Cookie Classic, to celebrate America’s love of cookies and get people back in the kitchen baking with their families.”

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To receive these three cookie recipes as well as more information on the Cookie Classic, visit the Land O’Lakes Web site at