Never let it be said that Rae Hruby let a holiday pass without cooking something specific to the occasion.
St. Patrick’s Day, for example, is an occasion to set up a fruit tray arranged like a rainbow; red, white, and blue themes rule the table on Independence Day. But on Halloween: Bring out the Feetloaf.
Hruby’s horror-movie-prop-turned-main-course took top honors in Ohio Cooperative Living’s annual Reader Recipe Contest; this year’s theme was “Spooky,” and Feetloaf certainly fit the bill, earning her an Ohio-made KitchenAid stand mixer.
“I’ve just always done my themed foods,” says Hruby, who lives in Grafton, where she and her husband, Paul, are members of Wellington-based Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative. “I took four years of foods classes in high school, and I’ve always enjoyed doing creative things with food.”
Part of that passion for creative cuisine has been inspired by her love of cooking with and for kids — her own and any others who happen to stop by the house. She and Paul have a grown daughter, Lauren, and a son, Dmitry, 15, so she’s been cooking for kids for quite a while now.
“We always had neighbor kids who came over to go trick-or-treating, and I always tried to make sure they had some real food before they went out,” she says.
Meatloaf, she says, was a natural because of its versatility to feed a few or a group. And of course, she couldn’t make just a plain old loaf.
“You know, it’s basically just a slab of meat, but with the ketchup, it doesn’t take much imagination to create a body part, and a foot was just fun,” she says. “That just happened to be what I was working with at the time — it could have been spaghetti worms, or really any number of things.”
Cynthia Boles of Lithopolis, a member of Lancaster-based South Central Power Company, took runner-up honors in this year’s contest with her Batty Spinach Balls.
“It’s a recipe that’s been in the family forever,” Boles says. “It’s one of the few vegetable dishes that we never had any trouble getting the kids to eat. We serve it all the time, though we don’t dress it up for Halloween when it’s out of season.”
She says her mother, Rose, first came up with the original recipe, but she’s adapted it for a busy lifestyle by making it with boxed stuffing mix, and made it a spooky Halloween favorite with the simple addition of blue tortilla chips for bat wings. Her sons, Jacob, now 23, and Nathan, 22, and her husband, Bill, still gobble them up whenever she makes them.
The dish is plenty versatile as well. Boles serves the spinach balls as either an appetizer or a side dish, and the recipe is adaptable to account for spice preferences. “We usually make two batches: one hot and one not,” she says. “Me, I like a little kick.”