Catherine McSwain has made her Strawberry Fields Steak Salad for years — it’s her husband’s favorite meal, after all. The day she got a little tired of serving store-bought dressing with it, however, was the day it went from really good to exceptional.
McSwain’s entry earned the top prize — a KitchenAid stand mixer — in this year’s Ohio Cooperative Living reader recipe contest that asked for your best salad recipes.
More than 300 submissions rolled in from around the state, ranging from simple garden salads to mayo-based egg or tuna concoctions, and a surprising number of gelatin-based dishes mixed with anything from maraschino cherries to cottage cheese — there are lots of different kinds of dishes referred to as salad.
Catherine, a member of Adams Rural Electric Cooperative in West Union, says her salad is especially popular in early summer when she gets strawberries that are at the peak of ripeness — but oh, that dressing!
“The orange marmalade dressing just came to my mind one day when I was having a craving for something a little bit different than the usual dressings I buy from the store,” she says. “I had been watching cooking shows for a few years and felt adventurous enough to give making a concoction of my own a whirl.”
Donna Calloway, a member of Pioneer Electric Cooperative in Piqua, has been making her version of a fruity classic - Orange Cream Fruit Salad - for more than 30 years, since she got the basic recipe from her husband Brian’s grandmother. Now she serves it to her five grandchildren.
“This one has been handed down over many years,” Donna says. “It’s simple to make, and you can expand the recipe for however large your crowd might be — I used to serve it at birthday parties for all three of my kids.”
Carole Okuley, a member of St. Marys-based Midwest Electric, enjoys experimenting with recipes and food of all kinds. When her nephew married a woman from Taiwan, Carole was inspired to incorporate some Asian-inspired flavors into her cooking. When the call for entries came out, she says she just looked around her pantry to see what she could come up with, and this spur-of-the-moment cucumber salad impressed our judges with its unique combination of ingredients enough to award her a runner-up prize.
“I will often just use whatever I have in the refrigerator and pantry,” Carole says. “I don’t think I would ordinarily put pears into something like this, but I happened to have some, so I thought I’d try it. I’m glad I did.”
One of Jane Ann Queen’s earliest holiday memories is the snowy white pies at her grandparents’ house in Marion.
“My nanny, Annabelle Criswell Layton, made this pie not only to serve her family after Christmas dinner, but she made them for friends and extended family members as well,” says Queen, a South Central Power Company member from Ashville. “As a matter of fact, she and my granddad would make several dozen of these pies and deliver them to lucky friends or family members on Christmas Eve, dressed up as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.”
After her grandmother died several years ago, Queen picked up the torch and began making Nanny’s White Christmas Pie herself. “It keeps me connected to my grandparents and keeps those family ties going strong,” she says. “That means a great deal to me and to my family when we eat it.”
When she first started making the pie, though, it was just for the family dinner table. “At first I didn’t deliver any, but before long I started getting requests from friends and family and coworkers,” she says. “Last year, I made six of them. I don’t make nearly as many as my nanny and granddad did, and I haven’t dressed up as Mrs. Claus yet, but who knows?”
As grand-prize winner in Ohio Cooperative Living’s Holiday Favorites 2021 reader recipe contest, Queen received an Ohio-made KitchenAid stand mixer. Runners-up Marlene Franklin of Kelleys Island and Debbie Atchley of Cecil each received a copy of The Complete Holiday Cookbook.
MARLENE FRANKLIN always wondered why cranberry sauce was ever-present on her family’s holiday dinner table when she was growing up. “No one ever ate it except for Uncle Pat,” says Franklin, who lives on Kelleys Island and is a member of Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative.
Even so, Franklin says she was determined to keep it a part of the meal when she started hosting for the holidays — “It was tradition,” she says — and tried numerous variations over the ensuing years.
Finally, she came across a recipe that she adapted into her Cranberry-Jalapeño Cream Cheese Dip, which has become a family favorite rather than an afterthought. “When I found this recipe about 10 years ago, I think I nailed it,” she says. “It is so tasty, and my family and guests cannot get enough of it. I am always asked for the recipe.”
DEBBIE ATCHLEY reckons there would be a family revolt if she were to ever skip baking her Oat Dinner Rolls for the holidays.
“It would cause an uproar, to say the least,” says Atchley, a member of Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative who lives in Cecil. “They hold the honor of being the longest-running request from my family for our holiday gatherings.”
As an added bonus: Extra rolls make delicious slider buns for any leftover ham or turkey sandwiches. “They take a little extra effort, but they are oh so worth it,” she says.