Around Sunbury, when Lanie Montgomery shows up at a potluck, folks inevitably find something a bit familiar about the dish she brings.
“When the people that I went to school with or my cousins eat it, they go, ‘This is from the school, isn’t it?’” she says. “They immediately have flashbacks to those peanut butter bars that they had at the school.”
Lanie comes from a long line of school cooks, and her recipe for peanut butter bars — the winning entry in the 2020 Ohio Cooperative Living reader recipe contest — came from her grandmother, who was a cook at Big Walnut Middle School. One of Lanie’s aunts was a cook at the high school, and another aunt cooked at the elementary school.
“We rarely had them at home, but we always had it in the school cafeteria,” she says. “When my grandma retired, I asked her for the recipe, and from then on, I carried it out more into the public. Every potluck I take it to — it’s gone. And everybody wants the recipe.”
As winner of the reader recipe contest, Lanie — a member of Mount Gilead-based Consolidated Cooperative — will receive an Ohio-made KitchenAid stand mixer. She says she’s never entered the magazine’s contest before but, as the mother of five kids, she does lots of cooking for large groups and figured her popular dish would fit nicely into the “Potluck” theme.
“Besides the fact that it’s easy to make at a moment’s notice with shelf-stable ingredients that you probably have on hand, it’s delicious,” says Catherine Murray, Ohio Cooperative Living’s food editor, who judged the contest. “You can really see that the bars would be a crowd-pleaser.”
Beat butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter in an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Add oats and stir until just moistened. Spread onto a 11 x 17-inch baking sheet that has been greased or covered in parchment paper.
Smooth until entire pan is covered evenly. Bake at 375 F 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, mix all icing ingredients together in mixer until smooth.
Let baked mixture cool, then ice and cut into bars.
Per serving: 433 calories, 24 grams fat (11 grams saturated fat), 48 grams total carbohydrates, 2.3 grams fiber, 8 grams protein.
Cindy Grapner of Celina swears she’s a terrible cook. Judging from her block party beans, she’s being a bit hard on herself. As runner-up in the contest, Grapner will receive a copy of The Ultimate Casseroles Book.
“My mother first made this concoction years ago for a family reunion, and it was a big hit,” says Cindy, a member of Midwest Electric. “I have since then developed my own variations: you can use different kinds of beans, add red or green pepper — whatever you like to make it better. Just don’t leave out the bacon!”
Brown sausage, then add celery and onion and cook until tender; drain fat.
Add tomato soup, tomato paste, brown sugar, and mustard. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in beans. Put this mixture in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and mix well. Top with bacon strips and bake at 350 F for 1 hour, uncovered.
Can also be made in crockpot, cooked 5 to 6 hours.
Per serving: 371 calories, 18 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), 35 grams total carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 18 grams protein.
Leah Beachy is used to cooking for large groups. “I am very fortunate to have grown up in an Amish home, in a family of seven children,” she says. “My mother was a wonderful cook, so I definitely am thankful for the teaching I got in the kitchen. I now have my own family of seven. What a blessing to have these recipes to use for my own family.”
Leah, a member of The Frontier Power Company, earned runner-up for her broccoli salad, which she says always goes quickly when she brings it to potlucks — and is a delicious way to entice kids to eat their vegetables. She’ll also receive a copy of The Ultimate Casseroles Book.
Wash broccoli and cauliflower and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Mix sauce ingredients together, then toss with veggies, cheese, and bacon.
Best if tossed only an hour or two before serving.
Per serving: 416 calories, 30 grams fat (13 grams saturated fat), 24 grams total carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams protein.