|The school bell will ring in less than two weeks for some local school districts, but summer will continue as long as the calendar says August.
Renee Baker displays her Asian salad. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
And summer calls for easy-to-make, refreshing salads.
Renee Baker of rural Bowling Green, a wife, mother of four and nursing supervisor at Wood County Hospital, is offering readers the recipe for her favorite greens, “Oriental Salad.” She got the recipe from a friend about 20 years ago and has continued to make it all these years.
“Salads are my favorite,” Baker admitted. “I could live off of salad.”
As for this recipe, “It’s such a light salad. It’s got such a fresh flavor to it. I selected this one because it’s the one recipe people ask me for the most.”
The salad is so popular it’s also frequently requested for potluck meals. Baker suspects the salad’s popularity is because of its light and unique flavor.
Three unusual ingredients add their own sparkle to the salad: Dry ramen noodles, sesame seeds and soy sauce.
One of six siblings growing up, Baker was only 7 when her father died. With her mother working full-time to support the large family, she stepped in as a child to make dinners.
“I don’t think they always liked what I made,” she recalled with a laugh. Though “spaghetti was one of my specialties.”
That early experience in the kitchen has lasted all of Baker’s life. She enjoys cooking and makes a point of collecting recipes when she likes a dish made by someone else. “If I ever try anything good, I’ll hound them until I get it.”
Baker parlayed her collection of favorite “tried and true” recipes into a self-published cookbook which was first sold four years ago to help raise funds for one of their four children to travel to Australia. Renee and Chris Baker’s daughter, Jennifer, then 16, was a student ambassador in the People to People program and needed $5,000 for the trip.
For the cookbook, Baker typed up her favorite recipes in the categories of appetizers, entrees, salads, desserts and cookies/candies. After running them off on her printer, Jennifer and she would decorate the pages with marker designs, slip each one into a page protector and fill a three-ring binder. They were sold for $15.
“Everyone was ordering them,” Baker said of her co-workers at the hospital, and it helped raise a major portion of the funding.
Earlier this year Baker sold a second version of the cookbook with additional recipes and pages to help raise money for her and her husband, plus Jeremy, 19, and Melissa, 13, to go on a medical missions trip to the Dominican Republic this summer. These cookbooks were sold by donation only, and some previous owners purchased the new pages to add to their books.
The current version of the cookbook has about 85 pages of recipes, with two to three recipes per page. “These are recipes that have been given to me by family, friends and made up myself. They’re all tried and true.”
Recipes include moist baked garlic chicken, creamy corn (with cream cheese and American cheese in a crockpot), creamy garlic mashed potatoes, chocolate angel food cake with strawberries, Reeses peanut butter cookie bars and much more.
Of course it includes her recipe for Oriental Salad.
Baker offered tips to make the salad taste the best. It calls for a large head of romaine lettuce which she prefers over other lettuce types. Stick, too, with green onions, not any other kind of onion.
“Crunchies” added to the lettuce add zing. Baker uses a rolling pin to whack a package of dry ramen noodles into small pieces and discards the flavor packet.
Just before serving the salad, she mixes the crunchies into the greens, then pours the dressing over it.
“Once you add the dressing, it doesn’t keep overnight. You have to serve it right away. It gets limp with the dressing.
1 large head of romaine lettuce
5 green onions.
1 stick of butter (or margarine)
1 package ramen soup (noodles broken into tiny pieces with a rolling pin; discard foil flavor packet)
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Chop lettuce and green onions. Toss together in a bowl.
Melt butter in a pan. Brown the ramen noodle pieces and almonds. Before removing the pan from the stove, add the sesame seeds since they brown very quickly.
Dry "crunchies" on paper towel.
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
Just before serving, toss crunchies into salad mix and pour dressing over everything. Enjoy!
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