Celia Ryan Thomas is 'One of Hardin County's Finest Cooks'

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Dash of Class food column by Nora Sweat

By Nora Sweat

I have known today’s One of Hardin County’s Finest Cooks since she was a teenager raised in Colesburg. Later, when she started dating one of my husband’s former students, they would stop by for visits and we grew close to them.


This month’s honoree is Celia Ryan Thomas who is married to local veterinarian, Dr. Mike Thomas.

Celia shared with me that she remembers helping her mom by churning butter until she thought her arm would fall off. With eight children, her mom, Annie Ryan, who also has been named a Finest Cook, stayed busy cooking and getting ready for hectic meal times. The four girls always were the cleanup crew. They had a large garden, chickens that provided meat and eggs and their own beef and pork.

Once married, Celia learned she really enjoyed cooking. Her husband’s favorite was fried chicken and it still is his favorite although it’s only served on special occasions. Mike and Celia have four daughters and some of their favorite recipes are included here. 

Mike and Celia have a large garden, enough to can 400 quarts each of green beans and tomatoes, and enough additional tomatoes to make salsa and tomato juice. Corn comes in and 2,000 ears will be cut from the cob and frozen. As zucchini ripens, she makes 400 loaves of bread to freeze. It takes many hands to break all the green beans and complete other tasks, so family and friends help and go home with some of the harvest as a token of the Thomas’ thanks. Celia also prepares a big meal for them and it ends with cake and homemade ice cream.

Celia and Mike host a large Christmas party for 200 family and friends. She starts in the early part of the week by making candies, cookies and cakes. She shared that many guests tell her how much they appreciate the garden vegetables on the menu.

“I really feel my mother’s love of cooking has been passed down to me and I am passing it down to my daughters,” Celia said. “Our favorite room in our house is the kitchen and that cooking sure makes for special times and really special memories.”

Congratulations, Celia. You are one amazing woman and a wonderful cook.

See Celia’s Zucchini Bread recipe in the July 30 Recipe Roundup.

Chicken Salad
Cook boneless skinless chicken breasts in a slow cooker for 8 hours. Let cool. Chop chicken into small pieces. Add chopped pecans, chopped red seedless grapes, chopped sweet pickles. Add Miracle Whip salad dressing to moisten. Serve on croissants or with fresh tomatoes.

Wilted Lettuce
Place fresh garden lettuce in a metal bowl. Sprinkle salad greens with vinegar, salt, pepper and a small amount of sugar. After frying several pieces of bacon, let cool on plate then crumble into lettuce. Leave grease from bacon in skillet and while hot, carefully pour over lettuce and remix greens to coat lightly.

Carrot Cake
4 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups grated carrots, approximately 2 pounds
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy, add oil in a thin stream and beat well. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder; add to egg mixture and mix well. Fold in carrots and nuts. Pour into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

8 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
1 stick margarine, softened
3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
Beat cream cheese and margarine until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Beat at high speed until smooth.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
3 cups milk
4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 quart half and half
1 quart heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons vanilla
Crushed ice
Rock salt

Place milk in double boiler, beat in eggs. When warm, blend in sugar, salt and flour. Heat until the mixture sticks to a metal spoon; do not boil. Let cool. Blend in half and half, then the heavy whipping cream. Add vanilla and mix well.

Fill a gallon ice cream maker container with mixture. Follow directions on ice cream freezer and surround with alternating crushed ice and rock salt. The ice cream maker will take 30-45 minutes. Put ice cream in freezer until ready to serve.

Using basic vanilla ice cream, add your favorite candy bar or cookies. Cut back on sugar and crush other ingredients. For example, use six two-ounce Butterfinger bars, chopped, or chopped Oreo cookies.

For peach ice cream, cut back vanilla to 1 tablespoon and add two pints of crushed fresh peaches. Use the same method for banana or strawberry ice cream.

Nora’s Note: See Celia's Zucchini Bread recipe in the July 30 Recipe Roundup.

Nora Sweat, author of "Mama and Me," is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.

Editor's note: The following recipe is being reprinted. Eggs were missing from the ingredients list in the June 25 edition.

Pineapple and Cream Cheese Upside Down Cake

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup packed brown sugar

20-ounce can pineapple slices, drained

8 maraschino cherries

1 yellow cake mix

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 small package lemon gelatin

2 eggs

Stir together melted butter and brown sugar in 9-inch spring form pan sprayed with food release. Place 8 pineapple slices in sugar mixture. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice, cut remaining slices of pineapple in half, and place decoratively around slice in center of the pan. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour half of the cake batter in pan and evenly spread over pineapple slices. Beat cream cheese, dry lemon gelatin and eggs in bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture gently over cake mix. Pour remaining cake mix over cheese cake in pan. Bake 65 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn out onto serving platter with bottom up, showing the pineapple.

Source: Nancy Brown, Hodgenville