Cooks, don’t be afraid to make recipes your own

SALEM – When it comes to following recipes, Cheryl Cohen said cooks shouldn’t be afraid to make them their own.

“If you want, there are very few things you can’t change,” she said.

Cohen serves as a Taste of Home culinary specialist and shared some of her ideas, tips, tricks and techniques with an audience of more than 900 attendees during the Sixth Annual Salem Taste of Home Cooking School held Thursday night at Salem High School.

The event sponsored by the Salem News, Morning Journal of Lisbon and the Review of East Liverpool benefits the Newspapers in Education program, which provides newspapers to area schools.

“The students of Columbiana County thank all the participating businesses so they can continue to receive their newspapers in their classrooms,” Salem News Publisher Beth Volosin said.

The cooking school also helps provide food to those who need it. Ticket holders were asked to bring a non-perishable food item as part of Cooks Who Care, with all the food items to be donated to the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County food bank. Everyone who brought a food item also received a chance to win a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer donated by Home Savings.

People who come to the cooking school come for a variety of reasons, whether it be the prizes, the freebies from vendors or just a night out, but when Cohen starts talking, the focus is on the food and the combination of ingredients to make mouths water.

She demonstrated 10 recipes for the audience on a big screen projecting the activity in her make-shift kitchen on the high school auditorium stage, from appetizers and desserts to main dishes and summer fare, including mushroom meatball parmesan sandwiches, bread and steak salad and cannoli.

Even though she does several shows and has been to Salem several times, she said there are so many recipes out there that “just about everything we do is different.”

She gives people ideas to take home that they can try in their own recipes and methods to use in their own kitchens, such as a trick to separating an egg or slicing grape tomatoes. She talked about blendability, showing how to blend mushrooms with ground meat as a way to cut back on calories and add a vegetable to a dish.

Cohen said people need to find the way that works best for them and their skill level, whether a beginner or an experienced cook. She said the recipes at Taste of Home come from people just like them, not chefs and professional cooks.

They receive about 90,000 recipes a year, with a small portion of those recipes tested and then used on the Taste of Home website or in the magazine or cookbooks. People can submit recipes at

When asked if measurements must be exact when cooking, Cohen replied that “cooking is an art and baking is a science.”

When cooking, a cook has some leeway to add a pinch here, a pinch there and change it up for herbs and spices and some other ingredients. With baking, she said recipes need to be followed exactly because its more of a science.

Hailing from Dover, Ohio, Cohen has been a culinary specialist with Taste of Home for seven years. She’s a familiar host for people attending the Salem cooking show, with many coming year after year.

“We look forward to it,” Cheryl Newhouse of Greenford said, adding it’s a family event.

Karen Burgess of Beloit said she enjoys getting the recipe books and recipes, saying “it’s kind of a fun night.”

The show included 32 vendors and a chance to win one of 150 door prizes given throughout the night. Master Illusionist John Steven Bloom served as emcee. Each ticket holder also received a goody bag containing 50 items contributed by area businesses.

Before the show started, a lucky attendee whose name was drawn earned the “Best Seat in the House” donated by Salem Walmart. The five-piece patio set went home with the winner, too, besides giving them a ringside seat.

Major sponsors for the cooking school included: Giant Eagle of Salem, Calcutta and East Liverpool, who donated bags of groceries for door prizes and food for the recipes; Papa John’s, pizza for the concessions; Home Savings, donor of the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer; Diamond Cut, landscape sponsor and flowers; Salem Walmart, Best Seat; Grove Appliance, appliance sponsor; Home Depot, cabinet sponsor; Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, goody bag sponsor; and Salem High School, use of the auditorium.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at