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Paying homage to celery

By Staff | Jan 6, 2017

STELLA SWITZER, of Sioux City, readies her just-so-good celery casserole for the oven.



SIOUX CITY – Lowly celery stalks don’t often take center stage when cooking for family meals.

They do, however, when Stella Switzer, of Sioux City, is called upon for preparing a family favorite.

Switzer, with expertise in floral design and as a music vocalist, sees to it celery takes its place in her culinary specialties.

STELLA SWITZER said she also relies on a favorite cookbook or two. In this case, it was an early edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

She credits two popular rural-Kingsley homemakers – the late Phyllis Hoxie and the late Hedwig Waterman – with introducing her to a celery casserole.

The two were the mother and grandmother of her husband, Gary, who died in February 2016.

“They were wonderful cooks who loved cooking as much as I do,” Switzer said. “We’d go there every Sunday to eat, and Grandma would be trying out a new recipe she’d found in the old Kitchen Klatter (see related sidebar article) and write it down.”

“I’d find myself intrigued by how she did it.”

She said the casserole would became a standard for her family, including husband, Gary, and daughters, Stephanie, Toni and Heather.

“I hadn’t known plain old celery could taste so good,” Switzer said, adding she has other recipes credited to Kitchen Klatter.

Switzer said her father, the late Tony Rickwa, was her initial cooking mentor.

Rickwa, who died in 1998, was a popular Sioux City restaurant operator whose family emigrated from Poland.

“He’d had his own restaurant, Rick’s Cafe, and started out with all kinds of food on the menu,” Switzer said. “He worked there and everywhere doing catering, weddings and fish fries.”

And in spite of his work schedule, Switzer said her father still came home and cooked for his family, which Switzer said included her mother, Joyce, and siblings, John and Joanne.

“He’d also cooked while in the Armed Forces before returning to Sioux City where he would begin working in a local packing plant not too far from Sioux City’s Polack Hill area,” she said. “His love of cooking definitely became mine as I watched him as a young girl in our kitchen.”


celery casserole

4 cups chopped celery

1 5-ounce can of water chestnuts

1 cup cream of chicken soup

1 small jar of pimentos

Boil celery in salt water until tender.

Drain and chop pimentos.

Mix with other ingredients above and put in casserole dish with 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.

Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over top, adding almonds to topping and put into oven.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes in 350-degree over or until bubbly.

So easy cherry

Jell-O salad

1 package cherry Jell-O mixed with 1 cup hot water.

Add 1 can cherry pie filling

Cut up 1 apple and two stalks of celery (finely cut) and mix with Jell-O and pie filling.

Chill overnight.

Royal bean

and bacon salad

Chop up half a package of bacon. Fry and when almost done, add 1/2 cup chopped onion and a chopped garlic clove.

Mix in and fry for 1 minute.

Take a 15 1/2-ounce can of navy or white beans (rinsed and drained) and put in a bowl.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley (or you can use spice rack parsley).

Take warm bacon mixture and put in beans along with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Mix all above together and pour over everything.

Serve while warm.

Can be refrigerated and reheated next day if desired.

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