Suzanne Rumsey of Fort Wayne, Indiana, took home the $20,000 grand-prize with her winning Greek Chicken and Barley Salad recipe.

Twelve contestants from across the country assembled Sept. 16, 2009 in the Cooking Light magazine editorial headquarters to compete for a $20,000 grand prize in the fifth annual Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest. The all-day cook-off took place in the magazine's Test Kitchen.

Judges (and frequent magazine contributors) David Bonom, Maureen Callahan, and Jeanne Kelley tasted and graded three entries in each of the four recipe categories to determine the winners, whose recipes will appear in the January/February 2010 issue of Cooking Light.

The grand-prize winning recipe, Greek Chicken and Barley Salad, is a simple one-dish dinner created by Suzanne Rumsey, an assistant professor of English and linguistics at Indiana University -- Purdue University Fort Wayne. Rumsey, a frugal cook who tries to use local foods whenever possible, says she entered the contest on a whim with a recipe she improvised using on-hand ingredients. 

"I cook a lot with what I have on hand," Rumsey said. "The recipe for this contest was both frugal and made with leftovers."

Head judge David Bonom said the judges found the winning recipe particularly relevant for today's cook. "The recipe reflects the way many people are eating today--with healthy one-dish meals that are great for families on the go," Bonom said. "It's also a great way to get more grains into your diet with excellent flavor and healthy fats."

Culled down from thousands of entries, finalists' recipes ranged from a recreation of a restaurant-favorite appetizer to a unique cocktail invented for a baby shower, to an inspired salad created from leftovers one weeknight.


$20,000 Grand Prize Winner

Starters and Beverages

Family Dinners

  • Category Winner:* Greek Chicken and Barley Salad by Suzanne Rumsey, Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Finalist: Black Bean Burgers with Mango-Avocado Salsa by Marina Delio, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Finalist: Chili-Spiced Chicken Soup with Stoplight Peppers and Avocado Topping by Jamie Miller, Maple Grove, Minn.

Sides and Salads

  • Category Winner: Fresh Mediterranean Salad by Michele Zanta, Plantation, Fla.
  • Finalist: Mixed Citrus Green Salad by Debra Keil, Owasso, Okla.
  • Finalist: Tart ‘n Tangy Bulgur Salad by Mary Howard, Orlando, Fla.


  • Category Winner: Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies by Marcie Dixon, Arlington, Heights, Ill.
  • Finalist: Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies by Helen Worthington, Meridian, Miss.
  • Finalist: Mexican Spiced Shortbread Cookies by Jennifer Brumfield, Bellingham, Wash.

* Cooking Light donates the grand prize winner's additional $5,000 category prize to the charity of the winner's choice. Suzanne Rumsey chose to benefit to Heifer International.