The memory of a childhood orchard trip inspired Melinsa Murphey of Olathe, Kansas, to create this recipe, which was a finalist in our 2012 Best of the Midwest® Recipe Contest. The cakes are moist and sweet and quite generously proportioned, so you may want to serve a half-cake to each person (or bake them in muffin cups instead).
The sweet tang of this rosy dressing pairs nicely with nuts, cheese, avocado or grilled chicken breast in a mixed green salad. A full 2 cups of strawberries boost the dressing's vitamin C and fiber; the olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that fights inflammation and protects against heart disease.
Chalk this recipe up as an occasional indulgence. It's topped with a totally mouth-watering combo of thin-sliced potatoes, bacon, sausage and a delectable garlic-rosemary butter. The recipe, which comes from Hidemi Walsh of Plainfield, Indiana, received an honorable mention in our 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest.
Annie France of Mission, Kansas, was a finalist in the 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest for this inventive and beautiful summer dish. Juicy cherry tomatoes are roasted and served over spaghetti squash with herbs and mozzarella balls. Annie says she serves it as a side dish, but we think it would make a fantastic meatless main.
Using Darjeeling tea imparts floral notes beyond what you find in ordinary black tea, which makes it a more interesting base for this refreshing, honey-laced drink. Keep the punch virgin, or add a tablespoon of vodka, gin or bourbon to each glass.
Fresh herbs season this ridiculously simple spread from BelGioioso Cheese in Wisconsin. It keeps well in the fridge and is delicious with cherry tomatoes or other vegetable dippers, as well as crackers or baguette slices.
Toss this light soy-ginger dressing with a bag of slaw mix and roasted peanuts for a nutritious side dish on stir-fry night. The recipe uses canola oil and sesame oil, which are both good choices as part of a balanced diet.
These fantastic potluck bars come from Patrice Hurd of Bemidji, Minnesota. She won the grand prize in our 2012 Best of the Midwest® Recipe Contest. Patrice says they're a twist on her grandmother’s cracker bars. They cut beautifully and brim with salty-sweet-nutty-chocolately flavor.
Talk about easy! You can prep these delicious little quiches the night before, or make them in the morning while the oven preheats. They're perfect for brunch parties, and you can use whatever meat, cheese and veggies you have on hand.
Rise and shine with these special-occasion pancakes from chef Mindy Segal of Mindy’s HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago. Ricotta makes them moist and rich; lemon curd gives sweet-tart punch.
David Dahlman of Chatsworth, California, was a finalist in the 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest. He says this yeasty coffee cake reminds him of the old-fashioned, down-to-earth treats on his grandmother's farm table. It takes time because it's a yeast-leavened dough, but there's no kneading required.
Try this creamy blend on a green salad with chicken or shrimp, or use it in a pasta salad with cherry tomatoes. We also like it drizzled over grilled or steamed asparagus. Although this dressing tastes creamy, the rich flavor comes from the pesto; Greek yogurt adds protein and calcium.
Gail Gladding-Pullara of Oregon, Wisconsin, won honorable mention in a Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest for this simple, crowd-pleasing soup. "My family loves this recipe," she says. "It’s easy and tastes like you’ve been cooking for hours."
Italian Dinner Soup 
This sandwich looks a bit plain, but appearances can be deceiving. It's packed with flavor. Mustard, herbs and lemon zest season the meat, which is topped with wine-poached pears, sharp cheddar and pepper jelly. The recipe comes from Jen Smallwood of Portsmouth, Virginia, who earned an honorable mention in our 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest.
Jen’s White Burger 
You don't get much easier than this! Saute a few ingredients, stir in cream cheese to make a sauce, and dump it all over frozen pierogis in a casserole dish. (You don't even need to thaw the pierogis!) The recipe from Jan Valdez of Chicago was a finalist in our 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest.
Wine-marinated berries top this showy cake created by chef Debbie Gold of the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. The sweet, nutty crust is thicker than an ordinary cheesecake, giving the dessert a dramatic presence.
Cindi Rockwell of Berkley, Michigan, was a finalist in our 2012 Best of the Midwest Recipe Contest for these hearty fish cakes with a zippy wasabi dressing. Cindi says the recipe, which has two signature Minnesota ingredients, was inspired by the resort her grandparents owned there.
Inexpensive chai tea bags infuse Chai-Spiced Compote with the tongue-tingling flavors of ginger, cloves and cardamom. Because the recipe calls for frozen peaches and cherries, you can make this colorful fruit dessert year-round. If you're watching fat or calories, leave off the pecans and coconut and just enjoy the flavorful fruit.
Chai-Spiced Compote