Written by Art Petrosemolo
I met Dawn Nolt by one of those freaky coincidences that happen to me all the time. Regardless of how I met her, I’m glad I did.
This spring I discovered a conservative Christian group called Lyrica Sacra. They were founded by an immigrant from the Soviet Ukraine, Yuriy Kravets, who lives in New Holland. What makes the group unusual is Lyrica Sacra has an 80-strong chorus of men and women as well as a 40-member orchestra. Unusual because instrumental music has not been a part of the Anabaptist conservative Christian movement so Yuriy’s group is ground-breaking. (You can read my blog about Lyrica Sacra here.) I’ll blog about them soon but you can take a look at them at their website or attend their (free) concerts April 14 and 15 at the Lancaster Mennonite School.
Anyway, I needed a quote from one of the chorus singers for a Lititz Record story and spoke to Dawn. She is from Indiana and a strong Mennonite background and now worships at Charity Christian Fellowship in Leola.
When I asked Dawn what she did, she said she was a stay-at-home mom with a hobby. What a hobby! Dawn is a food wizard…she is a superb cook and recipe developer and credits her mom for all she knows.
Anyway, I learned that Dawn prepares all the recipes for Nature’s Yoke (New Holland) eggs, tests them on her family, photographs them and then posts them to the company website. I saw a great story, wrote in quickly and it ran March 16 in Lancaster Farming and will run soon in the Lititz Record.
Naturally, all of Dawn’s recipes for the company contain eggs. She liked two of my family recipes—Spaghetti Pie, which uses seven eggs and Pizzagania (Easter Ham Pie), which uses about 14 eggs. Dawn tried them and posted them onto the company recipe site…. I’m stoked.
So, let me tell you a little about Dawn and what she does. The cooking industry is a multi-million-dollar business with celebrity hosted television shows, glossy magazines, internet blogs discussing food and providing recipes, newspaper cooking tips and more.
To keep this business afloat, there are recipe creators, test kitchen chefs, cooking show hosts, food writers, food stylists and photographers, among others.
In Lancaster County, Dawn Nolt does a little of all of it and does it well.
Dawn learned cooking basics early and has continued to perfect her craft living in both the United States and as a missionary in Africa. She always creates meals to please family and friends with familiar and not-so-familiar ingredients.
“If I get a thumb’s up from the family on a new recipe,” Dawn says, “and it contains eggs, I do some basic food styling so the dish has a nice presentation, photograph it on my dining room table (sometimes before everyone gets a chance to really dig in) and upload it to Nature’s Yoke recipe pages on the company website.”
Lancaster County families have always enjoyed eggs and never really bought into the egg-cholesterol scare that got people nervous in the 1970s and persisted until the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines and Advisory Committee did an about face on cholesterol in 2015.
To date, Dawn has created, prepared, photographed and posted more than 260 recipes and continues to find, tweak and test dishes from family recipes, research and suggestions. Dawn’s recipes are family friendly, simple and rarely use any processed foods. She prepares all her recipes in a standard kitchen with the same type of electric stove you might have in your home.
Dawn met her husband Rodney, currently CEO of Westfield Egg, in 2000 in Colorado at a Bible School held by their church. They were married in 2001 and have lived in Colorado, Africa and Pennsylvania. Rodney is a Lancaster County native. The pair, in 2003—with their first child in tow—moved to Ghana in West Africa where they spent one year as part of the Charity Africa Mission before ultimately settling in Lancaster County in 2005.
Dawn’s creations run the gamut from appetizers to desserts and include many variations from the recipes created by her mother and family. “My mother and her sister Elsie published a cookbook, The Basics and More in 1998 when,” Dawn says, “they put all the family recipes and suggestions from friends all over the Midwest into a spiral bound 376-page book.” She explains, “It has sold 150,000 copies and for years was the leading selling Mennonite cook book.”
Some of the familiar and not-so-familiar recipes that grace the cookbook and have been adapted to the website include German Pizza, Molasses Cookies and Delicious Pancakes.
Dawn’s career got started almost by accident when her husband joined Westfield Egg a decade ago after first working for close friend and owner George Weaver III as a business consultant.
In reviewing the company’s marketing outreach at the time, management felt that parts of the company website needed a refresh. Says Dawn, “Everyone felt that there needed to be updates to the recipes and better photographs of the completed dishes.” At the time, the company also was becoming active on social media platforms.
Management knew—from first-hand experience—that Dawn was a great cook and a serious amateur photographer. They asked her if she would take on the responsibility and she has worn multiple marketing hats for the past four years.
It took Dawn about seven months to review, update and test the Nature’s Yoke recipes she inherited, photograph the result, and upload to the website. “Some recipes that we felt were not healthy and used too many processed ingredients were eliminated,” she explains. “We made sure that fresh ingredients, many available right from farms and produce stands here in the County, were part of the completed recipes. Also, we wanted them to be easy to make, tasty, eye-pleasing and naturally, use the company’s organic Nature’s Yoke eggs.”
Fortunately for Dawn, her husband loves everything she cooks and her children, (Felicity, 15; Gilbert, 13; Addison, 9; and Natalie, 5) will try anything. “I have lots of freedom in the job,” Dawn smiles, “and experiment with many new recipes where I can use eggs and natural ingredients.” It’s still too early to see how many of the Nolt children have picked up Dawn’s food savvy. She says her daughter Felicity is the baker but son Gilbert looks like he wants to be the chef.
Two of Dawn’s favorite (and signature dishes) recipes you may want to try:
Raspberry Danish: https://www.naturesyoke.com/recipe/raspberry-cream-cheese-danish/