Home Cooking: Grow Your Own Sourdough Starter 

 

By Kristin Boza 

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic has led to a lot of new hobbies for many people. Some people have fostered an animal, while others took on a just-as-alive but not as hard to keep that way sourdough bread starter.  

Anna Holland is an incredibly experienced baker who began her own home bread-making business, Double Dutch Sourdough, in January. Using her own sourdough starter, she has made a big name for herself locally as she devises new varieties of delicious breads that she sells each week.  

Holland grew up in a family of bakers; her dad was a professional baker and her family owned a donut shop in Oconomowoc, Wisc., and Ptiacentine’s Artisan Breads in Milwaukee.  

“I’ve been in a bakery for my entire life, and grew up baking muffins and quick breads for my family’s shop,” Holland said. “My brother, who is a chef in California, visited and encouraged me to grow my own sourdough starter. My husband bought me a sourdough bread cookbook for Christmas and I just started experimenting with the different types and flavors of bread.” 

Quickly, however, Holland’s family was overrun by bread so she began gifting the product of her hobby to friends and neighbors. “Everyone liked my bread and I started thinking that maybe people would buy it,” she said. “I started advertising on the Moms of Beverly, Beverly Free Box, and Beverly Buy Sell Facebook groups, which eventually evolved into starting my own Instagram page and website.”  

On her website, DoubleDutchSourdough.com, customers can see what Holland is planning on baking that week and can place an order, including plain sourdough bread, focaccia, sweeter sourdough bread, brioche cinnamon rolls, croissants, and danish. She said about 40 loaves are sold each week. “I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested; I’m still a very small operation in my home oven, and I can only mix enough dough for eight loaves at a time,” she said. “But it’s perfect because it leaves me plenty of time for my day job and I get to also do something I absolutely love to do.” 

Starting and maintaining a sourdough base is pretty easy. Begin with equal parts flour and water and cultivate it in a sealed jar or container. “Wild yeast is everywhere, in the air, on our hands, and on everything we touch,” Holland said. “The flour and water mix will begin to bubble and ferment as it captures the bacteria and yeast in the air. You know you have a healthy sourdough starter when it bubbles, rises, and doubles in size every six-to-eight hours.” 

The trick is to literally feed the starter as needed. Holland starts with a half cup of flour and a half cup of water, letting it sit for 12 hours. Then she throws away all but one tablespoon of the mix and adds another half cup of flour and half cup of water. “Do this process over and over — discarding and feeding — until it bubbles and ferments. This can take anywhere from seven to 14 days,” Holland said. Depending on if a sweeter or drier bread is wanted, the starter can be manipulated with more or less water, or equal parts.  

Feeding the sourdough means adding more flour to it. “I feed mine three times a day so it’s always super strong and I can use it whenever I want for bread,” Holland said. “If you bake bread once a week, keep the starter in the fridge; 24 hours before baking, take it out and refresh it two or three times before using it for baking. Feed it once a week or every couple of weeks, it all depends on how strong it is growing and how often you plan to use it.” She also advises using a mason jar and switching it out to a clean one every other day. 

Note that there is a lot of starter that is discarded during the growing and maintaining phases; however, this is usable starter and can be incorporated into cakes, pancakes, or waffles to cut down on waste. “You just can’t keep all of your starter because you will end up with an exorbitant amount and the ratios would begin to become off,” Holland said. “For people baking at home and starting the process, be patient! That’s the beauty of working with sourdough, you just can’t rush it. It will be ready when it wants to be ready. It’s an incredible creative outlet.” 

Find out more about Holland and her bread at DoubleDutchSourdough.com. 

Summer Berry Crumble Sourdough Cake 

1 cup sourdough discard (you can use as little as a 1/2 cup if you don’t have that much) 

1 cup milk 

1 egg 

1 cup allpurpose flour 

1/3 cup sugar 

1/3 vegetable oil or mild olive oil 

3 tsp baking powder 

pinch of salt 

1 cup fresh berries 

 

For the crumble 

1/4 cup flour 

1/4 cup oats 

1/4 sugar 

1/4 cup butter 

pinch of salt 

Rub together until large crumbs form and butter is coated. If it seems to dry or crumbs are really fine, add a tbsp more butter 

Directions 

Whisk starter, egg, and milk until starter is completely blended in 

Add flour, sugar, salt, oil, and baking powder and mix until just combined and there are no lumps 

Prepare an 8inch round or square cake pan with parchment and nonstick spray 

Pour batter into panTop with berries and then crumble 

Set aside to rest for 30 minutes while you preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Crumble should be light golden brown. 

If you like more sweetness, whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, water, or lemon juice and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract for a quick glaze to put on top of cake when it’s cool. 

 

What’s in Your Pantry? Cooking at Home During Shelter in Place

 

By Kristin Boza 

How many ways can you make a meal out of beans? Or pasta? Or canned tomatoes? Every pantry seems to brim with these kinds of staples, and the stash continues to build when there’s a big sale at County Fair. 

 Alvin Green, a personal and private chef, noticed he had an abundance of pantry foods, yet he continued to make his regular grocery purchases each weekFiguring out how to cook with whatever is on-hand once everyone began sheltering in place spawned the idea for his Facebook group, Cook My Pantry. For the group, Green gathers ideas from his friends around the country to answer the age-old question: What’s for dinner today?  

Green intended to get the group started in January 2020, well before the shelter-in-place orders took effect. In that month, he challenged himself to only purchase fresh foods and add them to the non-perishable food already in his house. Once the pandemic hit and people were making fewer trips to the grocery store and purchasing more shelf-stable food, he got the group going to help others expand their palate while creating different and tasty dishes.  

“The initial idea for the group was to post what you have in your pantry and I’d give suggestions on what to make that night, but it has evolved beyond that,” Green said. “Now, the entire group has pitched in to post their food and give suggestions to others. It’s a whole community of people who are helping one another and sharing ideas.” 

Green began the group by inviting his large family and friends, all of whom are spread across the United States. The diverse group is composed of people of different backgrounds and locations sharing their family or community’s food traditions, from carnivorous options to vegan and everything inbetween.  

“I’m from the East Coast and there was once a two-day discussion in the group about hot dogs. I like them with ketchup and relish, which my wife thinks is blasphemy,” Green joked. “It was so funny to see what people across the country like on their hot dogs and how committed they are to their way of doing it.” 

Pasta, rice, and canned tomatoes are three pantry staples that get a lot of mileage among many ethnically diverse cuisines. “You don’t have to be fancy to be a great cook. We welcome all ideas on the Cook My Pantry page, so just put it out there!” Green said. “I recently made mini naan pizzas with caramelized onion, pasta sauce, ground lamb, and greens. It was all stuff I had in the pantry or freezer and it was easy and delicious.” 

With Father’s Day approaching, Green recommends having the kids pitch in to make dad a special meal. “And don’t forget to pick up some beer from Horse Thief Hollow and Open Outcry to round it out,” he said. 

Make Your Own Pizza Party 

You can you use a wide array of items for your pizza crust: Store bought pizza dough or crust, dough from a local pizzeria, naan, flatbread, puff pastry and if you like, you can make you your own dough from scratch.   

The same goes for the pizza sauce: Store bought pizza, marinara or alfredo sauce doctored up to your taste.  You can also make a simple homemade pizza sauce, like the Italian style sauce below, recipe from Alvin Green. 

Toppings are endless, mix and match to your heart’s content. 

EASY PIZZA SAUCE 

15 oz. crushed fire roasted tomatoes 

Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 

1 small clove garlic (1/2 medium) 

1/2 tsp. dried oregano 

Scant 1/2 tsp. kosher salt  

INSTRUCTIONS 

Cut garlic into a few rough pieces 

Place all ingredients in blender, blend until fully combined. (This pizza sauce is Italian-style, which has a slightly runnier texture than American-style pizza sauce.) 

Add desired toppings to pizza crust* and bake in a 425F preheated oven for 13-15 minutes or until toppings are golden brown. Slice and serve. 

*If using a storebought crust, follow package directions.  

 

Reilly’s Daughter Irish Soda Bread Contest Entries Sought 

By Kristin O’Neill Boza 

The simple truth about Irish soda bread is that as vital to the ingredients families mix in bowls and bake in ovens is the pride, tradition and heritage with which they make it. Soda bread is not just a food, it’s a cultural experience that’s as personal as each family’s recipe.  

Every year, area bakers bring their unique versions to compete in the legendary Boz O’Brien’s Irish Soda Bread Contest at Reilly’s Daughter, 4010 W. 111th St. This year’s bake-off takes place on Sat., Mar. 7, 1 to 4 p.m. All entrants can sign up with their delectable loaf at 10 a.m. on the day of the competition for a chance to win one of 10 prizes. Last year, nearly 100 samples of the best Irish soda bread on the south side entered the competition.  

First place wins airfare for two to Ireland; second place wins $500; third place wins $200; and fourth through tenth places win gift certificates. Judges are local notables, and past judges include Ald. Matt O’Shea, State Rep. Fran Hurley, and the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Queen and court. 

Now run by second-generation Reilly’s Daughter owner Brendan O’Brien, no loaf will be turned away as long as it’s there by 10 a.m. on Sat., Mar. 7. Will a Beverly/Morgan Park resident take home the bragging rights this year? For more information, check out Reilly’s Daughter on Facebook, or call 708-423-1188. 

Thsoda bread basics are flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. In that form, soda bread became popular in Ireland in the mid-1800s. Bicarbonate of soda was more available and less expensive than yeast as a leavener. Ireland’s soft wheat flour made a satisfying bread that could feed the family. 

According the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread website, soda bread was baked every day, and covering your newly baked loaf of soda bread with a damp towel was a must.  

Every family has multiple takes on what makes the best Irish soda bread; here’s one of many examples from my own family. 

Grandma Nancy’s Nutty Irish Soda Bread 

1 c chopped walnuts 

4 ½ c all-purpose flour 

2 ¼ tsp. baking soda 

1 tsp. salt 

1 c golden raisins 

1 ½ c buttermilk 

2 eggs 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned; 5-6 minutes; cool.  

In large bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, raisins, and walnuts. Combine buttermilk and eggs. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour until combined.  

On work surface, knead dough until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Shape into round loaf; lightly sprinkle with flour. Place on ungreased baking sheet. With serrated knife, cut ½” deep “X” in the top.  

Bake 45-50 minutes or until baked through and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pan and cool on rack for 20 minutes.  

 

 

Home Cooking: Family Foodie Traditions 

Every family has a food tradition at the holidays, from Aunt Judy’s green bean casserole to Grandma’s pumpkin pie from scratch. These foods evoke childhood memories and instill an urge to keep the tradition going for the next generation. A few Beverly/Morgan Park neighbors recently shared their family foodie traditions.  

Anyone who has visited Americanos, 11060 S. Western, knows that owner AJ Castillo and his hard-working kitchen create delectable modern Mexican food. During the holidays, the Castillos gather in their home kitchens. 

“In December, we get together as a family to prep the tamales that we cook on Christmas Eve at our family party,” Castillo said. “We have all sorts of side dishes, but the tamales are the main attraction since we only get together to cook them once a year.” The whole Chicago branch of the family gets together to prep, cook, and of course, eat the tamales that are a family specialty. 

“On New Year’s Day, my mother always has pozole, which is a soup made with hominy, pork shoulder, guajillo chilies, cabbage, onions, cilantro and radishes,” he said. “My mother, Cynthia Castillo, learned to make pozole from her mother. These dishes are a special part of the holiday because it reminds us all of home and where we came from.” 

Unfortunately, Castillo was unable to share the tamale and pozole recipes because, as experienced family tradition cooks know, these kinds of dishes are prepared based not on written recipes but on instinct, and maybe a whisper from Grandma. 

Two Mile Coffee Bar located in the 95th Street Metra Station, is owned by Nate and Sonia Hollister and Greta Dertinger, who keep commuters and neighbors well-caffeinated.  

Sonia and 5-year-old daughter, Emily, began a homemade cinnamon roll tradition that spans every holiday and birthday throughout the year — and little Emily takes the lead! “Emily loves being in the kitchen baking with me; she loves measuring the flour and sugar, cracking eggs, and pouring the ingredients into the mixture,” Sonia said. “Nate and I got into breadmaking and pastry dough making after binging The Great British Bake-Off,’ and now Emily gets in and kneads the dough perfectly for our cinnamon rolls.” 

Sonia and Emily begin mixing and prepping the dough the night before, to give it the necessary time to rise; then they bake them fresh in the morning. Sonia developed her recipe based on four others she found online, mixing and matching the quantities and ingredients until she hit on the best combination. Sonia and Emily’s cinnamon rolls pair perfectly with Two Mile Coffee Bar coffee; the shop is expected to release a special holiday drink later in December. 

Sonia and Emily’s Cinnamon Rolls 

Dough 

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast 

1 cup milk, lukewarm 

1/2 cup granulated sugar 

1/3 cup butter unsalted, softened,  

1 tsp salt 

2 eggs 

4 cups all-purpose flour 

Filling 

1 cup brown sugar packed 

3 tbsp cinnamon 

1/3 cup butter unsalted, softened, or margarine 

Frosting 

½ cup softened cream cheese 

½ cup unsalted butter 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

2 cups powdered sugar 

How To Make Cinnamon Rolls 

Dissolve yeast in the warm milk and let sit 5 to 10 minutes until it has foamed up.  

Combine sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour in a stand mixer with dough hook and mix on low. Pour the milk/yeast mixture over the flour mixture. Knead” in mixer until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Run mixer for approximately 10 minutes to allow dough to stretch and develop gluten. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.  

Prepare filling: Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. 

To assemble cinnamon rolls, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 16 inches long by 12 inches wide. Spread filling evenly over the dough. Working carefully from the long edge, roll dough. Cut into 1 1/2 inch slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.  

Place rolls into lightly greased baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight. The next day, allow them to come to room temperature before baking. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees; bake rolls about 14 minutes 

While rolls are baking make frosting, combining all ingredients and beating with an electric mixer until fluffy and smooth. When the rolls are done, spread generously with frosting. 

For Stephen Milton and Sandra Beidron and their son, Sebastian, the array of holiday food traditions range from German dishes on St. Nicholas Day and Christmas morning to Slavic on Christmas Eve and Italian the day after Christmas to celebrate St. Stephen’s Day.  

Biedron’s mother, Gail, passed along the tradition of going to German shops on Lincoln Avenue for stolen, the German Christmas cake. Biedron’s father, the late Emil, was born on Christmas Eve in a family that celebrated Czech, Slovak and Polish traditions. “My grandmother had my dad at home at 1926 North Winchester and was not charged for the birth assistance by the doctor because he said the baby was good luck,” Biedron said. 

 “Christmas Eve dinner starts with breaking of the break about a half hour before the stars come out, then people gather around the table and the dinner starts when the first star is seen,” Biedron explained. “There are plates stacked at the table for the people that could not join us.  The top plate is with straw for the Christ child.”  

Christmas Eve dinner is meatless because of the tradition of fasting until after midnight. Dishes include Sole Walewska, pierogis with a sour cream sauce, crepes filled with apricot, raspberry or prunecucumbers with dill, vinegar, and sour cream,  stewed fruit and rye bread. 

The Italian tradition also features fish and vegetarian dishes on Christmas Eve, a big dinner on St. Stephen’s Day, and Panettone on Epiphany eve when La Befana, the witch who comes by broom on Epiphany Eve to bring gifts.  

 

Sole Walewska  

Filets of Dover Sole  

Lobster tails in shells 

Butter 

Brandy (may use cognac or Armagnac) 

Heavy cream 

Cook lobster tails in the oven at 300 to350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove the lobster from the shells and set the lobster meat in the refrigerator. Place lobster shells in a pan with the cream, butter and brandy and simmer gently until the creme is orange-pink (about 1-2 hours). Strain shells from sauce and reduce; thicken with a little corn starch if needed. Once reduced, add dime- to quarter-sized pieces of lobster into the simmering cream sauce for 5 minutes maximum).  In a shallow pan of simmering water, gently poach the Dover Sole until cooked (ten minutes or less). Serve with lobster sauce on the side. 

Although Judie Anderson’s mother was born in the United States, her parents didn’t like America so they raised their daughter in their native country, Ukraine. In 1927, at the age of sixteen, Judie’s mother returned to the USA by herself, and settled in Chicago.  

Judie and her brother were raised in the holiday traditions of Ukraine, similar to the traditions in Poland and Lithuania. With her mother as her guide, Judie learned to make intricate straw tree ornaments, and to appreciate the colorful beauty and intricate design of the Ukranian creche, Christmas decorations and foods.  

The Christmas holidays were celebrated on Jan. 6 with dancing and festive foods. Like the tables set in her childhood, Anderson still prepares the dishes that recall her youth: borscht, pierogis, holepchi (cabbage rolls), kishka (blood sausage), kapusta (sauerkraut) and rye bread. Sweets include the beautifully decorated babka, a sweet bread made with citrus fruits, raisins and almonds, and kolacky.  

Anderson shared her easy and delicious recipe for sauerkraut.  

KAPUSTA 

1 small can Frank’s sweet sauerkraut 

1/2 cup applesauce 

1/2 sweet onion, chopped 

1/2 cup maple syrup 

Caraway seed to taste 

Simmer all ingredients for about 15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed in 1/4 cup water and stir to thicken. Serves 4-6. 

 

Cooking Healthy Summer Meals on the Grill 

 

By Kristin Boza 

Since Whole Foods Market opened three months ago in Evergreen Plaza, 9600 S. Western Ave., the neighborhood rejoiced to finally have fast access to the popular organic and natural grocery chain. 

The concept for Whole Foods Market is twofold, according to Kristi Malicoat, Store Team Leader at the Evergreen Park location. “There’s a misconception that everything is really expensive here, but I can feed my family a really nutritious meal that’s easy to make and also very filling for under $30,” she said. Malicoat encourages new shoppers to simply ask a team member for help when they shop, as they are trained to “build a basket on any budget,” according to Malicoat. She also encourages budget-conscious shoppers to check out Whole Foods’ 365 line, which is the company’s value-priced products. 

Shoppers should also know that not everything at Whole Foods Market is organic; in fact, the store has both organic and natural options. “Natural means the product contains no artificial ingredients, like colors or sweeteners,” Malicoat said. “Our organic products are properly certified as organic. Any team member can help shoppers find what’s right for them.” 

Malicoat grew up in South Bend, Ind., and worked in retail for years before landing her position at Whole Foods Market. One of the best things about the Evergreen Park location is that her team members, many of whom worked all over the city and suburbs for Whole Foods Market, can now work close to home.  

“We had about 15 team members transfer to our store from other locations — now they’re coming to work much closer to home. Many of them used to commute up to two hours, and now they have a neighborhood store that’s 10 minutes from their house. Their passion during the interview process was incredible; they’d been fighting for this store location and waiting for it to open. Their passion about the community is what got me excited to work here, too!” 

Summer grilling is easy with the help of Whole Foods Market products; Malicoat’s favorite is the Tequila Lime Spice. “It’s so good on shrimp, salmon or chicken, and you can also turn it into a dressing for a delicious salad,” she said. “You can get really creative with grilling, especially throwing vegetables and melon on the grill. We have many pre-marinated items for those in a hurry. We have plenty of fresh seafood, and also bags of frozen fish that can be thawed during the day and thrown on the grill for a simple and filling dinner.” 

 

Grilling with Whole Foods Market 

 

Tequila Lime Marinade and Dressing 

Ingredients (amounts are specific to personal taste!) 

Tequila Lime Spice 

Olive Oil 

Lime Juice 

Water 

Shrimp, either precooked or raw 

Whisk together the first five ingredients, then add in the shrimp until coated. Heat up the grill and spear the shrimp on a kabob; grill until cooked through. 

 

Side Salad
Get creative with the ingredients!  

Romaine Lettuce 

Cucumbers 

Whole Foods’ Flavor Bomb Cherry Tomatoes 

Avocado 

Cilantro 

Dice all ingredients and pour the Tequila Lime Dressing over the top. Add the grilled shrimp for a complete meal. 

Kids Share Their Mother’s Day Menus 

By Kristin Boza 

Mother’s Day is Sun., May 12. These local kids are cooking, preparing or simply offering their moms and grandmas some unforgettable meals this year!  

Patrick Howe-Bowen 

8th grade, Sutherland School
I’m making my mom some Pao de Queijo (a cheese bread) that we had on our recent trip to Brazil, and a Brazilian carrot cake. You can find the recipe for Pao de Queijo at www.bonappetit.com. The best thing about my mom is that she won’t let anyone mess with her children.  

Elianna Angone 

1st grade, Clissold School
I will make my mom enchiladas because she really likes them! The best thing about my mom is that she loves me no matter what. 

Araceli Angone 

 2nd grade, Clissold Elementary
I would send my grandma Peeps because they are her favorite candy. But first, I’d open the package because she likes them best when they are a tiny bit hard. The best thing about my grandma is that she never gets mad and has the best dog ever. 

Evelyn Slattery 

 4th grade, Clissold School
I don’t know what I will cook for my mom. All I know how to cook is quesadillas! The best thing about my mom is that she takes care of me, and she loves me, and she helps me a lot, and she’s fun to play with. 

Mae Slattery 

2nd grade, Clissold School
I will cook Southwest Salad for my mom because she loves it. The best thing about my mom is … there’s so many things! 

Billy Slattery 

Immanuel Preschool
I will cook pizza for my mom. I want to eat it with her! I love my mom because she’s nicer. 

Madelyn Slatter 

 Immanuel Preschool
I cook mommy cheesy noodles! I love mommy, she gives me apples. 

Nine One One BBQ Shack Feeds the Neighborhood 

By Kristin Boza 

A new name, a new location, but the same amazing barbecue: Nine One One BBQ Shack, 2734 W. 111th St., is on deck to save any hunger emergencies. 

Known as 19 Paul BBQ at its former location at 111th and Vincennes, Nine One One delivers the same tastes that locals have come to love, and a name that keeps neighbors mindful of the people we rely on to serve and protect our community 

“Restaurants typically name a restaurant to give honor to a food or person; why not a group of people? It’s a heartfelt way of acknowledging the work that our first responders do on a daily basis: helping to preserve our way of life,” said owner Kurrin Beamon.  

The Nine One One menu consists of slowly smoked ribs, brisket, chicken and pulled pork. Side options include salads, greens, their famous mac ‘n cheese, sweet potatoes, fries and slaw. They are open for takeout, delivery, walk-ups and even catering.  

There’s something magical about a hearty plate of BBQ on a cold winter day. “When the chill hits our bones, a slab of ribs with a side of greens and the sweet indulgence of peach cobbler can make terrible weather feel more like a mid-summer’s night breeze!” said Beamon. 

Beamon’s brisket smokes with hickory wood for 14 hours. At-home barbecue enthusiasts should never rush the process, as “… any true BBQ is worth the wait,” according to Beamon. She advises that patience is the key to perfecting barbecue; simply flavor your brisket with any favorite spices and let it smoke. 

In March, Nine One One will add some St. Paddy’s Day flavors into their regular menu with smoked BBQ corned beef with potatoes. 

Nine One One BBQ Shack is open Mon. through Thurs.,10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fri. and Sat. from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Find their menu and more at NineOneOneBBQShack.com. 

Nine One One Collard Greens 

lbs collard greens
1 turkey wing
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt to taste 

In a large pot, add chicken stock, one turkey wing, onions, red pepper flakes and collard greens. Cook on high until a rapid boil builds, then, simmer until tender. Add salt to taste and serve! 

Home Cooking: Sticking to Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

By Kristin Boza

The magical time of year when New Year’s resolutions are made is here. At the top of most lists is getting healthy, including eating better and working out more consistently. Jenny Harkins, BAPA business member and owner of Treadfit, 10458 S. Western, shares her tips on turning a New Year’s resolution into a lasting lifestyle change.

Track Calories Realistically
What you eat must be used by your body, otherwise those calories will end up as fat around your midsection. Harkins stays on track by using the MyFitnessPal app. “The app allows you to track your food and workouts throughout the day. I set realistic goals and program my macro percentages to 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent protein,” she said. “By setting realistic goals and eating a balanced diet, I am not depriving myself of a specific food group and am able to maintain my goal weight.”

Find an Accountability Team
While calorie tracking is a great way to hold yourself responsible for what you eat, let’s face it — it’s hard sometimes. That’s one reason why Treadfit started the Focus on You Challenge to urge participants to eat right, work out, and lean on one another when the healthy lifestyle change gets difficult.

The five-week challenge begins on Jan. 7. Participants commit to completing four to five Treadfit classes a week, plus following the Treadfit Focus Food List. “Everyone who joins will attend a pre- and post-assessment, plus a nutritional workshop. During our first Focus on You Challenge, participants lost an average of seven pounds and eight inches,” Harkins said. The fee for the challenge is $25, which does not include Treadfit classes.

Simplify Your Menu
Harkins finds it easy to stay on track by eating almost the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day. “I usually have an RXBAR for breakfast with a coffee, and Crunchmaster crackers with some type of nut butter for lunch,” she said. “I aim to make a healthy dinner five nights a week for my family, usually with a balance of healthy protein, like ground turkey or chicken, carbs and fat.”

Snack Smartly
Three p.m. is the time when even the healthiest eaters hit a slump. Plan ahead by making a quick and healthy snack to avoid the pitfall of chocolate and cookies. Harkins makes a smoothie bowl, which satisfies her sweet tooth and gives her a much-needed protein boost late in the day.

Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Place the ingredients in a blender:
A splash of skim milk
Greek yogurt
Frozen berries
Two scoops of collagen protein (available at Southtown Health Foods)

Blend.  Harkins tops off her smoothies with a sprinkle of granola, coconut and honey.

Pie Baking Tips for Thanksgiving

By Kristin Boza 

Baking the perfect pie takes practice and patience and a bit of scientific strategy to nail down the ultimate ratio of flavors in the filling. So, making a pie isn’t exactly as “easy as pie.” 

Beverly/Morgan Park resident Reba Cafarelli is a self-proclaimed amateur baker, but she has truly perfected the art of pie making. Her love of baking began as a child when she helped her mother in the kitchen.  

“A lot of my baking know-how and instinct can be traced back to my mom. I became interested in pies on my own when I opened up one of my Bon Appétit magazines and saw a recipe I knew I had to try,” she said. “I have been going back to that same recipe over and over again, and it’s been a great tool to hone my crust making skills.” 

Cafarelli’s signature pie from that magazine is a blueberry-ginger double crust pie. “The crust recipe is so delicious and buttery, and is described as ‘rustic’ which appeals to my Type B personality,” she said. “The best part about it is that other filling combinations follow the same formula of fruit/sugar/cornstarch/acid, so the door is open for experimentation.” Despite being a “rule follower,” she has created delectable strawberry-lemon and triple berry-basil fillings based off of that recipe. 

Thanksgiving at the Cafarelli house is filled with the scents of pie, particularly the crowd-pleasing pumpkin. But she’s most excited to perfect her apple pie. “I absolutely love the aroma of any type of apple and cinnamon pastry baking in the oven this time of year. It evokes feelings of comfort, coziness, and I think it’s the way to end a Thanksgiving feast,” she said.  

Troubleshooting Pie Mishaps 

Cafarelli cautions that the crust is the most difficult part of making a stand-out pie, and it takes a lot of restraint to proceed slowly. “It’s essential to keep the ingredients as cold as possible while working with them. I have found that the extra step of using a stainless steel or metal bowl that has been chilled in the fridge helps to keep ingredients cold,” she said. “I also like to find a ‘cold spot’ on my counter when rolling the crust. One time I was having a lot of trouble with this step and it turns out I was trying to roll out the crust above the running dishwasher, which was heating up the counter.” 

Even the forks and pastry cutters used to mix the dough must be kept at an icy temperature, and Cafarelli stresses to move fast if you’re using your hands to knead the dough. However, she found that using her hands is better to flatten out the chunks of butter into flat disks, resulting in a coveted flaky crust. She avoids using frozen fruits, as she found through trial and error that that results in a soggy crust due to an excess of water released during baking. 

Another common mistake is overfilling the pie crust. Cafarelli admits it’s tempting to pile the filling in high, but it often results in a lot of spillover into the oven. Always place a cookie sheet in the oven, underneath the pie dish, to catch any drippings that may bubble over. 

Finishing Touches 

Cafarelli prefers to use a double-crust pie, where a second layer of crust is placed over the filling. “It keeps things simple and gives a more buttery crunch in every bite of pie,” she said. A great finishing touch is adding cut out shapes made of the dough to the top of the pie. “For Fourth of July, I used a star-shaped cookie cutter to create an overlapping star pattern all over the top of the pie. For Thanksgiving this year, I may try to do the same with a leaf-shaped cookie cutter,” she said. 

One finishing touch Cafarelli insists upon is using Demerara sugar, which is a large-grained, brown colored, and raw sugar with a caramel-like flavor. “Before placing the pie in the oven, I brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle it with a generous amount of Demerara sugar. It helps to create a beautiful golden-brown finish and adds extra crunch and sweetness to every bite,” Cafarelli said. 

Ready to make a pie? Look for Cafarelli’s favorite pie crust recipe at www.bonappetit.com 

Home Cooking: Make Ahead Meals

By Kristin Boza 

Everyone is seeking ways to simplify their lives. Especially when it comes to dinner, it’s too easy to grab takeout or make unhealthy choices for the sake of time. Cooking a healthy meal each night means setting aside time to chop, slice, and cook — time that most people just don’t have. Preparing meals ahead means that busy people will always have a fridge or freezer stocked with healthy meals that simply need to be heated up and served. 

Paula McDermott is one of 11 children, and her Italian mother, Antoinette, became a master at cooking delicious meals efficiently when the kids were growing up. 

“Cooking ran in my mom’s family, and she approached food with the understanding that it should be good and make people happy,” McDermott said. “She often made dinner for 20 people at a time! I learned a lot about how to manage time and how to cook for a lot of people at once.” 

McDermott’s husband, Jim, is a professionally-trained chef and he keeps the kitchen organized and efficient. McDermott shares her thoughts on preparing meals in advance to keep the family satisfied and healthy. 

Make Extra to Freeze for Later
Ease into freezing food by doubling or tripling whatever is being cooked, then freezing the rest. “If I’m making spaghetti sauce, soup or stews, I store enough in the freezer for a few meals,” McDermott said. When ready to eat, simply heat the frozen food in the microwave, stovetop or oven and serve with a fresh side salad or bread. 

Prep Vegetables and Meat Once a Week
It’s easy to pick up assorted vegetables from the grocery store, but sometimes just chopping up a pepper feels like too much work on a busy weeknight. McDermott sets aside some time on Sundays to wash, peel and dice all the vegetables she intends to serve that week, then puts them in individual containers with a paper towel to absorb the moisture.  

This also works for meat. “If I buy chicken in bulk, I will grill all five pounds and have that chopped and ready to go for the week. You can grab a handful for salad or tacos for a super easy meal,” she said. 

Make a Plan
If spending a Sunday preparing dinners ahead, make a detailed plan. “Start with how many meals you need to prepare in a week and set out recipes for them or ideas on how you’re going to make them. Then, make a grocery list,” McDermott said. “Once you get home, immediately prep so you are ready to go and you’re not putting your groceries away whole and saving it for later. I know if I save something for later, it won’t happen.”  

She advises to start with the vegetables, then move on to fruit and greens, saving any meat prep for last to prevent contamination. 

Paula’s Make Ahead Taco Pasta Shells 

Taco Seasoning:  

This recipe makes a lot. Use it on eggs, vegetables or chicken. For a mild version, omit the crushed red peppers  

10 Tbs chili powder
2.5 tsp. garlic powder
2.5 tsp. onion powder
3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2.5 tsp. dried oregano
5 tsp. paprika
15 tsp. ground cumin
10 tsp. sea salt
10 tsp. black pepper 

Combine and store tightly in a container. 

Taco Pasta Shells
2 lbs ground chuck
1 box large pasta shells
6 Tbs. taco seasoning
1/2 c water
1/2 brick cream cheese
1/2 c. cilantro
Salsa and cheese for toppings 

Cook the meat, drain and add back to the pan. Add cream cheese, taco seasoning, and water. Cook until the cream cheese melts. While meat is cooking, cook the pasta shells according to directions. Fill the shells with the taco meat and top with salsa, cheese and cilantro. Serve!