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! 

 

School Lunch Hacks for Busy Parents

By Kristin Boza 

There’s a certain pleasure in packing school lunches for your kids; it’s a simple way to show them you care during a long day apart. Well, at least that’s how it feels during the first week of school. The labor of love often turns into just another chore to churn out on hectic mornings.  

Moms of Beverly/Morgan Park came together to share some of their best tips, tricks and hacks to make school lunch packing easier than ever. 

Bento Boxes Provide Variety 

Bento boxes, which are usually found built into lunch boxes, contain several small compartments for packing food. They offer a great solution for picky eaters and give parents an opportunity to pack quite a few options. Consider cutting up half of a sandwich for the largest container, then include a sampling of fruit (grapes, cut-up strawberries, and blueberries fit perfectly in the small spaces), hummus, carrot sticks, and perhaps even a couple fruit snacks or chocolates for dessert.  

Post a Menu  

St. Barnabas School mom Moira Benton solved the “What’s for lunch?” question by developing a weekly menu for her four children. She created a simple Word template with spaces for two Post-It notes per day and hangs it on the fridge, so the kids always know what they are eating for breakfast and lunch.  

“I create menus for breakfast and lunch, and they are a life saver. Plus, I use Post-It notes so the menu is easily changeable,” she said. “We even use it during vacations and summer; it just makes life easier. The Post-Its are great for any unexpected changes, like if we’re out of something or it’s hot lunch day at school,” Benton said. 

Crustless Sandwiches  

Uncrustables are found in the freezer section at any grocery store, but often contain undesirable preservatives or additives. However, they are perfect for picky eaters who can’t stand the sight of a crust of bread. Lisa Forde, who has one daughter at Mother McAuley High School and another at St. Barnabas School, sometimes makes a batch of her own version of Uncrustables using a Pampered Chef sandwich cutter. The sandwiches can be made ahead of time and frozen (see recipe below). 

Think Outside the Sandwich 

Get as creative as the kid’s palette will allow and build out a lunch with a variety of healthy foods. Forde says her daughters will choose to pack hummus with pita chips or carrots, or even spinach salad topped with strawberries. She uses the Rubbermaid Brilliance salad set or sandwich set, which provide small individual containers to pack foods that can later be mixed together; one favorite lunch is a mix of yogurt, granola and berries all separated so they don’t get soggy by lunchtime.  

“Uncrustable” Sandwiches 

Bread 

Nut butter (soynut or sunflower butter can be used for children with allergies or attending a nut-free school) 

Jelly 

Instructions
Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as usual, but concentrate the filling on the center of the bread only. 

Take a sandwich sealer tool or even a large glass cup and place it over the sandwich, pressing down until the bread is cut through. Before removing the sandwich sealer or glass, gently remove the crust. 

Lay the prepared sandwiches on a baking sheet, uncovered, and freeze for two hours. 

Once frozen through, remove the sandwiches and place in individual baggies or wrap in plastic wrap. 

Keep frozen until ready to use. Either send the sandwich to school frozen (it will thaw by lunchtime) or microwave for 15 seconds if eating right away. 

 

Fire Up Your Smoker With Tips from a BBQ Expert

By Kristin Boza 

Beverly/Morgan Park resident John Fitzpatrick has been honing his BBQ skills for years and shares some of his best tips to ensure your ribs are the best at every backyard BBQ and block party this year. 

Fitzpatrick is an amateur rib smoker who dedicated many summers to replicating his favorite restaurant-quality recipes, until he ultimately began concocting his own way of smoking racks of ribs.  

He’s taken his hobby to the competitive level, participating in the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship Cook-Off as the Smoke n’ Beers team, competing against BBQ masters from around the world. 

“I had a big custom rotisserie pit mounted on a trailer that I could jam about 16 racks in at a time,” he said. “But it looked like a toy compared to the huge rigs, some two stories high, that the guys in Memphis were using… but overall, it was just an awesome experience.” 

When he first discovered ribs as a kid, Fitzpatrick loved the classic Homestead restaurant at 122nd and Vincennes. “They closed down when I was in high school and left me with the same feeling the ’85 Bears did after their one Super Bowl victory,” he said. “I kept waiting for them to reopen and they never did!”  

That disappointment sent Fitzpatrick on a life-long quest to find ribs just as good as Homestead’s. About 15 years ago, Fitzpatrick and his wife stopped at the 17th Street Bar & Grill in southern Illinois and he was swept away by the ribs he ate there. After chatting for over an hour with the owner, Fitzpatrick was inspired to buy his own smoker and start creating his own ribs at home.  

For those embarking on the home smoker/BBQ rib experience, Fitzpatrick recommends first heading to County Fair to pick up some great ribs. His favorite commercial sauce is Dreamland Bar-B-Que from Birmingham, Ala., and his favorite commercial dry rub is Ploughboys BBQ Yardbird Rub. Or, check out the recipe below to make your own dry rub, courtesy of Fitzpatrick. 

Once the ribs are ready to cook, the challenge is to make sure they’re cooked through without having them dry out or char. Sometimes, Fitzpatrick warns, people will take the ribs off and they’ll be perfect, but they will dry out and taste burnt after 45 minutes on the buffet table. To combat this problem, he advises cookers to wrap the ribs in aluminum foil for the last third of the total cooking time. 

“If your total cooking time is 3 and a half hours, foil the ribs for about the last hour and a half. The lower your cooking temp, the longer your cook time, and the longer your cook time is, the more important it becomes to foil your ribs. If you like sauce, it’s a great idea to brush them with a little just before you foil.”  

Fitzpatrick cautions against putting a can of water into the cooker or partially pre-cooking the ribs in a pan with water on the bottom since the ribs “will taste like you pulled them out of the dishwasher.” 

To get Fitzpatrick-worthy ribs, check out his carefully crafted rib cooking schedule; 

 

Best Homemade Dry Rub from John Fitzpatrick
1 cup turbinado sugar  

3/4 cup kosher salt 

1/2 cup paprika (highest quality you can find) 

6 tbsp. chili powder 

2 tbsp. cumin seeds, freshly ground 

4 tsp. mixed peppercorns, freshly ground 

3 tsp. onion granules 

2 tsp. MSG (or Accent) 

1 tsp. chipotle powder 

 

Mix together and rub on ribs before cooking. 

 

John Fitzpatrick’s Rib Competition Cooking Schedule for Perfectly Smoked Ribs 

5 hours, 25 minutes before serving: Start smoker and get it to 250 degrees 

4 hours, 40 minutes before serving: Slather and rub ribs 

4 hours, 25 minutes before serving: Put ribs on smoker, meat side up 

3 hours, 10 minutes before serving: Rotate ribs 

1 hour, 55 minutes before serving: Foil ribs, meat side down and add braising liquid 

1 hour, 45 minutes before serving: Put ribs back in smoker 

45 minutes before serving: Take ribs out of smoker and vent. Reseal foil. Let rest in liquid. Heat sauce. 

30 minutes before serving: Drain liquid. Rub and sauce ribs. Re-foil. Put ribs in smoker at 200 degrees. 

10 minutes before serving: Cut, select and re-sauce ribs 

5 minutes before serving: Plate the ribs then serve.  

Home Cooking: Mead with a Meal

By Kristin Boza

Home Tour attendees are in for a literal treat with the pairing of Ellie’s Cafe and Wild Blossom Meadery. This partnership provides a delicious dish prepared by Ellie’s chef and owner Cathy Stacey with a mead pairing provided by Greg Fisher, owner of Wild Blossom Meadery.

“When I was told I would be paired with Wild Blossom for the Home Tour experience, all I could think of was Vikings because they drank copious amounts of mead,” Stacey said. “It got me thinking about what they put into their stomachs besides mead. Apparently, Vikings had a simple diet, with the wealthier being able to afford a little exotic spice through trade. Honey was the only sweetener they knew. When Greg told me he has a spicy mead, I knew it was a no brainer.”

Stacey plans on marinating a pork tenderloin in a spicy mead with honey and served on grilled flat bread. The meal is paired with Pirates Blood, a hot chili pepper mead made right at Wild Blossom. Stacey’s research found that Vikings also liked to garden, so she’s pairing the dish with a garden slaw with horseradish dressing sweetened with honey. To round out the Viking experience, Stacey will not provide silverware so attendees can feel like true Vikings.

Spring is finally here and this is the perfect way to celebrate it. As radish and pea season approach, this dish will be at its best in springtime and can be made a day ahead of when it’s served.

Radish and Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Ingredients

1.5 lbs sugar snap peas, trimmed, stringed, cut in half on diagonal

Kosher salt

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. (or more) fresh lemon juice

1 Tsp. white wine vinegar

1/2 Tsp. sumac, plus more for garnish (lemon zest or Zataar are good subsitutes)

1 bunch of radishes (about 6 oz), trimmed, thinly sliced

4 oz ricotta salata or feta, crumbled

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh mint

Fill a large bowl with ice water; set aside.

Cook peas in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to bowl with ice water to cool.

Drain peas; transfer to a kitchen towel-lined baking sheet to dry.

Whisk oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. sumac in a small bowl.

Toss peas, radishes, and cheese in a large bowl.

Cover dressing and salad separately and chill. When ready to serve, add dressing to salad and toss to coat.

Season salad with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Garnish with mint and sprinkle with sumac.

Pair with Pirates Blood mead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Cooking: Grandma Kelly’s Irish Soda Bread

By Kristin Boza

The South Side Irish Parade is more than a jaunt down Western Avenue. For many families, it’s an opportunity to gather around and enjoy Irish food, beer, music, and of course, companionship.

Maureen and Jack Kelly are masters of the Parade Day celebration. This year is extra special, as Jack celebrates his first year as the proprietor of Kelly’s Tap, 10910 S. Western Ave. Although Kelly’s Tap will be closed for a private party on Parade Day, he promises that patrons will be able to enjoy specials on Guinness, Irish whiskey, and other beverages throughout the month of March.

The Kellys hosted their first Parade Day party in 1985, shortly after they moved into their Beverly/Morgan Park home.

“Each year, more and more people attended, but the size of the crowd began to be a reason for concern,” Maureen said. “One year, we woke up the next morning to discover all our toothbrushes were missing; that mystery has never been solved! We eventually decided to take a one-year break from hosting a post-parade party.”

Intending to simplify the event, and prevent any further toothbrush theft, they began hosting a breakfast and invited only their family, neighbors and those marching in the parade. However, as word got out about the tasty food and warm hospitality, the party began growing in size once again. Soon, the Kellys’ pre-parade parties became the stuff legends are made of.

“We have had the honor of hosting NYC firefighter/policemen, dignitaries from Ireland, lots of candidates and many federal, state, county, and city elected officials and union officials. Our most famous guest was Barack Obama, who stopped in several years before he ran for president. But, of course, we don’t have any pictures,” Maureen said.

“Our favorite part of Parade Day is the celebration of faith, family, friends and heritage,” she said. “We do most of the cooking and baking the day before with dishes that can be heated on Sunday morning. Lots of soda bread, breakfast casseroles, potatoes, bread pudding with an Irish whiskey caramel sauce, and lots of treats our friends and family contribute.”

Of course, there are corned beef sandwiches too, which Maureen wraps up in plastic so the guests can enjoy them while watching the parade. One of her favorite items to make is Jack’s grandmother’s Irish Soda Bread.

“I love that I have this copy, especially because it is in her own handwriting. I never had the pleasure to meet her, but have shared her recipe and feel like we honor her memory each time we bake a loaf,” Maureen said. “Our oldest daughter, Kacey, has taken over all the soda bread baking duties, and she makes a mean loaf! I have added my own special twist to the recipe that makes the bread even better, but that’s a guarded secret.”

 

Grandma Kelly’s Irish Soda Bread

3 c. sifted flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 c. butter (or other shortening)
1 1/2 c. raisins or currants
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening. Add raisins and stir in buttermilk. Knead gently on lightly floured board for 30 seconds. Pat out and place in a greased 1 qt. casserole dish or 9-10″ pie dish. Cut a cross on the top, about 1/4″ deep. Brush with cream, or milk. Bake about one hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Home Cooking with Southtown Health Foods

By Kristin Boza

Chances are, eating better food is on the to-do list for 2018. Southtown Health Foods, 2100 95th St. has numerous organic food and special diet options to help you stick with your resolution, for good.

Instead of struggling with your blender for a green power drink each day, head to Southtown’s juice bar. “Our fresh juice is full of enzymes and vitamins, providing a great source of energy, which is especially great for those who want to give up coffee,” said Katie Speh, general manager. The most popular juice blend is a mix of spinach, celery, cucumber, kale and parsley with a kick of lemon, ginger and apple to sweeten it up. “People can use the juice as their healthy drink of the day, or they can use it as a juice cleanse or afternoon pick-me-up.”

“The juice is fresh for four-to-eight hours, but it’s best to drink it right away. Another option is to freeze it if you are unable to drink it right away,” Speh said.

Southtown Health Foods specializes in organic produce, and vegan and vegetarian food options. In fact, they were the very first store in all of Chicago to carry organic produce 35 years ago. They also carry a variety of allergy-free foods, including gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free items. Vegans and vegetarians who are short on time can grab a prepared meal that can be warmed up at home. Two local companies, Soul Vegan and Soul Vegetarian, are some of the locally sourced vegan and vegetarian suppliers.

Over 100 fresh, loose herbs and spices are available at Southtown. “Our customers can come in and choose different herbs to make their own tea, or to use in recipes,” Speh said. “We also offer food options for every lifestyle diet out there, from Paleo to ketogenic diets, and even help for those with diabetes who need some direction. Our staff can help guide you to a better food choice.”

 

Slow Cooker Short Ribs

Prep: 30 min. Cook: 6-1/4 hours. 6 servings

3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup beef broth

4 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

2 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cups dry red wine or beef broth

4 teaspoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. In batches, brown ribs on all sides; transfer to a 4- or 5-qt. slow cooker. Add carrots, broth, thyme and bay leaf to ribs.
  2. Add onions to the same skillet; cook and stir over medium heat 8-9 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and tomato paste; cook and stir 1 minute longer. Stir in wine. Bring to a boil; cook 8-10 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add to slow cooker. Cook, covered, on low 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.
  3. Remove ribs and vegetables; keep warm. Transfer cooking juices to a small saucepan; skim fat. Discard thyme and bay leaf. Bring juices to a boil. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into cooking juices. Return to a boil; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until thickened. If desired, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper. Serve with ribs and vegetables.

Home Cooking with the BAPA Staff

By Kristin Boza

Party season has arrived! Whether you’re the host or the guest, these recipes are sure to satisfy every craving. Grab your butter, sugar and cheese and get ready to feast on these favorite recipes from the BAPA staff.

Creamy Appetizer or Hostess Gift

Grace Kuikman, Assistant Director, Coordinator of Communications, Villager Editor
I used to buy Boursin cheese until I found this recipe for a rich, savory, homemade version that’s great on crackers, with raw veggies or even lightly spread onto a sandwich. It’s easy to make and lasts a long time. Adjust the amount of herbs and garlic to taste — this version is garlicky. For a welcome hostess gift, fill a decorated jar with this cheese spread, and add a box of crackers and a bottle of wine.

Boursin Cheese Spread

16 oz. softened cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. each: dill weed, marjoram, basil, black pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed

Mix well. Keep refrigerated.
Easy Dinner Party Favorites

Maureen Gainer Reilly, BAPA Board President
While we love entertaining at our house, I realized I always want to hang out with my guests as soon as they arrive. Being stuck in the kitchen making something complicated isn’t really my thing. Here’s the absolute easiest dinner party; just double (or triple) it if the guest list grows. Even easier: Assign dessert to a guest, and then you’re set!

Special Salad
One bundle (or large bag) spinach
1 green apple, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 package bleu cheese crumbles
Poppy seed dressing, to taste

Just combine and serve!

Super Easy Vodka Pasta
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano is best)
1 lb. penne pasta
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. vodka
Parmesan cheese, to taste
1/4 c. flat leaf parsley, snipped

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté the oil, garlic, and red pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper (don’t brown).
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer about 15 minutes.
  3. Make the penne in a separate pot and add it to the sauce when done. Toss.
  4. Add the vodka. Toss.
  5. Add the cream. Toss.
  6. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.

Put on a large platter and garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

 

Savory Side Dish

Margot Holland, Executive Director

Mac ‘n cheese is a staple of any party — particularly when cooking for a crowd. This mac ‘n cheese recipe is always a crowd-pleaser for both kids and adults!

Mom’s Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese
1 box pasta (large shells or elbow macaroni work best)
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
3 c. whole milk
2 1/2 tbsp. flour
1/4 c. butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. breadcrumbs

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick.
  3. Place pasta in a large casserole dish, and pour sauce over. Stir well.
  4. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and brown. Spread over the pasta and cheese to cover.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Serve. Double it for a crowd!

Sweet Desserts

Jennifer Alving, Business Manager

These light and airy melt-in-your-mouth cookies have become a must-bring to every holiday party. They are super easy to make, and are egg-free. I often color the frosting depending on the occasion. For the holidays this year, they will be red and green!

Melt-a-way Cookies

1/2 lb. butter, softened
5 1/2 tbsp. powdered sugar
3/4 c. cornstarch
1 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
Frosting: 3/4 c. powdered sugar mixed with 1 1/2 tbsp. orange, lemon or lime juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. Cream butter with powdered sugar and cornstarch. Mix in flour. Add extract.
  2. Roll into balls about the size of a nickel.
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Let cool completely.
  4. For the frosting: Mix powdered sugar and juice. Dip top of cookie in frosting. Allow to dry completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

 

Mary Jo Viero, Community Organizer

I always loved to bake; I watched my mom baking when I was growing up and always enjoyed it. I make my signature iced sugar cookies for just about every holiday and special occasion. I love to be creative and make them personal; they are a great gift!

Mary Jo’s Iced Sugar Cookies
1 lb. butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
6 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture. Incorporate, but do not overwork dough.
  4. Chill dough before rolling out and cutting into shapes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on your oven.
  6. Cool completely before decorating. Decorate using your favorite cookie icing!

 

Roberta Kleinman, Property Preservation

As a first-generation Italian-American East Coast transplant, I taught myself to swim in the frigid waters of Long Island Sound, mastered the arcane complexities of the New York City subway system, and learned to drive confidently in rush hour traffic alongside mid-town Manhattan cab drivers, yet sadly never managed to leave my New York accent behind. I have lived very happily in Beverly/Morgan Park for the past 23 years, but I still dream occasionally about whether my golden years could have been even sweeter as proprietor of an idyllic Tuscan villa growing sangiovese grapes and bottling my own Chianti.

It’s possible to prepare this elegant dessert a day ahead.  If doing so, allow the meringue to fully cool and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Top with whipped cream and fruit just prior to serving.  Do not substitute ingredients – follow the directions exactly for best results.  Warning: If this is your first Pavlova, you are a neophyte at baking, and you are planning to serve this dessert to guests at a holiday gathering, as I was when I first made the attempt, you might want to try at least one test run first, or else have an alternative backup dessert waiting, just in case.  My first two attempts at making this dessert were failures, but I got it right the third time, and it was so worth the effort in the long run.

Pavlova

6 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 c. castor sugar or superfine sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsweetened flaked coconut (optional)
2 c. sweetened whipped cream
1 c. fresh strawberries, sliced
2 kiwi fruit, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
1 fresh peach, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Turn the temperature down to 300 degrees F when starting to bake.  Line a 10 inch round or larger diameter glass dish with parchment paper.

  1. Combine the egg whites and salt in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until able to form soft peaks.  Sprinkle in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while continuing to whip to stiff peaks.  Stir in the vanilla and vinegar, and fold in coconut if using. Spread evenly into the prepared glass dish, making sure to spread out to all of the edges.
  2. Place the Pavlova into the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is crisp and a pale straw color.  Leave in the oven, and turn off the heat.  Let it stay in the oven until the oven has cooled completely.
  3. Once the Pavlova has cooled, top generously with sweetened whipped cream.  Arrange the strawberries, kiwis, peaches and blueberries in concentric circles on top.

 

Home Cooking: Swanson’s Deli

By Kristin Boza

Swanson’s Deli and Catering, 2414 W. 103rd St., has been a neighborhood staple for over 50 years. Under new ownership since December, Swanson’s continues to offer Swedish specialties and American fare, and it is important for new owners Todd Thielmann and Greg Dix to continue the neighborhood tradition.

“Swanson’s was historically a Swedish deli, and we continue to offer Swedish items like Limpa bread, Gottenburg sausage, Bondost cheese and potato sausage,” said Thielmann. “The Swedish offerings are expanded during Christmas.”

Thielmann said that customers expect their delectable best sellers, including potato salad, chicken salad and the ever-popular cheeseballs. “My idea of a perfect sandwich is chicken salad on a buttercrust roll with lettuce, tomato and red onion,” Thielmann said. “Throw in a side of potato salad and it’s heaven.”

Dix and Thielmann grew up in Beverly/Morgan Park and felt it was essential to continue the Swanson’s role within the community.

“Whether it’s news at the different parishes, talk about local sports teams or the goings-on around town, it feels like Swanson’s is in the middle of it all,” Thielmann said. “Customers always thank us for taking over and continuing the legacy. It’s sad when a long-time business closes their doors, and we are excited about breathing new life into a community cornerstone.”

Fresh, high-quality food is essential to the pair as they retain the community favorites and enhance their menu.

“Greg and I look at it like we are now the caretakers of a loved and established deli. Customers have high expectations of the quality and consistency of the food we offer,” Thielmann said. For example, the chicken used in the chicken salad is cooked in-house and cut by hand, and the potatoes are peeled and diced by Dix and Thielmann.

“Our customers are very loyal because they know that we work very hard to present the best product,” Thielmann said.

Try to capture the best of Swanson’s flavors at home by making your own version of their chicken noodle soup. Or if all else fails, stop in for a cup to enjoy at home.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes approximately 3 quarts

Ingredients:

2 quarts chicken stock

1 1/2 cups carrots, diced

1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped

2 cups cooked chicken, diced

2 cups egg noodles

1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Salt & pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 cup water or chicken stock, cold

Bring chicken stock to a boil and immediately turn down heat to a simmer. Add vegetables and garlic. Simmer until vegetables are soft (about 7 to 10 minutes) add noodles and simmer another 5 to 7 minutes. When noodles are cooked, add chicken, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Remember to never let soup reach a boil. Adjust seasoning, if needed, and serve hot with crackers or crusty bread.

Shop at Swanson’s Mon. through Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. Order ahead by calling 773-239-1197. More info: www.swansonsbeverlydeli.com.