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.