Cooking Clubs Serve Up Food And Fun - NBC Chicago

Cooking Clubs Serve Up Food And Fun

Dinner clubs create inexpensive social networking outlet



    Cooking Clubs Serve Up Food And Fun
    Cooking clubs are a great and inexpensive way to create a social network.

    In my continuing effort to share inexpensive ways of entertaining, I’d like to remind everyone of the benefits of creating a dinner club with your family and friends. 

    I was recently introduced to a group of ladies from Naperville who have created their own food group.  By getting together once a month to share recipes and cooking techniques, these ladies have created a wonderful social network and a great way to share a special meal on a regular basis.  These women are all moms at about the same age who love to cook and enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

    Once a month Debbie Archakis, Debbie Berger, Debbie Covington, Laura Hersh, Tammy Nolte, Diane Prodzenski, Betty Rea Smith and Debbie Weinstein agree upon a theme and each member brings a different dish to create an eight course meal that they all share at one member’s home.  Everyone also brings copies of the recipes so that each member has an every growing collection of great dishes.  By changing the theme and host home every month, each evening is a unique and I’m sure a very tasty experience.

    Cooking clubs like these have been around for a long time.  But, I think it’s great to be reminded of them.  If you aren't part of one, think about forming a new one of your own and start cooking! 

    Here’s a sample of just one evening with the ladies from Naperville.

    Cranberry Feta Pinwheels
    Diane Prodzenski

    8 oz Whipped Cream Cheese, softened
    2 cu Crumbled Feta Cheese
    1/4  cu Chopped Green Onions
    1 pkg (6 oz) Dried Cranberries
    4 Flour Tortillas (10 inches)


    In a small bowl, combine in the cream cheese and onions, stir in the cranberries. Spread about 1/2 cup mixture over each tortilla and roll up tightly wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Cut each roll into 10 slices.  Yield: 40 appetizers.

    Trifle Fruit Salad
    courtesy of Debbie Berger


    2 cu Fresh Pineapple Chunks
    2 cu Strawberries, sliced
    2 cu Blueberries
    2 cu Seedless Green Grapes
    4 Kiwi, peeled and sliced

    1-1/4 cu Milk
    1/2 cu Sour Cream
    1  3-3/4oz pkg Instant Banana Pudding
    1  8oz can Pineapple Crushed, undrained

    In a trifle bowl or large glass serving bowl, layer fruits. In a medium mixing bowl, combine milk and sour cream; blend well. Add pudding mix; beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Stir in crushed pineapple, spoon mixture over fruit within 1 inch of edge of bowl.  Cover; refrigerate several hours to blend flavors. Garnish with mint leaves; if desired.
    Barbeque Pulled Chicken
    courtesy of Debbie Covington
    Makes 8 servings

    1 8oz can Reduced Sodium Tomato Sauce
    1 4oz can Chopped Green Chiles, drained
    3 tbl Cider Vinegar
    2 tbl Honey
    1 tbl Sweet or Smoked Paprika
    1 tbl Tomato Paste
    1 tbl Worcestershire Sauce
    2 tsp Dry Mustard
    1 tsp Ground Chipotle Chile
    1/2 tsp Salt
    2-1/2 lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs, trimmed of fat
    1 sm Onion, finely chopped
    1 Garlic Clove, minced

    Stir the above ingredients tomato sauce through salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.

    Put the lid on the cooker and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours.

    Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve on crusty rolls.

    Grilled Salmon With Mango Salsa
    Courtesy of Debbie Weinstein

    Salmon for 6         

    1 oz Soy Sauce                       
    2 cloves Minced Garlic
    1 oz Olive Oil                           
    1/4 tsp Lime or Lemon Juice
    1/8 tsp Dill                               
    4 drops Tabasco Sauce

    Combine marinade ingredients and whisk.  Marinate fish for 1 hour.  Grill or broil until done.
    Mango Salsa
    2 Ripe Mangoes, diced                           
    1/2 med Red Onion, finely chopped
    1 sm Cucumber, peeled and diced       
    3 tbl Fresh Lime Juice
    1/2 Red Pepper, diced                             
    1 clove Garlic, crushed 
    1/2 Jalapeno, seeded and minced            
    1 tbl Olive Oil
    1 tbl Chopped Cilantro                        
    Salt and Pepper to taste


    Mix above ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Serve with salmon.    

    Caramel Shortbread Squares
    courtesy of Betty Rae

    These cookies consist of a shortbread crust, firm caramel center, and a milk chocolate top.


    2/3 cu Butter, softened
    1/4 cu White Sugar
    1-1/4 cu All-Purpose Flour
    1/2 cu Butter
    1/2 cu Packed Light Brown Sugar
    2 tbl Light Corn Syrup
    1/2 cu Sweetened Condensed Milk
    1-1/4 cu Milk Chocolate Chips


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

    In a medium bowl, mix together 2/3 cup butter, white sugar, and flour until evenly crumbly. Press into a 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

    In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes. Pour over baked crust (warm or cool). Cool until it begins to firm.

    Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute, then stir and continue to heat and stir at 20 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour chocolate over the caramel layer and spread evenly to cover completely. Chill. Cut into 1 inch squares. These need to be small because they are so rich.  Yield:  40 servings.

    Sausage Pasta Sauce 
    courtesy of Tammy Nolte
    2 lb Bulk Italian Sausage
    2 med Onions, chopped
    2 med Sweet Red Peppers, chopped
    2 med Green Peppers, chopped
    6 to 8 Garlic Cloves, minced
    2 tbl Olive Oil
    2 cans (29 ounces each) Tomato Sauce
    2 cans (14 ½ ounces each) Italian Stewed Tomatoes, drained
    2 tbl Brown Sugar
    4 tsp Chili Powder
    1 tsp Garlic Powder
    1 tsp Dried Oregano
    1 tsp Dried Basil
    1 tsp Pepper
    1/4 to 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
    1-1/2 lb Uncooked Bow Tie Pasta
    1/2 cu Havy Whipping Cream
    Shredded Parmesan Cheese
    In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside.  In a pot, sauté the onions, peppers and garlic in oil until tender.  Stir in the tomato sauce, tomatoes, brown sugar and seasonings.

    Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, process tomato mixture in batches until smooth.  Return mixture to the pot.  Add sausage; heat through.  Gradually stir in the cream.  Cook and stir over low heat for 5 minutes.  Drain pasta; top with sauce.  Sprinkle with the cheese. 

    Yield:  12 servings.

    Mixed Green Salad With Oranges, Dried Cranberries And Pecans
    courtesy of Laura Hersh and Betty Rae Smith
    (inspired by Bon Appetit November 1998)


    I cup plus 3 tbl Orange Juice
    6 tbl Dried Cranberries
    3-1/2 tbl Olive Oil
    2 tbl White Wine Vinegar
    1 tbl Grated Orange Peel
    6 cu Mixed Baby Greens
    3 Oranges, peel and white pith removed, segmented
    3/4 cu Pecans, toasted


    Bring I cup orange juice to simmer in really small saucepan. Remove from heat. Mix in dried cranberries. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain well; discard soaking juice.

    Whisk oil, vinegar, orange peel and remaining 3 tablespoons orange juice in small bowl to blend. Mix in cranberries. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

    Place greens in large bowl. Toss with 2/3 of dressing. Divide greens among 6 plates. Add orange segments to bowl; toss with remaining dressing. Top salads with orange segments and pecans.

    I’d like to thank these wonderful women for joining me in my segment and reminding us all that these cooking clubs are a wonderful social activity, a great way to share ideas and a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy a special meal.

    If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at