Posts Tagged ‘family’


A Very Unconventional Gobble Gobble

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by Bailey

My family has really mastered the art of the conventionally unconventional holiday season. We’ve more or less embraced the idea of going back to the basics – and we really focus on being together and just enjoying each others company. Seeing as how we’re thoroughly spread out all over the country (if you include extended family, we’re in Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona, Florida, Washington DC and Ohio) the short moments that we actually get to spend together are priceless and wonderful.

BPfamilyThis year for Thanksgiving, my parents came to Chicago. Now, you must understand that I was giddy about having them join me for a variety of reasons (I mean – my parents DO rule, after all). But there is one particular reason that stands out more than the rest. Ever since I moved out here in 2006, it has become a tradition that I spend the holiday with my aunt and uncle—who happen to throw the most kick a$$ Thanksgiving brunch on the face of the Earth. My Uncle Bobby (who is my mom’s brother and my biggest inspiration/mentor in the food world) and my Aunt Deborah decided a few years back that the whole idea of a massive and stressful Thanksgiving dinner was a bunch of ka-ka poo-poo. Instead, they wanted to throw a kickin’ brunch party where all of their friends could come and go as they pleased, eat some incredible eats, drink some incredible drinks, relax on the couch and have a great time being together. So, that’s exactly what they made happen. What can I say? This is how my family rolls.

waffleSomewhere in the midst of this brunch planning process, Bobby and Deborah created and tested a recipe for a cornmeal and sage waffle, with the idea that the waffle would become a new twist on stuffing. This waffle would be topped with a thick slice of house-smoked turkey… and then the whole thing gets smothered in giblet gravy and fresh cranberry sauce. So basically, it’s like the coolest, most creative and best tasting Turkey Day meal on a plate. Pair that little bombshell of a breakfast with an off-dry Pinot Blanc or perhaps a glass (or five) of Gamay, and you can look forward to one hell of a tryptophan-filled coma on the couch. Gravy dreams, my friends. Gravy dreams.

My parents hadn’t experienced the Thanksgiving Brunch extravaganza. This year was their very first time. It’s difficult to put into words how awesome and proud I felt to introduce them to my favorite (and fairly new) unconventional tradition.

Does your family have any unconventional traditions? Share them with me here.

Bailey Phillips never admitted to being normal. In fact, she can't help but wonder if the fact that she slammed her bike into her family's wooden mailbox as a child helped contribute to her being a little off. When Bailey is not booking lovely Chopping Block events for clients, you can typically find her creating meals for friends and family, meowing at her cat, or having outlandish dance parties. Bailey will also never pass up an SEC football game or a glass of Barolo... ever.


Let’s Bring Back Sunday Family Dinner

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 by Karen

America seems to be losing focus on the great tradition of having Sunday dinner together as a family. Honestly, how many of us still partake in this tradition regularly?

sundaydinnerA home cooked meal shared with family on a quiet Sunday evening is truly an old ritual. It’s the time where we break bread and share conversation. It’s an opportunity to have a glimpse into the lives of our friends and loved ones. We all can be guilty of not setting time aside for family gatherings, but it is much needed in the midst of our hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sharing a meal together is a great way to get our family and friends enthusiastic about cooking.

The Sunday dinner can be planned, prepared and enjoyed in so many ways. You can first begin by selecting a different household each time. I think you can get excited just imagining the diversity in the menu by moving from house to house. Put together a schedule for who will host the meal. Next, assign as many family/friends needed to help cook the meal. Interestingly enough, this is where the young people in the family acquire the cooking knowledge and skills that have been potroastpassed down from the older generation. I still remember the days of savoring my grandmother’s Pot Roast and the preparation of the fresh ingredients that helped her create the magic. Grandma has long since passed on, but her recipe and legacy still live today in my household on Sundays. Also don’t be afraid to mix in a touch of the new with the old. Use the old world spices and secrets while introducing others to the wonders of grassfed beef.

While the meal is cooking, be creative in getting the family centrally located in the house and have a planned activity for all ages to participate in.

Let’s get our families cooking together by bringing back the simple old world tradition of “Sunday Family Dinner”.

Who’s with me?

Karen Britton handles Accounts Payable for The Chopping Block. Her love of the culinary arts and desire to experience new and exciting adventures makes this job a perfect match. Although she is an experienced cook, she is always learning more. She understands the emotional connection that comes with food. Different food offerings can take you places that you have never been before. They can expand your pallet while broadening your knowledge. This world offers so much that we can hardly experience it all. She believes that through food one can change their life. If it is true that you are what you eat, she wants to learn to make the intelligent choice. Karen is a vibrant, enthusiastic and loving person who believes in living life to the fullest. Eating healthy will certainly be a contributing factor in assisting her in her life's pursuits.


Life List: Learn to Use a Knife

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Val

Cooking, and food, were passions I shared with my dad. Every Thanksgiving, while the rest of my family stayed far away, I would spend the day with him in the kitchen – dressing the turkey, preparing casseroles, peeling potatoes. When I moved into my first apartment in college, had my own oven for the first time, he gave me a binder filled with his favorite recipes. He taught me everything I knew.

We were a family who loved to eat, whether it was home cooked meals or a night out someplace nice. Food was important to us. So, when my dad found out he had cancer, he started to make a list of all of the restaurants he had always wanted to go to, but never had. It was a page full of places ranging from greasy hot dog joints to 3-star experiences.

When he passed away, a year later, he left behind that list.

At that moment, the untouched life list I had started crafting became all the more important. There were so many things I wanted to do in life, wanted to learn, wanted to see, but always put off for one reason or another.

Some items on my list were big and complicated – travel the world, learn to surf.

Some, small – visit a popular museum, learn to cook my favorite food.

But no matter how trivial the item seemed, it was something I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t want to leave a list behind.

Today, my ever-growing life list contains over 200 things, and, so far, I have crossed off 26 of them.

Knife Skills Class at The Chopping Block

Photo Courtesy Val Bromann

One of the skills I’ve always wanted to learn was how to properly use kitchen knives. I like to think that I can cook decently, but I never really knew how to correctly hold a knife and cutting vegetables into anything resembling uniform pieces was well beyond me.

Last October I had crossed another item off of my life list at The Chopping Block: learn to make gnocchi.  It is one of my favorite foods – one of those things I almost always get at Italian restaurants or would buy pre-made from the frozen foods section because it seemed like something too difficult to make from scratch.

Photo Courtesy Val Bromann

Photo Courtesy Val Bromann

After the class though, I realized that it was much simpler than I ever thought and was able to make some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever eaten. So I decided to return to The Chopping Block to cross “learn to properly use kitchen knives” off of my life list.

One night in September, I gathered with other students at the Lincoln Square store for the two and a half hour knife skills class. Our instructor taught us about the different types of knives, knife safety, and knife care. Then the rest of the class was hands on – we each took a chefs knife, trading between vegetables to see and feel the differences in brands, and learned different techniques for cutting everything from onions to carrots to garlic. In the end, I walked away with bags full of vegetables cut more perfectly than any vegetables I’d cut in my life, a newfound confidence in the kitchen, and one more life goal completed. And yes, I did learn that I have been holding my chef’s knife completely wrong for my entire life.

Photo Courtesy Val Bromann

Photo Courtesy Val Bromann



Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten named Bacon. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30, I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and have been traveling the world ever since. Learn more about me and my life list at


Spaghetti: Bubbie Style

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by Sara

You know that any recipe that begins with a stick of butter is off to a good start. If you’re looking for an easy twist on spaghetti that’s incredibly kid-friendly, you’ve come to the right place.

spaghettiEver since I can remember, my Bubbie (Yiddish for grandmother) and my great uncle would make a very special batch of spaghetti known as “Bubbie’s Spaghetti”. I’m not sure where this dish originated, or even if it’s unique to Jewish home cooking. I’ve taken an unscientific poll, and while some of my Jewish friends have heard of this dish, others had no idea what I was taking about. I imagine it was born during the depression era, because all of the ingredients to make this dish are very affordable.

You start off by melting a stick of butter in a saute pan and adding one small onion, thinly sliced. Cook the onion until it’s lightly caramelized. You could add a clove or two of garlic, but I don’t remember this being part of the original recipe.

soupToss your cooked spaghetti with the sautéed onions, and here’s the best part. Pour in enough Campbell’s Tomato Soup to nicely coat the noodles. It’s important not to leave them too dry. Remember, the sauce is the boss. Pour the noodles into a baking dish and bake at 400° until the top is golden brown and crispy.

Super simple, right? Not only is it comforting on those cold nights, but it’s quick, easy and delicious! The best part? You probably have all of the ingredients you need to make this in your kitchen right now.

You can certainly personalize your Bubbie’s spaghetti by adding ground beef or turkey, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed green peppers, grated cheddar cheese, fresh basil, Sriracha, etc… the list goes on and on. I hope you find yourself turning to this recipe when you need a quick meal to take the edge off.

Do you have an off-the-beaten-path family recipe that goes way back? I would love to hear about it!

Sara Salzinski has been a chef instructor at the Chopping Block since 2002 and loves sharing her knowledge of all things food-related with her students. She loves interacting with her students, making them feel right at home and at ease. Sara is also the Curriculum Coordinator at TCB which means she develops the classes, menus and recipes. A lot of Sara’s inspiration for classes and recipes comes from personal experience. When Sara and her husband, who is also a chef instructor, are at home they join forces and make countless mouth-watering creations that are then taste tested by their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son.


When You’re 90

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 by Carrie

When you are 90 years old, you can have any type of birthday party you want. That’s what my Grandmom did on July 6th.  I took a quick weekend trip to Alabama to celebrate this milestone birthday with her. She is my heart; I love her more than words can express!

CBOne of her favorite things is a good, old fashioned fish fry. So. that’s how we celebrated with her. Catfish (which she loves to catch) and bream are the fish she enjoys eating, so we fried a mess of those and had coleslaw and hushpuppies as the accompaniments.  Of course, there was cake and homemade ice cream for dessert.

Have you ever heard that you aren’t supposed to drink milk or eat dairy after you eat fish? Supposedly it will give you an upset stomach. Maybe it’s just an old wives tale, but I remember Grandmom always saying that when I was a child.  Regardless, my dad (her son), and my brother-in-law ate bowls of homemade ice cream as big as their heads!  There’s always room for ice cream, right?

I am so thankful that I was able to travel home and be with her on her special day.  I love you Grandmom!

What is one of your family’s favorite traditions?

Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.