Posts Tagged ‘lasagna’


Cheesy Comfort

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by David

As the weather starts to warm up, time is running out for decadent winter comfort foods.  You know the ones I’m talking about: braised short ribs, slow roasted pork shoulder, etc.  As much as I love them, they are just a little heavy to eat during the hot Chicago summer months. So, my wife and I decided to give the season one last hurrah this past weekend.

lasagnaWe decided to make homemade lasagna from scratch. We spent all day making a gallon of homemade meat sauce, letting it simmer for a good 4-5 hours.  I made and rolled out enough pasta to feed a small town in Sicily.  My wife chopped piles of fresh herbs and grated enough Parmesan cheese to make a mini ski slope.

The only thing we couldn’t do was make fresh ricotta or mozzarella.  I didn’t have enough milk or the time to make it.  It was kind of a bummer since we were making everything else from scratch.  So my wife and I vowed next time we would at least make our own ricotta.  She already found a recipe on the internet and if spring doesn’t come too fast, we might even have a chance at another round of lasagna this winter. Side note: a gallon of meat sauce yields approximately enough sauce for two 9in. by 13in. casseroles, so we had 5 days’ worth of homemade lasagna for lunch and dinner.

Brie BookFor those of you who also have a true love of fresh cheese, check out our upcoming Homemade Cheesemaking classes. We are also excited to welcome Kirstin Jackson, author of “It’s Not You, Its Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese”  in April at Lincoln Square. She will lead a discussion of American cheese producers and share her insight to the growing cheese market in our country. The price of the class will include a copy of her new book as well as a tasting of her favorite cheese-inspired dishes featured in the book. Sign up here.

Have you ever made your own fresh cheese? How did it turn out? Share your experiences here.


David Indriksons is a Lead Class Assistant at The Chopping Block with a background that goes from small scale bistros to large scale catering and everything in between. In addition to a great love of food, he is a self-admitted travel junkie that enjoys hanging out with locals around the world and trying new cuisine. Outside of TCB, he enjoys skating, snowboarding, and playing with his dog, Caesar.


Gluten Who?

Friday, March 1st, 2013 by Jennifer

Gluten Free PicI receive a lot of inquiries and requests regarding gluten-free cooking. So, I took it upon myself to get educated. A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein complex known as gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale. Fun fact: corn and rice contain gluten, however they are considered gluten-free since they do not cause Celiac disease. The more I read into these dietary restrictions, the more I understood why there is such a call to action around gluten-free cooking classes!

Ask and you shall receive. This March at The Chopping Block, we are featuring two different gluten free cooking classes.

Gluten Free PastaGluten-Free Pasta Workshop includes pasta alternatives that are within reach with fun, tasty, and–yes!–gluten-free dishes.

Here is the menu:

  • Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta Dough
  • Three-Cheese and Spinach Lasagna with Tomato Sauce
  • Fresh Fettuccine Primavera with Pesto
  • Quinoa Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Mushrooms, Bacon and Gruyere Cheese

Skills covered in class include:

  • Working with Gluten-Free Flours
  • Rolling and Cutting Fresh Pasta
  • Sautéing Vegetables
  • Making Béchamel Sauce and Pesto

Based on the description, I want to take this class gluten free or not!

Gluten Free MuffinsGluten-Free Baking offers both savory and sweet alternatives, which is neat.

That menu includes:

  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Cheesy Herb Quick Biscuits with Seasonal Veggies
  • Butternut Squash and Brown Sugar Muffins
  • Buckwheat Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

Skills covered in class include:

  • Working with Gluten-Free Flours and Yeast
  • Preparing Gluten-Free Dough and Batter
  • Rolling and Shaping Dough
  • Determining Doneness in Baked Goods
  • Griddle Baking

Although you get a copy of your recipes emailed to you after class, don’t hesitate to check out our retail floor for a fun gluten-free cookbook. We’ve expanded our assortment to include some new cookbooks, both technique and recipe based.

What’s your favorite gluten-free recipe source? Share it here.

Jennifer Rozman is the General Manager of The Chopping Block's Merchandise Mart location. Her favorite part of her job is sharing her cooking journey with others who are just beginning to explore the culinary world. When she's not taking a cooking class or researching her latest gourmet retail selection, you can find her working off all of the delicious treats the chefs share at hot yoga or on the tennis courts, when weather permits. Dining out at a restaurant she's never tried before is how she rewards herself, as she loves trying new things and celebrating others passions.


An Interview with Santa

Friday, December 14th, 2012 by Chloe

Santa Claus is a legendary hero whose identity is as mysterious as the North Pole. I was recently lucky enough to have a conversation with the bearded bloke. Below is just a glimpse into the wonderful heart and mind of ole Saint Nick, as he answers the most pressing questions for The Chopping Blog.

*Please note that due to his request for privacy and a signed affidavit, I cannot reveal the details of how, where or when we met. I am only legally allowed to reveal this conversation.

Chloe Ditzel: Mr. Claus! Thank you for having me. The Chopping Blog is thrilled to have you and we appreciate your time.

Santa Claus: Absolutely! I’m so excited to be speaking with an official reporter of one the most celebrated blogs in the North Pole. But please, call me Santa. Or Stan.  A lot of people call me Stan here.

Santa Eat 1CD: (blushing) Okay, Stan. The Chopping Blog is, as you know, a food blog for The Chopping Block, which is Chicago’s most popular recreational cooking school.  Have you ever thought of taking Mrs. Claus out for a fun date night?  Or perhaps going alone and learning something new?

SC: Oh my!  I’m surprised you didn’t know, but I actually have taken some classes at the C-Block. I am a huge fan of the Pasta Workshop class. The summer menu was delicious.  I still make that lasagna, when I can get the veggies in.

CD: I had no idea. Does Mrs. Claus like to take the classes, too?

SC: Oh no.  She does a lot of the meals for the North Pole and our employees. She likes to take breaks from the kitchen on her nights off, understandably.

CD: She sounds like a great gal.

Santa Eat 3SC: Chloe, you have no idea. She sure does take care of us up here.  The old girl sure does know her way around an oven. Her quinoa pilaf and pork sopes are some of my personal favorites.

CD: They sound great. Let’s get down to it, shall we, Stan? The biggest question on everyone’s mind is what do you really want on the night of December 24?  I know I grew up leaving milk and cookies for you and carrots for the reindeer, but what does Santa really want?

SC: Great question, Chloe. Honestly, I am incredibly grateful that so many children think of me before they go to bed, and its not even the ones on the Nice list! I love cookies and milk just like any other Claus. I will say horchata is a delicious and unexpected treat. I also love tea sandwiches. Cucumber and butter, egg salad, ham and mustard. They give me that little kick in my step that I sometimes need on Christmas Eve, without filling up my tummy. Now, the reindeer are currently on a diet, per the suggestion of our vet, Dr. Snowplum. I know they love carrots, but I think they would love a nice little treat, as that is a special night. They actually love Naan bread and hummus!

CD: Really?!

Santa Eat 4SC: Absolutely. Mrs. Claus and I went on a Mediterranean kick one summer.  They had one taste and couldn’t get enough.

CD: That’s very interesting, and I’ll be sure to remember that this year. What is your favorite meal?

SC: Chloe, you’re really pushing the envelope with these questions.

CD: Stan, that’s my job.

SC: Of course. To be honest, and this may be a shock to some of your readers, but I love pizza. Bunny Boo (his nickname for Mrs. Claus) makes delicious fresh dough, and we have a pizza stone the elves made years ago. I love it when there’s a nice blend of cheeses and herbs. Simple and classic.

CD: I’m hungry just talking about it, Santa.

SC: Me too. Bunny Boo just made some homemade corndogs- if you’re interested.

CD: Holy cow! I’d love one!

(Brief break for corndogs)

Santa Eat 2CD:  Those were fantastic. I can’t wait to try them at home. Thanks for the recipe.

SC: Absolutely.

CD: What’s your favorite kind of food to order out?

SC: I love Thai and Chinese food, as most people do. Who doesn’t love a fortune cookie?

CD: (laughing) I know I do. One final question for you today: If you had a last meal, what would it be?

SC: Chloe, you sure do know how to put the pressure on an old man. I have thought about this before, actually. Bunny Boo makes a homemade turkey potpie that is absolutely delicious. It makes me feel warm and full, and there are always leftovers. We usually have this with a fresh green salad and crispy French bread.  Sometimes it’s those meals that make you appreciate what you have and the wonderful people in your life.

CD: (crying) Santa, you are an absolute pleasure to speak with. I am so honored to have learned about some of your culinary interests, and get to know you better in general.

SC: Chloe, the pleasure was all mine. And might I add that you are the coolest and neatest person I have ever met. You’re probably the best person in the world.

Born and raised in Florida, Chloe Ditzel is a former class assistant at The Chopping Block, and would like to make it clear that she did not go to culinary school. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, and is discovering the culinary treasures of the west coast one delicious food truck at a time. Her biggest goal in life is to somehow combine the following three mediums: food, comedy & unicycles. Bon Appetite!


I Makkah dah Lazzannnyah

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by Michael

LIFE UPDATE  –  I now have a roommate, and with that, a table to sit at, a couch to spill red wine on, and a pot to cook in — that’s the expression, right?

With this newfound homefullness, I decided that I needed to make a nice meal in my newly furnished kitchen to celebrate. Since the weather has, in the course of a few weeks, turned directly from summer to winter, I thought I would make a nice cold-weather meal that makes me warm and happy.

Growing up, my Mom would always let me and my siblings choose our favorite meals on our birthdays—or at least that was the idea. In practice, you had to keep guessing until you picked one of the meals she had in mind. In retrospect maybe “Potatoes Three Ways” wasn’t the best idea but she said I could have anything I wanted!

I would often request Lasagna, to which I was reminded that Lasagna was a winter dish, impossible to make between the months of March and November, which I accepted as fact. As an adult, I have learned that Lasagna can indeed be made in the summer but, like Pavlov’s dog, I only crave it when I’m cold.

Making Lasagna appealed to me for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that it would give me an excuse to speak in an offensive Italian-American accent: I makkah dah lazannnyahh, I choppahh dah gaahlickk, etc. Also it uses at least three different types of cheese, which works for me.

There’s something satisfying about simmering sauce all day, layering pasta and cheese and baking it for hours, especially when it’s cold out. As I find myself saying over and over again (probably more often than is healthy for a 23 year old man) my Mom was right. Lasagna is the perfect winter dish, blasphemous to even consider making when the weather is above 60 degrees. So settle in for a long winter, pull out your ceramic baking dishes and cast iron pots and go to town.

Michael is an enthusiast of all things creative. He studied Graphic Design in Iowa and spent a semester wandering around Europe, looking for pretty churches and cheap wine. He grew up around food, helping his Mom with her catering business while other boys his age were building forts and setting off fireworks. Working as a Retail Sales Associate at the Chopping Block has allowed him to continue to explore his passion for food. He lives to try new things and will never say no to a free meal.


Home Cooking for Two

Friday, August 19th, 2011 by Tulie

I often hear people say it’s hard to cook interesting food for one or just two, but for many years, I’ve found recipes and food ideas that work for any number of people. It’s really a matter of whether you’re willing to eat leftovers or if you can find a recipe easily cut in half. I recently wanted to add new techniques to make my cooking experience at home more fun, and I wanted to do more cooking with or for other people.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a friend and I started cooking together once a week, and I’ve found my inspiration to cook at home again. I mean cook, not just toss together easy things I’ve done before. My “rules” are pretty loose but the goal is to cook at least one thing I have never made— either through technique or unusual ingredients I don’t have on hand. (This gets me out to the markets or interesting food stores.) We pick ideas or recipes where we can determine our own amounts or easily adapt for two people or four, if we’re up for extras.

We’ve been successful so far with a great fennel/apple slaw paired with BBQ pork chops; lasagna Bolognese (no lasagna assembly since I was a kid!); and my favorite so far, Fried Chicken, recipe courtesy of The Chopping Block. I tried this dish when I worked a Chicken 101 class with Chef Lucio and I couldn’t believe how delicious AND easy the dish was. (I used to get tripped up over handling the leftover frying oil but you can strain it and reuse it, or just cool it completely and pour into a metal container before tossing.)  I’ve also found the sauce to be truly delicious when the chicken is still warm and that cold leftovers were even better!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Legs and Thighs

Yield: 4 servings

Active time: 35 minutes

Start to finish: 12 hours, 35 minutes (includes marinating in buttermilk)

4 chicken legs and thighs

2 cups buttermilk

Oil for frying

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Flour, for dredging


  1. Place the chicken legs and thighs in a sealable bag or a shallow dish and cover with buttermilk. Allow the chicken to marinate, refrigerated, for about 12 hours.
  2. Place about 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy, deep cast iron pot. (You need just enough oil to completely submerge chicken.) Heat oil, uncovered, over medium heat until it reaches 325º.
  3. While the oil is heating, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and place on a sheet tray.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Season both sides of the chicken with the salt and spice mixture.
  5. Dredge the chicken though the flour, shaking off any excess.
  6. Place the legs and thighs, skin side down, in the oil.
  7. Fry the chicken until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Flip and repeat. Continue to cook the chicken until it reads 165° on a meat thermometer.
  8. While the chicken is frying, set up a rack set over a sheet tray. Once the chicken is done, set it on the rack to rest. (You can keep the chicken warm in a 200° oven if needed.)
  9. Serve with Tabasco Honey Butter Sauce (recipe follows).

Tabasco Honey Butter Sauce

Yield: 1 cup

Active time: 10 minutes

Start to finish: 10 minutes


1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Tabasco, or more if desired

Salt to taste


  1. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until melted.
  2. Whisk in the honey and lemon juice and add the Tabasco, to taste.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve warm. u


Tulie O’Connor is a part-time Class Assistant at The Chopping Block where she loves the creative outlet of helping people learn more about cooking and learning from the chefs as well! In her “full-time” life she focuses on business publishing—helping/encouraging authors to write books, articles or other publications. When not working, Tulie is usually expending energy in a pool or at a Pilates class and of course planning or cooking her next meal with friends or family nearby.