Tag Archives: cooking

The Perfect Lakeside Patio

August 22, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

By the time foundations were laid for the first few houses at the Big Sandy Lake development in 2005, all 85 lakeside lots had been sold. Dean Dougherty was one of the eager buyers. His four-bedroom, 3,400-square-foot home was completed in 2007, and he feels lucky to be part of the neighborhood. 

“The residents of Big Sandy are all considered family and friends,” says Dougherty, who also enjoys entertaining non-resident family and friends, too. His home has become a favorite go-to destination for outdoor gatherings from spring through most of the Husker football season. The lake is near the Platte River north of Ashland in Saunders County, so Dougherty’s visitors can make it in from Omaha in less than an hour, and his four grown children are his most frequent summer guests. 

Dougherty spends his workdays thinking about food—he’s the director of sales, commercial chain for Waypoint, a major food sales and marketing agency—so beautiful outdoor cooking and entertaining amenities were part of the planning for his lakefront property.

His outdoor kitchen—designed and installed by Heritage Builders of Lincoln—features a 1,100-square-inch grill, which Dougherty says he knew would be a focal point for gatherings. But Dougherty says he has been surprised to get more use out of his wood smoker and his electric smoker than he had originally anticipated. “We also use our outdoor fireplace for the later evening hours,” he says. 

Once the weather warms up each spring, Dougherty mounts a TV outside in a covered area, making it possible for guests to enjoy Nebraska games or other televised events and the outdoors at the same time. The covered area below an upper deck also provides a shaded space for guests to retreat from the sun on scorching summer days.  

The approximately 300-acre Big Sandy Lake is known for its clear water and sand bottom. The homes at Big Sandy offer beachfront access and lead out to docks, so guests can wander right out to the water from the patio to relax on the sand or enjoy some boating. 

Dougherty’s house was designed with a lower-level walkout to make outdoor cooking and entertaining easily accessible, and he says he’s found that because people want to gather there, the upper deck isn’t utilized nearly as much as he had envisioned when planning the house. 

Besides providing shade over the patio, the upper deck offers a private sitting area and a walkout for the upstairs of the home. Minor modifications in the future will expand the functionality of the deck space. 

“There is always a need for shade on hot summer days,” he says. “By 4 or 5 in the afternoon, after enjoying the lake all day, everyone’s had enough sun.” He’d also recommend one other consideration to anyone planning an outdoor cooking and entertainment area: “easy access to refreshments.”

Overall, Dougherty says, he’s pleased with the design and feels his outdoor space has served him well for the past 10 years and will continue to be functional for many years into the future. 

What’s his favorite part of lakeside living? “It’s being outside with family and friends and outdoor cooking,” Dougherty says.


Visit bigsandylake.net for more information on the lakeside neighborhood.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of OmahaHome. 

Be Your Own Pit Boss

July 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota, barbecue enthusiast Gary Dunteman learned many skills. “When you’re a farm kid, you’ve got to be your own mechanic, you’ve got to be your own carpenter—you’ve got to learn how to do everything.” 

At 13, his dad taught him how to weld to fix machinery. Now his welding comes in handy as he tries out various techniques to create the perfect smoker.

Dunteman once built a 120-gallon smoker with a customized rotisserie rack out of an old air compressor tank from a service station. “People look at it and ask, ‘What is that?’” he says. “I can do 16 racks of ribs at one time.” 

He competes in statewide barbecue competitions on the team Hawgenz Heroz, and he gets a lot of looks when traveling to contests in his decommissioned ambulance. “I call her Rosalie,” he says. The ambulance used to serve the village of Rosalie, Nebraska. “Everybody should have an ambulance. An ambulance has a lot of storage room.” 

Dunteman, who works in packaging sales, first became interested in meat smoking when his former warehouse manager built a barrel smoker. “He brought it into work one day and made some ribs on it. I thought that was the most awesome thing that ever happened.” So Dunteman taught himself how to make his own smoker by watching “ugly drum smoker” videos on YouTube. 

Dunteman says his specialty air compressor smoker would be difficult for most grilling enthusiasts to make (due to the types of tools necessary). But he says that anyone can build their own barrel smoker. Dunteman built his in an afternoon and it cost him around $100 in materials. 

Steps: First, treat your barrel by “starting a big old fire” in it with wood and charcoal to season it. “You want to get it smoked up before you actually start cooking the meat in it.” He then took pieces from an old 21-inch Weber Grill. He repurposed the racks and used the bottom of the grill to make the lid. If you don’t have an old grill, you can purchase a smoker cover and a replacement cooking grate for the racks separately. 

To make the coal basket, he attached four carriage bolts to the bottom of the rack and then attached a 6-inch piece of expanded steel around it to make a basket. “I wrapped it around it and wired it to the rack.” He removed the handle from the side of the grill and put it on top of the smoker lid. He then drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel and attached caster wheels. 

He also put in a suspended water pan (a disposable aluminum dish) between the coal basket and the rack of meat. “The water simmers and keeps it moist and steams the meat as it’s getting smoked, so it doesn’t dry out the meat.” He recommends buying a smoker cover to protect from the rain. Dunteman says if taken care of, a barrel smoker will last a very long time, giving the user many years of savory memories.

Materials Needed 

  • 55-gallon refurbished steel barrel ($29.99 from Jones Barrel Co.) 
  • 4 caster wheels
  • Replacement cooking grate or a secondhand grate sourced from a 21-inch Weber Grill
  • Expanded sheet steel (12-by-24 inches)
  • 4 carriage bolts
  • Smoker cover
  • Disposable aluminum dish for water pan

Aside from the 55-gallon barrel, all of these parts can be purchased at local hardware stores.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

A Culinary Master in the Making

July 4, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The metal crank wouldn’t work. Witney Stanley had to think of a solution fast. The pressure heated up the kitchen at the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center in Grand Island. The clock ticked tauntingly.

Thirty minutes remaining. 

The SkillsUSA Culinary Arts Championship was on the line. Each participant had to present judges with an entrée from a fabricated whole chicken, a sauce, a vegetable, and a starch. Judges would be expecting a composed salad as well. Only items in the kitchen’s pantry were allowed to be used to create the dishes, and the dinner needed to be cooked in two hours and 30 minutes. Think Top Chef with high school students. 

But the crank was being…well…cranky. 

Witney, a senior at Omaha Central, wanted to win it all. Her competitive drive wouldn’t allow faulty equipment to squash her chances at a medal. After a frustrating five minutes, she grabbed a rolling pin instead to smooth out the dough for her tortellini. She cut it and filled it with spinach, garlic, tomato, and olive. 

Witney inserted the thin thermometer into her roasted chicken thighs. 

155 degrees. 

She rushed to the pantry for oil. The pastor’s daughter took a long deep breath and said a short prayer. Showtime. Only seven minutes, not nearly enough time to cook it completely in the oven. She finished off the chicken on the stovetop with a pan-fried sear. 

The white wine sauce created a challenge as well. Since Witney was only 18 and not legally old enough to drink, she needed to be creative. The young cook substituted white vinegar, onion, and homemade chicken stock. 

She sliced the (finally) cooked chicken, a technique she mastered in between school and tennis. She added Tuscan vegetables and tourné cut potatoes. 

Time.  

At the April 2018 competition, Witney came away with a bronze medal and a passion for competing. 

But her love of all things savory and sweet is deeply rooted in family heritage. When she was only 4 years old, as her sisters prepped for monthly church outreach banquets alongside their mother, Witney would stand on a stool washing cabbage or setting tables for guests. 

“My mom is a genius in the kitchen,” Witney explains. “She doesn’t trust anyone in there except her daughters.”

Her mother, Alyssa, enrolled all six of her children into cake-decorating classes at Michael’s. Witney, 10 years old at the time, started baking cakes whenever she could for birthdays or other special occasions. After a recommendation from a neighbor, the girls decided to sell their homemade yellow and devil’s food cupcakes with buttercream frosting at the Gifford Park Neighborhood Market. 

“I was hesitant at first,” Witney recalls. “Then I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? I could end up with a tray of cupcakes, and I could eat them.”

The money, though, wasn’t to buy more supplies, candy, or even toys. Instead, the sisters saved it for someone special. It took an entire year, and the older girls had to get side jobs, but it all went to purchase a bedroom set their mother had her eye on for a while. 

“From that point on, they were known for those cupcakes,” Alyssa says. “All just to surprise me with a Mother’s Day gift.” 

It turned into a business, Stanley Southern Sweeties. Each sister plays a role—whether creating roses, borders, or letters. 

Their mother saw something special in Witney and pushed her to cook for the family. She started experimenting even if it meant getting dinner to the table later than usual. 

In order to play tennis, Witney made the move from home-school to Central High School. Introverted and painfully shy, the teenager couldn’t fathom it all. So her sister Justine, who was taking online classes at Metropolitan Community College, went to every single class to watch out for Witney that first year. After taking the No. 1 spot in tennis, Witney soon made friends and discovered culinary classes. Entering her senior year, she started taking classes at the Omaha Public Schools Career Center for college credit. She continued practicing in the kitchen at every opportunity, soaking up knowledge like a sponge cake.

“She’s an example of what we should be seeing in every student,” says chef Perthedia Berry, a culinary instructor at Metro. 

Berry, sometimes referred to as the “female Gordon Ramsay,” can intimidate students. Witney prefers the tough love as it reminds her of her own upbringing. 

“I love the intensity. She [Berry] wants her students to do well. She’s preparing me for the future. If you can get through her, you can get through anything,” Witney says. 

The main issue for the aspiring cook is speaking up. Berry yells at her to stop worrying about offending people. Chefs should be concerned with getting dinner to hungry guests; save the politeness for later. 

With each class, Witney gained confidence. She earned the Best Beef Award at her first invitational (the Metropolitan Community College Institute for Culinary Arts High School Invitational in February 2017). In another competition, two teammates dropped out, but Witney took it upon herself to take all the responsibility. 

“Witney pushes forward, and she’ll be someone you know in this community,” Berry says. 

Her mother, originally from New Orleans, was a mentor for last year’s Metro invitational. So Witney simmered a New Orleans gumbo on the stove and, along with Omaha North’s Ajana Jones, took home the silver medal. 

Witney plans to open a restaurant or a bakery someday, maybe with her sisters. After she takes the accelerated Culinary Arts program at Metro, she plans to enroll at Creighton University for a business degree. The pitfalls are well-known, but that doesn’t stop her. 

“She’s fearless,” her mother says. 

For now, Witney is carefully measuring each step, weighing the consequences, and stirring in a pinch of prayer that her dream will become a reality.


Visit ccenter.ops.org for more information about culinary classes at the OPS Career Center and mccneb.edu for details on Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

A Cathedral for Cooking

June 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Most first-time attendees at Crème de la Crème instructional cooking events enter chef Paula Dreesen’s home as if they are crossing the threshold of a church. Perhaps overly aware of their guest status, they edge in on padded feet and speak in hushed whispers, the kind usually reserved for the gentle echoes of a house of worship.

“They may enter as strangers,” the gregarious Dreesen says with a broad smile, “but they leave as friends. That’s what good food and good conversation does. It draws people together.” 

But the night I became a parishioner at Crème de la Crème was different. And loud.

It was Dreesen’s 150th event, and all the other cooks-in-waiting were repeat guests, longtime disciples with as many as five previous evenings under the belts of their aprons. The only icebreaking required this time around involved that which was needed for a decidedly less than pious procession of mojitos which ushered in the evening.

Teaching, now so seemingly natural for the outgoing Dreesen, was an evolutionary process paralleling the arc of her life in food.

“My mom started me in the kitchen when I was a little girl,” the chef says, “and I worked in and around the restaurant industry for 35 years. Cooking has always meant so much more to me; so much more than just food.” 

After years of being asked by friends for help or advice in the kitchen, she began informal instructional sessions in her previous home, then launched her Crème de la Crème business plan three years ago in the sprawling 1,000-square-foot kitchen of a new home that was designed specifically for such group culinary gatherings.

“People always ask me why I never opened a restaurant of my own,” the chef says, “but I don’t think I have that in me, the seven-day commitment and endless hours that go into making a restaurant work. What I do have is a husband [Dr. Adrian Dreesen], five kids, and a dog. Crème de la Crème is the perfect fit…the perfect way to find and express my creativity and share it with others in a fun, social environment.”

Several globetrotting themes are available for Crème de la Crème soirees and, taking the farm-to-table philosophy to its logical extreme, Dreesen rotates her menus based on the availability of bounty from her expansive backyard vegetable gardens and fruit orchards perched high on a hill overlooking the Elkhorn River in West Omaha.

Crowd favorites include such Mexican menus as “Casa de Crème” and “A Tale of Two Tacos.” Italian is also popular with her “Pizza Party” and “Cozy Italian” evenings. 

And, in tribute to Dreesen’s culinary idol, Julia Child, there’s even a more highbrow “French Crème Countryside” menu for pilgrims in search of new frontiers.

Dreesen also offers the “Crème Conquest,” a hit with corporate clients that use the experience as a team-building exercise. Groups are split into teams and given a set of selected ingredients, but no recipe. The challenge is to guess the secret recipe from which the ingredients are derived. Even if the food sleuths fail to solve the underlying mystery, they get to battle it out, Iron Chef-style, in devising and preparing a delicious meal to be shared by their co-workers.

But it was the “Grillin’ Cuban Style” menu on tap for the night I attended, where anxious students took turns in preparing pineapple mojitos, mojo-grilled chicken with black beans and crispy sweet plantains, all followed by a decadent tres leches cake.

Although I was present as a journalistic observer—and my culinary prowess is pretty much limited to melting Velveeta—I was also invited to participate.

My assigned task, perhaps mercifully, was to blend the tres leches ingredients into a velvety symphony of num-num-numiness ready for the oven. Based on the baking, cooling, and refrigeration time called for in the recipe, I had accurately surmised that Dreesen had prepared a cake, the one we would later be eating, a day in advance, but I was still resolved to approach my job as if I were engaged in the sacramental rite of turning flour and eggs into manna from heaven. My apron, not to mention my nascent reputation as a capable hand in the kitchen, emerged unscathed. High fives all around.

Dreesen is often asked to take her show into other people’s homes, but now it’s her turn to speak in hushed, reverent tones.

“It’s doing it here that makes it meaningful for me,” she explains. “Cooking right here. Cooking with family helping me. Not just in any kitchen but in my kitchen. It just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else.”


Visit cremedelacremeomaha.com for more information.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of OmahaHome. 

Old School Social Media

August 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Today, social media is brimming with food photos. But a pre-digital form of social media has been sharing favorite dishes since the 19th century. It’s probably the only “published” book containing your grandmother’s beloved gingerbread recipe. It’s the church cookbook—a repository of traditional American wisdom, which often comes complete with six variations of the same recipe (for example: lime gelatin salad with pineapple, walnuts, cottage cheese, and maraschino cherries or mandarin oranges).

Long before the invention of the computer, religious and social groups created cookbooks, often as a fundraising tool to pay for upgrades and maintenance on buildings. The first charity cookbook is believed to have been printed in 1864 as a way to subsidize medical costs for Union soldiers. The idea took the country by storm, especially with religious groups. When a church needed to replace the steeple or build an addition, the minister came to the ladies’ auxiliaries, which created cookbooks. Morris Press Cookbooks in Kearney is one of many companies that was created solely for the printing of cookbooks. They have not only printed hundreds of thousands of cookbooks for churches and social groups, but also specialty cookbooks for singer Donny Osmond, Chiquita bananas, Heinz, and others.

Brian Moffatt of Omaha has collected these cookbooks for several years, mostly church cookbooks. He finds them at estate sales and some thrift stores, and his collection includes books from local churches of nearly every denomination.

“Estate sales are huge,” Moffatt says. “I just like to look at all these and see the way people used to cook.”

Estate sales are huge because many of the people who collected—and contributed to—these community cookbooks are dying. Today’s generation shares recipes and photos of dishes on modern social media, often Pinterest.

Moffatt’s collection at one time extended to hundreds of books, which he recently whittled down to the ones he enjoys the most, such as a cookbook produced by the ladies of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. The charm of this book, for him, is that it features several recipes from an old neighbor, Caren Guillaume.

“The older ones have some odd information in them,” Moffatt says. “A lot of them use lard, and sometimes you run across an ingredient that you just can’t find anymore.”

Other ingredients are vastly different from today’s definition. Gelatin, for example, is today often thought of as a fruit-flavored ingredient packed in school lunches and used in molded salads. Originally, however, gelatin (which was also spelled gelatine) was a jelly obtained by boiling meat on the bone until the collagen coagulated.

There are still church cookbooks being sold, but not nearly as many. While researching for this article, Omaha Magazine reached out to several area churches; none had produced a cookbook in the last five years.

Read on for several classic church cookbook recipes culled from Moffatt’s collection.”

Excerpted from Brian Moffatt’s Collection

Local Church Cookbook Recipes

Delmonico Potatoes

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

Dice two potatoes, boiled until just tender. Make 2 cups rich cream sauce seasoned with salt, pepper, and celery salt. Arrange a layer of potatoes in a buttered casserole, pour on half the sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of potatoes, the rest of the sauce, and about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and top generously with buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees until sauce bubbles and crumbs are brown.

Party Snack Weenies

Submitted by Mrs. Carl Swanson for 50th Anniversary Cookbook, printed by Trinity Lutheran Church in 1965.

6-ounce jar of yellow mustard

10 ounces currant (or grape) jelly

1/2 package whole weenies, cut up, or 1 package of small (cocktail) weenies.

Heat and serve in chafing dish.

Cherry Fluff Salad

Submitted by Karen Hauranek for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 large carton (8 ounces) whipped topping

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling

1 large can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Beat sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping with mixer. Fold in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. Salad is ready to serve in 30 minutes.

Dill Dip*

Submitted by Joyce Stranglen for From Thy Bounty, printed by St. Bernadette Catholic Church. No publication date noted.

1 1/3 cups sour cream

1 1/3 cups mayonnaise

2 tablespoons parsley

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 teaspoons dill weed

2 teaspoons Beau Monde seasoning

Mix all ingredients together several hours before serving.

*Editor’s note: Three variations of this recipe (from three different women) appear in From Thy Bounty. Mary Olson’s dip omits the parsley; Connie Gauthier’s recipe omits the onion and parsley.

Kahlua Cake

Submitted by Shirley Mackie for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

4 eggs

1 package (15 ounces) devil’s food cake mix

1 small package (3 ounces) instant chocolate pudding mix

1 pint sour cream

3/4 cup oil*

3/4 cup Kahlua liqueur

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nutmeats

Glaze:

2 tablespoons cocoa

3 tablespoons Kahlua liqueur

1 teaspoon water

1 tablespoon oil*

1 tablespoon corn syrup

1 cup powdered sugar

Beat eggs. Beat in cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil*, and liqueur. Stir in chocolate chips and nutmeats. Mix well. Bake in greased bundt pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until cake tests done.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine cocoa, Kahlua, water, oil*, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; immediately beat in powdered sugar. Drizzle over cake.

*Editor’s note: the recipe does not specify what is meant by oil; vegetable oil or canola oil is the likely ingredient.

Joan’s Nutritious Cookies

Submitted by Peg Russell for A Potpourri of Culinary Masterpieces, printed by Presbyterian Church of the Master in 1983.

1 cup shortening—“vegetable shortening and margarine makes it good.”

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 1/4 cup quick oatmeal

dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg

3/4 cup raisins, plumped

nuts, if you want them

Mix shortening and sugars. Add sifted flour, salt, soda, and vanilla. Blend in oatmeal and other spices (blending in raisins and nuts last). Make into balls, then flatten a little. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes about three dozen.

Coconut Fruit Salad

Submitted by Caren Guillaume for Heartwarmers, printed by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. James Churches in 1994.

1 No. 2 can (2 1/2 cups) pineapple tidbits

1 11-ounce can (1 1/3 cups) mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 cup Thompson seedless grapes

1 can (3 1/2 ounces) flaked coconut

2 cups sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the first five ingredients. Stir in sour cream and salt. Chill overnight. Serves eight.

Broccoli-Rice Casserole

Submitted by Barbara Kelley for Through These Red Doors, printed by All Saints Episcopal Church in 2003.

1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped broccoli, thawed

1 cup cooked rice

4 ounces American cheese sauce

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

butter*

1 can cream of chicken soup

Sauté onion and celery in butter. Add cream of chicken soup. Mix remaining ingredients together and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

*Editor’s note: The recipe does not specify an amount of butter. Two tablespoons should work.

Scripture Cake

Submitted by Martha Dus for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983. The name of the cake refers to noted Bible verses featuring ingredients.

1/2 cup butter (Judges 5:25)

2 cups flour (I Kings 4:22)

1/2 teaspoon salt (Leviticus 2:13)

1 cup figs (I Samuel 30:12)

1 1/2 cups sugar (Jeremiah 6:20)

2 teaspoons baking powder (Luke 13:21)

1/2 cup water (Genesis 24:11)

1 cup raisins (1 Samuel 30:12)

3 eggs (Isaiah 10:14)

1/2 teaspoon of each: cinnamon, mace, cloves (I Kings 10:10)

1 tablespoon honey (Proverbs 24:13)

1/2 cup almonds (Genesis 43:11)

Blend butter, sugar, spices, and salt. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture. Sift in baking powder and flour, then add water and honey. Put fruit and nuts through food chopper and flour well. Add and beat. (Follow Solomon’s advice in the first clause of Proverbs 23:14—“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”) Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake for one hour at 375 degrees.

Refrigerator Shake Pickles

Submitted by Ruth Hickman for Kountze Kitchens, printed by Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in 1983.

2 quarts sliced cucumbers

2 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar

1/4 cup pickling salt

3/4 teaspoon celery seed

3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

Combine sugar, vinegar, and spices. Pour over thinly sliced cucumbers. Refrigerate and shake every day for five days. These keep “indefinitely” in the refrigerator.

Rockbrook’s Hot Chicken Salad

Submitted by Iris Clark for Recipes and Remembrances, printed by Rockbrook United Methodist Church in 1999.

4 cups cooked, cubed chicken

2 cups thinly sliced celery

2 cups bread cubes

1 cup toasted chopped or slivered almonds

1 teaspoon salt plus 1 teaspoon MSG

1 tablespoon minced or chopped onion

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise (“NOT salad dressing”)

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 cup grated sharp cheese

2 cups crushed potato chips

Combine chicken, celery, bread cubes, almonds, salt, MSG, onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and soup. Pile lightly into “Pam’d” 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Top with cheese, onion, and chips. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Green Vegetable Salad (Pictured above)

Submitted by Kathy Jones for My Favorite Recipes, printed by St. Mark Baptist Church in 1984.

1 head cauliflower

2 heads broccoli

1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained

1 jar green olives, stuffed with pimentos.

Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl. For dressing, combine red wine vinegar, 2 packets Italian dressing seasoning, and 1 bottle of oil/vinegar Italian dressing. Pour over the vegetables.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Mary Joseph’s Series of Fortunate Events

June 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ask Mary Joseph, owner of Tasty Pizza (formerly Tasty Pastry), how she wound up running a restaurant in Omaha, and be prepared for a story of fortunate coincidences. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Costa Rica, Joseph attended college in Massachusetts to study pre-med and international relations before moving back to Costa Rica to finish her degree. After a chance conversation struck up with a fellow passenger on a plane trip in 1997, she would eventually marry that fellow passenger—a man who just so happened to be from Omaha.

After moving to Nebraska, she attended a neighborhood party and met Dario Schicke and his wife Amy. The two women became friends. In a conversation about hobbies, Joseph mentioned she liked to bake and eventually baked a chocolate cake for the Schickes. When Dario later opened his restaurant—Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee—he asked Joseph to bring in her chocolate cakes for his customers.

Thus began her foray into cooking and baking as an occupation. “Dario was a huge inspiration—both him and his wife, Amy,” Joseph says.

Tasty Pizza, located at 5423 Leavenworth St., has been open for “about four years off and on,” Joseph says. It didn’t take her long to realize a pastry shop just wasn’t her cup of tea. “I knew the very first day,” she says, explaining that soup was quickly brought into the mix because being open lunch hours meant customers typically wanted lunch. “Soup was a hit,” she says, “but cooking good soup isn’t just about following recipes. It’s about food technology.” Soup proved too frantic a menu item to feature, with intricate preparation and last-minute adjustments making things stressful.

Not afraid of trying new things, Joseph and her staff played around with a few different ideas for a new focus. Once pizza appeared on the menu, Joseph was sold on the idea.

She liked the predictability and organization of running a pizza line. Patrons enjoyed the ability to customize their toppings or choose from artisanal pizzas that the staff created. Hence, Tasty Pastry evolved into Tasty Pizza.

Joseph attributes some of her success to other local restaurants near her that are willing to work as a community and share knowledge and advice. She also cites her staff as helpful and inspirational. “I’m lucky, I have to say,” she admits.

“I love to cook,” Joseph says, adding “I love Omaha.” Tasty Pizza, which she opened as something to do while her kids were at school, continues to thrive. She won’t predict what the future will hold, as she prefers to live in the moment.

Joseph is doing what she loves (in a place she loves) while enjoying the reciprocal love her customers give Tasty Pizza. It’s a story many years—and twists of fate—in the making.

Visit tastypizzaomaha.com for more information.

This article appears in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Dario’s Nutella Waffle S’mores

April 27, 2017 by
Photography by Di Tendenza

This new twist on s’mores is not just for the kids at the campsite—grownups will love them, too. Add some fresh fruit to give a healthful boost to this gooey, delicious campfire dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces of packaged frozen waffles (10)
  • 1 cup marshmallows
  • 1 cup Nutella hazelnut spread
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • Sliced bananas and strawberries
  • Pecans (optional)

Equipment:

  • 5 aluminum pie tins
  • aluminum foil

Preparation

  1. Use a spatula to spread 1-2 tablespoons of Nutella spread on a waffle.
  2. Place a second waffle on top of the Nutella.
  3. Spread another 1-2 tablespoons Nutella spread on the second waffle.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup marshmallows and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips to top.
  5. Place stacked waffles in 8″ pie tin.
  6. Create a tent with the foil, set on top of the pie tin, and seal.
  7. Place tin over hot coals for 8-9 minutes, or until the marshmallows have started to melt and the bottom of the waffle has started to brown.
  8. Remove from pie tin and top with sliced bananas and strawberries.
  9. These are rich, you may want to cut in half to share.
  10. …or maybe not.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

In Bloom

April 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Just as bright yellow dandelions emerge throughout the city in spring, Dandelion Pop-Up will re-emerge in the Greater Omaha Chamber Courtyard, adding a dash more culinary color to Omaha (at 13th and Harney streets).

Dandelion creator Nick Bartholomew says the weekly Friday lunch series featuring an ever-changing menu and rotating roster of all-star chefs is slated to return in late March 2017—though, like its flaxen-hued namesake, warmer weather will ultimately dictate its arrival. Bartholomew, who’s also behind beloved eateries The Market House and Over Easy, launched Dandelion Pop-Up in partnership with Secret Penguin so he could still contribute to the neighborhood after the M’s Pub fire put his Old Market restaurant on hiatus. The golden concept allows chefs to satisfy their creative cravings and lets diners sink their teeth into a unique edible experience.

Bartholomew wanted to offer seasoned chefs and up-and-comers alike the chance to break away from their daily bread, so to speak—to get creative, feed their passion, incubate new dishes and restaurant concepts, and have some fun.

“[At Dandelion] chefs can follow their passion with 100 percent creative control,” Bartholomew says. “They can test ideas and try out potentially off-the-wall stuff, then get feedback on their vision and see how it’s received before debuting it on a broader scale. I think the genius behind it is the versatility, which allows creativity, and that’s really engaging to the chefs. When the chefs are this excited, you know the food will be amazing.”

Dandelion began in July 2016 with Chef Tim Maides and his T.R.E.A.M. (Tacos Rule Everything Around Me) team, who started the party with chicken and vegan tacos that sold out early.

“It’s basically like a little playground for chefs to do something different, with a low risk and the chance to try out new flavors,” Maides says of Dandelion. “It’s similar for the people there to eat; it breaks up their normal downtown routine with a temporary option for lots of different flavors from different chefs in one location.”

“Tim is great, and we love doing the creative process together,” Bartholomew says. “The Chamber of Commerce has also been amazing. When we asked them about it, they didn’t think twice; they totally got Dandelion’s potential as an incubator and shared the vision.”

Since the Chamber doesn’t charge Bartholomew, he doesn’t charge the chefs, who keep all food profits. For his part, Bartholomew designs a signature lemonade corresponding with each Dandelion theme.

“For [Maides’ lunch] I did a cucumber-jalapeño lemonade that went great with his tacos,” says Bartholomew.

Next, Dandelion offered a barbecue lunch from chef Dan Watts, featuring his coffee-black-pepper-rubbed brisket. After a short hiatus, while Bartholomew updated the Chamber Courtyard kiosk’s infrastructure, Dandelion returned with lunches from heavy-hitter chefs like Joel Mahr, Jason Hughes, Dario Schicke, and Paul Kulik. Dishes included bahn mi burgers, pork steam buns, cevapi with pita, soul food such as chicken-andouille gumbo and fried green tomato grilled cheese, Parisian street vendor-style crepes, fried rice, bibimbap (a trial run for upcoming Bartholomew venture, Boho Rice), and other mouthwatering items.

Bartholomew is a proud Omaha native, and like his existing restaurants and soon-to-launch Boho Rice, he wants Dandelion to enhance the neighborhood it inhabits. He’s proud to say that the returning Friday tradition brings the often-dormant Chamber Courtyard to life.

“It’s awesome to see the courtyard with this buzz of activity now, and all these people just enjoying a sunny day, a lemonade, and some great food they can’t get anywhere else,” he says. “It’s a testament to Omaha being ready for these ideas and [customers] being loyal to what they like from certain chefs.”

Like the chefs and restaurants it promotes, Dandelion itself is still incubating. According to Bartholomew, there’s ample potential for the venture to grow like a weed in terms of scope and format, and he welcomes feedback from the public and pitches from chefs.

“I can’t always explain exactly what Dandelion is because I secretly want it to be everything,” Bartholomew says. “If anything, the format will just grow now that awareness is growing, and I hope Dandelion becomes something the city is proud of.”

Fittingly, Bartholomew wants to let Dandelion be a bit of a wildflower.

“We don’t want to tag its ear and process it yet because it’s kinda wild,” he says. “One of the things that makes Dandelion cool is that we’re not limiting it.”

Visit dandelionpopup.com for details and to register for updates on upcoming events.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Twenty Minute Taquitos

November 8, 2016 by
Photography by Di Tendenza

This recipe is great for a quick and easy dinner for the kids. Each taquito can also be cut into fourths as an appetizer for those last-minute holiday parties, and the chicken mixture can be spread into bibb lettuce leaves for a healthier option.

Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, or 3 cups cooked diced chicken 
  • 3 cups raw spinach
  • 1 cup of diced, roasted red pepper
  • 6 ounces of shredded cheese (a blend of jack and cheddar cheeses is recommended)
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste (about one teaspoon each)
  • 8 large tortillas
  • Salsa for dipping

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Set aside 1/4 (2 ounces) of the cheese.

  1. Pull all the meat off of the chicken, then chop it to bite-sized pieces, or use diced chicken. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Chop the spinach to bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large pan, cook the spinach on medium heat until it has released most of it moisture.  Pour into the bowl with the chicken.
  4. Combine the pepper, cheese, and cream cheese with the chicken and spinach. Stir until it is mixed thoroughly.
  5. Season and taste. Season again if needed.
  6. Put two large tablespoons of the mixture on a tortilla. Spread it around, leaving 1 inch on all sides.
  7. Roll the tortilla from one end to the other. Be careful not to roll it so tightly that the sides pop.
  8. Place the roll in a foil-lined 9-by-13-inch pan.
  9. Repeat steps 7-9 until you have used all the tortillas and taquito mixture.

Make sure there is 1/2 an inch of space between each roll.

Cook 10 minutes, or, for an extra-cheesy dinner option, cook eight minutes, add the reserved 2 ounces of cheese, and cook for another two minutes.

Serve the taquitos with the salsa.

This article was printed in the Winter 2016 edition of Family Guide, an Omaha Publications magazine.

Berebere Delicious

February 3, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Our Chef Profile takes a bit of a detour this issue. Sarah Wengert, one of the newest talents to join our team of professional writers, is something of a foodie herself, so Omaha Magazine challenged her take a walk on the wild side to stretch her cooking chops. — Editor

I adore ethnic grocery stores. It’s a bit of an obsession for me, a gal who enjoys cooking and who yearns to travel the world, but often must settle for some good ol’ Omaha adventuring. When I cruise the aisles of my favorite ethnic groceries I’m transported to faraway lands, and my resulting homecooking is elevated to awesome. I’m an encyclopedia for Omaha’s best salsa and healthiest jalapenos (Jacobo’s), best naan (Indian Grocery), and best sauces and uncommon produce (Asian Market), but while I love Ethiopian food—and Toto’s “Africa” is one of my favorite songs—I haven’t spent as much time in Omaha’s African groceries as I have its Asian, Indian, and 
Mexican ones.

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That all changed when I visited Omaha’s East Africa Grocery Store, where friendly owner Ahmed Mohammed challenged me to make a popular Ethiopian chicken stew called Doro Wat. He and wife Fatuma Tessema run the grocery and adjoining restaurant. Tessema stews and simmers the cuisine to perfection daily. When it’s gone, the restaurant simply closes for the day.

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Mohammed explains the recipe as he walks me through the store, which smells of spice and incense, and is packed with seasonings, lentils, flours, and other provisions. His instructions, based upon his wife’s cooking, are loose and approximate. Holding out cupped hands, he instructs me to fry “about this much” shallots while then adding one cupped hand of berebere.

“You’ll think it looks like it’s going to be too hot; it’s so much,” says Mohammed of berebere, perhaps the most iconic of Ethiopian spices. “But when you fry it with the shallots and chicken it almost disappears. It is just right.”

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Their berebere, which Mohammed says is a combination of 12 spices, including chili, fenugreek, fennel, and paprika, is imported from Ethiopia. His mother brings spices and other Ethiopian victuals when visiting from Africa. Tessema makes the other essential ingredient, clarified butter or niter kibbeh, adding “lots of spices.” It’s similar to ghee, where the butter is boiled and the 
residue skimmed.

Tomatoes, chicken, ginger, and garlic join the shallots, butter, and berbere to round out the recipe. Most Doro Wat also includes hard-boiled egg, but Mohammed doesn’t mention this in his instructions.

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Injera, spongy, sour bread made with teff flour, doubles as a utensil in the forkless world of Ethiopian cuisine. Mohammed tells me home-making of injera will be tricky as it takes a special, seasoned grill. His store sells pre-made injera, which I opted to purchase.

With Mohammed’s assurances, I was out the door and soon donning my apron at home. The recipe comes together effortlessly and makes my whole house smell amazing. My taste-tester, Pete, gives it very high marks, and I have to agree. It was a deliciously savory meal and an exotic, eye-opening culinary adventure.

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East Africa Grocery Doro Wat
Makes 4 small-ish servings

  • 1½ Tbsps vegetable, corn or canola oil
  • 1¾ cups minced shallots (about 7 large shallots)
  • ¼ cup berebere 
(can be adjusted to your spice preference)
  • 5 plum tomatoes, peeled and pureed 
(shortcut: puree about 8 ounces diced tomatoes with 4 ounces tomato paste)
  • 4 chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used boneless thighs)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
  • About 2 Tbsps niter kibbeh 
(spiced butter)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, whole 
(optional)
  • Water, add a Tbsp or two if needed 
(optional)
  • Injera for serving 
(Remember, no forks allowed!)
  1.  Heat oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan or skillet.
  2. Add diced shallots and fry until they turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add berebere, stir and cook for about 2 minutes more before adding the tomato puree.
  4. Cook about 5 minutes, adding a little water if desired.
  5. Add chicken to sauce and simmer covered until cooked through, stirring occasionally and turning chicken along the way. Make sure the chicken touches the bottom of the pan while cooking. Feel free to add a little more water at this stage if needed.
  6. When chicken is cooked, add garlic and ginger, stir and cook for 2 minutes, then add niter kibbeh, re-stir and cook for another few minutes.
  7. If you want to add hard-boiled eggs, put them in (whole and peeled) at this point and coat with sauce. Serve over injera with extra injera on the side.