About Johanna

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Chicago/Aurora, IL, United States
I am just like so many busy moms out there. I want to create great meals for me and my family where the food brings us together at the end of a long and hectic day. I want to empower moms to feel like they are able to make Great Everyday Meals by using simple, accessible, and inexpensive ingredients and basic cooking techniques. It’s more about family and less about slaving away in the kitchen cooking. I have been a restaurant industry professional for about 10 years and have a great passion for cooking. I will share tips, recipes and techniques that I have learned to arm everyday cooks with the foundation to simple yet great tasting cooking! Johanna M. Cook

Monday, July 25, 2011

California Strawberry Commission: Paint Chicago Red

Hosted by Chicagonista.com founder, MJ Tam, the California Strawberry Commission and The Chopping Block brought local social media moms together to learn more and taste California Strawberries.

Upon entering The Chopping Block in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, we were greeted with an array of strawberry themed bites and cocktails. For a foodie like myself, I was interested to see what recipes we home cooks can make at home that's simple, easy and in this case, new and exciting.

The first thing that caught my eye (that's me taking a pic!) were the freshly muddled strawberry cocktails, made very simply with...you guessed it, freshly muddled strawberries and Proscecco and garnished with a mint leaf. What a refreshing cocktail that can be easily made as non-alcoholic drink by substituting the Proscecco with sparkling white grape juice. Proscecco is a sparkling wine from Italy and very similar and often compared to and against Champagne from France.

The strawberry themed hors de vours were greeted with tons of "Oooohhhhs" and "Aaaaaahhhhs" from a room full of women who adore these beautiful berries. Strawberries are mostly associated with desserts like the classicly delicious, Strawberry Shortcake (pictured above) or ice cream. But on this day, I was excited to try the Strawberry Gazpacho (left) which I pressumably thought was going to be sweet, but instead greeted the complex flavors of jalapeno, cilantro, jicama, garlic and cucumber. What a great surprise. Other great recipes included Fresh Crab Tostadas topped with Strawberry Mango Salsa, a Goat Cheese & Strawberry Pizza topped with a balsamic reduction, and even a Strawberry and Cheese Panini that would be great for a baby or bridal shower and even a little girls tea party!

The Commission brought in George Chavez, a strawberry grower who answered our questions about growing techniques and freshness.

*It takes about 3-4 days from strawberries in California to arrive in various parts of the Midwest.

*Because of the CSC standards in irrigation and growing, California strawberries have been free from health hazards.

*DO NOT wash strawberries after you buy them. Wash them when you are ready to eat them to keep them fresh in the refrigerator.

*Try freezing strawberries, first on a cookie sheet, then transfer them to a zip locked bag and use as "ice cubes" for Sangria or lemonade. Good for up to one year in the freeezer.

The CSC also brought in local Registered Dietician and author of "101 Optimal Life Foods", David Grotto to talk nutrition.

*One serving of strawberries - about 8 strawberries - is an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, a serving of strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange!

*Strawberries increase blood flow.

*Fiber is considered by the American Heart Association to be important for heart health. Epidemiological studies report that people who eat higher amounts of total fiber have a lower risk of heart disease.

I learned tons about strawberries at this event. They are a complex fruit that can be used many different ways.

Instead of buying your kids "fruity" snacks...why not do the real thing? They are sweet, delicious and healthy.

To learn about California Strawberries visit:

Photographs taken by: Lahleyoo

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Food Festival: Veggie Fest 2011

Food festivals are abundant during the summer months. Festivals celebrate great food and ingredients and anything goes from garlic festivals, bbq and rib fests, wine and cooking, strawberries and so much more. Veggie Fest held on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center on August 13 & 14, 2011 in Naperville, Illinois.

This festival no different than others, except that it celebrates veggies and vegetarianism..and it's FREE! But you don't have be a vegetarian to enjoy and appreciate this festival! It's a great time to spend with your family and introduce them to local farmers, play games and activities, listen to live music and of course, EAT!

Veggie Fest's boasts a diverse food court with about 21 vendors. "You'll get to choose from an incredible assortment of delicious vegetarian cuisines. If you're already a vegetarian, it'll be a fun treat knowing that every single booth is offering something you can eat! If you're new to vegetarian food, you're bound to find something that makes you say, "Wow, I didn't know vegetarian food could be so good!" And if you're not eating dairy, don't worry -- you'll find plenty of vegan food also." The food court showcases vegetarian cuisine from Asian, Mediterrenean, Middle-Eastern, Italian, Caribbean countries, as well as desserts.

Food is a very interactive subject. Veggie Fest will feature "three Chicago area restaurants plus a number of chefs from commercial enterprises who will be doing demos this year."

Karyn Calabrese of Karyn's Fresh Corner
Veggie Fest 2011 is proud to feature local Chicago’s own Karyn Calabrese of Karyn’s “Fresh Corner” and “Karyn’s Cooked” presenting a food demo at Veggie Fest. Karyn is a successful entrepreneur and popular holistic health expert based in Chicago. At 64 years old she looks nearly a generation younger and enjoys boundless energy and great health.

Chicago Soy DairyChicago Soydairy manufactures all of their own products in our their own facility using an entirely vegan staff. Most food companies contract others to produce products for them, making it very difficult to completely eliminate the possibility of cross contamination. Dairy products, animal products, tree nuts, and peanuts never even enter our facility, giving our vegan and allergy-sensitive customers peace of mind. Chicago Soy Dairy will be serving up samples while demoing their products. http://www.chicagosoydairy.com/

Come to Veggie Fest this year and experience something new and fun with your friends and family.

4S 175 Naperville-Wheaton Rd

Naperville, Illinois, 60563
630.955.1200 or 800.222.2207

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recipe: Popsicle & Ice Cream

The weather is FINALLY summer-like and there's nothing more nostalgic than sitting on the porch with the kids eating popsicles. Store-bought popsicles are full of high-fructose corn syrup and added preservatives and ingredients. Making your own helps you control the sugar you give your kids, and you'll immediately taste the difference making it fresh.

Making homemade popsicles can be a fun summer activity with the kids and can also be simple. Once you try making your own popsicles and ice cream from scratch, you will want to make more and more!

White Peaches & Cream Popsicles

2 Ripe White Peaches – cut into cubes with skin on
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sparkling water

Blend all ingredients together and pour in molds. Freeze for about 4 hours.

Green Tea & Mango Ice Cream
2 Ripe Mangoes – peel and cube
2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
8 bags of Japanese green tea

In a sauce pot, heat the milk and cream and steap the green tea for about 5 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Add the sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool. In a blender, blend the mangoes with a little water until it is broken up to small pieces, but not pureed. Follow your ice cream maker instructions.

TIP* When ready to eat, keep ice cream out in room temperature for about 10 minutes for easier handling.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mexican Pantry Basics

When thinking of beloved ethnic foods, Mexican food can argueably be in the top 3.

Real Mexican food lovers know it's cuisine offers so much more than just the usual tacos and burritos. For you home cooks looking to spice up your pantry and incorporating a little Mexican flare to your everyday cooking, take this list of basic Mexican pantry ingredients and add it to your repetoire.


Black Beans
Pinto Beans

Serrano Peppers or Jalapeno Peppers
Bell Peppers
Canned Chipotle Peppers

Other Ingredients
Onions (Red & Spanish)
Fresh Roma Tomatoes
Canned Chopped Tomatoes
Fresh or Canned Corn
Tomato Sauce
Queso Fresco
Corn Tortillas
Flour Tortillas

I like to keep organic enchilada sauce handy as well and will often make my Mexican "Lasagna" using store-bought rotisserie chicken, layering it with corn tortillas, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese pouring enchilada sauce over each layer.

Also try canned Hominy, which is corn without the germ. It is served in soups like Posole, or make your own Chicken Soup swapping hominy for noodles in Chicken Noodle Soup, and add soup lime juice and cumen in the broth and top with crispy tortilla strips as the garnish with some cilantro leaves.

There are so many ways to incorporate Mexican flavors into your everyday cooking. The key to is to start with the correct basic ingredients.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Cut a Bell Pepper

Getting the most out of expensive bell peppers could be tricky! Watch the video for a great trick on how to get the most out of our pricey, and delicious peppers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to wrap baked fish in foil

Baked Tilipia in foil

4 Tilapia Fillets
1 Zuchinni - julienne
1 Yellow Bell Pepper - julienne
1 Roma tomato - cut into 4 wedges
Parsley leaves
Lemon Juice
Garlic Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Splash of white wine - optional (Pinot Grigio)

Wrap each fillet in tin foil or parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 350* for about 20 minutes.

If using frozen fish, cook time increases to 30 minutes.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Recipe: Smothered Chicken

Comfort food is something that just makes people feel good. It's satisfying, heart-warming, and is plain ol' good.

This recipe for smothered chicken uses lean chicken breasts, fresh mushrooms and fresh flat leaf spinach and baked in the oven. It's simple to make and is great with a side of egg noodles and steamed broccoli.


4-6 skinless boneless organic chicken breasts
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1 bag of pre-washed spinach (salad isle)
2 cans of organic cream of mushroom condensed soup
1/2 cup of low-sodium organic chicken broth
3 TBL of olive oil

Heat a saute pan on medium/high heat. Season the chicken breasts with Paprika and brown. You do not need to cook the chicken all the way, it will finish cooking in the oven. Set aside in a baking dish.

Once all the chicken breasts have been browned, lower the heat to medium heat and toss in the fresh mushrooms and spinach. After sauteeing for about 1 minute add the 2 cans of cream of mushroom and chicken stock. Mix the ingredients for about 2-3 minutes and scrape the bottom of the pan, taking all the browned bits.

Transfer the sauce to the baking dish, over the brown chicken. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.

Serve with steamed vegetables and egg noodles.

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