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Dash of Grace: Family favorites come together

Pot pies are comfort food that never grows old

Grace spreads the mashed potatoes on top of the pot pie before baking.
Grace spreads the mashed potatoes on top of the pot pie before baking.

Editor's note: Grace Whitten is on vacation. This Dash of Grace feature is a readers' favorite that previously ran in Sauk Valley Media publications.

I am always looking for new things, and this week I found one that everyone at my table loved.

One all-time favorite of my family is pot pies of any kind.

This one, which I noticed in a “Taste of Home” magazine, is a real winner. It is kind of a cross between a pot pie and shepherd’s pie.

The crust is made of cornbread dressing, which my mother made every Thanksgiving and Christmas; the filling is vegetables and gravy; and the whole dish is topped with creamy mashed potatoes, a little melted cheese and a sprinkling of fried onion, crisp from the can.

For this recipe, I used the packaged cornbread stuffing mix.

Now tell me who can resist this. No, it is not diet food. But just remember, portions are everything.

Stuffing crust turkey pot pie

Prep time: 35 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

2 cups cooked cornbread stuffing

3 to 4 tablespoons chicken broth

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup turkey gravy

2 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 cups mashed potatoes

1/4 half-and-half cream

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 cup french-fried onions, optional

In a small bowl, combine the stuffing and enough broth to reach desired moistness; spread onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and gravy until smooth. Stir in the turkey, broccoli, Swiss cheese, salt and pepper. Spoon over crust.

In a small bowl, combine potatoes and cream; spread over turkey mixture. Drizzle with butter. Sprinkle with onions, if desired.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned.

Note: You may use cubed cooked chicken instead of turkey, if desired.

–Courtesy of Taste of Homes

Remember porcupines?

They were on the table quite often when I was a young mother. In those days, there were no cooking columns and no Internet. When someone got hold of a good recipe, it was passed on from friend to friend, and all through the family, until you saw it everywhere.

This was that kind of dish – fast, cheap (when hamburger was 4 pounds for a dollar), easy to make, filling, and it even had a clever name, porcupines, so named because when the rice cooked, it stuck out and made the meatballs look like porcupines. I picked up an old book recently at a garage sale, and guess what I found.

Porcupine meatballs

Makes 4 servings

1 egg

2 (10.75-ounce) cans condensed tomato soup

1/4 cup instant rice

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound lean ground beef

3 tablespoons

Worcestershire sauce

Lightly beat egg with a fork, then add a heaping tablespoon of the soup and mix lightly. Mix in rice, onion, parsley, onion salt and pepper. Stir in the ground beef and mix well with hands. Form mixture into 1 1/2-inch round meatballs.

Coat a large skillet over medium heat with cooking spray. Cook meatballs and brown on all sides.

Combine remaining soup with Worcestershire (you can increase or decrease Worcestershire to your liking), stir until smooth, then spoon over meatballs. Cover with lid and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Family meatloaf

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

1/2 cups onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1/2 pound pork sausage

2 eggs

1 cup dry breadcrumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Combine all ingredients in bowl, except 1/4 cup ketchup and the brown sugar; mix well. Place in loaf pan. Combine remaining ketchup and the brown sugar and spread over meatloaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until meat no longer is pink.

Apple, sausage pie

Serves 8

With apple season in full swing, and cooler weather already moving in, here’s a casserole pie that combines sweet Italian sausage with Granny Smith apples, plus a mix of cheeses.

Prepared pie dough for a single-crusted 9-inch pie

2 large tart Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 medium onion, chopped (about a half-cup)

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage (bulk, or removed from casings)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups shredded fontina, provolone, or Asiago cheese, whatever you have or like

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup feta cheese

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line the inside of a pie shell with heavy aluminum foil, pressing the dough against the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil, poke the bottom of the pie crust with the tines of a fork to create air vents. Return crust to oven, bake 4 more minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the apples, onions, and sugar, cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. In the last 30 seconds or so, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl. Increase the heat to medium high, and in the same skillet, add the Italian sausage. Cook, stirring infrequently, until sausage is browned on all sides and cooked through. Remove from heat. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a dish lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat.

In medium-sized bowl, mix the cheeses and beaten eggs.

Place sausage on bottom of prebaked pie crust. Add the cooked apple-onion mixture over the sausage. Pour the cheese-egg mixture over the apple mixture and spread it so it evenly covers the pie.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

As-you-like-it breakfast casserole

Serves 8

6 to 10 eggs

2 or 3 cups grated cheddar cheese

6 slices bread, cut into cubes

2 cups milk



1 cup corn (cooked or frozen)

1/2 cup chopped broccoli, cooked or raw (raw will turn out crunchier)

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 cup cubed ham and/or cooked Italian sausage

1 teaspoon of your favorite herbs (I use a teaspoon of a mix of basil, rosemary, and thyme)

13-by-9-inch casserole dish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the milk and cheese. Add the bread and carefully stir until all pieces are moistened (don’t overmix or the bread may disintegrate). Add rest of ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste (if using Italian sausage, you won’t need either.) Butter the casserole dish and pour in the mix.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the top is browned and the center springs back when touched. Remove and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Hamburger casserole

As easy as Hamburger Helper and much better. Freezes well.

Serves 8

Total time: 50 minutes

Prep time: 20 minute

Cook time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 pound fresh ground chuck

1 large onion (chopped)

1 (8-ounce) package noodles

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 can whole-kernel corn

1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Brown onions and meat, season with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Boil the noodles in water for 6 minutes and drain.

Drain corn. Mix all ingredients and turn into a 2-quart greased casserole dish. Top with a little more grated cheese, if desired.

Turkey, cranberry and brie quesadillas

These are very popular right now for holiday parties. The quesadillas may be made ahead of time. Put in plastic wrap and refrigerate for use the next day or freeze for later use. Heat as indicated below.

For the topping

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

1/2 cup chopped chives (for topping)

1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

For the quesadillas

1 pound fully cooked turkey breast meat, shredded

2 cups brie, rind removed

8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped chives (for filling)

To make the topping

Place first six ingredients in food processor to make the chive sour cream topping. Process until smooth, scraping occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the quesadillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread 1/2 cup brie over each tortilla and then sprinkle 1/2 cup turkey, 1/4 cup cranberries, 2 tablespoons walnuts and 2 tablespoons chives over the brie. Place second tortilla over top of turkey-cranberry mixture.

Place quesadillas on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted. (Alternatively, you may cook quesadilla in large, lightly greased frying pan over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes per side until cheese is melted, if desired.)

Cut each quesadilla into 4 to 8 wedges and serve immediately with chive sour cream topping.

Yields: 4 quesadillas (4 entrée portions, 8 snack portions, or 16 appetizer portions)

Tip of the week

One pound of boneless chicken equals about 3 cups of cubed chicken.

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