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updated: 8/6/2013 8:02 AM

Cook of the week: Food gene runs in the family

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  • Video: Nancy Bertschy cooks salmon

  • Paul Michna/ Nancy Bertschy of Aurora cuts a lime to be used in the Pistachio Basil Spinach Salmon butter.

    Paul Michna/ Nancy Bertschy of Aurora cuts a lime to be used in the Pistachio Basil Spinach Salmon butter.

  • Nancy Bertschy of Aurora in her kitchen. She was preparing Pistachio Basil Spinach Salmon.

      Nancy Bertschy of Aurora in her kitchen. She was preparing Pistachio Basil Spinach Salmon.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald Correspondent

While Nancy Bertschy is officially our Cook the Week, the truth is, several of her family members could qualify.

Her Croatian grandmother started the whole thing; in her kitchen everything was homemade. Nancy's mother was also a good cook who encouraged Nancy and her brother to spend time in the kitchen. Nancy's brother recently made guacamole for the 100 guests at his niece's graduation party and her teenage son has his own torch for making creme brule. Clearly cooking is a family affair.

Still, Nancy would never call herself a gourmet cook.

"I'm more a 'quick and healthy and everybody likes it' kind of cook," Nancy says with a laugh.

"We do a lot of seafood, tilapia, salmon … we're healthy eaters and I try to make everything on the healthy side. We do a lot of Mexican, salads and we don't do a lot of starches, just fresh vegetables and whole grains. My kids eat fruit faster than I can cut it, so I can't complain!"

Nancy also avoids artificial sweeteners and soda pop.

"I'd rather just use real sugar if I'm baking."

One of Nancy's significant influences on her healthy lifestyle was a vacation spent at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Az.

"It was awhile ago and we learned about a lot of the things you hear about now. At the time the foods they talked about, like flax, were harder to find. We learned how to incorporate healthy practices into daily life."

Nancy laughs that she still isn't about to grind her own flaxseed as they suggested and she doesn't buy organic products exclusively.

"There are some things you want to buy organic, but I don't go out of the way," she said, adding that she's more likely to buy seasonal, local produce.

Nancy travels for her job, but still wants to be sure her family has healthy meals. She will often stock the freezer with her son's sandwiches for the week.

"I try to think ahead and have enough food in the house for three or four cycles of meals."

However, the emphasis on healthy cooking doesn't preclude experimentation. Nancy loves to cook for people and she isn't afraid to go all out.

"If I have a dinner party I always try something new. I don't repeat recipes."

The Bertschys entertain quite a bit. Nancy likes to choose dishes that may require a lot of prep before hand, but end with a quick grill.

They often throw parties for their children's sports teams.

"Once we had a 100 people over for the swim team. Their colors are red and white and I sort of realized everything we served was red and white. It was kind of a theme by accident!"

Nancy likes spending time creating beautiful tablescapes to represent a theme.

"Part of the thing is making it look festive." She also always plans for more food than needed.

"I always have way too much food. I'd rather have too much than not enough." One thing Nancy never does, however, is cater the food.

"I'd much rather hire help than have anyone bring in food. I like controlling the menu. My son will ask me, why do we have these helpers?

"For when it's 10:30 at night and we're tired! That's why," she laughs.

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