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posted: 12/17/2013 5:45 AM

Cook of the Week: Collecting family recipes a delicious pursuit

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  • Melissa Wieland often returns to her parents' South Barrington home to cook recipes she collected for a family cookbook.

       Melissa Wieland often returns to her parents' South Barrington home to cook recipes she collected for a family cookbook.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Abby Scalf
Daily Herald Correspondent

Melissa Wieland loves to cook with her family, whether they're planning a buffet of appetizers or an Italian feast.

And like many cooks, when searching for a recipe, Melissa may go to her favorite cookbook.

What makes this cookbook special for Melissa is that it features recipes shared by family members far and wide, and she compiled it herself.

"It's great to be able to cook these recipes and just to look through them with family," said Melissa, a Barrington High School graduate now working as a nurse and living in Chicago.

Inspired by a cookbook created at the hospital where she worked, Melissa started creating the family cookbook three years ago.

"It definitely was a labor of love. It took me longer than I expected it to," she said.

Putting together the cookbook meant getting recipes from family who lived close, such as her parents, Richard and Ann who live in South Barrington, and sister Lauren Jerome, who lives in Chicago. But it also meant getting in touch with family across the country, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Using the website tastebook.com, Melissa compiled and edited the recipes and became the book's photographer.

"I had to cook some of the recipes so I could take pictures," she said. "There is a picture that goes with each recipe in the cookbook."

There were so many recipes that she broke the book into two volumes: appetizers, soups and salads; and brunch, dinner entrees and desserts.

Melissa said her family often puts out a variety of appetizers on Christmas Eve, so the book features many of their favorites, like Sashimi Napoleon.

Adapting a recipe she tried in Maui, Melissa layers crisp wontons, tuna tartare, salmon tartare and tuna and salmon pieces. She tops it with a wasabi-spiked dressing and radish sprouts.

Entries for Chinese chicken noodle salad, Greek-style panzanella and Hungarian goulash follow.

Even though her childhood memories may be baking cookies and cakes with her grandma, Melissa claims baking is not her strongest skill. But when she wants to make something sweet, she turns to the family cookbook for decadent treats like banana cream pie and a dessert her sister whips up, chocolate chip brownie with cream cheese frosting.

Altogether, Melissa compiled 160 recipes between the two volumes. She said there are 20 more recipes she will add online that family members can access.

"Everyone in my family loves it. My sister uses it every week to cook for her family," she said. "They want me to come out with something else, but I said it will be awhile before I do this again because of the time spent."

Melissa said she simply hopes that by using this cookbook, they enjoy making recipes together.

"Maybe they will cook a recipe other than the ones they contributed to the book," she said. "Maybe they will try something new."

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