Despite the fact that her husband is a conventional meat and potatoes lover, Judy Pauzuolis, of Hoffman Estates, occasionally likes to stir up something a bit more contemporary.
"I make all the staples like my mom used to make, just more current," she says.
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Judy learned to cook old-fashioned, home-cooked meals like chili, spaghetti, meatloaf, corned beef and lots of potatoes at her mother's side. After all, her father was also a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Her Polish, Irish and French Canadian ancestry gives her a wide berth for culinary exploration. She often will make a ham or roast and then show her creativity in the side dishes, experimenting with roasting vegetables, or trying out new recipes from her collection. She likes to keep up with cooking trends by keeping her eye out for recipes that look appealing.
"I'm not a Food Network person, but I do get a lot of recipes from magazines or the Daily Herald. I have a bazillion recipes I have never tried. They're all in this huge folder with all these recipes falling out," she laughs, "but I like it that way. I'll come across a recipe in my mom's handwriting, or from some other friend, and I will think about the person who gave me the recipe. It's nice."
As the youngest girl in her family, and the one most centrally located, Judy finds herself hosting the majority of family holiday celebrations.
"I like to entertain. We pretty much have every holiday. I do the birthday parties, showers, 60th birthdays -- it runs the gamut -- even a few surprise parties."
The Pauzuolis family may make burgers, or cater the main dish, but Judy always likes to make the appetizers and side dishes. For Christmas this year she made a zucchini cornbread casserole as an alternative to the usual stuffing.
She and one of her sisters have an ongoing argument about her favorite chipped beef dip. Judy likes it with green onions, her sister prefers it without. Readers can decide on their own preference as Judy shares the recipe with us today.
Though she considers herself a laid-back kind of cook, one philosophy Judy has is that the fresher the ingredients the better.
"I made a spaghetti sauce this summer with fresh tomatoes from a friend's garden -- it was the best I've ever made. I'm not so sure I buy into the whole organic thing, but homegrown is better."
Judy and her husband rarely eat desserts, so she isn't a big baker, but the extended family particularly enjoys her lemon poundcake, a rich cake that is extremely moist and lemony.
"I'd probably do a lot more cooking if my husband was more adventurous!" says Judy with a chuckle.
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