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posted: 6/11/2014 5:30 AM

From the Food Editor: Cooking demos, veggies and beer

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  • Veggie Bump is powder made from a variety of quick-frozen vegetables and spices.

      Veggie Bump is powder made from a variety of quick-frozen vegetables and spices.
    Courtesy of Vijay Santha

  • Cesar Marron, left, celebrates winning the LongShot Homebrew Contest with Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch.

      Cesar Marron, left, celebrates winning the LongShot Homebrew Contest with Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch.
    Courtesy of Samuel Adams


I'm excited to kick off a series of special guest demonstrations this summer at Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn.

Jill Fource, owner of the kitchenware store and cooking school in the town's downtown district, got the idea to give her regular staff a well-deserved summer vacation by asking those in its culinary community if they wanted to see what it was like on the other side of the stove. In addition to myself and 2011 Cook of the Week Challenge winner Penny Kazmier jumping in line, a number of Marcel's loyal customers will show off their favorite recipes.

All the free (ding, ding, ding!) demos take place between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesdays; recipes are made start-to-finish each hour and there's time for sampling and questions. Reservations are not required; drop in when you can and stay for as long as you can.

I'll start off July 1 by sharing some of my favorite nibbles and libations for summer cocktail parties. Penny steps up Aug. 26 with a couple of her favorite salads. Other demos on the docket include Melissa LaMantia's take on gnocchi, Michael Stange's cauliflower-quinoa patties and Beth Fawcett and Annette Barnum's "smushies" (the ladies tell me a smushie is a Danish sandwich).

Besides the free demos, Marcel's offers a number of kid-friendly cooking classes and has other exciting classes on its summer schedule. Check out the calendar at

Bump it up: The days of fighting with kids to eat their vegetables could be coming to a close if a couple of local guys get the funding they need through a Kickstarter campaign.

Vijay Santha, of Palatine, and his brother-in-law Paul Probst, of Chicago, have spent the last year developing and testing Veggie Bump. The idea started as the two culinary hobbyists were looking for ways to get a picky family member to eat more vegetables.

The product is made from a variety of organic, quick-frozen, vegetables -- sweet potatoes, black garlic, kale, butternut squash and red peppers among them. They started out dehydrating vegetables, but found too many nutrients were destroyed by the heat, and what's the point of eating veggies if you don't get the nutrition benefit?

Freeze-drying preserves the nutrients and vitamins.

The vegetables then are ground into a fine powder and can be stirred into sour cream for a dip, sprinkled onto pizza, mixed with macaroni and cheese or blended into mayo or yogurt for a sandwich spread.

"We're really eager to see how people use it," Paul said. "We find it works best if there's a little liquid or grease for it to cling to."

They've developed three varieties: classic, jalapeņo (mildly spicy) and habanero (pretty dang spicy).

"Our goal is not to replace vegetables," said Paul, 29. "It's for parents who want kids to eat more vegetables and busy people who don't have time to cook."

Adds Vijay, also 29, "college kids can sprinkle it in their ramen noodles for a little nutrition and spice."

The entrepreneurs have 14 more days to reach their $25,000 funding goal. As of press time they were at. Freeze-dried organic vegetables don't come cheap, and with the money they can purchase the ingredients in quantities large enough to make the product affordable. They have an Elk Grove Village kitchen lined up so production can start shortly after the funding rolls in. They're hoping for December delivery.

Through Kickstarter, startups seek investors to pledge at a number of funding levels -- in Veggie Bumps' case, $1 to $750 -- and investors are promised product and premiums, like T-shirts and totes. If the project doesn't meet its funding goal, no investors are out any money.

You can't try it before you jump in, but I got the opportunity to. I liked the jalapeņo best. Stirred into sour cream, it made a dip that left me feeling not so guilty about eating potato chips. The habanero kicks up the nutrition profile of chili and other spicy foods.

My 11-year-old picky eater turned down the opportunity to go to the tasting with me, but eyed the little jar of Veggie Bump on the counter as he was eating a grilled cheese.

"What's that stuff like Mom?" he asked.

"You tell me, it's on your sandwich," I replied.

Beating the odds: Congrats to Cesar Marron of Evanston, the latest suburbanite to win Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest.

Marron's Gratzer, a Polish smoked wheat beer, is featured in the LongShot six-pack (about $7.99) along with a malty American stout and a pineapple India pale ale, which is quite refreshing and not-at-all sweet. Judges sampled more than 1,000 beers before naming the winners.

If you like Marron's beer, you'll want to stop by Sketchbook Brewing Company. Marron, a software engineer, hopes to open the brewery in Evanston later this summer.

Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Herald or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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