Hoffman Estates cook collects, shares recipes

  • Rea Ann Rehwald has lived in towns across the America and has happily shared recipes from friends along the way.

    Rea Ann Rehwald has lived in towns across the America and has happily shared recipes from friends along the way. photos by Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • This stunning strawberry cake starts with a box mix and has become a Rehwald family favorite.

    This stunning strawberry cake starts with a box mix and has become a Rehwald family favorite. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 5/3/2011 1:23 PM

Fifty years ago, when Rae Ann Rehwald, of Hoffman Estates, got engaged, her father said to her future husband, "I sure hope you like popcorn and chili because that's all Rae Ann knows how to make!"

Years later, "Popcorn and Chili" became the title for the cookbook Rae Ann self-published after years of being asked for copies of her well-loved recipes.

 

"I started cooking when the kids were born; I was home and it was back in the days when Julia Childs was on," Rae Ann said, adding that her cooking education consisted largely of lessons in trail-and-error.

"As all cooks know, you don't always have everything you need, so you go through the refrigerator and throw in what you have. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. When it was good, my husband would tell me, sit down right now and write that one down!" she laughs.

For Rae Ann, marriage was quite literally a journey, as the family moved 18 times, coast to coast, always keeping an eye toward home -- the Midwest. One hobby she established early on in her travels was collecting cookbooks. "I like the ones from towns and churches; I have a huge collection now."

Her recipes have traveled as well. "I have a cheesy potatoes recipe that I got on the East coast and have served across the country. Every time I've served it someone asks me for the recipe!" (Apparently in some circles it is not called cheesy potatoes, but Rae Ann's potatoes instead.)

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While living in Sacramento, the family realized that Californians had never experienced kringles, the Danish pastry with deep roots in Racine, Wis. While they had no affiliation with Midwest kringle bakers, they decided it was time to bring the pastry out west. Rae Ann researched the recipe, practiced making kringles and with her daughters opened a restaurant called Kringles.

"We served just breakfast and lunch and of course we had to get up very early to make the kringles," she said. The restaurant was open for 2 years serving kringles, soups, and Rae Ann's Great Lakes Chili, until they sold the business and moved back to Chicago.

"It was fun at the time and it was very nice to have that relationship with my daughters."

No matter where they lived, Rae Ann and her husband have always loved to entertain.

"I like to make things that are fairly simple, things you can make ahead of time so that you can enjoy your company," she said.

Rae Ann, an active volunteer who has worked as a real estate broker and owned a print shop, currently is collecting recipes for a second cookbook, when she finds the time.

"Now that I'm retired I'm so busy I don't have time to do anything."