Serving Saturday

I got to spend my Saturday morning at one of my favorite charitable organizations – YMEN.


Here is a blub straight from their website to explain what they are all about –

Researchers from Jawanza Kunjufu to Na’im Akbar agree that society must make a greater effort and focus more resources to reach African-American boys ages 10-16. Even with the recent growth and revitalization in North Lawndale community, we face serious challenges in the areas of community safety and academic underachievement, particularly amoung our African-American young men. In the past four years, over 10,000 North Lawndale boys were arrested and placed into the juvenile court system. According to Congressman Danny K. Davis, 70% of all adult men in North Lawndale ages 18-45 are ex-offenders. Homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American men between the ages of 15-24 years old. In Illinois, there are more than 10,000 more African-American males in prison or on parole than are enrolled in college. In North Lawndale, less than 35% of African-American young men graduate from high school, and less than 5% earn a bachelor’s degree. If African-American young men are essential assets of a healthy community, more must be done. Reaching African-American youth is a life or death proposition.

At YMEN, we have been a community leader in providing significant resources and holistic youth programming, including academic support, leadership development activities, community service opporutunites to young men in the North Lawndale community.


Every month where there is a fifth Saturday my church The Chapel – Hinsdale ventures into North Lawndale and prepares a meal for those who are less fortunate.  Last weeks church service was all about using your talents to serve others.  Well my talent is cooking so I am so glad that I get to use it for more than just cooking in my own house or in restaurants.  It’s great to use a talent for something so much greater.  I must give credit where it is deserved though – I didn’t have to plan or prep the menu this week!  An amazing man by the name of Andre who also attends our church and is also an amazing chef prepared the meal today and I got to sit back and assist!


Andre spent all day yesterday cooking up some beautiful beef.  It was DELICIOUS!


I was in charge of mashed potatoes and green beans.  It’s nice to have the simple task sometimes haha


And here is my favorite guy from YMEN – Travion!

He helped me with the green beans and potatoes and is an absolute rock star.  He’s only 13 but assists at YMEN every weekend.  How many people know a 13 year old who wakes up early every Saturday morning and selflessly helps through the afternoon?  Hes the sweetest & smartest kid I know and is a definite YMEN success story.  This kid is going to go far in life.  He just won a scholarship for writing – so watch out for him.  He will be on a best selling book list – I am sure of it!


It was most definitely the busiest weekend we have ever had!  Everyone did an amazing job!  I am so proud of our church and what we have been able to do and so proud of all the little kids and teenagers that came to help and truly enjoyed themselves.


Another successful Saturday at YMEN with The Chapel


Brunch of Appetizers!

Yet another church meal!

Can I confess that I never get sick of cooking for my church?  What a blast!

(and what wonders for my self esteem haha)

I did have some medical things going on this month which has pushed this meal back a bit.  I was even asked if I was still capable of doing this meal and asked if I would like this task given to someone else.  I most definitely didn’t want to pass this up!  I love the menu making, the shopping, the cooking, the presenting..I just love it all.  Its the gift that God has blessed me with, what better place to use my gift than at my own church?  I have advertised it before but here’s a reminder of the fantastic church I attend.


For this weeks meal we did another appetizer spread so people can mingle and not have to sit down or worry about their kids getting fidgety in their seats.  I wanted to do something more unique and we had 3 baptisms today so what kind of meal goes best with baptisms? Brunch!


The spread!


Had to have the classic fruit platter.  I only did melon because I did a build your own yogurt parfait station that had a mix of berries


Instead of a regular crudite platter I did roasted vegetables that I roasted with olive oil, a little bit of garlic seasoning, some balsamic vinegar and I served them with a Chipotle Ranch dressing.  Must more fun than your regular raw veggies!


Mini Quiche!  These are unique since I used hash browns as the base instead of your usual pie crust.  All I did was get frozen hash browns, mixed with melted butter and pushed them into a mini muffin tin and baked them off for 15 minutes.  Then I added the toppings I desired and filled the rest of the cup with egg, half and half, pepper, salt, and nutmeg.  These quiche were spinach and swiss and sausage with cheddar.  Loved them!  The nutmeg definitely gives them a little bit more depth of flavor than just having your regular egg mix.


Homemade buttermilk biscuits with honey and jam.  Simple biscuit recipe – 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, pinch of salt, 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening and 1 cup of buttermilk.  Roll out and cut your biscuits to your desired size.  Bake at 350 until delicious!

brunch biscuits

Buttermilk biscuits with sliced ham and honey mustard.


Whats a gathering without cheese and crackers?


These are the same bars I made before on my blog.  Recipe found here –

The brunch was an absolute success 🙂

A chef is always happy when there’s not too many leftovers and of course the bigger nightmare – running out!

Cooking for a Crowd


A few weeks ago I was asked to prepare a luncheon for my church after one of our services.  Instead of having a sit down lunch we were going to have it in the lobby to allow everyone to mingle and meet.  I decided the best route to go for a feast like this is to go with appetizers.  Not to mention i’m a sucker for appetizers and will go that route whenever I can!  I wanted to share my menu since I know when I am planning a party for a large crowd I love to know some recipes that can be made ahead and can be easily assembled to conserve time.

I will take the time here to thank my church profusely for always being there for me.  I have been attending the Chapel for a little over a year now and I have become a better person because of them.  I kept getting thanked for taking the time to make this meal for them.  I feel I should be the one thanking all of them.  They have been an amazing church family to me and I feel like this is my way to show them thanks.  Thank you Chapel family!

Simple make ahead appetizers

Mango Salsa –

Made this 2 days ahead of time and let the flavors blend together!

Recipe found here

mango salsa

Loaded Potato Skins

Made the potatoes a day ahead of time and layered with paper towels and topped these gems the day of the event

Recipe found here

potato tier

Italian Skewers

I made these a day ahead of time and let them get super tasty in pesto overnight

Recipe found here


Roast Beef & Brie Bites

All I did was make garlic crostini, added a slice of roast beef, a sliver of brie and topped with a julienne of roasted red pepper.  Simple & Delicious!

beef crostini

Chicken Salad Crostini

On the same crostini used for roast beef I used my famous chicken salad recipe and topped the crostinis with creamy chicken salad!

Recipe Found Here

Mac & Cheese Bites

I used a basic homemade mac and cheese recipe.  I have never really measured mine but Alton Brown’s recipe is pretty similar and a rock solid recipe!  Do not bake the recipe in a regular baking dish!  I  added the finished mac and cheese to mini muffin tins and baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Let them cool a little bit before popping them out gently with a butter knife.  If you take them out piping hot they may fall apart!

mac and cheese bites

Fruit & Crudite with Hummus

A simple go-to option for any get together!

fruit and crudite

Mini Dessert Bites

dessert display

Cinnamon Donut Muffins – Recipe Found Here

Chocolate Chip Quick Bread – Recipe Found Here

Maui Wowie Blondies – I used this blondie recipe but only used white chocolate chips and shredded coconut

The Feast!

chapel buffetbuffet line

The Crowd

chapel crowd

Just a thing to think about…


Thank you everyone who helped me this Sunday! Andre, Brigit, Mark and my mom are rock stars!

In loving memory of our Sister in Christ Heidi Walsh

Operation BBQ Relief

I had the opportunity to be a part of a fantastic dinner put together by Sweet Baby Rays BBQ last night.  It wasn’t just any ol’ dinner though, it was to support an amazing cause called Operation BBQ Relief.  This organization was formed after the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes hit last year, i’m sure you are all familiar with this tragic event.  What Operation BBQ Relief did was went down to the site of the destruction and fed families, firefighters, police, etc.  They served over 120,000 meals in the two weeks they were there.  Of course people living in the Midwest area have also been hit again recently with multiple tornadoes again.  The dinner last night was formed in hopes of growing the organization to the Chicagoland area.

I cannot explain the reason for their cause any better than what their vision explains;

“The vision of Operation BBQ Relief is that all people involved in relief efforts during natural disasters will understand the true meaning of compassion for those who have lost possessions and loved ones and that they will further utilize all of their God-given skills and abilities to better the lives of those affected.”

I was incredibly touched by the outcome of this event.  Nearly 150 BBQ fanatics in the Chicagoland area came together to discuss such an important cause and show their support.  I was so impressed by the vision and mission of this cause that my BBQ Team will be joining the efforts and to help out as needed.  I encourage you to read more on this cause, they are incredible people doing great things for people in need.  BBQ fanatics or even just people with a big heart are welcome to come join forces and help!

Click Here to Read More

Now – to share the incredible food Sweet Baby Rays provided for this event!

Dave Raymond (Sweet Baby Ray) Talks about the cause

See Sweet Baby Rays post on OBR

BBQ Martini

Burnt Ends


Our Chef preparing said shrimps

Gumbo Shooters

Our Dinner Menu

Brisket, Pulled Pork, Texas Sausage

Desserts – After I already got to some of them


Thank you for stopping by! Please check out Operation BBQ Relief & Sweet Baby Rays!