QUINCY, Ill. — Lori Brenner adds a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the top of a bowl of soup, then offers a guarantee.

“If you like stuffed peppers, you will like this soup,” Brenner said.

Stuffed Pepper Soup is a favorite of the Brenners heading into fall along with White Chicken Chili, which can be made on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.

“It is super simple, but very good,” Brenner said.

The Quincy woman will serve other slow cooker favorites, like Italian Beef, at many family gatherings along with Creamy Ranch Chicken and Potatoes, which turned a recipe for ranch potatoes into a complete meal. And Spinach-Stuffed Shells offer options to serve as a vegetarian meal or add a meat sauce for a heartier offering.

“It’s kind of comfort food to me,” Brenner said. “You really can’t even taste the spinach for the creaminess of the cheese.”

Adding a sweet finish to a meal is Carrot Cake, a tried-and-true recipe from her husband Tim’s grandmother. “I didn’t even like carrot cake until I had hers. It is melt-in- your-mouth delicious,” Brenner said.

Making sure dishes taste good and go together quickly are goals for Brenner as she feeds her husband and their four children — Hayden, Alexandra, Jackson and Joshua.

“As you do more and more cooking, you will learn what goes together well, what doesn’t go together. I can look at a recipe and see certain spices and things in it that I know I will like, that I know my family will like,” she said. “You also have to be willing to try eating new things because you may not know that something’s going to be good if you’ve never tried it. I try to tell my children all the time that your taste changes.”

Brenner had her start in cooking while growing up in Jacksonville. She and her sister each picked one night a week to cook the family meal, and she soon learned to love spending time in the kitchen.

The time involved in cooking keeps many busy people out of the kitchen — and helped inspire Brenner’s business, Dinner Is In The Bag, which offers parties where guests leave with 10 meals to feed their family along with ready-made meals for the oven or slow cooker available for pickup.

“So many people are pressed for time and busy, and they love the idea of just having something they can just throw in the CrockPot or in the oven at the end of the day and not worry about it and still have a home-cooked meal for their family,” Brenner said.

Brenner’s own family taste tests new possible meals and is happy to share their thoughts on what’s good, what’s not and what needs tweaking. Some of their own favorite meals didn’t make the cut for the business because they didn’t work well in the freezer.

“I like putting different flavors together to see what I can come up with, and I like seeking out new recipes, trying new things,” Brenner said. “My goal is that every meal is something I’d be willing to feed my own family.”


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2x3LWeS


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The Quincy Herald-Whig.