By Jerilyn VanDeWoestyne Geneseo Republic Posted Jul 18, 2008 @ 01:45 PM Geneseo, Ill
. —Family is very important to Christie Schilling of rural Geneseo and she wants to know she is cooking the healthiest food possible for them.
Christie and her husband, Bob, reside in a four-year-old home (constructed mostly by Bob), with their children, Terry, Aaron, Levi, Joseph, Isabel, Rachel, Olivia, Sam and Sophia.
Christie can often be found in the kitchen and says she has always enjoyed cooking. “I remember my grandma and I always making cookies together when I was growing up and those are precious memories for me,” she said. “But I have never been able to get my chocolate chip cookies as good as hers.” Christie feels cooking is a great way for her to be creative.
Admitting she has the ideal job, Christie is very happy to be able to be a full time, stay-at-home mom. “I love being a mom — I wouldn’t pick any other job,” she said.
Christie likes to use fresh ingredients in her cooking whenever possible and says she is always looking for ways to include healthy food choices in her family’s diet. “Fresh is just great — there is no better feeling than watching your family eat nutritionally,” she said.
Christie adds millet to soups because it is high in protein and rich in vitamins and she puts wheat germ in everything from cookie dough to pancake batter. “We even sprinkle wheat germ on yogurt. It adds kind of a nutty flavor,” she said, adding her kids love to dip banana slices in peanut butter and then in wheat germ for a snack.
“I’m also always looking for good brain food,” she said. “Walnuts are good for brain development so I use them in salads, breads and cookies. I like to cook healthy things for my family.”
Christie says she likes every part of cooking, whether it’s baking desserts or making complete meals. “And we do a lot of peanut butter sandwiches during the summer,” she laughs.
Christie also enjoys gardening and working outdoors and her beautifully landscaped yard attests to that fact. She grows some herbs including basil and sage. “Everyone should have fresh basil,” she said, adding she uses the fresh herb sliced on top of a salad where it adds a “wonderful, heavenly flavor. Basil is easy to grow, but in the winter I buy it at the grocery store,” she said. “I think it’s important to use fresh ingredients like that whenever you can.”
Basil can also be found in Christie’s homemade spaghetti sauce where it softens up and gives the sauce a wonderful flavor.
Spaghetti with homemade spaghetti sauce is one of her family’s favorite meals. The sauce she makes is from a recipe from her grandmother and is made with crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic. “And I always add some kind of pork, either pork chops, ground pork or sausage,” she said. “My grandmother always said to make good spaghetti sauce, you have to have good pork and that recipe came from Italy.”
Christie says the best pork she has found is at Weber Meats in Geneseo. “The house smells so good when you’re cooking the spaghetti sauce,” she said. “We love any kinds of pasta.”
Christie grows some vegetables in her backyard garden and says lettuce is a favorite because when you cut it back, it just keeps growing. Spinach is also growing in Christie’s garden since it is easy to grow and also returns when cut back. She said the spinach is delicious in salads or sliced and added to soups.
“And even though we live quite a distance from town, I’m in town often with the kids’ activities, so I can shop for fresh produce at the grocery store several times a week,” she said, adding it’s also handy for her that some of her older children can serve as drivers and like to make the trip to town occasionally.
Christie enjoys tending to the various flower beds surrounding her home. “I have mostly perennials in the flower beds and then I use annuals in planters.”
The Schilling’s back yard also includes a swimming pool that, according to Christie, is used every day in the summer. “We just like everything about being outdoors,” she said.
The family also likes everything about cooking and Christie isn’t the only one who is at home in the kitchen. The Schillings own Giuseppe’s Pizza in Moline where her husband does most of the cooking. “Bob does all the homemade cooking at the restaurant, including the homemade spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce,” Christie said, adding their older children work at the restaurant right along with Bob. “They are hard-working kids and very thoughtful. Aaron sometimes will bring home Whitey’s shakes for his siblings and that is a real treat.”
Christie says Bob uses her grandmothers famous spaghetti sauce recipe at the restaurant and admits “it is awesome. We have the best lasagna and when we’re lucky Bob will bring home some leftover spaghetti. The kids love it.”
Bob and Christie have owned Giuseppe’s Pizza for 12 years and she said she also worked there until a few years ago. “The customers are great,” she said, adding her husband grew up in the food business. Bob is a native of Rock Island and Christie grew up in East Moline.
“We’ve been in Geneseo 14 years now and we love it here,” Christie said. “It is the most pleasant and kindest community.”
One of her family’s favorite meals, during the warm months especially, is a kind of hoagie sandwich Christie prepares by filling hoagie buns with ham, turkey, provolone cheese, tomatoes, onion, lettuce and any other vegetable, and then adds a fresh basil dressing. “The kids love that. It is one of their favorite meals,” Christie said, adding they also like bruschetta.
“The bruschetta is another family favorite and is made by broiling slices of French bread, adding a topping of chopped tomatoes and onions then drizzling it with olive oil along with a sprinkling of cheese and broiling it until it is warm and toasty. “I can’t make the bruschetta fast enough,” she laughs.
Christie notes a frequent phrase around the house is “who ate all the___? You can fill in the blank with cookies, brownies or whatever,” she said. “Nothing lasts very long around here.”
Since the kitchen is the hub of their home, Christie says everyone just seems to naturally gravitate to that room. “And the kids all have their chores to do. I couldn’t do it without their help.”
Admitting she worries if her children are busy and dash off before they have time for a good breakfast, Christie says she tries to make sure their first meal of the day is nutritious. “French toast is a very popular breakfast item around here and the kids have started adding a little vanilla extract and cinnamon to the egg mixture before dipping the bread in it,” she said. “That gives it a really good flavor.”
Christie adds they use whole wheat bread for everything from the French toast to sandwiches. “Whole wheat bread is all we use around here,” she said.
Other popular breakfast items are pancakes or scrambled eggs that are made into sandwiches. “We all like breakfast, in fact we sometimes have breakfast for dinner,” Christie said.
On her husband’s birthday, however, Christie says the menu includes his favorite - eggs benedict with a special Hollandaise sauce.
Weekdays can be a little hectic at the Schilling home, but according to Christie, Sundays are for the family. “I’m not real strict about dinner usually, but Sunday is definitely family time for us and we all know that,” she said, adding Sunday meals include “the works”, usually something like spaghetti with a salad. “I like to do a good Italian meal on Sundays,” she laughs, adding they usually eat fairly late during the week, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. “It seems to work better for us and I really like it on those special times when we can all have a meal together.”
Christie knows her family well and can identify each of their favorite foods. “Terry’s favorite is tiramisu and it is a project,” she said. “It takes a little time to make, but it is a labor of love,” she said.
She adds Levi loves Death by Chocolate, a dessert that is made by layering a chocolate mousse and Cool Whip with crushed peanut M&M’s. “I usually put it in a glass bowl and it is a very pretty dessert,” she said.
Joseph likes to make brownies and his mother said she is trying to encourage him to be a little more creative in that effort. “I suggested he add things like Rice Krispies or peppermint chips to the brownie batter. He did that and couldn’t believe how good they were,” Christie laughs. “He likes to experiment and cooking is a great place to experiment.”
Christie likes it when her pantry is well-stocked although admits there are times when the supplies just seem to vanish. Her large and charming pantry, located just off the kitchen, however, is filled with cupboards, shelves and drawers and is home to all her necessary staples.
Presentation is important to Christie in that she likes the table to look nice. “Especially for special holidays I want to set a pretty table,” she said, adding she went online one time and typed in “how to set a pretty table” and got some really good ideas on everything from how to place the glasses to the perfect centerpiece. “For holidays I like a more formal table,” she said. “I like to prepare things, dress up the table or plate and make people feel special.”
Although Christie says she favors using fresh vegetables and fruits whenever possible, she uses frozen when fresh isn’t available noting frozen products are very good. “But I never use canned vegetables. In fact I’m surprised there are still cans out there,” she laughs.
Besides cooking and gardening, Christie lists her favorite hobby as photography. “And I like to use the computer,” she said, adding she and her husband also enjoy their coffee. “Starbuck’s is our special treat.”
Christie makes a lot of homemade soup, especially during the winter months. She says one of their favorite soups is tomato basil that she prepares by mixing together a can of diced tomatoes, tomato juice, chopped fresh basil and either half and half or whipping cream, enough to make the soup creamy. “You just mix everything together and heat it through, don’t boil it,” she said. “It’s a creamy tomato soup and really good on a cold winter day. My family will eat the whole pot when I make it.”
Another family favorite that Christie says she has been making for years is a simple macaroni and tomato dish. “I just cook macaroni and add a can of tomatoes, salt and pepper,” she said. “Sometimes I will add shredded cheese to the top, but that’s it.”
Her favorite part of cooking is the planning and working up the menu. “I like to try new and different things but sometimes that’s difficult when I’m cooking for quite a few people,” she said. “I have to be careful what spices I use because I’m cooking for 11 people, some with different tastes.”
Christie adds with the quantity of food she cooks, it’s sometimes difficult to be creative. “I like to plan menus in the morning for that day, ideally. But sometimes it’s 5 p.m. and I’m wondering what’s for dinner,” she laughs.