Lasagna (with soy meat) cooked by Rummana Hussain is based on a Sears recipe and her mom’s improvisation.

Lasagna (with soy meat) cooked by Rummana Hussain is based on a Sears recipe and her mom’s improvisation.

Rummana Hussain/Sun-Times

Recipe Swap: These dishes will inspire your quarantine cooking

This week Sun-Times staffers serve up vegetarian lasagna, pulled pork and chicken soup. Now it’s your turn!

Home life — working, taking care of the kids, figuring out the spring garden, getting to all those DIY projects we’ve put off for years, binge-watching into the wee hours, coming home from an essential frontline job.

The coronavirus stay-at-home mandate, through May 30 for Illinois, has upended our lives on so many levels.

And then we’re confronted daily with those dreaded words: What’s for dinner? What’s for breakfast? What’s for lunch?

So we’re heading back to our kitchens, cooking like mad. It’s a joyous exercise for many, a total drag for some, and “I have carry-out on speed-dial” for others.

Recipe Sidebar

Got a family recipe to share?

While we’re all becoming more acquainted with our kitchens, we’re sharing recipes submitted by Sun-Times readers, staff and more.

Do you have a favorite family recipe to share? Email us at with your name, city, ingredients, instructions, a photo of the dish (or even the recipe card) and a brief explanation of why you love this dish, for a chance to be featured here and Wednesdays in our Taste section.

For the adventurous or the die-hard home cook, what better time to take a deep dive into a favorite cookbook or old family recipe? And what’s better than a good old-fashioned recipe swap to share our favorite dishes — from appetizers to desserts?

Sun-Times staffers get our recipe swap off and running this week. Enjoy!

Spicier Sears Lasagna

My parents loved Sears. Perhaps, it’s because they arrived in the United States at the height of the department store’s popularity or our family’s go-to Six Corners shop was the most convenient. My older sister and I got our first pair of jeans — Toughskins — from Sears. Our first bike and swing-set, Sears. Naturally, most of our family’s first appliances were from the Sears-based Kenmore line. Our Sears blender’s instructions came with a lasagna recipe my mom tried, improvising by adding onions, garlic, herbs and crushed pepper to the ground beef. Sometimes, she would chop Serrano peppers and place it inside and on top of a portion of the lasagna to make it extra spicy for my dad. My family still plays around with different herbs and spices when we cook the ground beef to give the dish a little kick. — Rummana Hussain, Assistant Metro Editor, Chicago Sun-Times

Spicier ‘Sears’ Lasagna

Makes 6-8 servings

Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour


9 lasagna noodles

1 pound ground beef (soy crumbles can be substituted for vegetarians)

1 medium to large onion, chopped

16 oz. sour cream

16 oz. cottage cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 oz. plus 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

24 oz. can of spaghetti sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

½ tablespoon oregano

½ tablespoon basil

1 to 2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon fresh or dried parsle

Olive oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.

2. Boil the lasagna noodles, al dente, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until tender. Turn up the heat to medium and add ground beef or soy meat and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until browned. Add the basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, cumin and salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the spaghetti sauce, lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Slowly mix half of the sour cream and half of the cottage cheese in a blender. Add the remaining sour cream and cottage cheese and blend until creamy. Slowly add in 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt and blend for 2 to t3 minutes.

5. Layer 3 of the lasagna noodles in a 9 X 12 greased pan, and overlap if necessary. Spoon half of the meat sauce mix on top of the noodles. Ladle or spoon half of the sour cream and cottage cheese mixture on top of the meat. Add another layer of 3 lasagna noodles and repeat with remainder meat sauce and sour cream/cottage cheese mix. Layer the last 3 lasagna noodles on top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and parsley flakes.

6. Bake in oven, uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top of the lasagna is golden brown. Let stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is my husband’s chicken noodle soup recipe he modified from one he learned from his Grandma. We make big batches and have it for lunch all week. You can conveniently store it in mason jars in the fridge. — Akiko Spencer, Sports Design Editor, Chicago Sun-Times

Chicken noodle soup is a classic comfort food.

Chicken noodle soup is a classic comfort food.

David Spencer

Chicken Noodle Soup


Makes 12 servings (recipe can be cut in half)

  • 5 - 6 (depending on size) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 26 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 lb of pasta (fusilli or similar)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

For the Chicken:

In a large pan begin heating 2 cups of chicken broth and add all of the chicken. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes, covered. Flip Chicken frequently and add additional broth as needed. (If using frozen chicken, add 10 extra minutes). Once chicken is cooked through and able to shred with a fork, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Once chicken is cooled, shred with a fork and set aside.

For the Soup:

Put 24 cups of broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for half of the required cooking time. Add the shredded chicken, carrots, celery and onions. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remover from heat. Add Italian parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Store in mason jars in the fridge for easy lunches and snacks.

David Spencer’s homemade chicken noodle soup can be conveniently stored in mason jars for future meals or to share with family and friends.

David Spencer’s homemade chicken noodle soup can be conveniently stored in mason jars for future meals or to share with family and friends.

David Spencer

Zach’s Famous Pulled Pork

I’ve been smoking pulled pork this way since about 2013. My dad and I attended a dinner/BBQ class and learned how to make pulled pork, brisket and ribs, and I’ve spent the time since then adjusting and perfecting my recipe. I also spend a lot of time reading about different BBQing techniques, which I use to up my game. I like this recipe because it’s pretty basic, but makes a moist, smoky pulled pork with a nice bark, and it makes lots of leftovers. — Zach Kalmus, Manager | Prepress Ops + Adservice, Chicago Sun-Times


8+ lb. pork shoulder (I typically try and use 10-12 lb. pork shoulders)


  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Injection Marinade:

  • 1 cup apple juice/apple cider
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
Place the pork shoulder in your smoker. Add several chunks of wood to the coals. I use hickory, cherry or apple.

Place the pork shoulder in your smoker. Add several chunks of wood to the coals. I use hickory, cherry or apple.

Zach Kalmus


Step 1: Bring your grill/smoker up to 275°

Step 2: While your smoker is heating up. Put the pork shoulder in a pan and inject the marinade into the pork shoulder using multiple injections points and in all directions.

Step 3: Drizzle the rub on the outside of the pork shoulder, until it is generously covered.

Step 4: Place the pork shoulder in your smoker. Add several chunks of wood to the coals. I use hickory, cherry or apple.

Step 5: I use a leave-in meat thermometer, placed in the center of the pork shoulder, near the bone. Smoke the pork shoulder for 8 hours, or until the internal temp reaches 190°-205° — the longer the better, especially if there is a lot of fat on the cut of meat.

Step 6: Once desired temp is reached, pull meat off the smoker and wrap in foil. Let rest for an hour. After the hour is up, unwrap the pork and shred using two forks, or shredding claws, if you have a set.

Put the shredded pork on a bun and douse it in your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Zach Kalmus’ Pulled Pork

Zach Kalmus’ pulled pork is ready for serving.

Zach Kalmus

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