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Learn the basics of floral design

January 21, 2012

If the only time of year that floral bouquets are present in your home is on special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays – your emotional health may be suffering. Research has proven that flowers have a positive impact on our emotional well-being. The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens your sense of satisfaction with life, and also improves positive social interaction with others.

Furthermore, when you display flowers in your home, these positive emotions extend to all who encounter them. Flowers just have a natural way of bringing smiles to people’s faces. Who knew something as simple as a bouquet of daisies could have such a dramatic effect?

Sunset Foods Floral Department stocks an array of gorgeous stems throughout the year. Whether treating yourself, or a friend or loved one, you can assemble your own bouquet, consult with a florist on putting one together, or purchase a pre-made arrangement.

If 2012 is a time for trying new things, perhaps our Floral Arranging Class would suit you? Saturday, January 28, from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., florists at the Sunset Foods Long Grove store will be conducting an in-store, hands-on floral arranging class. For $20, you will have your choice of flowers and vase, and our experts will walk you through the basics of arranging a beautiful bouquet. Take your bouquet home and proudly display it. The tips and tricks guide you will receive at the end of class will come in handy when arranging future bouquets at home. Space is limited, so please call (847)478-8150 to register today


Perfect Pizza

January 13, 2012

Few foods possess the universal appeal of pizza. Although commonly regarded as an Italian invention, the dish actually dates back to ancient Greece. However, it wasn’t until 1889 when a Neapolitan man named Raffaele Esposito topped some dough with tomatoes, chopped basil and shredded mozzarella cheese that the contemporary pizza was born. Soon after, a wave of immigrants swept into America, bringing with them this Italian specialty which has grown in popularity ever since.

Pizza can be a highly nutritious lunch or dinner option which is easy dish to make at home. Pizza also comes in a diverse variety of styles including thin crust (the most popular), deep-dish, stuffed, pizza bread, pizza wrap, and even pizza-on-a-stick. Although it is fine to serve pizza with soup or salad, it is actually one of the few dishes that is a complete meal by itself.

Highland Park resident Leonard Kline enjoys local notoriety for his culinary acumen, and pizza ranks among his favorite dishes to prepare at home. Leonard prepares his pizza dough from scratch, saying the process is not only simple but also produces a superb tasting pie. “I mix together some flour, yeast and water, and allow it to rise for an hour or so before pounding it down and transferring it to a cutting board. Then I use a pizza rolling pin to roll out the dough in a circle and the crust is complete,” Leonard comments. “A pizza rolling pin is tapered so it produces a thicker crust at the edge of the pizza than a regular rolling pin,” he adds.

While making a crust from scratch has its own rewards, there are also a number of excellent ready-made, refrigerated, and frozen pizza crusts, as well as frozen pizza dough products, on the market. Sunset’s Libertyville Store Manager Steve Garner comments, “Customers like pre-made crusts because they make preparing pizza an almost effortless task.”

Choice of toppings for pizza is limited only by the cook’s imagination. “My personal favorite toppings are marinara sauce, spinach, garlic, tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese,” Leonard remarks. Additional choices are listed at the end of this article.

The three tools which many home chefs consider indispensable for preparing a perfect pizza are the pizza stone, pizza cutter and pizza peel. The most important of the three is the pizza stone which mimics the effect of cooking in a commercial pizza oven. A pizza stone retains heat better than a metal pan and is therefore able to produce a much crispier crust. A pizza cutter is an inexpensive investment which is far superior to a knife for slicing pizza. Lastly, a pizza peel is a thin metal or wooden sheet with a long handle used for sliding the pie onto the stone. The peel is a necessity whenever handling a pizza crust made from scratch. With these three items and the following recipe, home chefs will find it fun and easy to produce the perfect homemade pizza.

Pizza Toppings
Marinara – (tomatoes, olive oil, dried oregano and garlic)
Margherita – (tomatoes, olive oil, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves)
Vegetarian – (tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, basil leaves, grilled red peppers, sauteed spinach, roasted garlic).
Bistro – (basil pesto, goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper, julienned roasted whole garlic cloves, small thinly sliced onion)

Classic Pizza
1 batch pizzeria dough (see below)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cups prepared pizza sauce
3 cups gently packed shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6-8 ounces pepperoni slices

Preheat oven to 425° F. (If using a pizza stone, place it on bottom of oven and preheat for 30-60 minutes.) Lightly dust pizza peel or a 15-16 inch pizza pan with corn meal. Form dough and lay on prepared peel or pizza pan. Brush dough with olive oil and cover with crushed garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and pizza sauce. Sprinkle on mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, then sausage slices. Put in oven. Pizza stone: Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly (about 15-19 minutes). Pizza pan: Bake on lowest rack of oven for 10-12 minutes. Place on higher rack and allow top crust to brown (another 5-7 minutes). Remove from oven, let stand a few minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.

Traditional Pizzeria Dough
1 1/4 cups water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon corn meal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups unbleached bread flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

Bread machine: Add ingredients to machine bread pan in order given or as per manufacturer’s instructions. Set to ‘dough’ mode. Dough hook, food processor, or by hand: Place water, sugar, salt, and olive oil in bowl and stir (or pulse in processor) to dissolve sugar and salt. Add in yeast, corn meal, bread flour and all purpose flour and knead with dough hook or with hands (or process in food processor) to form a soft, but not sticky dough (about 8 minutes). Remove from bowl and allow to rest about 45 minutes, covered with a tea towel. Deflate dough very gently by pressing it down before using and allow it to rest an additional 15 minutes before rolling it out. You may refrigerate dough in an oiled plastic bag for up to two days. *NOTE: If mixing by hand, substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour.

Resolved to be a healthier you?

January 6, 2012

If 2012 is the year you’ll dine out less and cook more then Sunset Foods has the class lineup for you! With some new tricks up your sleeve, you’re sure to find joy in cooking that lasts well into the year.

First up, a fundamental that every home cook should have under their belt – Stock, Soups and Sauce. Learn how you can boost the flavor and nutritional value of any finished dish. In this class, we’ll review methods of preparing stock and then make a Quick Chicken Stock. Taste and compare our speedy – yet superb – method versus more traditional long-simmered stocks and Asian boxed varieties. During the remainder of the class, we will use our stock as the base for three mouthwatering dishes: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, Italian Meatball Soup, and Creamy Non-Dairy Three-Mushroom Sauce. These One-Pot Wonders are sure to be a hit with your family all Winter-long.

Stocks, Soups and Sauce will be held January 7, from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Lake Forest Cooking Studio. Cost is $65.00 per station.

Next, we’ll help you dial down the excuses for eating well any day of the week in our Mid-Week Meals Demonstration. Learn tips and techniques for preparing healthful meals for your family in a reasonable amount of time. We’ll show you how to prepare speedy sautés and pan sauces as we prepare Lemony Chicken Piccata and Southwestern Chicken Breasts. Then we’ll show you two fast and easy ways to roast vegetables as we prepare Elegant Hasselback Potatoes and Cauliflower with Asiago. Finally, we’ll teach you how to save time by blanching and shocking your veggies with our make-ahead Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Orange. Tastings and recipes are included.

Mid-Week Meals Demonstration will be held January 12, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Libertyville Cooking Studio. Cost is $20.00 per person.

Finally, we’ll get you hooked the fine art of cooking fish in our Fishing for Lighter Fare class. There’s no need for intimidation when it comes to handling this delicate protein. In this hands-on class, you’ll explore five different cooking techniques that are sure to win over your family. Our menu includes Cioppino, Pan-Sautéed Hazelnut-Brown Butter Trout, Pan-seared Potato-crusted Salmon, Sake-poached Tilapia with Soba Noodles, and Herbed Red Snapper en Papillote. We’ll also show you how to fillet your own fish!

Fishing for Lighter Fare will be held on January 14, from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Lake Forest Cooking Studio. Cost is $75.00 per station.

And that’s just the beginning! Visit to see our entire lineup of cooking classes. To sign up for a class, call Mary Kay Gill at 847-810-0484 or email

New Year’s resolutions

December 30, 2011

The New Year is a time for hope and a time for change. It offers everyone the opportunity to look forward to a fresh start, with a new perspective. It’s a time for setting goals and planning the future. And this is the year you’ll stick to those plans!

One of the main reasons people quickly abandon their New Year’s resolutions is that they set their sights on a lofty change, and don’t grant themselves the grace that big changes take time. People want to see results immediately, and so they lost hope. But not this year.

What if instead of setting one huge goal, we set 52 small goals instead –one for each week of the year. And to make it even more fun and interesting, why not write each goal/change on a playing card– after all, there happen to be 52 cards in a standard deck. Coincidence? We think not. You can then randomly draw a card each week to identify your resolution for that week.

By breaking up your goals into smaller, more easily digestible tasks each week, you’re more likely to stay interested in the project – and might even discover ways to maintain certain goals all year.

You can get as creative as you like with these mini resolutions. From “Bring my lunch to work every day this week”, to “Write and mail a snail mail letter to a friend I’ve lost touch with”, to “Book a trip to a place I have never been before”, to “Spend one hour each day this week in quiet meditation.”

Struggling to think of 52 small resolutions on your own? Distribute playing cards to friends and family and ask them to write one for you! It’s a way to involve everyone in your personal growth this year.

From everyone at Sunset Foods, here’s wishing you much health and happiness in the New Year.

Holiday Catering Menu 2011

December 23, 2011

Holiday Menu

It’s not too late to make this holiday season one you can all remember – with delicious catered fare from the Kitchens of Sunset. We can help you plan a seasonal menu of holiday favorites in minutes, so you can enjoy more quality time with the people you care about.

There’s something for everyone. For starters, enjoy cold appetizers like Gourmet Cheese Balls and Mini Lobster Rolls, to Hot Hors D’Oeurves like Mini Beef Wellington and Pastry Wrapped Brie Cheese.

We have all your favorite entrees as well. Like Balsamic-Glazed Rack of Lamb, Rosemary-Roasted Pork Loin, Classic Beef Brisket, Lasagna by the pan, and more.

Plus, all the sides you know and love, like Green Beans Almandine, Twice Baked Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, and Sage Bread Stuffing.

We even have New York Potato Knishes and Jumbo Cheese Blintzes!

Peruse our entire menu here. To place your order today, call your neighborhood Sunset Foods:

Highland Park            847.432.4188

Northbrook                        847.272.7700

Lake Forest                        847.615.2246

Libertyville                        847.573.9671

Long Grove                        847.478.8150

All of us at Sunset Foods wish you and yours a healthy, happy holiday season!

Favorite Festive Recipes

December 16, 2011

The holiday season is here. Gather your friends and loved ones for a
toast to good cheer. The recipes that follow are some of our favorite
ways to toast the season. From winter warm ups to pretty punches to
cool cocktails. There’s something for everyone to fancy.

Winter Warming Drinks
Take the chill off with these warm sippers:

Hot Buttered Rum
1 lb light brown sugar
½ lb unsalted butter (softened)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a mixing bowl, beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla
extract and spices until well combined. Refrigerate in an airtight
reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until
ready to use.

Then, in a pre-heated coffee mug, combine 2 heaping tablespoons batter
with 1.5 oz. Mount Gay Rum. Top with boiling water and stir well to
mix. Serve with a spoon.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 qt whole milk
½ c. semisweet chocolate chips
¼ c. crushed candy canes + 4 whole candy canes
Pinch of salt

Place cocoa in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until cocoa
has dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed peppermint; simmer over
medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and peppermint
have melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add salt. Ladle into
mugs; serve each with a peppermint stick.

Pretty Punches
Hosting a large gathering? These recipes will get everyone in good 

Holiday Citrus Punch
2 c. bottled pear nectar
4 c. orange juice
2 c. chilled club soda
1 c. light rum (if desired)
Orange slices (for garnish)

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large pitcher or punch bowl; pour 2 cups
bottled pear nectar and 4 cups orange juice (from blood oranges or
regular juice oranges) through sieve into pitcher. Before serving,
stir in 2 cups chilled club soda and, if desired, 1 cup light rum.
Pour into glasses over ice; garnish with orange slices.

12 eggs, separated
1 ½ c. superfine sugar
1 qt whole milk
1 ½ qt heavy cream
3 c. bourbon
½ c. dark rum
2 c. cognac
Freshly grated nutmeg
In a very large bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow.
Gradually add sugar to yolks. With a wire whisk, beat in milk and 1
quart cream. Add bourbon, rum, and cognac, stirring constantly.
Just before serving, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into mixture.
Whip remaining 1/2 quart heavy cream until stiff, and fold in.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Cool Cocktails
Make as merry as a master mixologist:

Kiss Under the Mistletoe
1 oz. PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. pink grapefruit juice
Lemon wedge
Coarse sugar for garnish

Rub a lemon wedge around the rim of a martini glass and dip it into a
plate of coarse sugar. Set it aside. Pour the remaining ingredients
into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the garnished
martini glass.

1 c. white cranberry juice
4 oz vodka
2 oz Cointreau

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add cranberry juice, vodka and
Cointreau. Shake to combine well. Strain into two large martini
glasses and serve immediately.

Whipping up some edible magic!

December 10, 2011

You cannot help but feel nostalgic around the holidays. Certain scents,
songs, and sights evoke powerful memories. Here at Sunset Foods, we
naturally have strong connections to the feasts of the season, and the
act of creating them.

For many of us, holidays growing up meant spending quality time in the
kitchen with Grandma and/or Mom, baking and decorating delicious cookies
to celebrate that magical time of year. Sure, more batter may have ended
up in our mouths or on the floors than it did in the oven, but that too
was magical.

So we’re feeling rather nostalgic this first week in December, and have
decided to honor our Grandmothers and Mothers by sharing some of our
favorite holiday cookie recipes with you. May they inspire you to pop in
the kitchen and make holiday memories with your kids, grandkids, or
nieces and nephews. And if you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe, or
memory you’d care to share, we’d love to hear about it!

Happy baking and Happy Holidays from all of us at Sunset Foods!

Santa’s Whiskers

What you need:
¾ c. margarine
2 c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. sugar
1 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c. finely chopped candied cherries
1/3 c. chopped pecans
¾ c. coconut

What you do:
Beat margarine in bowl of standing mixer with paddle attachment for 30
seconds. Add half the flour, and all of the sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Beat until combined. Fold in remaining flour, and the cherries and
pecans by hand. Divide dough in half and shape into two logs. Roll each
log in coconut, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut dough into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange
staggered, one inch apart, on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10
minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Yield: About 56 cookies

Ann’s Snowballs

What you need:
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ c. sugar
2 c. sifted flour
1 c. finely chopped walnuts
8 oz chocolate kisses
powdered sugar, for dusting

What you do:
Cream butter and sugar in standing mixer with paddle attachment until
smooth. Add flour, then walnuts. Gather dough together, wrap in plastic
wrap, and form into disc shape. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil wrappers from kisses. Pull 1-inch
pieces of dough from disc and roll into balls. Insert one chocolate kiss
into the center of each dough ball, making sure the kiss is completely
surrounded by cookie dough. Arrange staggered on ungreased cookie
sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes – until just cooked through. Transfer
to wire racks, and sift powdered sugar over cookies while still warm.

Yield: About 30 cookies

Sylvia’s Toffee Squares

What you need:
32 saltine crackers
1 c. butter
1 c. dark brown sugar
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans

What you do:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick
cooking spray. Arrange saltines on parchment-lined cookie sheet,
end-to-end. Combine brown sugar and butter in a small pan and bring to a
boil over medium heat. Pour over the saltines and bake at 400° for 10

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let
melt, then spread with a butter knife or small offset spatula. Sprinkle
chopped pecans over the top of the chocolate, lightly pressing into
place with your hands. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 10

Remove from freezer. Lift out of pan by the parchment paper and break
toffee into pieces.

Jillian’s Luscious Lemon Bars

What you need:
1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. powdered sugar
1 stick margarine

2 eggs
2 Tbs lemon juice
½ tsp baking powder
1 c. sugar

What you do:
Prepare the crust first. Blend flour, powdered sugar, and margarine with
a fork until crumbly. Press into an 8-or-9-inch square baking pan and
bake for 15 minutes at 350°. Remove from oven.

Prepare the lemon filling. Beat the eggs in a standing mixer with the
whisk attachment. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour over
the top of the crust and bake another 20-30 minutes, or until slightly
browned. Allow to cool; dust with powdered sugar; cut into bars and serve.

Yield: About 16 bar cookies

Nancy’s Nutter Butters

What you need:
13 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
½ vanilla bean
1 c. quick cooking oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
3/8 c. granulated sugar
3/8 c. light brown sugar
3/8 c. chunky-style peanut butter
1 1/8 c all-purpose flour
2 Tbs heavy cream

3 Tbs unsalted butter
¾ tsp kosher salt
1/8 c. + 1 Tbs powdered sugar
½ c. + 1 Tbs chunky-style peanut butter

What you do:
In a medium skillet, melt 1/2 stick of the butter over medium heat.
Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half and
lengthwise. Set half aside for future use. With the back of the knife,
scrape out the pulp and the seeds, and add the scrapings and the pod to
the butter. Add the oats, and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly,
until the oats are lightly toasted and a golden-brown color. Transfer to
a bowl, discard vanilla pod, and chill the mixture.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,
cream the rest of the butter, the baking soda, and the salt on low speed
for 2-3 minutes, until the butter is softened. Add the sugars, and mix
on medium until the mixture is light and fluffy, scrapping down the
sides of the bowl as needed. Add the peanut butter and mix to combine.
Turn the mixer off, and add the oats and flour. Turn the mixer on low
speed, and mix for another minute until the ingredients are incorporated
and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Using your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. If you find at this
stage that the dough balls are still extremely crumbly, add another
tablespoon of butter.
Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2-inches apart. Use
the heel of your hand to flatten the balls into disks (about 1/4-inch
tall). Using a fork or sharp knife, mark diagonal crisscross patterns
over the surface of each cookie. Chill for about 15 minutes until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake cookies for 16-18 minutes, until lightly
browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through.
Allow them to cool.
Make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the
paddle attachment, cream the second amount of butter and salt on medium
speed for about 1 minute, until the butter is softened. Add the sugar
and peanut butter, and mix for another minute to combine them.
Make into sandwiches, and enjoy!
Yield: Approximately 20 sandwich cookies