Jeremy Morgan makes creamy peanut butter fudge
Almost 13 years ago, Jeremy Morgan, a 14-year-old Grayslake boy who was gobbling up blue ribbons at the Lake County Fair with his banana breads and decorated cakes, was one of my first Cooks of the Week,
Recently his mother, Joyce Zablocki suggested we follow-up with her son, and boy oh boy, has he grown.
Now 27, Jeremy is a certified public accountant in Buffalo Grove and lives in Wheeling with his fiance and favorite co-chef, Liz Taylor, 27.
"We're a good team," says Jeremy.
She handles the creative side, he's all about execution. They grocery shop together most of the time, "creating menus on the spot based on what looks good at the store," says Jeremy.
Says Liz: "It's one of our ways of winding down after work, and a way to bond."
They particularly enjoy creating special-occasion cakes, including one for his sister's wedding and for their annual St. Patrick's Day party.
For evening meals Jeremy and Liz lean toward healthy fare, opting for fresh vegetables and light dishes like stir-fries or lean pork tenderloin. They pick up ideas from Food Network and its related magazine.
"No dish is too complicated for us to try," says Jeremy.
But aside from those homier pursuits, their craziest cooking event is an annual "Eat Day," what Jeremy calls "a weird holiday" developed by his college buddies after one of the guys received a freezer full of pork chops from his parents.
"He apparently didn't like pork chops, but never told them," says Jeremy. To free up space in the freezer the fellows decided to have an all-day, all-pork chop party, not counting the keg of beer, of course. They grilled, baked and pan-fried chops from noon until whenever.
Hardly an haute cuisine affair, they declared it a success and have done the same thing each year, once with chicken, then beef and then sandwiches.
Everyone brings a complementary dish. For sandwiches they feasted on Italian sausage, Italian beef and macaroni and cheese and hot dog sandwiches - honestly - and even ice cream sandwiches. Everyone shares hosting duties from year to year for the 20 to 30 people.
The first year Jeremy tried introducing some nutrition to the feeding frenzy in the form of canned corn and green beans, but no one touched them, so being resourceful guys they cleverly organized an eating contest to get rid of the dreaded stuff, and that became part of the yearly tradition, too.
"Last year the shortest, skinniest girl won," says Jeremy. "She put down more food than 200-pound guys."
This summer Jeremy and Liz are hosting the event, and they're debating between sausage and "tiny things."
In the meantime, Liz gives us Chicken and Sausage Manicotti to try this week (get it at dailyherald.com/food), and Jeremy proves he hasn't lost touch with his inner child.
He's been experimenting with old-fashioned, peanut butter fudge, finding the perfect blend of ingredients and technique to produce a super-smooth product. And he's playing with flavored marshmallows, too.
"I just wondered how they were made," says Jeremy. Today he gives us strawberry flavoring, but he could substitute anything, like chocolate, blue raspberry or even Jack Daniels, perhaps?
Cut them small and they'd be perfect as a "tiny thing" at the next "Eat Day."
- Laura Bianchi