Category Archives: News

P-EBT Benefit Cards

P-EBT Cards Are Arriving Soon







P-EBT cards are arriving in CPS families’ mailboxes this month! P-EBT is a benefit that can help buy groceries for school-age children. This assistance is available for children and youth who receive free and reduced-price meals and lack access to an in-school lunch. We are grateful for this assistance for our families.

Some local neighbors have reached out to us to share that while they do not need the P-EBT card, they’d like to donate the funds to Care for Real to help families in need. P-EBT cards are non-transferable so neighbors have the option of using the card benefits for their own families and then donating equivalent funds to Care for Real.
To make a donation, please click on and be sure to note “P-EBT funds” in the note. With the funds provided to CPS families per school day missed, we can provide enough groceries to feed a family of four for five months!

For more information about P-EBT funds and how they can help your family, please visit

Hearts for Care for Real

Hearts for Care for Real 2021

We are seeking our artistic and crafty neighbors to help spread some love this winter! Last year, we hosted a Families Care for Real Open House for Valentine’s Day. At the event, families volunteered together and made a significant impact by creating a beautiful display in our front window with homemade heart decorations. 

Though we cannot yet gather in person, we would love to again share our community’s artwork with those that visit Care for Real. We invite our young neighbors and those young at heart to send a heart to Care for Real for us to hang in the window this year. Artwork can be sent via USPS at the address below or dropped off at our rear receiving door between 9 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday or between 9 am and 1 pm on Saturdays. We will be displaying the artwork received between now and March 1, 2021. We hope you can come by to see the display this February. 

Please send it to:

Care for Real
5339 N Sheridan
Chicago, IL 60640

Please email us at with any questions. Thank you, neighbors!

CARES Act Increases Tax Deductibility of Charitable Donations

CARES Act Increases Tax Deductibility of Charitable Donations
As we approach year-end, many of you may be thinking about your annual giving and tax consequences.
There are several provisions in the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act that may impact the tax deductibility of your charitable giving. We’ve put together some of the available information for you. As always, please consult your tax advisor to see how this might apply to you.
The new law:
1.   Allows all taxpayers to take a charitable deduction of up to $300, even if they do not itemize, i.e., this an above the line deduction in addition to the standard minimum deduction everyone receives.
2.   Enables individuals who do itemize to deduct cash contributions to public charities (like Care for Real) of up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (AGI) for 2020. Previously a deduction equal to only 60% of AGI was allowed.
3.   Gives businesses benefits too. They can deduct up to 25% of qualified charitable cash contributions from their taxable income. Before the CARES Act, this limit was 10%.
Unlike most CARES Act provisions, which expire at the end of 2020, the special charitable tax benefits listed above benefits will also be available for donations you make in 2021.
4.   Suspends the required minimum distributions (RMD) for retirement accounts for the 2020 tax year. While you do not need to take the distribution, you still can make a charitable contribution from your IRA or name a charity as a beneficiary.
In addition, for people who do elect to make donations such donations, the $100,000 limit on the amount they’re allowed to transfer to a charity from their IRA is waived – even if it exceeds 100% of their AGI.
We hope this information will be helpful as you look ahead. As always, many thanks for your generosity which enables us to assist our neighbors in need

The Palatable Pantry: Taste Memories of Holidays Past

The Palatable Pantry: Taste Memories of Holidays Past

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

Food can evoke what we call ‘taste memories.’ Have you ever had a bite of pasta or smelled an apple pie and instantly recalled a memory from 10 years earlier? Those are taste memories. Holidays typically have a special place in our hearts. For me, there are a few recipes where I instantly reflect back upon happy moments with my loved ones.

My family always held an M.Y.O.P. contest (Make Your Own Pizza) on Christmas Day. It grew from a small family activity into a friendly competition between family and friends. A crown was awarded to the winner, and the laughter could be deafening. There were little bowls of various toppings, which might include basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce, pesto, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, black olives, pepperonis, and more. Everyone’s pizza would be different, and we all tried each other’s. 









Pizza dough is sold at almost every grocery store, and I recommend buying rather than making it from scratch. You can even form the dough into various shapes like hearts or a Christmas tree! I added a mushroom pizza recipe below, but you can use whatever topping you like best.

Since Christmas was often around the time of Hanukkah, a special appetizer, potato latkes, was served at our annual M.Y.O.P. contests. I remember my dad frying the latkes in the kitchen. The smell was so amazing that the latkes rarely made it to the table; we would all swarm into the kitchen and eat them once cooked. My family’s recipe below is for latkes that are crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. The traditional way of eating them is to top the pancakes with applesauce or sour cream, but if you want to really make a showstopper, top them with smoked salmon or, even better, caviar!

Mushroom Pizza 


  • Pre-made pizza dough purchased from the grocery store (or homemade, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms of your choice
  • 1 tbs avocado oil
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (or more if you like it)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram 
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Grated mozzarella cheese (the amount is up to you)
  • A little flaky salt
  • Your favorite hot sauce


  1. Set oven at 450 degrees with pizza stone inside.
  2. Break the dough in half.
  3. Lay out on floured parchment and make a circle, heart, or shape of your choice.
  4. Sauté about 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned) in 1 tbs of avocado oil, a little anchovy paste, 1 tsp marjoram, and dried basil. Cook until soft and fragrant.
  5. Drain the liquid from the pan.
  6. Spread the pizza sauce on your dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and then your mushroom mixture.
  7. Bake for about ten minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and the dough is fully cooked.
  8. Top with flaky salt, and always add your favorite hot sauce.

Potato Pancakes (LATKES)


  • 4 potatoes
  • 2 cups of neutral oil like avocado or UNTOASTED sesame
  • 1 yellow or white onion
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tbs of flour (you can try gluten-free flour, as well)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Few grinds of black pepper 


  1. Grate the potatoes finely with the onion into a big bowl. Drain as much liquid as possible. (You can use a food processor with the shredder attachment to save time and muscle.)
  2. Mix in the salt, pepper, egg, and just enough flour to make the batter thick (approximately 3 tbs.)
  3. Turn the oven to 200 degrees.
  4. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a cast-iron skillet or similar pan over medium-high heat and drop two or three ¼ cup mounds into the oil.
  5. Flatten the pancakes until they are ½ inch thick. Make them thinner if you prefer latkes on the crispy side.
  6. Fry them, turning once or twice until golden brown. 
  7. Once golden, lay the pancakes on a paper towel-lined plate or cookie sheet to drain the excess oil. (Flattened brown paper bags from the grocery store work well, too.)
  8. Keep them warm in the oven until serving.
  9. Top with applesauce, sour cream, smoked salmon, or better yet, caviar!


The Palatable Pantry: A Tasty Thanksgiving

The Palatable Pantry: A Tasty Thanksgiving

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

This Thanksgiving will be different than those in our past. With smaller groups getting together and Zoom dinners replacing family gatherings, we have to consider how our menus will change, as well. In the plus column, preparing our Thanksgiving foods might be easier than in the past. Cooking for a smaller group means preparing smaller portions or perhaps even cooking single-size servings to avoid communal scooping.

Below are a few ideas for your holiday dining. They are simple, creative and will have your real or virtual guests wanting more.

My first all-time favorite is a turkey charcuterie board. I prepared it for my family a few years ago and still laugh every time I look at the photo. It is fun to make and allows you to be creative with a dish that normally lacks imagination. The ingredients are simple and versatile. 

Turkey Charcuterie Board


  • One round wheel of cheese, such as a brie for the turkey’s body.
  • Sausages, or other thinly sliced meats, and cheeses of your choice (you’ll want a variety of color and shapes)
  • Some dried fruit like dates or apricots for taste
  • Either pretzel sticks or pieces of cheese cut into strips for the turkey’s arms and legs
  • Two black peppercorns for the eyes


  1. Start with the round cheese as the body and place it on your plate.
  2. Make the turkey’s face and legs (be creative here).
  3. After the turkey body is done you can start to build its feathers alternating with the fruit, cheese, and meats. There are no real directions here as this is the part that allows you to have fun!
  4. Serve with crackers and jelly.


If you have children, each may want them to each make their own small individual turkey, which can be done together as an activity. If you choose this option, you can have a friendly competition between family members and vote to see who wins!


Mini Hasselback Potatoes

Another great and easy side dish is Mini Hasselback Potatoes. While scrubbing them might take a bit longer, they cook faster which saves you time overall. You can be creative with the seasonings and add in the Thanksgiving flavors of your choice. You might use sage, rosemary, maybe even a little brown sugar. Below are the ingredients I used but again, feel free to let your imagination be your guide.


  • 1 or 2 bags (depending on how many people you have), of new or baby potatoes (any kind you use will work). The colored potatoes, such as the purple ones, are filled with antioxidants so if you use those you’ll have the benefit of added nutrients.
  • 6 tbs of avocado oil or butter. (You will want to avoid olive oil since the cooking temperature is higher than 375 degrees and olive oil can’t cook that high)
  • 2 ½ tbs. dried or fresh herbs of your choice (i.e., sage, basil, rosemary, parsley, chives)
  • 2 grated garlic cloves
  • A little salt and pepper


  1. Set the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Take a cookie sheet and line it with unbleached parchment paper.
  3. Using a sharp knife, make several crosswise cuts in each potato, about 1/8-inch apart, stopping about 1/4 inch from the bottom.
  4. Place the potatoes in a single layer, cut side up on the cookie sheet.
  5. Drizzle with 2 tbs. of the melted butter or oil.
  6. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes until they are crispy on the outside.
  8. While they are baking take a small bowl and mix your herbs with the rest of the butter or oil, garlic, and a little more salt and pepper. 
  9. When the potatoes come out of the oven, place them on a serving dish or on individual plates, and drizzle with your herb mixture.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and have a safe holiday season. Please tag me in all of your creations and find out more on Instagram @Syd.Play.Eat

Annual Holiday Gift Drive

The Care for Real Annual Toy Distribution is one of our community’s most special traditions. While we are unable to invite families into Care for Real to choose toys this year due to the pandemic, we are pleased to find a way to continue the spirit of joy and giving.

This year, we hope for our clients to receive a $20 Target gift card for each child in their family. This will allow us to conduct the distribution safely and promote social distancing while still giving families the opportunity to choose a gift for their child themselves. It also gives families the option to purchase the gift of their choice online or via a curbside pickup at Target. 

Donations for the gift card drive can be made here (add “holiday gift drive” in the special instructions field) or gift cards can be mailed directly to Care for Real Attn: Kate Polgar at 5339 N Sheridan Chicago, IL 60640.  To arrange a drop-off of gift cards at Care for Real, please e-mail We will be collecting now through December 16 and will hold our gift distribution on December 19. 

We also want to gift families of young children with a new picture or board book through our partnership with a local small business, Play Andersonville. Books can be purchased in-store at 5311 N Clark and placed in the Care for Real donation bin. To purchase online, visit the Play website and choose in-store pick up as your delivery method and gift wrapping. For Gift Wrap Occasion please enter “Care for Real.” The kind folks at Play will then add your book donation to our donation bin.

Thank you for your continued generosity as we join together to spread the joy of the holiday season!

Ruth’s List 2020 Cookbook

Thank you to our friends at Ruth’s List for sharing this wonderful project!
Hello Ruth’s Listers, Edgewater and Andersonville Neighbors, and Friends of Care for Real,
In 2007, a group of Ruth’s Listers got together to create a cookbook. These recipes were based on the Meal Train meals that many group members cooked for others when they had a baby, had a medical emergency or had a family loss. People wanted to share these recipes and the stories behind them. We had a block party book release and sold hundreds of copies, with 100% of the proceeds of the sale of this little cookbook going to two local non-profits.
So, now let’s fast forward to 2020! During this pandemic, there has been LOTS of cooking and baking (yes, I am talking about the famous “Jens”) going on as we all hunkered down and hung in. We all now have new recipes to share and stories to tell. We also have even greater needs in our community as the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the folk’s livelihoods and produced increased food insecurity. It was just time to create a new Pandemic version of the famous Ruth’s List cookbook and this time 100% of the proceeds will go to our neighborhood’s greatest safety net, Care for Real.
To this end, we want all of you to share your recipes and the tales that surround them.
Here is what we need to capture:
• Name of recipe.
• A brief story on how this recipe became part of your pandemic menus or why it is special to you or your family.
• Ingredients.
• Instructions on how you make it.
• Approximate preparation time.
• A bit of information of what beverage or libation (if that is your thing) this meal goes best with.
• If this originally came from a cookbook, magazine, or publication, please include a citation so we can give them kudos.
• Submitted by.
These recipes can be for anything, including cocktails (which is encouraged). If they are from a publication of any kind, please share where you got it from so we can credit them accordingly.
Recipes can come by whatever word processing means you have.
We hope to get this printed by the holidays (it really does make a fantastic gift) so our deadline for recipes is Monday, November 9 at 5PM. You can email your recipes to All questions can be directed to Ann Casey at 773-391-9998 or Kim Cavitt at 773-960-6625.
Once the books are printed, we will reach back and tell you where and how to purchase them.

The Palatable Pantry: There is More to Pumpkin Than Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

The Palatable Pantry: There is More to Pumpkin Than Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real











It’s October, a time when we are surrounded by everything that looks orange, smells like cinnamon and includes the word pumpkin. And for many of us, pumpkin spice recipes are the ultimate pleasure. In addition to being tasty and versatile, pumpkin is an excellent source of antioxidants and a wide range of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A and C and potassium. It’s high in fiber and low in calories. It’s even recommended for dogs in small amounts to keep their stomachs, skin and coat healthy.
This October, I created a new pumpkin dessert recipe – Pumpkin Cookie Dough Dip. This one really caught my fancy and I am excited to share with you. It’s quick, easy and, most important, delicious. You can eat it plain with a spoon (think of it as edible cookie dough), spread it on apples or use it as dip for pretzels. Whichever way you choose, this can be a healthy treat for fall.
I would love to hear from you and what you paired with it. Please write me at

Pumpkin Cookie Dough Dip


  • 1 can of pure pumpkin puree
  • 4 tablespoons either smooth or crunchy peanut butter or nut-free butter*, melted ahead of time
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour or almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • Sea salt or chia seeds (optional)

* If you have nut allergies please substitute peanut butter for a nut-free butter that you can use, such as sunflower butter.


  1. Melt peanut butter or nut-free butter.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well-combined. Top with sea salt or chia seeds for crunch.
  3. Chill or serve at room temperature.

The Palatable Pantry: Meal Ideas for Busy Times

The Palatable Pantry: Healthy Meal Ideas for Busy Times

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

I became a dog-mom this month, which is a joy. I didn’t realize, however, how much time it would take. Between our puppy’s naps, walks and feeding schedule, I have limited time to prepare lunch and cook dinner for my husband and myself. 

I’m sure this doesn’t compare to the time crunch many of you face now that schools are back in session with remote learning, and you need to provide oversight as well as work, keep house and much more. Cooking is probably one of the last things you want to do.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come up with a some fast, easy and healthy recipes. They will work well for anyone who does not have the time – or desire – for kitchen detail. Here are three of my favorites: White Chicken Chili, Brown Rice Noodle Soup and Savory Oats.

My White Chicken Chili is fast and filling. You can even switch out the chicken for shrimp or a white fish like cod.

White Chicken Chili


  • 3-4 cups cooked shredded chicken (a no salt added rotisserie chicken works well)
  • 6 cups broth (Chicken, Bone, Veggie – up to you!)
  • 16 oz jar salsa verde (or to taste)
  • 1 can of great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • ½ tbsp garlic powder
  • Optional Toppings: avocado; shredded cheese; cilantro; chopped onions or scallions, tortilla chips


  1. Pour the broth, beans, cumin, garlic powder, and salsa verde in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil; then turn the heat to medium low and cover.
  3. Set your timer for about 15 minutes; stir occasionally
  4. Taste when stirring; add salt or more seasoning as needed
  5. Add in the olive oil.
  6. Add the chicken
  7. Let everything cook together for another 10 minutes or so and then you are done!


Another super simple soup is one that you can make in a mason jar. You can even prepare this soup ahead of time for the whole family. Feel free to change out any of the vegetables and add a protein of your choice.

Brown Rice Noodle Soup


  • 1 mason jar
  • Brown rice vermicelli noodles, about a handful (the thinner the better as they will cook faster; white rice would work well too)
  • ½ tbsp miso paste
  • Chopped veggies of your choice such as, sliced bell peppers, edamame beans, scallions, chopped onion, julienned carrots, peas, sesame seeds, grated ginger, avocado
  • Optional protein: cooked chicken; tofu; shrimp; etc.
  • Boiling water


  1. Place the miso paste and noodles on the bottom of the jar.
  2. Layer with vegetables and any seasonings that you want, be aware that the miso paste adds a good amount of salt.
  3. Top with your optional protein choice.
  4. Fill the jar with boiling water, close the top and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the noodles are cooked through.
  5. Stir and enjoy!


Last but not least is this fun take on a pantry staple. You are probably used to seeing oatmeal as a sweet breakfast item, but did you know that you can make it savory as well? I love this meal because it’s fast, easy and super healthy. Oatmeal helps lower cholesterol and is a heart healthy food. You can increase the protein with eggs or even some chia seeds.

Savory Oats


  • Oatmeal
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 fried egg
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Prepare the oatmeal according to package instructions, using water instead of milk.
  2. While the oatmeal cooks, fry an egg and keep the yolk soft.
  3. Mix the oatmeal with the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and red chili flakes.
  4. Top with your fried egg and sliced avocado.
  5. For an added touch, sprinkle with a little shaved parmesan and another drizzle of olive oil.


Care for Real Appoints New Executive Director

Care for Real Appoints New Executive Director








Chicago, IL, September 9… Care for Real, one of the largest food pantries in the Chicago area, has named Gregory D. Gross as its new executive director.

Gregory has devoted his life in service to others. He is coming to Care for Real from The Night Ministry where he most recently was Director of Learning and Impact. In this role, he directed institutional learning efforts, program and impact evaluation, research partnerships, and data collection and management. 


In making the announcement, Nancy Meyerson, Chair of Care for Real’s Board of Directors, stated, “Gregory brings experience, vision, an analytical mind and a huge heart to Care for Real. Our Board of Directors conducted an extensive search for our new executive director, and we are confident he is the right person to move Care for Real forward. Food pantries are more critical than ever during these difficult times, and we must look at innovative ways to deliver as much food to as many people as possible. Gregory will position us to do that.”     

An ordained clergyperson in The United Methodist Church, Rev. Gross’s ministry has been one of inclusion, racial equity and interreligious service to all those on the margins of society. He earned master’s degrees at both the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and  

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston and has focused on multicultural urban leadership.  

A resident of the Edgewater community, where Care for Real is located, for the last ten years Rev. Gross received numerous awards for his work including the Child Advocate of the Year from United Voices for Children. He has served on the Boards of several religious and community organizations.   

“I am thrilled to be joining the staff and volunteers at Care for Real as we address the hunger and food insecurity of our neighbors. I have known of and supported Care for Real since I first moved to Edgewater and have long been impressed by their commitment to provide for those in need in our community. During this time of much uncertainty, Care for Real is needed now more than ever. With their expansion to serve those in Rogers Park this past Spring, they are now able to touch even more lives. This is an exciting time to become part of this vital work.”

The Palatable Pantry: Our Eating Has Changed…For The Better

The Palatable Pantry: Our Eating Has Changed…For the Better

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

The COVID-19 quarantine has changed my household’s eating habits more than I would have expected. And that’s a good thing.  

At the start of the pandemic, we were stocking up on non-perishable, high protein foods like nuts, lentils and beans. But as access to grocery stores became easier and less stressful, we didn’t feel compelled to buy in bulk or stockpile. But our new way of cooking and appreciating food have continued with three key results:

1.We’re cooking 95% more. Our lives have shifted. Before COVID, we would eat out a couple of nights a week or pick up prepared foods on the run. Now we’re cooking almost every night.

I try to cook enough food for more than one meal but alternate menu choices so we aren’t eating the same thing two days in a row. I try new ingredients and new methods of preparation. I also look for recipes with few ingredients and simple steps, like cooking salmon in parchment paper (see below) or making crispy chicken thighs in the cast iron skillet with veggies. Focusing on eating home-cooked food has helped us stay physically and mentally healthy during these stressful times.

2.We’re thinking outside of the pasta box. Thinking outside of the box doesn’t mean making an extravagant, time-consuming dinner. It’s finding new ways to incorporate foods already in your home. Many of us have extra ingredients after cooking a meal that can be combined with other ingredients in the pantry or refrigerator. For example, you can take leftover lasagna noodles and layer them with homemade or jarred pesto and mozzarella for a new take on lasagna. You may not hit a home run every time but testing different combinations and learning what you like is part of the process and can be fun.

Being creative is not only about what you eat but how you eat. Not every meal needs to happen at the dining room table or kitchen island. On some nights we have a picnic in a nearby park, or if we are feeling like staying in, we move all of our furniture aside and lay out a blanket for an indoor picnic on our living room floor. It brings back some of that excitement of dining out that we miss.

3.Higher grocery bills are a given. The fact is most people’s grocery bills are higher than they were pre-pandemic. But, on the flip side, you’re not spending as much on dining out or picking up fast food. Once you figure out your rhythm and what you like, you can bring the cost down a bit. Personally, I try to make sure that what I buy does not go waste. It can become a game to see how creative – and frugal – I can be.

Remember to always keep some of your favorite staples on hand so you can make a satisfying meal. My own “go-to” is to make a frittata with eggs (an absolute must in my refrigerator) mixed with herbs, cheese, and vegetables leftover from a previous dinner. I always make a large frittata so there are leftovers for breakfast the next day,

Below are two additional recipes. I hope you enjoy your adventures in the kitchen as you find new ways to be creative.

Salmon en Papillote

 “En Papillote” means a dish in which ingredients are wrapped together, usually in parchment paper, and then baked. If you don’t have parchment, you can use aluminum foil or even a clean brown paper bag for the wrapper. 

It is a simple yet elegant entree that you can customize based on what you like and have on hand. For example, you can add onions, diced tomatoes, zucchini or other vegetables for a one-dish meal. Or eliminate the togarashi, thyme and ginger and use Italian seasonings. It’s really about the cooking method which is fast, easy and healthy


  • 1 lb. salmon filet (or the fish of your choice. Wild-caught is the healthiest)
  • 1 tbsp sesame, olive or avocado oil.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Togarashi or another small dried chili pepper (optional)
  • Thyme
  • Lemon or lime slices
  • Chopped garlic
  • Chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 or 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • Vegetables if desired


  1. If you are using frozen fish, place in the refrigerator to defrost.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375.
  3. Cut a piece of parchment paper at about three times the size of the fish filet.   
  4. Place the fish on the parchment paper, coat with oil and top and season with salt, pepper and togarashi (if desired).
  5. Add the thyme, slices of lime, garlic ginger, shallot.
  6. Add any additional vegetables or seasonings you wish.
  7. Fold the parchment over itself sealing the ends so you form a tight little package.
  8. Let bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

For a dinner party (when we can have them again), cut the fish into portions and wrap each portion of fish and vegetables separately. Then plate the packages individually and let guests open them at the table for a very impressive entrée.

Walnut Pesto Pasta


  • 1/3 cup of walnuts, almonds or pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic cut in half
  • 2 cups of fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 serrano chili (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for topping the pasta
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 box of pasta


Make the pesto

  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the walnuts and garlic until it is finely chopped.    together but still has some texture
  2. Add the basil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and chili. Pulse.
  3. While pulsing, slowly add in the olive oil until well incorporated. The pesto will be fairly thick.

The pesto can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using

 Prepare the pasta

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Drain the pasta, saving about ¼ cup of the pasta water to thin the sauce if necessary
  3. Toss the pasta with the pesto thinning the sauce with the reserved pasta water.

To serve, top with the additional Parmesan, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Clothing closet and pet pantry reopen

Pet Pantry and Clothes Closet Reopen for Grateful Clients

It was smiles all around when Care for Real’s Pet Pantry and our free clothing shop, The Closet, resumed operation this month. Both services were suspended when Chicago’s stay-at-home order went into effect and layoffs began.

“We needed to focus on distributing food to our rapidly-growing client base and ensure the safety of our clients, volunteers, and staff,” Board Chair Nancy Meyerson explained. “But we planned on reopening both The Closet and the Pet Pantry as soon as it was practical.”

But like with the way we distribute food, operations in both the Pet Pantry and The Closet changed.

When the Pet Pantry resumed on July 2, clients told volunteers about their pets and their preferences. Volunteers then brought bags and cans of food and treats outside and helped the owners pack their bags. Before COVID-19, owners could themselves shop in the pantry. Still, people were thrilled and grateful to receive high-quality food for their “fur babies.”

Things are different at The Closet as well. Shopping now is by appointment only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Clients can sign up for the 15-minute time slots when they come from to the pantry to get groceries. There are three appointments per hour with time between appointments for cleaning high touch areas.

“The Closet is extremely important to our clients. We were eager to provide this service but wanted to be sure we can protect the safety of our shoppers, volunteers, and staff before reopening,” stated Karen Feiler, volunteer coordinator. “

Clients have responded enthusiastically, and appointment book up each day.

The Palatable Pantry July 2020

The Palatable Pantry: Going to the Farmer’s Market

By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real

Going to the Farmer’s Market is a treasured summer activity. Every time you go, you’ll find a different selection of produce since the main reason for visiting a market is to get freshly-picked fruits and vegetables.

Shopping with an open mind is key. Even if you can’t buy what you planned for, you will always find something different and delicious that didn’t sit for days in a warehouse or on a truck.

Due to Covid-19, you won’t be able to taste the produce. Instead, talk to the farmers about what you like and ask them to help you pick the perfect fruit or vegetable. For example, tell them if you like sour berries or if you like your berries very juice and sweet. They can guide you to the varietal that you’ll enjoy most.

During the winter, I plan my family’s meals based on recipes I like, but during the summer I let the selection available at the Farmer’s Market guide my meal planning. I get excited by all of the vibrant colors, smells and flavors. You may, too!

Let’s say you see some beautiful summer tomatoes and you just don’t know what to do with them. The obvious answer is to slice them and serve them with olive oil, basil, balsamic vinegar and mozzarella cheese – instant Caprese. But ask the farmer for recommendations, reach out to me, or look on the internet for creative ideas.  

Below are some of my all-time favorite summer recipes with ingredients that you can find at your Farmer’s Market now.

Cucumbers are at the top of my list. Besides the obvious of making pickles, you can quickly make a tasty cucumber salad with ingredients that you might already have at home.


Smashed Cucumber Salad

You can use big or small cucumbers. I prefer the English or Persian ones as they have less seeds and aren’t as watery.


1 English cucumber or 3 small seedless cucumbers

2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar or any vinegar you have at home

1 tbsp. of something spicy – can be sriracha, Korean chili flakes or hot chili oil

Sprinkle of salt

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

Tiny pinch of cane sugar

1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place the washed cucumber on a cutting board and place a large, heavy-bladed flat knife on top. Put your hand on top of the flat part of the knife and push down until the cucumber splits open. If the cucumber is longer, cut into smaller pieces before smashing. You’ll be surprised how much fun this is!
  2. Chop the cucumber into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl with salt. Let it sit for about 20 minutes.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients to make a spicy sauce.
  4. Drain the water from the cucumbers and make sure they are as dry as possible.
  5. Mix the cucumbers and spicy sauce, [lace them in a serving bowl and top with black pepper. Enjoy with chopsticks or a fork.


Watermelon Feta Salad

This is a great summer favorite. Watermelon is a classic, and you can find fresh feta and small-batch cheeses at many farmer’s markets. You can really taste the difference.


½ watermelon cut into cubes

About 2 cups of cubed cucumber (ideally pickling cucumbers or Persian)

½ cup feta (ideally the kind that comes in the brine)

2 tbsp. lime juice

½ tbsp. honey

½ tbsp olive oil


Black pepper

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

Handful fresh basil leaves, chopped


  1. Start by making the dressing for the salad. Whisk together the honey, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. While whisking, pour in the olive oil so that it emulsifies completely. Or place ingredients in a screw-top and shake to mix. Taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning to your liking, I like my dressing on the more acidic side.
  2. Put your watermelon, and cucumbers in your serving bowl and gently tear or roughly chop the herbs and add on top of the fruit. Toss in the dressing.
  3. Sprinkle the top of the salad with Feta and serve.


Baked Cod with Fresh Tomatoes

You can use pretty much any type of fish for this recipe; I happen to like the mildness of cod and how it absorbs the flavor from the tomatoes.


4 cod filets

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes or ones you can find from the Farmer’s Market. Mighty Vine are a great alternative if you are buying at the store. Dice tomatoes if using larger varieties.

5 garlic cloves, smashed

4 tbsp. olive oil or avocado oil

1 lemon sliced

1 tbsp. butter


Black pepper

Handful of herbs, parsley, basil, or chives


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Put some of the oil on the back of a paper towel and wipe the surface of the baking dish to grease it.
  2. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Wash and cut half of the tomatoes, you can leave the other half whole to get a different texture. Mix the tomatoes with the olive oil, garlic and a bit more salt and pepper. Put the fish in the baking dish and surround the fish with the tomato mixture.
  4. Spread out the lemon slices
  5. Bake the fish for about 15 minutes or until it becomes flaky to a fork’s touch.
  6. Plate the fish and top with freshly chopped herbs and some of the tomato mixture.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and what time you can spend outside this summer!



PETsCan donation

PETsCan donation

Thank you to Stacy Powell-Bennett, Program Director at PETsCan!, for the generous donation of Petco Gift Certificates. We are incredibly grateful for the support to help provide pet supplies to so many of our neighbors in need.

The Care for Real Pet Pantry re-opens tomorrow from 3-5 pm. at 5339 N Sheridan.

ICERV supply drive

We have toilet paper, paper towels and food thanks to ECRA and our neighbors







On Saturday, June 6, the Edgewater Community Religious Association (ECRA) hosted its first Community Supply Drive. The results were overwhelming and heartwarming. 

Approximately 3.25 tons of food and supplies along with 3,800 rolls of toilet paper were collected at the event which was held at the parking lot of the Ismaili Jamatkhana (Center) Chicago. All of the non-perishable food items, water, and hygiene supplies were sterilized by volunteers from I-CERV (Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering) before being loaded into vans and delivered to Care for Real. 

“Care for Real is so grateful to ECRA and the Ismaili Jamatkhana for this wonderful drive,” said Nancy Meyerson, Chair of the Board at Care for Real. “We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of food, household items and paper products. Our clients were especially thrilled to receive the toilet paper, cleaning products, paper towels and facial tissue that was donated. These items are hard-to-find and cannot be purchased with SNAP (formerly called food stamp) benefits.”

More than 150 community members drove through the parking lot to drop off donations while practicing social distancing. Community members were asked to load supplies into the trunk of their vehicle and allow volunteers to remove those items directly to help abide by current health guidelines. 

This outpouring is typical of the generosity of the ECRA congregations and of our community. Pastor Fred Kinsey of Unity Lutheran Church said, “Knowing the need to help feed our neighbors is greater than ever during this pandemic, it was a no-brainer to jump into action and organize a Community Care Drive.   

Allen Stryczek led the effort to organize congregations and market the event at local businesses and various block clubs. He was thankful to the many from the community who came out to participate and being able “…to work together for the good of Care for Real and those in need in our community whom they serve.   I think we all continue to observe that it is in giving that we receive.”

More than 30 volunteers from congregations of various faiths collaborated to make the donation drive a success. Roohi Hussain, a volunteer from I-CERV, said, “It is wonderful to see people of various backgrounds come together to help our neighbors at a time like this when we all need to provide support for one another.” Volunteers were equipped with face masks and gloves while positioned at various stations that were spaced out to ensure the safety of everyone participating.