The Family Resiliency Center is a research center where food, family, and science come together. In that spirit, we would like to share some of our favorite recipes. Be sure to check this page often for new and yummy recipes!


Brenda's Famous Halftime Chili

A band member twirling a baton during halftime at an Illini football game


  • 2 tblsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 lb chuck, cut into small chunks (or the big ground kind). Less meat can be used if preferred, replaced with vegetables such as diced green pepper, carrots, or zucchini.
  • 5 tblsp. chili powder
  • 1 tblsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tblsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tblsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tblsp. dried thyme
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes w/added puree (fresh heirloom tomatoes or San Marzano brand recommended)
  • 1 1/4 oz. can low-salt chicken broth (homeade chicken stock recommended)
  • 1 1/2 oz. bottle of beer (good chocolaty stout recommended)
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • Optional: 1 15-16 oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed well under cold water (add an additional can of garbanzo beans if adding more veggies)


  1. Heat oil in heavy Dutch oven on medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent (if using additional veggies, sauté them at this point).
  3. Add chuck and sauté until brown.
  4. Add chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, and thyme, stir about 2 minutes.
  5. Mix in tomatoes, chicken broth, beer, and tomato paste. Simmer on low until thickened to desired consistency (1 1/2 hours is usually ideal).
  6. If using beans, mix in and heat.

Halftime chili can be prepared a few days ahead, but don't add beans until reheating. Making the recipe ahead — or freezing and defrosting later — makes this chili taste even better!

Thanks to Brenda Koester, a great cook and associate director at FRC, for providing this recipe.

Mexican Beef Stew (Caldo de Res)

Mexican beef stew in tortillas

Ingredients for 4 to 5 servings

  • 2 lbs of beef chuck or beef shank (cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 corn cobs (cut in half or in thirds)
  • 3 large carrots (halved and cut into thirds)
  • 2 zucchinis (halved and cut into thirds)
  • 1/2 cabbage (cut into chunks)
  • 1/2 of a typical cilantro "bunch" found at a grocery story
  • 2 tablespoons of beef bouillon (or according to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato bouillon (or according to taste)
  • Optional: limes for garnish, topped with slices of avocado


  1. In a large pot, place 2 lbs of beef chuck and cover with water so that water stops just 2 inches above beef. Add half an onion and 5 peeled garlic cloves to stew. Stir in the tablespoon of salt, cover the pot and cook over high heat, bring water to a boil. Remove any foam from top by skimming the stew with a spoon.
  2. Once the beef has come to a boil, reduce to medium heat and cook for an additional hour 90 minutes.
  3. Remove onion and garlic from stew. Add chopped carrots, zucchinis, corn, and cilantro. Cover pot and cook for an additional 20 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Stir in 2 tablespoons of beef bouillon and 1 tablespoon of tomato bouillon. Taste broth and add more as desired. Add in chunks of cabbage and cook until cabbage is tender.
  5. Garnish the caldo with lime, top with slices of avocado and serve. Best paired with homemade salsa. Put in a tortilla and enjoy.

Thanks to Brianna Vargas-Gonzalez, a research specialist at FRC, for providing this recipe.

Baked Salmon and Soffritto Rice Pilaf

Baked salmon and soffritto rice pilaf freshly made by Alex Greifenkamp
Baked salmon and soffritto rice pilaf freshly made by Alex Greifenkamp

Ingredients for 2 servings (with some rice pilaf left over)

  • 2 salmon fillets, 6-9 oz. each
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • ½ a large white onion, finely diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Olive oil
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the salmon skin-side down.
  3. Sprinkle the salmon generously with Old Bay and top with 2 or 3 lemon slices each.
  4. Place a sauce pan over medium heat with 2 tbsp olive oil.
  5. When the oil is hot, toss in all vegetables with a large pinch of salt.
  6. Stir regularly for a few minutes, until vegetables are softened and onions become translucent.
  7. Dump in 1 cup rice and stir to lightly toast, about a minute.
  8. Pour in 2 cups broth. Cover and reduce heat to low/medium low. This will depend on your stove, but you’re looking for a steady simmer.
  9. The rice will take 25-30 minutes, while the salmon will usually take 15-20. Let the rice go for 10 minutes, then put the salmon in oven.
  10. If you have a meat thermometer, the salmon is done when it reaches about 145°F at the thickest point. It should flake easily when pressed with a fork.
  11. The rice is done when it has absorbed all of the liquid and is soft and fluffy.

Thanks to Alex Greifenkamp, a technology analyst at Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, for providing this recipe.


Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients for 8 bowls

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1-1/4-ounce can chicken broth (for thinner soup use 2 cans)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves chopped
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 16-ounce package potato gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a large pot add butter and olive oil. Over medium high heat sauté onion, celery and garlic until tender. Add the flour to create a roux and cook for another minute.
  2. Slowly add the half and half and chicken broth and stir until it starts to thicken. Add the thyme, carrots, spinach, chicken and gnocchi. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until gnocchi is cooked and soup is thickened. (If you want a thinner soup add another can of chicken broth.) Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Thanks to Kelly Tu, an FRC affiliate member and associate professor in the Department of Human Development & Family Studies, for providing this recipe.

View the recipe by Alyssa Rivers for more details.

Dumpling Noodle Soup

Two bowls of dumpling noodle soup

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 6 ounces thin dried wheat, egg or rice noodles
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, grated (or minced)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated (or minced)
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp of white miso paste
  • 16 ounces of frozen dumplings (not thawed)
  • 4 baby bok choy, trimmed and each cut into 4 pieces through stem
  • 1 small head of broccoli cut into bite-sized florets
  • Handful of cilantro or chopped scallions for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions, until the noodles are just tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well again. Divide them among four serving bowls.
  2. Place the same large pot over medium heat; add sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Stir and cook for 30 seconds, until aromatic. Add turmeric and stir for 15 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot, then season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat to allow flavors to meld.
  4. Remove the lid and add the miso paste, stirring constantly until it is dissolved. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and carefully drop the dumplings into the broth. When they float to the top, add the baby bok choy and broccoli and cook for approximately 2 minutes, until the broccoli has a mixed crisp-tender consistency.
  6. Ladle the broth, dumplings, baby bok choy and broccoli into four bowls over the noodles. To serve, top with cilantro or chopped scallions.

Thanks to Jenny Barton, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate at FRC, who provided this dumpling noodle soup recipe via The New York Times.

Easy Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy tomato soup in a bowl with sprigs on top


  • 2 pounds red tomatoes
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • Few sprigs with thyme
  • 1.5 cups vegetable stock (more or less depending on desired runniness)
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream or double cream
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: 1 large red pepper


  1. Wash and roughly chop the onion and garlic and slice the pepper in two.
  2. Place them together with the tomatoes, herbs, and pepper (if using) on a baking sheet or on a baking tray. Brush or drizzle with olive oil and roast for between 25-30 minutes at 240ºC/475ºF.
  3. Once ready, place everything in a food processor and blend until creamy and smooth (or your desired consistency). You could also pour the ingredients into a large pan and use an immersion blender. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if necessary, then serve.
  4. The tomatoes and peppers come piping hot from the oven and as long as you don't add the vegetable stock and cream straight out of the fridge (room temperature is great), the soup will be hot enough to consume. If you still feel like it needs to be heated, then place it in a large pan and warm it up over medium heat.

Thanks to Alpha Foodie for providing this recipe.


Buffalo Chicken Dip

Freshly made buffalo chicken dip by Zach Kennedy
Freshly made buffalo chicken dip by Zach Kennedy


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Frank's Original Red Hot Sauce
  • 8 oz (250g) block cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1/4 cup American cheddar, freshly shredded
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons green onions, sliced (or chives)
  • Tortilla chips or a side of your choosing for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Arrange oven rack to the middle of oven.
  2. In 8-inch cast-iron skillet (or oven-proof pan) melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant (30 seconds). Add chicken and hot sauce and simmer until sauce has thickened and reduced by half (about 2 minutes).
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese; mix until combined. Take off heat, stir through sour cream and top with both cheddar cheese(s) over the top.
  4. Bake until bubbling around the edges and cheese has melted (about 10 minutes). Broil or grill for 1 minute to brown on top.
  5. Immediately garnish with blue cheese and green onions. Serve with vegetable sticks, chips, crusty bread pieces for dipping.

View this recipe online to see further notes and nutrition information.

Thanks to Zach Kennedy, a valued member of FRC's steering committee, for providing this scrumptious fall dish.


Fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Freshly made strawberry rhubarb pie by Linda Tortorelli
Freshly made strawberry rhubarb pie by Linda Tortorelli

Ingredients for pie

  • 9-inch pie
  • Pastry for 9-inch two-crust pie
  • 1-1/3 cups of sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups cut-up rhubarb (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 2 cups cut-up strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for pie crust

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch pieces, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Instructions for pie crust

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. Add the butter and toss to coat the flour mixture.
  2. Using your hands, smash the butter between your palms and fingertips, mixing it into the flour, creating long, thin, flaky, floury, buttery bits.
  3. Once most of the butter is incorporated and there are no large chunks remaining, dump the flour mixture onto the work surface.
  4. Combine the vinegar with the ice water and drizzle it over the flour-butter mixture. Run fingers through the mixture to evenly distribute the water through the flour, until the dough starts coming together.
  5. Knead the dough a few more times to gather up any dry bits from the bottom and place them on top to be incorporated. Then divide the dough in half.
  6. Pat each piece into a flat disk approximately 1-inch thick. Wrap each disk individually and refrigerate while going on to the next step of making the filling.

Instructions for filling

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Mix sugar, flour, strawberries, and rhubarb together. 
  3. Line the pie plate with 1 pie crust, turn the strawberry-rhubarb mixture into pie plate. Dot with butter.
  4. Cover the top crust, cut slits in it, seal and flute.
  5. Wash the top crust lightly with milk or egg white to enhance browning. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Place pie on cookie sheet and collar with foil. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.
  7. Decrease temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.

Note: A food processor can be used but don't overmix.

Thanks to Alison Roman for providing the recipe for the pie crust. And thanks to Linda Tortorelli, resource specialist at The Autism Program, for providing the filling recipe and for growing the rhubarb in her own garden to make the pie.

Maple Apple Crisp

A person next to a sink with running water, slicing apples with a knife and multiple sliced apples in the foreground.


  • 5 medium apples, cored and sliced into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened dates, chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxmeal
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/8 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish. In it, stir together apple pieces, dates and lemon juice. In a small mixing bowl, stir together lemon zest, flaxmeal, oats, flour and spices. Cut in butter. When mixture is pebbled and resembles sand, stir in maple syrup and then fold in walnuts. Press over the top of the apple mixture. You’ll get light coverage, so double the topping ingredients if you prefer heavier coverage.

Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until apples are softened and topping starts to brown and bubble. Serve warm with Greek yogurt or ice cream.

Thanks to Meg Dickinson, a valued Illinois colleague of the Family Resiliency Center, for providing this recipe.