“The Fantasy Kitchen” is a column by Dave Stewart offering mouthwatering recipes for your kitchen and tantalizing fantasy football insights to keep you going through the NFL offseason. Now in his second season writing this column, Dave previews potential risers of the NFL Combine and spotlights Chef Juszina Maria, sharing her smoked sausage recipe.
Making your own way and finding your place in the world is a tremendously difficult thing to do. Fortunately, so many of us have a dream we want to chase. Oftentimes, it feels like there is something that we were born to do.
That certainly is the case for Indianapolis-based chef Juszina Maria. She was born to cook. It’s in her blood. Growing up in a household of 11 in Gary, Ind., Maria recalls being in the kitchen helping her mother cook for as long as she can remember.
“Mom used to give us each a knife, and we would have to cut potatoes and onions and bell peppers by hand,” Maria said in a Feb. 19 interview. “This was something that was instilled in me many, many years ago.”
It was not long before this budding chef found her happy place in the kitchen. By age seven, she was cooking for her cousins when they would come to visit her family home.
“I would take canned ravioli and cut up hot dogs to put them in,” Maria said. She recounts being like a scientist and putting things together in her kitchen to see how the final product would come out.
“I was always fascinated with the finished product,” she said. “It was like magic to me.”
A Culinary Springboard
This early culinary experience served as a springboard for Chef Maria to follow her dream. It led her to The Chef’s Academy at Harrison College in Indianapolis, where she completed her culinary training. It has since led her to become a personal chef and caterer.
She currently offers her services, including meal prep, in three different cities. She works out of Indianapolis, Chicago and Atlanta, frequently traveling from her home base in Indianapolis. Surprisingly, the majority of her work comes via word-of-mouth advertising. Once you have tasted her food, you simply have to tell someone about it.
Most recently, she has released her very own cookbook, “Fava: The Cookbook Made to Feed Your Soul.” It features many of her signature recipes, including some holiday favorites.
In addition to being a professional chef, Maria owns her own insurance company. Many days she puts in an eight to 10-hour day in the office and then comes home to seek refuge in her kitchen. “This is how I relax, how I unwind.”
Leaving a Legacy
Chef Maria has two adult sons and she made it a point to train them in the kitchen at an early age, much the same way she was raised. She expressed her desire to teach them necessary life skills.
“They need to know how to fend for themselves,” she said.
One of Maria’s key pieces of advice for anyone hoping to step up their game in the kitchen is about time management and maintaining a tidy workspace.
“Clean as you cook,” Maria said. “When you’re cooking with poultry, you have to disinfect.”
She added the need to understand how long different parts of the meal will take to cook and use time in the kitchen accordingly.
“If you are making bacon, eggs and toast, you want to start with the meat, and you’ll cook the eggs last because nobody wants cold eggs,” she said.
Chef Maria was gracious enough to provide readers of this column with an oft-requested dish that she will be serving at an upcoming bridal shower brunch she is catering.
Here is how to make her New Beginnings Redskin Potatoes with Smoked Sausage:
New Beginnings Redskin Potatoes With Smoked Sausage
• 5-6 medium redskin potatoes
• 1/2 red onion (diced)
• 1/2 green bell pepper (diced)
• 3.5 oz olive oil and 5 Tbsp olive oil (separated)
• 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
• 1/4 tsp group black pepper (optional)
• 14 oz package skinless smoked sausage (can substitute veggie sausage for vegetarians)
• 2 Tbsp curly fresh leaf parsley (can substitute dry parsley)
• Mexican shredded cheese
• Onion powder
1. Wash potatoes and peel half the skin off, leaving the remaining skin
2. Slice potatoes and dice them into squares. Dice onion and bell pepper
3. Slice smoked sausage at an angle, about 3/4 inch thick
4. Add sliced smoked sausage, bell peppers and onion to a hot skillet with 3.5 oz olive oil
5. Cook for 10 minutes or until desired level of brownness
6. Once done, remove from skillet and set aside
7. Reduce heat and add another Tbsp of oil
8. Add potatoes to skillet and cook for 20 minutes or until fork tender
9. Add all dry seasonings along with parsley. Mix potatoes with all seasonings
10. Add meat and onion mixture along with bell peppers
11. Cook all for another 5-7 minutes, add cheese and enjoy
NFL Combine Potential Risers To Know
With NFL Draft season officially underway, a cadre of young men will travel to Indianapolis for the 2023 NFL Combine. Like Chef Maria, these players are following their dream seeking to create a career doing what they were born to do.
The NFL Combine offers a chance to showcase their skills for NFL teams and – if everything goes well – punch their ticket to stardom. For fantasy purposes, this allows us to get a glimpse of players that may have played at smaller schools or otherwise did not get as much exposure as their contemporaries.
Today, I will focus on players who are not expected to be day-one selections in the NFL Draft but have a chance to raise their draft stock based on what they show at the NFL Combine.
Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State Beavers)
Luke Musgrave has excellent size for a tight end and is remarkably fast for a player his size. Standing 6 foot 6 inches tall and weighing 255 lbs, Musgrave is a load. His college stats do not pop off the page, and his senior season in 2022 was significantly impacted by injury.
Musgrave was only able to suit up for two contests last season. However, in those two games, he caught 11 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 15.4 Yards Per Reception.
Musgrave has big, soft hands and is a punishing blocker. His athleticism is not to be overlooked. Musgrave was a ski racer and decorated lacrosse player at Bend Senior High School in Bend, Ore. He comes from a family of football players, with both his father and uncle starring as quarterbacks at the University of Oregon. His uncle, Bill Musgrave, was a backup quarterback and longtime offensive assistant in the NFL who currently coaches at the University of California. Luke Musgrave is hoping for a big NFL Combine performance to elevate his draft stock.
Rashee Rice (WR, SMU Mustangs)
Despite playing at a smaller school, Rashee Rice is a big talent. He earned AP All-American Second Team honors and was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. During his senior season, Rice caught 96 passes for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns. He totaled 25 touchdown catches during his time at Southern Methodist University (SMU).
Rice has good speed and quickness. Coupled with his innate route-running ability, Rice figures to be capable of creating separation in the NFL. He is solidly on the radar of scouts who are attending the NFL Combine, and he should be a day-two selection in the draft. Rice has good size and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. His long arms give him an impressive catch radius. The trip to Indianapolis will allow Rice to show off his skills.
Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA Bruins)
Zach Charbonnet is a big-bodied back who possesses a great balance of size and speed. He began his college career at the University of Michigan but transferred to UCLA before his junior season, looking for more field time. Once in Los Angeles, he became integral to the Bruins’ offense. Carrying nearly 400 times over those two years, Charbonnet put up over 2,500 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns at UCLA.
One of Charbonnet’s biggest strengths is his knack for ball security. He had just one fumble after transferring to UCLA. An aggressive short-yardage runner, he has adequate patience and good vision to find the hole and get through the defense. Charbonnet will impress with his physicality, but he needs to exhibit more elusiveness to raise his draft profile. Hopefully, he will able to showcase that ability at the NFL Combine.
Tank Bigsby (RB, Auburn Tigers)
Another player looking to upgrade his draft profile is Tank Bigsby. Declaring after his junior season at Auburn, Bigsby is a strong runner with good balance and agility. He has shown the burst to make big plays throughout his collegiate career. Additionally, he has scored 10 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons. His patience and straight-line speed are two of his biggest assets.
Bigsby does not figure to be a big factor in the passing game. However, he may be able to demonstrate his ability to catch out of the backfield in front of the scouts at the NFL Combine. Still, his patience and propensity for finishing runs, along with the knack for the occasional big play, will serve Bigsby well in the NFL. Look for him to shine next week and beyonf.
My motto in the kitchen is “have fun.” For me, it is easy to keep. I sure hope you have fun in your kitchen preparing food for your friends to eat.