Val, Cody talk Christmas topics, actress Ta'rhonda Jones, buzzing movie reviews, Bears game

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, December 15, 2023
WCW Host Chat
Val and Cody catch up and dive into hot holiday topics.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This week on "Windy City Weekend," Ryan's out of town so Val is joined by friend of the show, Cody LaGrow!

Overrated Christmas Traditions:

Families all over the country have many Christmas traditions, from secret Santa, to cookie decorating, to when they start playing Christmas music. But are some of them a little overrated?

How to avoid family feuds this year:

The holidays mean getting together with family. They can also mean tough and uncomfortable conversations you really don't want to have. Luckily, some experts found five ways you can avoid confrontation and reduce stress this year.

Terrell Bosley Anti-Violence Association annual giveaway:

And if you're looking for some Holiday Magic this week, The Terrell Bosley Anti-Violence Association is hosting its annual children's coat, hat and toys giveaway. It's being held at 1 p.m. at New Bethlehem #4 M.B.C at 8850 S. Cottage Grove Ave. on Saturday.

Ta'rhonda Jones:

Ta'rhonda Jones shares everything about her acting and music experience along with a huge Christmas Toy Drive she launched.

Many know Ta'Rhonda Jones for her role as Cookie's Assistant, Porsha Taylor, in the show "Empire." And on Friday, she was back in her hometown of Chicago to join Val and Cody!

Jones' route to stardom wasn't a traditional one, as the Auburn Gresham native worked as a butcher while rapping on the side before she got her big break. When she heard Terrance Howard was looking for rappers for "Empire," without even having an agent, she auditioned and landed her iconic role as Porsha Taylor.

She went on to write music for the show alongside her role, and has starred in other shows, including "Chicago P.D." She splits her time now between L.A. and Chicago, but when she's back in the Windy City, she teaches acting classes at New Beginnings Church.

And while she's in town, she is holding a huge Christmas Toy Drive that she launched several years ago alongside Black Village Foundation and Project HOOD. She'll be giving away up to 10,000 toys to needy children for Christmas!

You can give Jones a follow on social media @tarhondajay.

Alessi in the kitchen:

Alessi and chef Laura Valcour have you covered this holiday season as she cooks up a delicious meal just in time for the holiday's.

If you're looking for a delicious dish to make for the holidays, Alessi has you covered. Chef Laura Valcour over at Brookhaven Market in Arlington Heights cooks up some festive artichoke wontons and porcini risotto cakes with wilted spinach and blistered tomatoes.


3 C. Alessi Porcini Risotto, cooked per package directions, then chilled

Risotto Cakes:

2 large eggs

Cup Parmesan Cheese

1 Tablespoon Alessi Pesto

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine

1 cup Alessi bread crumbs

Blistered Tomato Sauce:

26 ounces Alessi Whole San Marzano Tomatoes

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated fine

2 ounces Alessi Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Alessi Balsamic Vinegar

Wilted Spinach:

1 pound Baby Spinach

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1-2 tablespoon(s) Shallot, minced

2 tablespoons Basil, chiffonade (sliced thin strips)


Risotto cakes: Follow instructions for risotto on Alessi package. Allow to cool completely. Prefer to chill overnight.

In a large bowl add 3 C. chilled risotto, eggs, herbs, parmesan cheese, and pesto. Mix until combined; then shape into balls and flatten into patties. Set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add patties on and cook until golden brown. Or place on a parchment-lined, and oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the surface is golden brown.

Blistered tomato sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place cherry tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with Alessi extra virgin olive oil and Alessi Balsamic Vinegar. Toss to make sure the tomatoes are well-coated on all sides. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until skins split or are slightly charred. Add to warmed Alessi San Marzano Tomatoes and stir well.

Wilted Spinach: Coat skillet with olive oil. Saute garlic and shallot until translucent. Add baby spinach and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

To Serve:

Place Wilted Spinach on serving plate

Add Risotto Cake and layer over spinach.

Spoon Blistered Tomato Sauce over Risotto Cake and garnish with fresh basil.

And enjoy!

Be sure to stop by Brookhaven Marketplace in Arlington Heights to gather all your holiday ingredients. And be sure to check out their website and follow them on Facebook!

Brookhaven Marketplace Facebook: brookhavenmk

Brookhaven Marketplace Website:

You can find more Alessi products by visiting the Alessi website. And follow their socials @AlessiFoods.

Roeper's reviews: spend or save?:

Richard Roeper reviews this week's movie releases.

'Wonka' - SAVE

Timothée Chalamet stars as a young Willy Wonka trying to launch his soon-to-be chocolate and candy factory in "Wonka."

'The Family Plan' - SAVE

In "The Family Plan," Mark Wahlberg plays a former covert assassin turned stay-at-home dad who must return to his old life after past enemies seek revenge.

'Poor Things' - SPEND

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo star in "Poor Things," a Frankenstein-inspired black comedy. It's about a young woman who's brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist, and runs off with a lawyer on a whirlwind adventure across continents.

'Immediate Family' - SPEND

"Immediate Family" is a new documentary about a group of four musicians from the '70s and '80s who performed with iconic singers of the time, but never found the limelight themselves.

Bear-ly accurate predictions week 15: Bears vs. Browns:

Ryan, with the help of two adorable puppies, predicts who will be the winner in the Bears versus Browns match.

It seems Ryan and mentalist Sidney Friedman got in the Bears' head and secured another Chicago win last weekend!

Can they keep the streak going against the Cleveland Browns? Thanks to PAWS Chicago, Ryan enlisted the help of some furry companions in this week's Bear-ly Accurate Prediction.

Send us your best moves for New Year's!:

We want to see you break out your best moves. If you record it and send it in to us, you might see yourself on T.V. during the big show!

It's almost time to ring in the New Year, and you can do it alongside your favorite hosts right here on ABC7 for Countdown Chicago 2024!

You can join the party! We want to see you break out your best moves. If you record it and send it in to us, you might see yourself on T.V. during the big show! To submit your video follow this link: