Fans of country singer Martina McBride are working together to help a local group this week.

In conjunction with McBride's concert engagement at the LaPorte County Fair on Friday, members of Team Music is Love, the singer's charity initiative, will be on hand to prepare some of McBride's favorite dishes for a women's shelter in the Region.

The shelter is associated with The Caring Place of Valparaiso, which is an organization assisting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and their children.

"Through Team Music Is Love we do fundraisers for causes surrounding Martina's name," said Sheila Jones, director of Team Music Is Love.

Jones said fans around the country get together to help various charities from shelters and food pantries to other organizations. Many times, the events are held in conjunction with McBride's shows in select cities.

Prior to the LaPorte County Fair show, fans of the country singer are gathering to cook a special meal for members of a Caring Place shelter.

The recipes the group will prepare are featured in McBride's 2015 cookbook "Around the Table: Recipes and Inspiration For Gatherings Throughout The Year." Favorite recipes from McBride and her family star in the book.

Dishes such as Brined and Braised Short Ribs, Classic Mashed Potatoes, Hunter's Chicken, Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo, Caprese Salad, Pesto Panini and more are featured in "Around the Table." And there are quite a few recipes that would work for a cookout.

"This particular group in Indiana wanted to give to a women's shelter," Jones said. "So they decided to use her (McBride's) cookbook to prepare the recipes."

McBride fan Darla Mihalic of Schererville is one of the coordinators and participants in the special barbecue.

"There are eight volunteers and we're all going to be doing the grilling and cooking," she said, adding they chose items from McBride's cookbook chapter on backyard barbecues.

"We're going to cook hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, corn on the cob and peach cobbler," she added.

Mihalic said Caring Place executive director Mary Beth Schultz welcomes the group's gesture and is extremely thankful for their help.

"It's important for us to give back to the community, especially when everything that's going on today is so negative," Mihalic said.

"We just want to help and do something good for people and share love," she said. "Instead of protesting and showing hatred, we're sharing love."

Mihalic, who's been a McBride fan for the past 25 years, said she saw the singer for the first time when McBride opened for Garth Brooks at Notre Dame.

"I loved her music and how she carried herself," she said.

McBride, she said, has long been interested in helping people and needy communities and causes, including organizations battling domestic violence, cancer and more. The mission of her charity Team Music Is Love assists in "bringing music fans together to help make the world a better place."

Mihalic said when McBride performed in the Region last year, members of Team Music Is Love did a fundraiser for The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana in Gary.

McBride showed up for that fundraiser but Mihalic said, due to the singer's schedule, she probably won't be able to attend this year's benefit.

While the cookout is just for shelter residents and is NOT open to the public, McBride fans or anyone who would like to help The Caring Place, may visit to donate to the local group.

The following is a recipe from "Around The Table."

Pesto Panini

2 12-ounce ciabatta loaves (about 12 to 14 inches long)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

9 ounces goat cheese

6 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup prepared pesto

DIRECTIONS: Preheat a panini sandwich press. Split the ciabatta leaves in half horizontally and brush the bottom halves of bread with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil, spread evenly with the goat cheese and top with tomato slices.

Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with salt and pepper. Spread pesto evenly on the top halves of the bread. Place the top halves of the bread over the tomatoes and brush the tops with the remaining  1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Place the sandwiches on the panini press and cook until the bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Cut into sixths and serve.


Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.