FEATURE
 
Ladies of Leisure
You know their faces, you’ve heard their voices, you’ve seen their work. It takes a lot of talent and tenacity to make it big in this town,
and our four cover women — left to right: radio personality Robyn Simone; fashion designer Danielle DiBenedetto; opera singer
Laura Pedersen; and TV-news meteorologist Hollie Strano — have earned their places in the spotlight. But greater recognition brings
more responsibilities. Relax accompanied the women during their favorite leisure activities to discover how, even in the midst of busy
schedules, they find ways to breathe easy — all without wandering far from their Northeast Ohio homes.

words by j. haliburton
photos by c. brooks



The late-July day begins warm and bright.
But by the time of the Relax cover shoot, the sun’s rays are starting to hide behind a row of gray clouds.
A couple of the well-dressed cover women — chatting at the entrance to Eton Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere — glance up at the sky, wondering aloud if the weather will hold up.
Hollie Strano doesn’t miss a beat.
“Twenty percent chance of rain,”
she says with a grin.
Automatic weather reports are a great perk of having a meteorologist by your side.

When that person is Strano, so are mouth-watering meals.
It’s tempting to think of cooking as just another part of her job as WKYC Channel 3 weekday morning and midday meteorologist. After all, on the Thursdays that she introduces her “Dish of the Week” segments (during which she prepares recipes on-air), the Lyndhurst native’s schedule is just as strenuous as every other workday.
Strano goes to bed in the Chagrin Falls home she shares with husband Brian Toohig, a claims adjuster, at
9 p.m. — and wakes up less than four hours later. She arrives at the news station’s downtown Cleveland parking lot by 1:45 a.m.; attends pre-show meetings and creates weather graphics so she can co-host the morning show with Mark Nolan from 5 to 7 a.m.; then does weather updates, commercials, promotional material and Web content — all before heading back home by 10 a.m., where two energetic children (Jessica, 4, and Grady, 2) eagerly await.
“And trust me,” says Strano, “when I walk through that door, they’re ready to play.”

Fortunately, the kids find plenty of entertainment in the part of the house that offers Strano the most relief.

“This is my spa,” she says, beaming as she stands in her spacious kitchen. Candles are lit, fresh vegetables are on the counter and Strano is wielding a kitchen knife that looks almost as big as her. For many working mothers, the menu she’s preparing tonight would be reserved for a dinner party: chicken sautéed with pinot noir, risotto topped with Italian parmesan cheese, and a salad sprinkled with almonds and her homemade balsamic vinegar dressing.

But Strano cooks like this all the time — and without the aid of measuring cups or glancing at the back of a box.
“I get to be as creative and artistic as I want to be,” she says as she slices into a cucumber grown in her backyard garden. “It feels like a release.” It’s also a testament to her belief that home-cooked meals are a great way to bring families together. In her household, that means sitting down to eat as a family at night, and lively bouts of baking with Jessica and Grady.
And the food doesn’t have to be gourmet. “I’m a fan of junk,” she says.

Strano says that’s 80 percent of the reason why, four days a week, she heads to WKYC’s private gym to endure what trainer Nick Oskowski calls “an hour of torture”: a workout that includes a boxing routine where Strano throws as many as 400 punches in 10 minutes.
Thanks to her love of both indulging and text messaging, Oskowski is well aware of her eating habits.
“Sometimes, I’ll get a real jaw-dropper,” he says. “She’ll send me a text that says, ‘I just ate half a pizza."


But Strano relies on the workouts to rejuvenate her. “I’ve noticed such a difference in every aspect of my life,” she says. “They really give me energy to get through the day.”

She knows the struggles of being a working mother: the desire to balance work, family and time for oneself — all while keeping an eye on the budget. (“I’m a huge coupon chick,” she says.) That’s why she wants to let others know that when it comes to ways to decompress, preparing dinner can be just as useful as a trip to the day spa.

“I’m not a chef,” says Strano. “But I want to help working moms realize that you don’t have to come home and lose your mind at the thought of fixing food for your family.
“Cooking,” she says, “can be like therapy.”


Hollie plays with her children daily to relieve stress... here she plays with her daughter Jessica and son Grady in Jessica's bedroom.
 

Hollie's day often starts with a rigorous workout, that includes some kick -boxing routines and up to 400 punches in 12 ounce gloves.
 

Cooking is a large part of Strano's life and keeps her close with family and friends. Check her out on Thursday's on WKYC Channel 3.
 

Sauteed Chicken and Wine with Risotto was the meal that the Relax
staff was served at Hollies beautiful Chagrin Falls home.
  Hollie’s Easy Risotto

Olive oil
2 cups Risotto
I medium onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
1-2 large cartons of chicken stock
Grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup
1 tablespoon butter
Chopped fresh parsley, about ½ cup

*More parmesan cheese for serving.

In a large skillet coated with olive oil on medium heat, sauté onion & pepper until tender. Add risotto. Allow it to cook about 1-2 minutes, coating it with the olive oil, onion & pepper mixture. Add chicken stock…covering the risotto. Stir occasionally, and as you see the stock evaporate, add more. Continue this process for about 30 minutes or until risotto is fully cooked. Add parmesan cheese, butter and parsley. Mix until the butter and cheese are melted. Serve with more grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Hollie Sauteed Chicken & Wine

2 pkg’s boneless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
¾ cup flour
Salt, pepper
Olive Oil
Butter
White Wine
Chicken stock
3-4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh tomato, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 can black olives, sliced
½ cup chopped fresh basil

*Parmesan cheese for serving

In a plastic grocery bag, place chicken, flour and salt & pepper to taste. Shake it up until chicken is well coated. In a large skillet, coated with olive oil on medium heat, start frying chicken. About 10 minutes per side. You want there to be a nice golden brown color before you flip the chicken. When finished, set aside on a separate plate.

De-glaze the pan with a little chicken stock then and a tablespoon of butter, garlic and onion. Cook until tender and fragrant. Add tomato and black olives. Continue to cook a minute or so…then add 1 cup of white wine, and about a half cup chicken stock. At this point, add your chicken back to the skillet and allow to simmer, about 20 minutes. The flour coating on the chicken will naturally thicken the sauce. Add basil.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!
Hollie Strano


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