Welcome to my blog. My blogging journey began about in August 2009 as a photo-a-day blog which has since transitioned to combine my love of good food and photography. Today, using as many local and fresh ingredients as we can, my boyfriend and myself spend time researching recipes, making our own adaptations, cooking, taking photos, eating, and finally reflecting on all or part of the above listed process here. I hope you take the time to not only read and look at our photos, but please cook some of the recipes yourself. You are invited and encourage to leave feedback as we continue our culinary journey!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Broccoli and Anchovy Pasta

I admit that broccoli is not my all time favorite vegetable. Yet, it seems that I buy broccoli often, and seek for new ways to use it.

Apparently, Italians sometimes make pasta sauce with broccoli in it. This is one of Daniele's traditional recipes---simple, easy, and to the point.

Broccoli and Anchovy Pasta
3-5 anchovies
small onion
olive oil
red pepper flakes
garlic clove
cooking wine

To get started making your sauce, boil the broccoli for about five minutes in order to soften. Remove the broccoli from the water and cut into small pieces. You can re-use the same water in which you cooked the broccoli to cook the pasta.

In a separate pan, heat up some olive oil and a garlic clove. Cut up the onion and saute for approximately five minutes. Add 3-5 anchovies and small pieces of broccoli, along with a bit of cooking wine. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste and cook for 10 more minutes. If you want to try a variation to this recipe, you could also add fresh tomatoes to the sauce. We did use a portion of a tomato in the recipe below, and, in fact, we did not use an onion because the last one had gone bad.

I don't think I need to explain to you how to cook the pasta, however, again I suggest using the same water that you cooked the broccoli in.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sauteed Zuchinni

Alright let's face it. Everyone who has ever spent any time in a kitchen can probably figure out how to saute zucchini on their own. However, I keep this blog more for photographic purposes, to have a subject to take photos of and to attempt new photographic techniques, play with lighting, background, shutter speed, etc....maybe eventually I should have a moving target to practice on. Or, I can just suggest that D throw some food around the kitchen to keep with the food theme and still allow for some motion shots.  

Anyways, although it may be a bit overplayed, today's entry is about sauteed zucchini. This is not a recipe that D and I would cook regularly, but apparently what I've learned this week is that we need to communicate more about the groceries we are purchasing. You may have seen one of our blogs earlier this week, Strata, which also included zucchini. The reason is that D and I both went to the grocery separately and apparently, were both equally excited about the sale price of zucchini....

There is one more zucchini recipe to come, and then...I will just be glad not to have to look at another zucchini for awhile! To saute, we used a bit of olive oil, and for spices: paprika, salt, and black pepper. I think you can mostly  figure out how to make this one on your own, but, by all means, enjoy the photos.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quinoa with Spinach, Mushrooms, Asparagus and Pine Nuts

These days, I hear everyone talking about quinoa and its healthfulness. Wikipedia tends to agree, and on top of that, its gluten free in case you have any friends on a gluten free diet that you are trying to entertain. I had never cooked quinoa, and wanted to make an attempt...And for us, this was another relatively easy non-pasta recipe to try.

In order to make this recipe we simply took a few veggies we had around the house and sauteed them in olive oil. We added paprika, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, we cooked the quinoa (about 2/3 cup per person) per the instructions on the package. After cooking, the veggies and cooked quinoa were mixed together, and pine nuts sprinked on top.

I still have some leftover quinoa, and will most likely make some to toss in salads or maybe even to try some sort of coconut curry recipe with tofu and quinoa...oh the possibilities. 

Simple, yet delightful.

And now, the photos...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brussel Sprouts, my archnemesis

I did not eat a brussel sprout until I was well into high school, probably 16 or 17 years old. And even when I tried one, eating it was a big mistake. I believe that eating good food is one of the many joys in life, so why would I eat something that does not taste good? And let me tell you, that brussel sprout was disgusting! I took one bite before spitting it out in a napkin and refusing any more. Luckily, we were at a buffet restaurant, therefore, I could simply return to the line and pick another vegetable.

Every few years I make an attempt at cooking brussel sprouts, thinking they can't possibly be as bad tasting as the time that I ate them as a 16 year old. The last time I prepared them, I roasted them with some garlic. They were....okay. Last night I tried a new recipe and I'm pleased to say that while it wasn't my favorite, they were not bad, in fact, I will even admit that I enjoyed eating my sprouts.

Brussel Sprouts in Butter and Walnut Sauce
brussel sprouts
2 tbs butter/margarine/other substitute

Steam the brussel sprouts for about five minutes until soft. Cover with melted butter and add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Sprinkle a few walnuts on top.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Italian Inspired Strata

I am pleased to brag and let you all know this recipe is my own creation. I am not claiming that I myself invented the concept of the "strata", of course, which most know and love quite well, but this specific recipe is mine and mine alone. I simply looked up a couple strata recipes and threw in some ingredients I had here at home.

This was the first strata I had ever tried; I've been meaning to attempt one for awhile, but for some reason I thought it would be difficult and beyond my abilities. However, I was wrong. Making a strata is actually quite easy! Of course, I suggest trying all of the recipes on my blog but in particular this one; this is a great, easy recipe to make if you need something to take to a potluck or if you are entertaining during the brunch hour. Or, just make it yourself and keep the leftovers, they should last about a week. But, if you do try the recipe, please let me know how it is!

Italian Inspired Strata
1/2 loaf Italian baguette
1 tomato
2 Italian sausage links
1 zucchini
1/2 red pepper
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1/2 tbs salt
1/2 tbs pepper
5 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup green onion
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella

First, prepare all of the ingredients. Start by peeling the skin off of the sausage, crumbling, and cooking. Cut the baguette into one inch cubes. Slice the red pepper and zucchini into small pieces and steam. Slice the green onion and tomato. Also cut the mozzarella into small chunks.

Cover the bottom of the pan using 1/2 of the bread cubes. Top the bread cubes with the cooked sausage, steamed zucchini and red pepper, and Parmesan cheese. On top of that, place the rest of the bread. Now add the tomato and mozzarella cheese.

In a bowl, combine the five eggs, milk, Italian seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Pour the mixture over the layered bread and veggies, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Cook for 45 minutes at 325 degrees; let sit for 10-15 minutes before eating, and then enjoy.

Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and makes good leftovers. This will be a hit, I promise.

Also, I just saw a previous employer of mine who informed me of another blog that I might enjoy. She was right, it's fantastic, although a little more professional. The wife is an actual chef and the husband is an actual photographer, I might just be an amateur chef/photographer myself but after taking a look at Smitten Kitchen,  I don't think I'm doing too horrible here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


This is hardly a recipe, but worth an entry. Last weekend Daniele and I took a trip to my hometown: St. Louis,  Missouri. We enjoyed two wonderful days with my family and friends. On Saturday evening, we celebrated both father's day and my dad's birthday with a nice family dinner of squash casserole, grilled chicken, salad, and cheese pie. Although my mom cooked this dinner, Daniele and I still made a contribution.

It is traditional in Italy to have a drink before dinner. The typical before-dinner drink is called Spritz, and consists of 1/3 Aperol and 2/3 Prosecco and is  usually topped with an orange slice. So, prior to dinner my family and I enjoyed a few large glasses of Spritz. Daniele and I also cooked our traditional recipe of mussels but with fewer veggies for an appetizer prior to dinner.

Everyone enjoyed their Spritz, and it was a great start to a tasty dinner. This drink is served cold and perfect for the summer, so I highly suggest trying it at some point during this season.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spanish Tortilla with Red Peppers

And yet, another traditional Spanish recipe. The recipe takes awhile to cook, but is not difficult to make. I practice this recipe every few weeks, I still can't seem to get it quite right but I believe I'm fairly close! However, nobody's tortilla tops Lola's (my Spanish exchange mom).

Spanish Tortilla with Red Peppers
5 small to medium sized yukon gold potatoes
1/2 red bell pepper
4 eggs
1 small white onion
red pepper flakes
olive oil

Start by slicing the potatoes and onion as thin as humanly possible. This is difficult to do and takes some practice, but try to make the potatoes so thin that you can nearly see through them. Place a bit of olive oil in a pan and cook the potatoes and onions for 30-40 minutes. Stir so they do not burn. In the meantime, slice and steam the red pepper. Also, whisk the eggs together and add a touch of salt, black pepper, and red pepper. When the potatoes and onion are cooked (now the potatoes should be nearly translucent), add some of the red peppers to the mixture *save a few for decoration on top of the tortilla. Cook for a couple more minutes and then put the potato and onion mixture in the same bowl as the eggs. Stir. Place a bit more olive oil in the original sauce pan and add the entire mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes, place on a plate, and flip like a pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes on the other side. Place some red pepper on top of the tortilla for decoration and added tastiness.

If you want a more authentic version of Spanish tortilla (Lola's style or 'a la Lola") serve with a bit of mayo on top.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Polenta with Sausage and Porchini Mushroom Sauce

It's easy to create a meal using instant polenta. All you need to do is make the sauce. For this recipe we made a sausage and porchini mushroom sauce. This is a quick and tasty meal you can cook when you're pressed for time.

Sausage and Porchini Mushroom Sauce
1/2 cup dried porchini mushrooms
1 small onion
1garlic clove
1 italian sausage
1 can diced tomatoes
cooking wine
red pepper flakes

Prepare the mushrooms by soaking in approximately 1 cup warm water. Begin by slicing the onion and cooking along with garlic in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. While cooking, take the skin off of the sausage and add to the pan when onion and garlic are cooked. Cook the sausage, and then add the porchini mushrooms. Also add a bit of the water the mushrooms were soaking in and some cooking wine for extra flavor. Cook for about five minutes before adding the can of diced tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes.

Cooking instant polenta is equally easy and a nice substitution for the traditional pasta when using an Italian sauce. Just make sure you stir the polenta the entire time it is cooking to ensure there are no clumps. I am considering expanding my polenta use to include a polenta pizza recipe or possibly breakfast polenta with greek yogurt, honey, and blueberries. Yum!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mango Salsa

I apologize for the hiatus. I was in St. Louis visiting my parents and grandparents this weekend, and all the Euchre  playing left little time for blog updates. This also means that since my mom was cooking, I have very few recipes from the past week, but fortunately I have a backlog and also one drink recipe coming up!

Last week, the Millenium Park summer concert series began with a concert by She and Him. The concert was wonderful and the weather was perfect. Since the concert was outdoors, we decided to have a picnic while the concert was going on. So, I brought some mango salsa to share. The recipe was super easy, affordable, and tasty.

Mango Salsa
2 medium, ripe mangos
1 can black beens
1 can yellow corn
fresh cilantro
1 small can green chilies
1/2 can diced tomatoes
juice from 2 limes
5 green onions
garlic powder

Chop the mangos into small cubed pieces, make sure to take the peel off. Slice the green onions and use the white ends (you can freeze the other end to keep them fresh for use in future recipes). Using a strainer, rince the yellow corn and black beans and add to the recipe. Add the green chilies, tomatoes, and lime juice. Add salt, cumin, and garlic powder to taste. (approximately 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin). Serve with tortilla chips.

Here are a few photos of us enjoying the recipe first hand, on a beautiful Chicago evening.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Seafood Salad

After a weekend of nothing but cooking, D and I were a bit tired of being in the kitchen, and instead opted to cook some easy meals. On a hot, summer evening seafood salad was the perfect solution for us in terms of a quick meal.

I won't even type out the recipe or ingredients because it is simply too easy. But easy does not mean it is not tasty!

If you want to make it yourself, just cook 1/2 bag frozen mixed seafood, and mix together with imitation crab, anchovies, lettuce, and tomato. Add a touch of mayo and serve with lemons. Yum!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

5 Hour Cooking Experiment Part 3: Gnocchi

Last Saturday, D and I spent the day cooking. In the previous entry I discussed how we made homemade pesto and tagliatelle. We also made lots and lots of gnocchi and froze them so we have homemade gnocchi to eat throughout the summer.

Gnocchi, a potato pasta, is one of my favorite Italian dishes. Gnocchi can be paired with any sauce, and trust me...no matter what it is paired with, it is incredibly tasty! Homemade gnocchi is a bit of a project, but is fun for a rainy afternoon.

3 or 4 large potatoes
350 grams of flour for every 500 grams of potatoes

To get started, peel the potatoes and boil them. Boil them for approximately 40 minutes, ensuring they are extra soft and easy to mash. After the potatoes are soft, use a potato masher to mash them. In a bowl, begin adding the flour gradually, and mix until the flour and potatoes are one consistency. You should continue adding flour until the mixture is not sticky (which may require that you add more flour than the recipe calls for)

After the mixture is ready, begin rolling the gnocchi into small strips and cut into pieces with a knife. Roll the pieces over a fork to create the true gnocchi look, and place on a floured baking sheet.Unless cooking for a large group, you should have plenty of gnocchi to freeze and use for future use!

When cooking, place gnocchi in boiling water. You will know the gnocchi is ready when it rises to the top of the pan.

We did it! Hoorah!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

5 Hour Cooking Experiment Part 1 and 2: Tagliatelle and Pesto Sauce

Yesterday there were supposed to be thunderstorms all day, so instead of attempting our original plans D and I decided to spend the day making some tasty food. Of course, the weather turned out not to be as bad as expected, but we still had a good time.

We made three things: tagilatelle (egg noodles), gnocchi, and pesto sauce.

Eggs (approximately 1 egg per person)
100 grams of flour per egg

In a bowl, place the amount of flour you are using. Create a crater in the flour for the eggs, and place the egg whites and yolks in the crater (make a "volcano" as D likes to say). Mix the flour and eggs together until they are of one consistency. Then, roll very thin so that you can see through the dough (this is the hard part!). The thinner the noodles are, the better. I admit in our photos below, the noodles are too thick; although they are still tasty they would be much better if we had been a little bit more patient while rolling the dough. After the dough is rolled, fold the dough using a sort of "trifold" method (see photo below) and cut into strips. Unfold and place on a baking sheet. If you make extra pasta, it should keep for approximately a week in your fridge.

1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
handful pine nuts
1/2 handful walnuts
parmesian cheese
pecorino cheese
40-50 large basil leaves
2 cloves garlic

Making homemade pesto sauce is super easy. Place the olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves, and a handful of pine nuts in the blender and mix until one consistency. Add walnuts and mix again. If the sauce seems too thin or thick to you, add a bit more olive oil (if too thick) or pine nuts (if too thin). Also add the salt. Grate 4 spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese and 2 spoonfuls of pecorino cheese (large spoonfuls). Pour the pesto sauce into a large bowl, add the cheese, and stir. Presto, you have pesto! If you make extra pesto sauce, you can easily freeze the sauce until you are ready to use it.

To Be Continued with our 5 hour cooking experiment part 3: gnochhi

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Patatas Bravas with Chicken and Veggies

I do admit that much of my cooking is Spanish influenced after living there. I do plan on branching out to try other international foods (possibly some Indian, Mexican, something Asian), but I always seem to steer back to the traditional Spanish tapas that I love so much. I have perfected Salmorejo but am still working on the others, including Spanish tortilla and patatas bravas. I've also decided to add another traditional Spanish dish to my repertoire---pulpo a la gallega, which was one of my favorites when I lived in Spain. Pulpo is octopus in Spanish, and when I was shopping in Whole Foods for the sushi meat, I discovered they sell octopus!

Anyways, I guess that is something to look forward to in the future. This week I decided to try patatas bravas, a spicy potato appetizer/side dish, after D told me it was one of his favorites. The dish actually turned out quite well, and we cooked it with some chicken and vegetables.

Patatas Bravas
1 lb small yukon gold potatoes
2tbs red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (I think you are actually supposed to use 3 dried red chilies, but we improvised)
1/2 teaspon cumin
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
1 red or green pepper

Start by boiling the potatoes for about 10 minutes, and then drain the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into small pieces and afterward heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a pan and add the potatoes. The potatoes will need to cook until they are golden and slightly crispy (maybe 20-30 minutes). While they are cooking, cut the garlic into pieces and mix with the red pepper flakes, cumin, vinegar, and a pinch of salt. It is helpful to have a mortar and pistil for this, but if you don't have one it is possible to improvise (like we did). Also while the potatoes are cooking, slice the bell pepper into strips. After the potatoes are golden, add the bell pepper strips and the brava sauce to the potatoes and cook approximately five more minutes.

Chicken and Veggies
Chicken breast or thighs
1 tomato
small onion
dried porchini mushrooms
marinade sauce
cooking wine

This is a recipe that Daniele and I cook frequently, whenever we want to have some chicken mixed with some vegetables. It works well with whatever we have and is very easy. First, we cut the chicken into small cubes and pour some marinade on the chicken. We have a sun dried tomato marinade that we have been using and like very much. While the chicken is marinating, we slice the veggies, in this case: onion, tomato, and broccoli. The broccoli will need to be boiled or steamed for about 5 minutes before cooking it with the chicken. If using porchini mushrooms, they will need to soak in hot water for about 5 minutes to rehydrate before cooking with the chicken. After the veggies are sliced, start by cooking the onion. After 2-3 minutes add the tomatoes and the chicken mixture. When the chicken is approximately halfway cooked, add the broccoli and porchini mushrooms. (We also added some of the water the porchini mushrooms were soaking in to give the chicken some extra mushroom flavor). Add chicken wine to taste and cook for approximately 10 more minutes before serving.

And of course, enjoy!

Today is a rainy day in Chicago, therefore D and I are having a cooking spree. Homemade egg noodles, gnocchi, and pesto sauce coming up! Daniele will be happy, I think he feels slighted that we haven't had any traditional Italian pasta recipes on the blog yet.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Republic Day

On June 2nd, Italy celebrates the anniversary of becoming a Republic (as opposed to a monarchy). Since I have an Italian boyfriend, this means that I also celebrate this holiday. It's kind of like having two independence days, one on June 2 and one on July 4...

Anyways, somehow on this day we were invited by the Italian Consulate to attend an Italian National Day celebration at Navy Pier. This meant free food, free alcohol, and free dessert. How could we possibly say no?

Although we did botch things up by not greeting the Consul in the appropriate manner (we didn't know who he was, I guess we should have looked at a photo, oops) we did enjoy the plentiful free food offerings!

So, although I did not cook these items myself, I present to you the lovely array of Italian dishes we were served for Republic Day, 2010.

I don't even want to think of the number of calories that entered our bodies over the course of this delightful meal....