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!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Risotto with Radicchio and Blue Cheese

D and I stayed with my aunt and uncle for the holiday. They are vegetarians and we offered to cook a meal for letting us stay at their place. We enjoy cooking anyway and preparing a large meal is fun for us and makes it easier for everyone else anyway. Since risotto is usually a vegetarian dish, we decided to prepare two types: porchini mushroom  (the same as this recipe, except without the sun-dried tomatoes), and radicchio and blue cheese.

Radicchio and blue cheese risotto is pretty unique because most risottos use butter or parmesian. I like this risotto because it is a bit different and the blue cheese adds a nice flavor. Also, radicchio is not a vegetable I eat a lot of so this is a nice way to use it.

Radicchio and Blue Cheese Risotto
  • risotto rice 
  • 1 radicchio for every 3-4 people
  • 1 container blue cheese (approximately 8 oz, but to be honest, the more or less blue cheese you throw in will just change the strength of the blue cheese flavor, so you should add the amount you think you and your family will enjoy)
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • vegetable or chicken broth
  • cooking wine
  • salt and pepper
Begin by heating about 1 quart of vegetable or chicken broth and slicing the onion. Cook the onion in a deep pan with about 1 tbs butter and a bit of olive oil. Slice the radicchio. When the onion is cooked, you can add the uncooked rice and about one cup of broth. Stirring will be very important here, make sure you are stirring the recipe all the time so that the rice does not stick to to the bottom of the pan.

Cook the rice for about 15 minutes, adding more broth when the the moisture becomes evaporated into the rice. Add the radicchio, a touch of white cooking wine, and salt and pepper to taste. You will need to cook the mixture for about 20 more minutes, constantly stirring, and adding more broth when the mixture needs more moisture. If you run out of broth, you can use hot water instead. Taste the mixture every five minutes or so, so you are able to judge when the rice is completely cooked.

When the rice is cooked, turn off the burner, add two tablespoons of butter and a container of blue cheese. If desired, you can also add a couple tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Stir in completely and serve warm.

My family is made of blue cheese lovers so they enjoyed this recipe. As you can see below, my grandfather even got excited about the stirring aspect!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Foods

We're finally back in Chicago, and Daniele insists I post a blog in regards to our holiday meals. Traditionally, in Italy Daniele would usually have a salmon and cream pasta with other fish dishes for Christmas Eve dinner. Since we were celebrating here in the US, instead we ate this meal for dinner on Christmas day.

Probably the most impressive of our Holiday Foods included our dessert selection: four different types of macaroons, a traditional Italian Christmas dessert, and a pecan pie cheesecake. My brother made the cookies and the cheesecake. The four flavors of macaroons included: pomegranate with chocolate ganache, orange risotto, lemon, and peppermint.

We also cooked a second family meal of risotto with radicchio and blue cheese-recipe to come in the next few days. Santa was good to us this year and brought us lots of kitchen goodies: a food processor, egg poachers, a salad spinner, a pasta and ravioli maker, a loaf pan, and a crockpot cookbook. I sense many good recipes and blog entries to come! Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Casados and other typical Costa Rican dishes

A quick update from Costa Rica. The trip is great so far, a beautiful 70 degrees with friendly people, beautiful scenery, and great drinks and food.

So far, we've seen San Jose, taken the bus to La Fortuna, and hiked in Volcano Arenal. We took the public bus to and from Arenal Volcano which I consider impressive as we were the only tourists who did that!

And now...about the food. The typical Costa Rican dish is called Gallo Pinto, a mixture of rice and beans. Casados are typically served for lunch. In Spanish, casado means "married' and basically, this includes the rice and beans paired with some type of meat. Daniele and I each had a different type of casado for lunch on our first day.

For dinner on the first day, we went to a Mexican restaurant. Daniele had "tacos ticos." A 'tico' is the name for someone from Costa Rica, so this is supposed to be what type of tacos the ticos enjoy. The tacos were fried with meat in the middle and ketchup, mayo, and mustard on top. They were served over cabbage. I enjoyed a more typical taco dish, and the refried beans were wonderful!

Finally, last night I had a ceviche dish. I was first introduced to ceviche by my Peruvian friends. Ceviche is fish served with lime juice and cilantro. I also enjoyed a mango smoothie.

So far its been a yummy trip, and there is more to come!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lemony Beet Stem Polenta

Yes, you did read that correctly: beet stem polenta.

Before I go into an explanation I must tell my readers that my blog will be taking another hiatus. D and I will be traveling to Costa Rica on Tuesday and will be back in Chicago on the 23rd. Then, on the 24th we head to Columbus Ohio for Christmas, on January 2nd Daniele's mom and sister arrive from Italy, and on January 6th we will be introducing them to my lovely hometown of St. Louis. It will be a busy, hectic month with few updates, but don't worry, there will be plenty of updates and new recipes in the new year! I am hoping for some cookbooks for Christmas, especially crock-pot or ethnic cookbooks ::hint hint, and with lots of photos please:: so I'm sure I will be testing those out in 2011. Also, I'm sure there will be updates throughout December including Costa Rican cuisine and information about the food throughout holiday celebrations.

But now, back to beat stem polenta. My friend Jenna, visiting from Ecuador, came over last week for dinner. She is a vegetarian and told me that she would bring over some veggies for cooking. I admit I was a bit hesitant when she pulled out the stems of beats from her bag (including the leaves). But, we chopped up the stems and greens and sauteed them in olive oil for about 10 minutes with 1/2 an onion, 1 chopped garlic clove, and some salt and red pepper flakes. Afterwords we squeezed the juice of one lemon over the mixture. The sauce was served over polenta and was wonderful! It's amazing what you can do with vegetables, especially the parts that are usually thrown away. Daniele and I might be experimenting with this idea more in the new year, but for now enjoy the polenta-filled photos.

The beet polenta was served with a side-salad and sauteed asparagus.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chicken-Spinach Wrap

Daniele and I went home in late-October for a friend's wedding and my mom made us this tasty dish! We enjoyed it so much that we decided to give it a try on our own. I admit that it wasn't as great as when my mom made it herself, but was still great. Here is the recipe from my mom.

Chicken Spinach Wrap

16 ounces ground chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Culinaria house all purpose rub
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bag (6 ounces) baby spinach
½ Cup cheese (I used Mexican blend)
4 burrito size tortillas

In nonstick skillet, cook chicken, onion, rub and oregano over medium-high heat until chicken loses its pink color and onions are tender (about 12-14 minutes).  Break up meat with side of spoon.  Stir in spinach, cover and cook 1-2 minutes until spinach wilts.  Remove skillet from heat, stir in cheese.  Makes about 4 cups.

Warm tortillas in microwave (maybe 25 seconds).  In center of tortilla put about 1 cup chicken mixture and then roll to enclose like a burrito.

Daniele and I enjoyed these burritos as the recipe is written here, and my mom served with salsa and sour cream. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

To be honest, I sort of threw this recipe together and cannot remember the particular ingredients I used. But most people have a "favorite" banana bread recipe or if not, you can just google one and add chocolate chips. The chocolate chip addition make this recipe perfect for breakfast, and if you heat the slices for about 10 seconds in the microwave, the chips will be warm and melted and wonderful!

Recipe is simple and basically involves mixing together 3 mushed bananas, flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, and chocolate chips and then baking for about an hour. Google a recipe for exact quantities. Some recipes may contain nuts, butter, or vanilla, but essentially they are all the same.

Bake a batch for the holidays and enjoy! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Seafood Risotto

Despite the complaints in regards to the quality of the photos on my last risotto dish, we attempted another. Rice is not the most beautiful thing to take a photo of, but you don't have to look at it for long before you start eating.

I like any risotto and I think among my favorites is radicchio risotto blue cheese (which we will need to feature in the upcoming weeks!), but seafood risotto is also tasty. The only disappointment is that there is no parmesan in this recipe, but that makes it a bit healthier than the others as well.

Seafood Risotto
1/2 bag frozen mixed seafood bag
1 cup risotto rice (for 2 people)
1 garlic clove
hot water
olive oil
1 small onion
1 tablespoon (or extra if you dare!) butter
fresh parsley

Begin by cooking the onion and garlic in some olive oil in a large pan. After the onion is cooked, saute the seafood mix and season with salt and pepper. After about a minute start adding some water to the mixture and gradually add water over the next 20-30 minutes until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is cooked. The exact risotto rice you purchase should give you a better idea of exactly how much water you will need. After the rice is cooked completely, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, and top with fresh parsley.

Warm and great for winter!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spicy Bacon Pasta (Amatriciana)

Yet another simple pasta sauce which we have not yet added to the blog! This pasta sauce is so tasty and so easy to make. Just slice and saute a small onion and garlic clove. Add chopped pancetta, 1/2 teaspoon or less red pepper flakes and cook for 10 minutes. Then add 1 can of tomato paste or plain tomato sauce and you are golden. Just be sure to let the tomato sauce cook into the mixture for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve over any type of pasta (I prefer spaghetti or gnocchi) with parmesan-or even better pecorino-cheese. If you are unable to find pancetta at your local grocery store, you may substitute bacon-for you Hyde Parkers, pancetta is available at Hyde Park Produce, just ask at the deli counter!