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!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin and Shrimp Gnocchi

Raffaele Montella is visiting Chicago and while he is here, one of our favorite things to do together is cook. With him around, he is the chef and I am the ever-so-eager culinary student.

Last week he invited D and myself over and we made a pumpkin and shrimp gnocchi, perfect for the season. It was amazing! I had never used pumpkin in a pasta, and although the process is tedious, I would definitely do it again.

Unfortunately, I don't have the exact recipe, but if you are interested you could use the instructions below and replicate for your own version!

First we peeled, seeded and diced a small pumpkin. We placed the pumpkin in a pot with cool water and boiled until soft, about 25 minutes. Then, we added one package of frozen shrimp, one package of frozen mussels, parsley, and a bit of olive oil.

After about 5 minutes we began boiling water in another pot to cook the gnocchi. Add salt to the water. Mix the gnocchi and pumpkin and shrimp mixture together along with about 1/2 of cup of a pasty mixture of flour, olive oil, and salt.

There you have it. Wonderful!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zuppa Imperiale (Imperial Soup)

Similar to Passatelli Soup, Zuppa Imperiale is another traditional Italian soup for a chilly day. Daniele and I decided to give it a try for something a little different.

Zuppa Imperiale

3 eggs
3 Tbs flour
3.5 Tbs parmesan
1oz butter
chicken broth
Crack the eggs in a bowl and use a mixer on them. At the same time, melt the butter and let it cool down to room temperature. Add the flour, parmesan and butter to eggs and mix it all together. Add a little bit of nutmeg, salt and pepper to the mix.
Grease a small pan (or just cover it with parchment paper) and pour the mix into it, spreading it so that it is of a uniform thickness (around 1/2 cm). Put it into a pre-heated oven at 350 F, for around 30 minutes, or until the surface becomes a golden crust.
Take it out of the oven, let it cool down and cut into little cubes (1/2 cm side).
Prepare some chicken broth and bring it to boil, then dump the cubes into it and let them boil for around 5 minutes. Serves 2-3 people.
If you want, you can also make more cubes than you need, then freeze the cubes after you cut them. Then you’ll just have to dump the frozen cubes into the boiling broth and let them boil for a little longer than you would for fresh ones.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crockpot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Sauce

Post-marathon, I knew I would be needing some serious carbs. I also knew that I would want to celebrate, but I wouldn't want to cook.

My solution was to cook a pasta sauce in the crockpot the day before I ran the marathon, and invite everyone in Chicago who supported my marathon efforts over for dinner the evening after I completed the marathon. All I would need to do was warm the sauce up and cook the pasta. And it worked! This sauce was a big hit and I will make it for a dinner party again.

Crockpot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta Sauce
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, dried and sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspooon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thights
  • 12 ozs broccoli florets
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
Begin by microwaving onion, 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, thyme, and red pepper flakes in a bowl for five minutes. Place in slow cooker.

Add the broth, wine, and chicken seasoned with salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook for 6 hours on low.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred into bite sized pieces.

Microwave broccoli with 1 tablespoon oil for about eight minutes until soft. Stir chicken and broccoli back into sauce and cook for five more minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes. Serve warm over pasta.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Salad

Sorry about the lack of blog posts! Daniele and I have had a very busy fall, and although the cooking continues, neither of us have had a lot of extra time to write the blog entries. I still have them stored though and will continue to post as time allows.

This recipe is actually my Aunt's, and I made it for a potluck earlier this week. It was a huge hit! (Not to mention easy to make and healthy).

Sweet Potato Salad
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (cayenne)

Pour about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil over potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper flakes. Roast at 400 for about 25-35 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir once or twice during cooking.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons lime juice. You can add more salt and pepper but I don't really think you need it if you seasoned the potatoes. Rinse and drain 1 can of black beans.  Add beans, potatoes and onions to dressing.  Stir gently. Refrigerate a few hours to mix flavors.

That's it! Easy! Try it for your next potluck.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Bagels

One day pre-marathon in order to ensure I was eating enough carbs, I prepared apple bagels. I used the same general quantities of flour and yeast as our original recipe but changed the flavor from cinnamon raisin to apple cinnamon.

Before mixing the flour together, I caramelized the apples. I cored and chopped two large apples and cooked for 20 minutes on the stove with one tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon,1 teaspoon vanilla, and a pinch of salt and nutmeg.

Then, I mixed the apples in with the flour and yeast proportions in the cinnamon raisin recipe and followed all of the original instructions.

The bagels were great. In hindsight, I would have also added a touch of sugar and cinnamon to the dough, but this recipe was great served with peanut butter, which was absolute perfection for my needs of both protein and carbs both pre and post marathon.

Potato, Green Bean, and Pesto Salad

Last weekend, Daniele and I prepared some of our homemade pesto sauce. 

I had found an idea online for a potato, green bean, and pesto salad and I was convinced we needed to try it. It was simple, and incredibly tasty. If you're looking for a different way to use your pesto (or need a side dish to take to a potluck) try this one!

Just slice and boil some yukon gold potatoes for about ten minutes. Chop and add the green beans and boil for about 5 more minutes. Drain. Top with pesto sauce, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and pine nuts. Serve.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

Hey everyone! I'm back to writing for the blog because Laura just ran a marathon, so she's been busy with other stuff. I know that it has suddenly become warm again, but until a week and a half ago it seemed like winter was coming already, and we were all set into 'soup' mood. (As you can probably tell from the last couple of blog entries...)
Anyway, this is my traditional Italian soup contribution:
Pasta e Fagioli
1/2 lbs dried beans
1/2 can tomato paste/crushed tomatoes/tomato puree
olive oil
100 gr flour
1 egg
We used black beans because we had those lying around, but feel free to use pinto beans or whatever you prefer. If you are using dried beans, you will need to soak them in water at least half a day in advance (I put them in a covered bowl full of water in the morning to cook them for dinner). If you are using beans from a can, you will need to count twice or three times as many beans.
After the beans are done soaking, you should boil them for around an hour and a half. While that happens, chop the onion and celery and heat some oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, cook the celery and onion together until they start getting soft. At that point, add the tomato (whatever form of tomato you prefer is fine, we had
an open can of tomato paste, so that's what we used), salt, a good amount of pepper and some rosemary.
When you can find some time, you should make some fresh pasta (just like in a previous recipe) with that flour and egg. Roll it as thin as it goes and then cut irregular triangles out of it (this is what are called 'maltagliati' literally 'badly cut'). If you are lazy and/or don't have a pasta maker, you can just buy some pasta, in that case I would recommend something small like mezze penne or elbows (definitely not spaghetti nor fettucine).
Once the beans are boiled for long enough, take half of them out of the water and put them in a blender or food processor until they become a paste. Then dump them, together with the rest of the whole beans and the water you boiled them in, in the pan where you had the onion/celery/tomato cooking. Salt some more and let it all boil together covered for 20 minutes.
If you have fresh homemade pasta, you can at this point put it into the pan with everything else for 2-3 minutes and it will be ready. If you are using pasta from a box, instead, you will have to boil it separately and then add it to the rest of the soup once it's done.
Serves 4 people. Don't forget to have some parmesan on the table to grate on top of the soup!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tortilla Soup

If you're going to make one soup recipe from this blog, this is the one I suggest. This tortilla soup turned out perfectly! Just the right amount of spicy, just the right amount of well...just about everything. I give it an A++, and I'm a harsh judge. The last chili I made, for example, was awarded a B.

So, grab a jar of your favorite salsa and a bag of your favorite tortilla chips, and throw this one together...

Tortilla Soup
  • 1 teaspooon oil
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 pounds chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Avocado
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
Heat the oil in a skillet and add tomato, onion, and half of jalepenos. Cook for ten minutes. Stir in the garlic, 1 tablespoon chipotles, and tomato paste and cook for one minute. Stir in one cup broth and transfer to slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining broth. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to slow cooker. Cover and cook 6 hours on low.

Transfer chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Stir the shredded chicken back into the soup with teh remaining jalepenos and chipotles. Let sit for about five minutes and serve warm with your crushed tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, and avocado.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Curried Chicken Breasts

D and I are getting back into using the crockpot again. I've wanted to expand my culinary expertise outside of Italian foods for awhile, so I decided to make this curried chicken breast recipe last week.

Curried Chicken Breasts
2 onions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tabelspoons minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tabelspoon tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons Minute rice
3 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup plain full-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup almonds

Microward onions, garlic, ginger, curry powder, oil, and tomato paste for five minutes ad put in slow cooker.

Stir broth and rice into the slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to slow cooker as well. Cook for 6 hours on low.

Stir in raisins and let sit for about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and cover to keep warm. Combine 1/4 cup braising liquid with yogurt, and then stir the entire mixture back into the slow cooker.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice, with almonds sprinkled over the top.

Even though Daniele despises yogurt, he still enjoyed this recipe. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Porcini Mushroom Pasta

In the mood for a quick meal, Daniele decided upon pasta with a porcini mushroom sauce.

To prepare the sauce, hydrate a generous handful of dried porcini mushrooms in warm water for ten minutes. Melt a teaspoon butter in a skillet and add porcini mushrooms and a few splashes of white wine. Keep the sauce warm on a low setting.

Cook the pasta. Use the extra water from hydrating the mushrooms as a part of the water you will cook the pasta. When the pasta has almost finished cooking, add minced fresh parsley to your mushroom sauce.

Serve the pasta and sauce together, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beef Chili

I was never a huge fan of chili, but yet, when the weather starts turning cold I always get excited about that very first batch. I have featured three different types of chili on this blog: vegetarian chili, white chicken chili, and turkey chili. I took note of these three types and realized that I had never made for Daniele just a traditional, beef chili. I knew that needed to be the first chili of the season.

I am also excited about making a couple other chili spin-offs this fall/winter including: Moroccan Beef Chili with Chickpeas and Raisins, Black Bean Chili, and maybe even Tequila and Lime Turkey Chili.

But for now, back to the traditional version:

Beef Chili
  • 1 slice sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound+ ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 onions, minced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz can tomato puree
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tabelspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons minced can chipotle chili in adobo sauce
Begin by mashing the bread and milk together in a large bowl, and mixing in the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. 

Heat oil in a skillet and add the onions, chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for ten minutes. Add in beef mixture until cooked, approximately five minutes. Stir in one cup of tomato puree. Transfer to slow cooker.

Stir remaining tomato puree, diced tomatoes, beans, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chipotles into the slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low.

Serve warm. Top with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Fall has arrived which means cooler weather is here and it's time to bring out the crockpot! I always get a bit excited at the beginning of what I call 'soup season' because in this time period there are so many wonderful and creative ways to use fresh vegetables in soup. I could make a soup every day during the fall and winter months, and no two soups would be the same! But, the best part is that I don't have to make a soup everyday, because when I start making soups in the crockpot I have lunch leftovers for Daniele and myself for at least a few days. Oh, so wonderful.

I began "soup season" with a curried cauliflower soup. Something a bit different than what I'm used to when it comes to soup, but according to Daniele this soup was a great success (and quite easy to make).

Curried Cauliflower Soup
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspooons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
Microwave the onion, oil, curry powder, and ginger in a bowl for five minutes.

Stir broth and cauliflower into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 6-8 hours on low.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Feel free to do this in small batches. Stir in the cream and add additional chicken broth if needed. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

So easy! It's great. More soups are on the way...including a tortilla soup I will be making this week and a couple different twists on chili.

I apologize for the poor-quality photo. Admittedly, this is not a very photogenic soup. But that doesn't mean it didn't taste great!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Nile

If you live in Chicago and know me very well, you have probably heard me speak of my favorite restaurant in Hyde Park: The Nile.

While you may not be impressed when looking through the window at the plain walls and cafeteria-like tables, don't let the decorations discourage you from entering. Even though this is a Mediterranean restaurant with an almost entirely Asian staff, do not be deceived. They know how to cook their Mediterranean dishes, and even 'Check Please' agrees: voted best Middle Eastern restaurant in Chicago.

The Nile may be one of the few places left where you can go with two people, split a meal, pay less than $20, and still have leftovers for the next day. Oh, and it's also BYOB.

My suggestions are as follows:
  • Appetizer-Hummus
  • Yellow Lentil Soup (one comes with the meal, and we always order one extra)
  • Main course-chicken shawarma (I always get extra Greek yogurt because they have the best here)
It's awesome, and worth a trip from wherever you live in Chicago (or wherever you are staying when you happen to be visiting Chicago). And they're friendly, too. (In case you leave your camera sitting on the table they will collect it for you and hold onto it until you figured out where you lost it. Not that I've done that before or anything!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Zucchini Fritters

A few weeks ago, this caught my eye on my favorite foodie blog, so we decided to give it a go.

We made the recipe as written on smitten kitchen, but we left out the onion. My pictures didn't turn out as well as her's but, the dinner was still delightful. Since you can read the exact recipe on smitten kitchen, I will only summarize here.

Basically, you're going to take two shredded zucchini (better to shred instead of put on the regular setting in the food processor, as I made the mistake of doing) and drain the water. Mix the dried (and salted) zucchini with an egg, pepper, flour, and baking powder. Heat some oil up on your skillet, and cook the mixture kind of like you would cook pancakes. Serve with sour cream or greek yogurt and lemon zest. I also think tomato puree would be good to top this off!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Preview

Over Labor Day weekend, D and I traveled to St. Louis to take care of some of the wedding details. We had a wine tasting, cupcake tasting, and food tasting. Everything was great. Here is a preview of what is to come...

Wine tasting:

Cupcake tasting (kudos to my brother for engineering these fantastic cupcakes!):

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Feta, Olive, and Lamb Meatballs

I'm back! The past month and a half has been busier than expected. I've been putting in a lot of hours at work and as the marathon creeps closer and closer, training has picked up intensity and I've found myself with not a whole lot of time for cooking and blogging. Although entries will probably be sparse for the next month or so, don't worry, the blogging will continue!

Also, vegetarians, do not grow weary. I realize that in my absence, Daniele turned this blog into something meat-centric. And my lamb meatballs are not going to help with that! What can I say? When you are running 30-40 miles a week your body needs...protein in a way that garbanzo beans and peanut butter just can't cut it. As someone who has strong vegetarian tendencies myself, don't worry, I'll bring the vegetarian back! (coming up: zucchini fritters and cauliflower curry soup).

I also haven't forgotten about my dear friend, the crockpot. She'll make a comeback, too, especially since we're inching closer to fall which means...time for soup!

Alright, on to the recipe.

Feta, Olive, and Lamb Meatballs (borrowed from allrecipes.com)
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Preheat your oven's broiler on the normal setting.

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. Roll into balls and place 2-3 inches apart on a baking sheet.

Broil 3-5 inches away from the heat for about 10 minutes (or until browned on top). Flip meatballs over and broil for 10 minutes on the other side.

You can see how much Daniele hated this one (as he scrapes every last drop of the meatballs off of the baking sheet and into his mouth).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


And this is the last of my recipes for now, I'll handle back the blog to Laura after this. But before that happens, here you have another easy and fun meat dish to make.

  • 1lb minute steak (or other very thin beef, or veal) 
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto 
  • parmesan 
  • sage 
  • oil 
  • salt 
  • pepper 
  • cooking wine 
  • wooden toothpicks
You will need some very thin meat, beef will do, or veal, or even chicken breast, as long as the slices are thin enough. You want to cut it into roughly rectangular strips, say about 5x2 inches (but feel free to adjust to the shape and size of the meat you have).

Lay down the meat and lay on top of it one or two slices of prosciutto and some parmesan cheese which you'll have cut into small slices (I guess shredded could do too, if you only have that). You can make a variation by substituting your favorite kind of cheese.

Roll up the meat and secure it with the toothpicks, paying attention to try to close up the sides, otherwise all the cheese will leak out when you cook them.

If you have fresh sage, you can stick a leaf on each roll.

Heat up some oil in a pan, and put the rolls in, turning them so that they brown for a couple of minutes. Add salt, pepper, dry sage if you didn't have any fresh one (or some other kind of herb, depending on what you have around) and a little bit of cooking wine or water. 

Cover with a lid and cook the Involtini for 10-15 minutes, they will probably be done once you see a little bit of cheese leaking out.

That's it! Serve right away, together with their delicious cooking juice.