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!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Slow Cooker Tortilla with Lime-Garlic Aioli

That's right, I made Spanish tortilla in a crock pot! This recipe was from one of my crockpot cookbooks and needless to say, I was a bit curious to try it out. All my readers know how much I love the slow cooker. I've actually been trying to get away from that lately but no such luck...the crockpot is so easy and convenient, I love having dinner ready for me when I get home and I especially love that I can smell it as I am walking up the stairs to my apartment...That being said, we do have some non-slow cooker recipes in the works for this week including a lime marinated swordfish steak and a spring vegetable couscous. Spring is FINALLY here!

As a sidenote before I get into the recipe, I now have five entries for my blogger contest (which ends tomorrow). Submit your entries by 11:59pm on May 1st, and the photos will be posted for reader vote on May 2nd in the evening. I don't usually get that many comments so if the reader vote doesn't pan out, Daniele and I will need to dictate a winner. We will play fair, I promise. Reader voting 'rules' will be posted on May 2nd with the submissions.

Slow Cooker Tortilla
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small thin pieces
9 eggs
1/4 cup chopped salami
1 large minced egg
1 minced red pepper
6 minced garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
olive oil

Begin by lining your slow cooker with aluminum foil cover and spray with vegetable oil spray (I admit I did not do this second step and my tortilla stuck to the foil, so be sure to do this, it was very frustrating!). Chop vegetables according to the instructions above. Microwave potatoes and 1/4 cup olive oil in a covered bowl, stirring occasionally, about seven minutes.

In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and add onions, bell pepper, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 8 minutes. Toss into bowl with potatoes. Transfer this mixture into the slow cooker and smooth into an even layer. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl and pour over potatoes. Cover and cook on low for four hours and then serve warm or cold depending on how you like it.

This tortilla was a hit, especially with the salami, and could be prepared in the more traditional way if you don't have a slow cooker. But, part of what made this recipe so great was the garlic aioli that I prepared with it. Using my food processor (which I love nearly as much as the slow cooker and is also something you should invest in...I mean, I never need to mince another onion again!) I processed 1 large egg yolks, juice of 1 lime, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of salt, sugar, and pepper together until combined. Then, I drizzled 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons olive oil in the food processor while it was still running. Run the food processor for about one minute until the mixture is smooth, and then serve with your tortilla. I know your mom always told you not to eat raw eggs but, I did, I haven't died yet, and it was great!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Italian Easter Desserts

Last Sunday D and I celebrated Easter. Our homemade tortellini referenced in the previous posted-and to be written about shortly-was a success. In March, we made a trip to St. Louis and ventured into the Italian neighborhood-The Hill. There, we were able to find and purchase traditional Italian desserts. Since D told me that it just couldn't be Easter without these desserts-thank goodness we found them!

The first we opened in the morning-a huge hollow chocolate egg with a toy in the center (a keychain in our case) Daniele was far more excited about the keychain than he should have been!

The second-Colomba (Meaning 'dove" because the dessert is supposed to look like a dove) we had after a potluck dinner hosted by my friend Peggy. The potluck was wonderful and included a wide array of breads with spread, duck, cabbage, salad, and dessert monkey bread.

Enjoy our photos of us finding the Italian desserts, eating the Italian desserts, and other photos of our glorious potluck below!

Also, this will be one of my final plugs for the reader contest. Deadline approaching! Four entries and I have heard a fifth one is coming, so get yours in today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Homemade Pasta Success!

No matter how good of a cook you are, there are times where you fail at completing your recipe the way you had intended. Throughout this blog I had reported two pasta making failures. The first, last summer, before we had a pasta maker and tried to make tagliatelle by hand. It was simply impossible to roll the dough thin enough. The second, when we attempted to make ravioli and the dough was too dry.

This time though, we finally succeeded. Using our tagliatelle recipe posted the first time we attempted to make pasta, we managed to roll out the dough and served our homemade pasta with homemade bolognase sauce.Tasty!

Today we will be giving the pasta maker another shot and will be making homemade tortellini. Hopefully they turn out better than our ravioli did!

Don't forget about the reader contest. Get your entries in by May 1st. Four contest entries have been submitted already.


Friday, April 22, 2011

First (and only?) 2011 Picnic

A couple weeks ago it was 85 degrees on a Sunday afternoon. Chicago had bypassed Spring and gone straight to summer...or so I thought. As I look out my window now I realize it's more like we had winter, Spring for 1 week, Summer for 1 day, and are now back to winter again.

Anyways, D and I figured the 85 degree weather would not be an ongoing trend and took the time to go outside on a picnic and enjoy the sunshine, making use of one of D's birthday gifts...(yes, the final birthday post!)...a cooler.

We packed some lovely BLT sandwiches, pretzels, fruits, cookies, and juice and headed to the lake. It was grand. D is obviously very excited about his new cooler, which holds 30 cans of beer.Please, summer, come back!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Birthday Cake Bites

I feel as if I have been talking about Daniele's birthday forever. His birthday does only last one day, just like everyone else, and yet, I have managed to cover it in three posts (1: on his actual birthday, 2: a review of his birthday dinner, and 3: this one) spanning two weeks! I even have a fourth post in the works which will document the first time he used one of his birthday gifts, which does involve food. Way too much birthday celebrating for Daniele if you ask me!

Anyways, the weekend after D's birthday we had some of his friends over for a party. He wanted a birthday cake and we were busy that weekend, and therefore planned to go with something simple. Nothing difficult, just plain white cake from a box with lemon icing and some candles.

Well, disaster struck and my cake crumbled. The problem then was to figure out...what in the world do you do with a crumbled birthday cake? Birthday cake bites! With some help from google, I invented a recipe which was a huge success. Our guests thought I had made these birthday cake bites on purpose and were begging for the recipe. All 35 bites were devoured in a matter of seconds...

Conclusion: If you ever wind up with a crumpled cake, you should make birthday cake bites. Or, maybe you should even crumple it on purpose!

Birthday Cake Bites
1 box white cake mix (or any flavor for that matter!)
approximately 1 cup flavored coffee creamer
bakers chocolate

Bake your cake according to the instructions on the box. Most cake mixes will require eggs and oil. Let the cake cool after cooking and then crumple the cake in a large bowl. Mix in one cup coffee creamer (or maybe slightly more). I used vanilla but you can use whatever flavor you like. Once thoroughly mixed together, roll the mixture into small balls and put in the freezer for one hour.

Using a fondue pot, or in a small pot on the stove, melt together butter and baker's chocolate. Dip each birthday cake bite into the chocolate. Feel free to also coat in sprinkles!

After coating in chocolate and/or sprinkles, place on a baking sheet covered in wax paper and keep in the freezer until serving.

I already have three entries for my reader contest. Don't forget to get yours in!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gobi Matar

I mentioned in a post a few weeks back that D and I tried an Indian cooking class at Naveen's Cuisine. I gave the class rave reviews, it was great and I can't wait to go back!

Of course, we purchased the spices and tried our own hand at the recipes. The chicken dish turned out okay but I think we need to make our own adjustments to the recipe in order to make it more tasty (our version was a bit bland) before posting here. However, the cauliflower and pea dish was great! I guess I shouldn't give myself such a hard time over the chicken...I had three people come into my office the day I had leftovers and comment on how good my lunch smelled.

Anyways, I'm not going to post the chicken recipe here just yet, I'll save that for a rainy day. But, if you are itching for the recipe just contact me and I'll be glad to forward it to you.

Gobi Matar is easy to make, and could be a meal in and of itself. Recipe is property of Naveen, of course, but I am reproducing here with our own adjustments.

Gobi Matar
1 head cauliflower, cut into small chunks
1.5 cups frozen peas (make sure to use frozen, otherwise they will turn into pea mash!)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced thin
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
4 tbs vegetable oil

Heat oil in a pan and add cauliflower chunks and ginger. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes. Once the cauliflower begins to get soft, add spices and peas. Continue cooking for about 15 more minutes, until cauliflower and peas are both to the desired softness. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice, toast, or naan (if you have it).

P.S. Don't forget about my reader contest.  Ends May 1!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Demera Ethiopian Restaurant: Chicago

As you all probably read in a previous post, Daniele's birthday was Thursday, April 7th. To have a day-of celebration, we decided to eat out at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant.

Let me preface this by saying that I have not traditionally done restaurant reviews on this blog. However, given that the number of readers on my blog has increased, I'd like to try to write more often. I think that keeping this blog with a general food focus and also blogging about restaurants we eat at could be one way for me to do that. Also because I feel like we're eating out more often lately. This weekend we are attending CIMM Fest and will be eating out in Wicker Park both tonight and tomorrow. And on Thursday, my cousin Julie is visiting from Namibia (on a break from the Peace Corps) and we will be meeting her at a fine Mexican establishment.  I also might write about unique products/ingredients that I come across. It just depends!

So, back to the review. I had actually purchased a Groupon ($40 for $20) at Demera about a year ago. Daniele and I had eaten at Demera before and loved it, but I guess we got busy and never got around to going...for a full year! Demera is pretty far up north, right across the street from The Green Mill.

Right now, Demera is under a bit of construction which doesn't make the place too visibly appealing, but that doesn't matter. I promise if you go here you will get good food and good service at a great price. You will be happy. If you have never tried Ethiopian (or even if you have) you will probably not have any idea what to order. But to be honest, it doesn't even matter because everything at this restaurant is good. Just pick a few things. Or, ask the manager, who is very friendly and would be glad to tell you his favorite dishes (which is almost everything on the menu). I highly suggest the goden tibs (very fatty lamb ribs): not for picky eaters as this will be an extremely fatty and undercooked piece of lamb, but it might be one of the best things I've ever eaten. That won't work for you vegetarians and vegans out there, but there are actually plenty of dishes that you will be able to eat. I like the gomen and could probably eat it everyday for the rest of my life (seasoned and cooked kale) but it was not Daniele's favorite.

Anyways my point is, go here. If you haven't had Ethiopian, try it. If you don't like it, who cares, your horizons will be broadened! Oh, and try the honey wine. Very sweet, but tasty, and goes well with their spicy dishes (which aren't really THAT spicy, don't be scared).

Our only disappointment for the evening was with the dessert...but our waiter quickly provided a satisfactory solution. For Daniele's birthday, we really wanted to try the hibist volcano for dessert. But, they were out! The waitress offered the tiramisu on the house. Now, we're all for free stuff, but neither of us really like tiramisu because of the strong coffee flavor. However, we were much to quick to judge because this tiramisu was the best I've ever had, and Daniele would probably make a similar remark.

Okay, so if I haven't sold you yet, I'm probably not going to. Go visit Demera. You will not be let down!

I guess I should have added a long time ago one thing that is special about Ethiopian is that you don't use silverware! Rather, you use a special bread to scoop up your main dish. So, not only is the food tasty but it is also fun to eat. And, could be fun for kids as well, because although some kids may not be willing to try many new foods...they might still find it fun to eat with their hands!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

A couple of weekends ago, I made baked potato soup. One of my favorites from when I was a kid, and this one really hit the spot.

Just a disclaimer to all my readers out there who claim they can't cook my recipes because they don't have a crockpot. Well, first of all, you should get one! But second of all, that's not true. I think any of these recipes could be replicated using a more traditional oven or stove method-I just can't give you the cooking times.

But for now, back to the soup, which was awesome and again, an adapted recipe from SlowCooker Revolution.

Baked Potato Soup
8 slices bacon
1 minced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablepoons flour
4 cups chicken broth
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Cook the bacon until crisp, set aside. Pour all of the grease out of the pan except 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add your onion, garlic, and thyme to the fat and cook until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Add flour and then 1 cup broth. Place mixture in slow cooker.

Stir 3 cups broth and potatoes into crockpot and cook for 6 hours on a low setting. After cooked, mash most of the potatoes, stir cheddar into soup, and mix in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 more minutes until warm throughout. Serve with extra cheddar, chives, bacon, and whatever other goodies you want!

This soup is great. Feel free to make any additions that make things more suitable for your own taste.

Just a couple of reminders, if you haven't already, check out my new running tab which will give you updates on my marathon training progress. And secondly don't forget about my reader contest. Deadline: May 1st. I already have one submission (in addition to Amanda's submission from earlier), so get your entries in. We would be glad to cook you dinner!

Alright, now back to my kitten! That's right...kitten! I have a new foster kitten---9 weeks old, so adorable and cute...must...play...with...kitten.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

First ever reader contest

That's right, reader contest! Get excited....

My best friend, Amanda, sent me an email last week to let me know that she had made the Spanish tortilla recipe that had been posted on my blog. She also included a photo of her own creation.

And that's when I got an idea! If I have 800 page views per month, why not do a reader contest and ask people to send me photos of recipes they have created or adapted from this blog. It will be fun. And, there can be a prize, I mean, why not? If you are the winner of the contest and are located within 50 miles of the greater Chicago area, D and I will have you over for a home-cooked meal. If you are from someplace else, well...we'll try to think of something.

I know that not everyone will participate, but I do hope that there are at least a few of you out there who will. I am hoping for at least 3 entries in addition to Amanda's. So here are the details:

1) Cook a recipe posted on this blog. Feel free to adapt the recipe to suit your own taste

2) Take a photo of your final product

3) Email the photo to me at LeFillenwarth@gmail.com

4) Deadline: May 1, 2011

5) Any and all entries will be posted on my blog. Depending on participation levels, Daniele and I will decide the 'winner' or, we can try a reader vote. I don't usually get too many comments so we can try the vote concept, but who knows if it will work.

6) Photos will be judged in the following manner: 34% quality of photograph, 33% how tasty the food looks, 33% overall creativity in adapting the recipe/photographing your food

7) If you get really excited, feel free to submit more than one entry! Not that I expect anyone to do that...

So, if you have ever cooked anything from this blog, submit a photo. You have 3 weeks so get moving!

Here is Amanda's photo (which will be entered into our 'contest')

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Chicken Tacos

As mentioned in my last post, two weekends ago Daniele and I went to St. Louis. Things did not go quite as expected. I had planned a very relaxing weekend full of outdoor activities. The week leading up to our trip was between 60-80 degrees so I was planning on a weekend of hot tubbing, wineries, BBQ's, and walking around Forest Park. Instead, mother nature showed her power in full force and it snowed about 6 inches.

Therefore, on Saturday night, we could not have our BBQ and hot tubbing extravaganza like we had expected. Instead we had 'mexican night' and my mom made chicken tacos (in the crockpot!) and mango salsa and we had a few margaritas with our dinner. Although things did not go as expected...this was the perfect substitution.

Unfortunately, I don't know the recipe. However, in my new slow cooker cookbook there are a couple of great looking filler recipes for mexican dishes that I imagine would be quite similar...I think I'll try it out next week.

But for now, enjoy these colorful taco photos. Don't let your mouth water too much!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daniele!

Today is my partner's birthday. Two weekend's ago, we were in St. Louis and my brother baked him one of his famous cakes per Daniele's request. I can't remember exactly what the cake was called, but it was some sort of traditional Italian noodle cake (because you know, Italians like their pasta!). Tonight we will celebrate by eating out at an Ethiopian restaurant and this weekend we are having a party with a few of his friends.

Happy 28th birthday to my understanding, loving, and wonderful partner!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken

You may notice that my blog got a facelift! Welcome to the new and improved version. I never realized that blogger had so much functionality and I started exploring last night and added a whole bunch of new features. Did you know that I have had over 660 hits in the last month? Not too shabby! So, thank you everyone for visiting.

Apparently, through blogger I  have access to my blog 'stats' and can tell where everyone in the world is located when they read my blog(who knew?!). Apparently I have had readers in the United States, Italy, Israel, Spain, Canada, the Netherlands,  Germany, the UK, Ecuador, France, South Korea, India and Russia. Pretty awesome! Looking at the stats it seems that I have somewhat regular readers in those first six countries. I can take some educated guesses as to who those people are but for some countries I honestly have no idea...for example, who are my readers in Israel and Canada? India? France? Russia? Leave a comment, I would love to know who you are!

Also, I realized that apparently my dessert posts have been very popular. I don't make desserts very often but it seems that people are interested in them...I guess I will have to make more desserts. In fact, my recipe with the most 'hits' was the time that my brother write a guest blog about his Pomegranate Cheesecake. 207 page hits on that one recipe. In fact, almost all of my desserts made my 'most popular entries' list. Very interesting. I guess I will need to have Brian guest blog more often. and I also got the message...make more desserts! Check.

Also, thank you to other blogs who have referred me. I especially appreciate my friends at Hyde Park Cats, a cat rescue I work with occasionally. And as long as I am on a 'thank you' bandwagon I suppose I should thank my wonderful partner, because it is much easier to cook for two than one. I love sharing the experience of cooking and appreciate his support. He always reminds me to take photos of my new recipes and is usually one of the first people reading my posts, and hopefully finding the spelling errors and making corrections before most of you read.

Anyways I guess I am a little bit late on this blog remodel and stat analysis, but late is better than never. Thank you for following or reading my blog and I hope you continue to read and make comments. I hope to add some 'tabs' to my blog in the near future, I am running a half marathon and a full marathon this year and want to track my progress. I would like to know at the end of the marathon, how many hours and miles did I run. I mean, if I'm doing it I should at least have a total, right? So, that addition will come in the next few weeks. But for now, today's recipe.

I guess I have just gotten a little more serious about this whole blogging business!
This Jerk Chicken recipe was also taken from my wonderful new Slow Cooker cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution. I know some of you may have read about how I lost my other crock pot cookbook while we were moving...well...yesterday I found it! So, now I have two! But, I'm actually glad because we really enjoyed this recipe, and being on the tight budget we are, this was a great recipe for us to make. Don't be afraid of the habanero chiles, it is really quite tasty.

Jerk Chicken
8 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 habanero chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 inch fresh ginger
2 tablespoons molasses
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tabelspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 lbs bone-in, skin-on, chicken pieces
lime wedges

Puree scallions, oil, habaneros, ginger, molasses, garlic, thyme, allspice, and salt in a food processor and transfer 1/4 cup into the food processor, saving the rest of the mixture. Add the chicken to teh slow cooker and coat evenly with the mixture. Cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Heat oven broiler. Place chicken to baking sheet and brush with remaining sauce. Cook in over for 10-15 minutes, flip, and cook 5-10 minutes longer. Serve with lime wedges.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kale Salad

When I went grocery shopping last weekend at our local Treasure Island, I had to laugh a the ridiculous prices of lettuce. I mean, $3.59 a pound! (something like that). I pretty much gave into the fact that we were not going to have salad all week long. But then I noticed the greens...kale...on sale for $.50 a pound!

I decided to give it a go, although I had no idea how to use kale for salads or in recipes for that matter. Luckily, the very next day I received a newsletter from Whole Foods with a recipe for kale salad! We gave it a go and were very happy. Although it won't replace our need for a more traditional salad, it was nice for a change.

Kale Salad
kale (obviously)
chili powder
lemon juice
olive oil
dried pomegranate seeds or cranberries (optional)

Basically, chop the kale into very small pieces and add all ingredients to the salad. Quantities depend on how much salad you are using, but for one entire 'head' of kale you might want to use 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt to taste.

We found the salad very pleasant and especially liked it with the dried pomegranate seeds that you can purchase at Trader Joe's. So, if you're looking for a slight change to your salad-eating behaviors...maybe this is it!