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, May 31, 2011

Caprese Panini

Last weekend, Daniele and I visited the friendly University of Chicago Pub (aka 'The Pub'). We split a few pitchers of beer with some friends and when The Pub closed, we began the long walk home to 53rd Street. I was in the mood for a late night snack and knew we had fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato.

Therefore, upon return to our humble abode I made a wonderfully tasty caprese panini on my George Forman grill. Highly recommended for you to try at home.

Sorry for the long hiatus, more recipes to come. I just got back in town from running a half marathon in Boston. Check my running tab for updates!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Paramount Room

Last weekend, Daniele and I headed to The Paramount Room with a couple friends of ours per their recommendation. I admit that when I looked at the menu online I was not too impressed. On one hand, with a menu filled with burgers and sandwiches it's hard to go wrong, but then again, it's also hard to stand out. My initial reaction was completely unjustified, as The Paramount Room is a true Chicago gem!

The location is a bit off the beaten path, it's not someplace where you would 'wind up' if you are 'in the neighborhood' so it does take a special trip. But, I highly recommend making one. With "no crap on tap" (per their menu), you can order many wonderful draft beers and the food is equally high quality. I ordered the Reuben sandwich, which was the best Reuben I've had quite possibly my whole life, and I love Reubens so that says a lot. My sandwich was served with season fries with garlic aioli, a nice substitute for ketchup. Daniele ordered a chicken sandwich and Jeff and Lea both ordered a burger-everyone was happy with their choices. Daniele and Lea substituted their fries for fried green beans with a spicy sauce, equally as wonderful as the fries.

The food, beer, and company was fantastic. And I haven't even mentioned the atmosphere. The servers were friendly and welcoming, the decor was sort of a vintage-pub style, and the music playing fit the mood of the restaurant. I highly recommend you go check this place out! I'm happy to go with you for another one of those Reuben sandwiches...

By the way, my apologies in advance, but my blog will probably go on hiatus for most of the next week as I prepare for and run a half-marathon in Boston....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chicken with Cream and Tarragon

The Foccacia bread (in the previous post) was very fantastic, and what made it even more fantastic was the main course it was paired with. I spent one cold, rainy Sunday cooking both the bread and this wonderful dish of chicken with cream and tarragon. Seriously one of those most awesome combinations I've had in a long time.

Chicken with Cream and Tarragon
  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable iol
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • handful fresh minced tarragon
Begin by cooking 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add the chicken and brown for 5 minutes, flipping once. Remove the chicken when browned and keep on a plate. Add 2 more tablespoons oil and cook the mushrooms, onions, thyme, and salt in the pan. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for about 10 minutes to let some of the moisture evaporate. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, add the flour adn cook for one minute more. Whisk in the wine, scraping up anything that may have stuck to the pan and transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker.

Add chicken broth, carrots, and soy sauce to the slow cooker. Now, add the chicken and make sure the chicken is coated with the mixture. Cook for 6 hours on low. Remove chicken and vegetables from crockpot. Stir cream and tarragon into the braising liquid in the crockpot. Spoon one cup sauce over vegetables and chicken, and use the rest of the liquid for serving.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Olive Focaccia Bread

For Christmas, I was given a loaf pan and therefore, two weeks ago I suggested we make some homemade bread. However, since D has been wanting to make Focaccia bread for awhile we opted for that (non loaf pan style) and therefore the loaf pan still needs to be used. Another day! Nevertheless, this focaccia bread was simple and one of the best breads I've ever had (I'm not biased or anything)!

Google led me straight to a focaccia recipe by Nigel Slater so we decided to give it a whirl!

Olive Focaccia Bread
  • 4 cups  All Purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 package yeast
  • 13.5 ounces warm water
  • cornmeal (either white or yellow is fine)
  • handful of black olives, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • a clove of garlic
  • a small bunch of flat-leaved parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • sea salt flakes
Begin by combining 1 package of yeast with warm water. Wait for about 5-10 minutes until the yeast bubbles so you make sure it is active. Meanwhile, measure the flour and salt in a large bowl. When you are sure the yeast is active, add the water mixture and knead for about 10 minutes. If the mixture seems to sticky, add more flour, and if it seems too dry, add more warm water.

Sprinkle some flour on the bottom of a bowl and place the bread mixture inside. Cover and place in a warm location in your house, let the bread rise for 1 hour until double in size. Using a large baking pan, cover the bottom with olive oil, sprinkle with cornmeal (this does help, I highly suggest not skipping this step!), and place the bread inside and spread evenly throughout.  Let the bread rise again for 30 minutes in the container-make sure the bread is covered to keep it warm.

While you are waiting those 30 minutes you can prepare the toppings by slicing the olives, mincing the garlic, and mix the garlic, thyme, parsley, olives, and some oil together in a bowl. After your bread has finished rising, poke about 15-20 holes in the bread and spread the topping over it. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

And of course, enjoy. It will be the best ever!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sauteed Kale

My apologies for the lack of entries this week. I was down in Springfield yesterday for a work event and not only did a lot of prep for the activity, but yesterday in itself I put in a 14 hour work day. Obviously, no time was left for blogging!

This entry is simple and not as exciting as some of the others, but don't worry, I have some great recipes coming for the weekend (teaser: best focaccia bread in the world! okay maybe that is an exaggeration, but it was pretty good!)

Daniele and I have just discovered the wonder of greens. It's not that we never knew they were out there, it's that we simply didn't know what to do with them. I got tired of salad a few days ago, kale was on sale, and we purchased some and tried a few things. Since then, I have been purchasing collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens...giving them all a go.

I have to say that Daniele has prepared my favorite greens 'recipe' so far. Simply saute your kale (or whatever green you decide on) in cooking wine, butter, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and black pepper and you're good to go. Great addition to any meal. Or, add tomatoes to the mix, serve with a poached egg and a piece of toast and make it your meal!

Okay, so I can't find a photo but we all know what cooked greens look like. Don't worry, more exciting stuff is on the way!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spicy Lime Marinade for Swordfish

So I guess Daniele and I did take a short-term crockpot break.

If you ever shop at Trader Joe's, you should check out their frozen fish selection. They have a great selection of frozen fish which are very reasonably priced. The taste is the same as purchasing fresh fish, and you are doing the environment a favor as well. When purchasing fresh fish, if you do not live near where the fish are caught, these fish would need to be shipped to you very quickly and sold within a very short time frame. But, when purchasing frozen, the fish can be frozen immediately after catching and then transported in a more reasonable and environmentally friendly fashion to your location.

Earlier in 2011, I went to Trader Joe's and stocked up. One thing I purchased was swordfish steaks and I spent some time brainstorming how I wanted to cook them. Finally, I found a lime marinade I wanted to try. Easy, and I had most of the ingredients already sitting around the house. We gave this recipe an A+.

Spicy Lime Marinade
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used green pepper hot sauce)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over two swordfish steaks and let marinate for 2 hours. Transfer steaks to an oven-safe pan and discard most of the marinade. Broil on high for 15-20 minutes until cooked thoroughly, flipping once. Serve with your favorite vegetable (we served with sauteed collard greens and tomatoes.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Couscous

Well, we certainly caught a glimpse of Spring...now we have returned to winter.

Spring always makes me crave things like fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, lighter meals. It's great. I had a great idea last week of combining some spring vegetables, olive oil, pine nuts, beans and lemon juice together with couscous to create a great spring dish. This was incredibly easy and can be made any way you like! Simply combine your favorite spring vegetables, cook couscous, and top with Greek yogurt (if you want) and lemon juice. We used asparagus, pine nuts, chick peas, olive oil, lemon juice, edamame, 1 garlic clove, and corn.

No recipe needed...just combine the things you like (the best part of cooking)!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I haven't posted a slow cooker recipe on my blog in four entries, so I better get back into that routine! That's a joke, but seriously, we all know how much I love that slow cooker.

Usually my recipes have some sort of nutritional value. But, I admit that even I sometimes need a good 'comfort food.' The first weekend in May I solved my craving by making a mac-and-cheese with tomato dish in the crockpot. We've all had the traditional mac-and-cheese from the box, but it is so much better when you make it from scratch. Give it a shot!

One warning I have about this dish is that the cooking time will vary by crockpot and you will need to watch your recipe carefully. The recipe I was following suggested a cooking time of 2 hours on high. I was planning on cooking for 3 hours on low, however, within one hour and a half of cooking the meal was finished. Unfortunately, I had a yoga class to go to and therefore, my noodles were slightly overcooked...but the recipe was still tasty! You will know when your tomato-mac is finished when the macaroni noodles are soft.

This recipe will serve 4-6 people.

14 oz petite diced tomatoes
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 12oz can condensed cheedar cheese soup
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese in the flavor of your choice (I used parmesan)
1/2 pound (half of a box) elbow macaroni

Begin by lining your slow cooker with foil and coating in vegetable oil spray. This will be important so your macaroni noodles don't stick to the side of your slow cooker.

In a large pan, bring tomatoes, evaporated milk, condensed soup, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper to simmer on the stove. Adding more or less cayenne pepper will make your mac and cheese more or less spicy (the amount I have included in this recipe will give it a little kick). Slowly whisk in shredded cheese until melted and then stir in macaroni.

Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Cook for 1.5 hours on low. Stir the pasta, adding a little bit of hot water to create the right consistency. Enjoy. This recipe will make great leftovers!

 I should add, in case you are worried about the quantities pictured below, I actually halved the recipe I used for the blog because it made a ridiculous ammt of Tomato-Mac. (But at least I have plenty of frozen leftover lunches!)

Just a sidenote, in case you are still with me. D and I are in the process of planning our wedding and we are stuck on the food, which is obviously very important to us. We are doing a reception in the mid-afternoon. We want something unique and tasty, that most people will enjoy. So, I'm curious to all the readers out there, what is a type of food that you have always wanted to see at a wedding reception?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Reader Contest Winner

In my mind everyone who participated is a winner, but according to the rules I guess I do need to name only one winner.

Therefore...the winner is....drum roll please:

With eight reader votes!

Entry 6: Dan, Chicago. The Best Vegetarian Chili. Twist: Cooked in the oven for 8 hours on 210 degrees instead of a slow cooker. Ingredients listed up to garlic were sauteed before baking. Served with buttermilk biscuits from "The Joy of Cooking"

Although, as I said, I was impressed with everyone's entries. I loved how Cecilia and Pietro (Entry 3) used veal purchased from a local farm instead of steak from the grocery store. Kayla's (Entry 2) Oreo cake was even better composed than mine was! I adored the addition of real oreos and putting the cake in the shape of a one; it was so precious. And then of course Amanda (Entry 1) started the entire contest so she deserves credit for that. Let's not forget Jessica (Entry 4) who carefully positioned her cauliflower cake on a beautiful floral plate and Gal (Entry 5) who I do not even know personally, but decided to risk it and enter the contest. Not to mention the fact that bagels are not easy to make!

But since Dan is the official winner, himself and a guest are invited to our place for a home-cooked dinner for two. I might even throw in a free *crock pot* so next time you don't have to cook on low in the oven for eight hours! That's ridiculous! I will communicate specific details with you directly.

So props to everyone who entered and thanks to my readers for voting because obviously I am very glad I did not have to decide a winner in this contest.

Keep reading and continue to leave your comments.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Floyds Brewery

Going along with my new "doesn't necessarily have to be a recipe but could cover any culinary topic" I am offering a review of Three Floyds Brewery and Brewpub.

Three Floyds is a small Microbrewery right outside Chicago in Munster, IN. Now, if you live in Chicago you might think to yourself, "why would I ever want to go to Munster, IN?!" The truth is that it is really not that far, just the first exit off the highway as soon as you cross into Indiana...plus the beer is in my opinion, some of the best you can find in the midwest, the food is gourmet, and the service is unbeatable. Three Floyds is one of those places that truly cares about their customers and wants to make them happy. So, seriously, you should go.

Daniele and I took a trip there on the 23rd of April, the day before Easter. We ordered a full three course meal: an appetizer of octopus with grapefruit (it had a special name but I don't remember), a trout dish, a chicken dish, and for dessert we had creme brulee. Everything was wonderful (especially the french fries...I know it sounds silly but those were really great fries!). Now, I cannot promise that when you take your trip to the brewery you will be able to order the same thing we did because the food and beer menu is constantly changing...but what I can promise you is that whatever you have will be wonderful. They really do have a gourmet chef there who creates wonderful dishes at outside-of-chicago prices. This is not your standard pub food, and you will get a great deal. For example, Daniele and I had five beers, an appetizer, two main courses (the most expensive ones on the menu), shared a dessert, AND brought home a case of beer for $100. I honestly can't wait to go back and eat there again. (I have already suggested two times to Daniele that we go!)

Our experience at Three Floyds was great, and not simply because the food and drinks were delish. I had previously arranged with Phil, one of the Three Floyds staff members to serve Daniele's beer in a special pint glass. This beer had engraved in it "Daniele Rosso, will you marry me?/Daniele Rosso, mi vuoi sposare?". After our brewery tour, his glass was delivered without a hitch. I was a bit nervous but he did say yes, and now, we are engaged. I could not have picked a more suitable place for the proposal, everything was fantastic and perfect for our personalities. And don't worry, after I proposed, Daniele did step outside and call my dad for permission.

For those of you who are curious, we will get married the third weekend of June  next year in St. Louis, and will host a reception in Italy sometime in July. More specific plans are pending.

Enjoy the proposal and Three Floyds food photos below. Oh, and vote tonight in the reader contest! Voting ends at 11:59pm.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tortellini and Homemade Filling

For Easter, Daniele got this great idea to make homemade tortellini, which is traditional from his area on holidays such as Easter and Christmas. As much as I tried to convince him not to do it, he would not hear of it and decided to give it a shot. Although we did have one success at making pasta with our pasta maker, I thought it best to try something a bit easier given our horrific failure at making homemade ravioli. But, to my dismay, Daniele prepared for Easter by making tortellini filling the day before and noodles Easter morning.

I should not have doubted him because although we were not successful before, he now has the pasta maker mastered. The tortellini were wonderful and I cannot wait for more. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult for you readers out there to replicate this recipe without a pasta maker, but if you have one or could get your hands on one, you should definitely try this!

Homemade (and Traditional) Tortellini Filling

100 g pork loin cooked in butter
100 g mortadella (bologna)
100 g prosciutto
150 g Parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Begin by cooking your pork loin in a pan on the stove. When cooked, put all meats in a food processor and process until one consistency. Put meats in a bowl and add Parmesan cheese, eggs, and nutmeg. This is your wonderfully tasting filling!

For the pasta noodles, you can use the same recipe as listed on the ravioli page, the noodles will just need to be in a different shape.  For this quantity of filling, we used 3 eggs to prepare our pasta, but to be honest, we had lots of extra filling and could have made much more noodles. (I wish we had!)

When preparing your noodles, make sure to prepare one thin sheet of noodles at a time and keep the rest of your dough in a ball in a covered bowl to ensure it doesn't dry out. When you have one sheet ready, cut into small squares, place a small ball of filling in each center, fold in a triangle, and then bring the two ends of the triangle together to get the tortellini shape.

Finally, since you have now prepared a traditional tortellini dish you must eat it in the traditional way: prepare some chicken broth and cook your tortellini in the boiling chicken broth for 3-5 minutes. Top with grated Parmesan cheese. Wonderful. Can't wait to make this one again.

By the way, don't forget to vote in the reader contest. Be sure to vote by Friday!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reader Contest Entries

Thank you to everyone who submitted entries to my first reader contest. I had six great submissions and since Daniele and I know many of you who have submitted, we are opening up the contest to a 'reader vote' so nobody can claim we played favorites. Here are the rules of the reader vote:

1) Voting opens now and closes Friday May 6th at 11:59pm. Any votes submitted after that do not count.
2) You can vote by commenting below. You can only vote for one entry and each person can only vote one time. Simply sign in (or write your name after your vote) and make sure to write the number entry you are voting for.
3) No anonymous votes count. The person voting must log in or at the very least sign their name.
4) No cheating! (Obviously there are some ways to cheat here with the voting. But this is supposed to be a simple, fun laid back contest so play nice and fair. Plus, I really don't like cheaters!)
5) At least 10 votes must be cast in order to declare a winner. If 10 votes are not cast (or if there is a tie), then Daniele and I will need to dictate the winner of a contest. By this I do not mean that the winner must have at least 10 votes, I am simply saying that at least 10 people must vote.
6) If you entered the contest, yes, you can vote! And feel free to invite your friends to vote, too.

The winner will be invited over to our place for a dinner for 2. Or we can cook at your place. You can select the menu (within reason of course!) If more than 2 people were involved with making your recipe then after you are a declared a winner we can discuss that. If you are not living in Chicago and you are the winner well...we'll have to figure out a different prize I suppose!

As a reminder for readers out there, here was the criteria I listed when I first developed the contest. Of course you can vote for your friends, but try to take these criteria into consideration as well:

Entries/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

Please also note that if as an entrant, you submitted a bunch of photos, I only posted two since otherwise this entry/contest would be out of control!

And now, for the contest entries (listed in order of submission):

Entry 1-Amanda, New York City. Spanish Tortilla.

Entry 2- Kayla, St. Louis. Oreo Cake. Twist: Made in the shape of a 1 for her son's first birthday. Note: Kayla has her own blog. Check it out!

Entry 3- Cecilia and Pietro, Chicago. Steak Stroganoff. Twist: Veal purchased from a local farm was used instead of steak. Cooked over the stove on low for five hours as opposed to in a slow cooker. Stock was substituted for onion soup mix and rice was substituted for egg noodles.

Entry 4-Jessica, Chicago. Cauliflower Cake.

Entry 5: Gal, Chicago. Bagels. 

Entry 6: Dan, Chicago. The Best Vegetarian Chili. Twist: Cooked in the oven for 8 hours on 210 degrees instead of a slow cooker. Ingredients listed up to garlic were sauteed before baking. Served with buttermilk biscuits from "The Joy of Cooking"

So that's it folks. Those are your six entries. Begin voting now, one vote per person and make sure to sign in or list your name after your vote. Keep in mind the criteria listed above. Voting closes on Friday and the winner will be announced on Saturday. Thanks for reading and thanks especially for participating!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chicken Tacos

A few weeks ago I posted photos of my mom's chicken tacos and noted that I would soon need to make something similar myself and then post the recipe.

Well, I did and it was great! I let the meat cook in my slow cooker all day long and then prepped the taco fillings at night. The meat made enough for dinner, lunch most of the rest of the week, and we still have frozen leftovers!

Chicken Filling
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 minced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
1.5 teaspooons sugar
2 lbs chicken-mix between skinnless breasts and thighs
juice of 1 fresh lime
1/2 small can adobo sauce

In a small bowl, microwave the onion, chili powder, oil, jalapeno, and cumin in a bowl for about five minutes: place in show cooker. Stir tomato sauce, adobo sauce, and sugar into slow cooker. Season your chicken with salt and pepper, and put in the slow cooker and coat evenly with the sauce. Cook for six hours on low.

Transfer chicken to a large bowl and shred into pieces using a fork. Take liquid out of the slow cooker. Place the chicken back in the slow cooker and mix with 1.5 cups of the liquid and lime juice. We had a lot of leftover liquid, which we decided to freeze and use for later to season a pork roast.

Serve your chicken tacos with your favorite fillings: we used rice, beans, mango, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and cheese.