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!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stuffed Veal Meatloaf

Finally, Daniele's first blog entry! A few months back ground veal was on sale at our local Treasure Island. Daniele wanted to give it a shot...in something, he just was not sure what to prepare so we kept it in our freezer. One day, before he left for Italy, I received an email while at work, something along the lines of  "How about veal meatloaf for dinner? I love you!". Sure, sounds good to me: anytime he wants to plan a meal, purchase the ingredients, and cook it, I am good with that!

I came home and he had an even better idea than I was expecting. STUFFED veal meatloaf. We happened to have some American cheese and frozen peas lying around that we used to stuff this tasty meatloaf...but I think you could use anything for the filling.

So here is Daniele's well written, well planed, stuffed veal meatloaf recipe:

Stuffed Veal Meatloaf

- 1 pound ground meat (veal in our case)
- 1 egg
- 2 tbs parmesan
- 3 tbs breadcrumbs
- milk
- salt
- pepper
- nutmeg
- things to stuff the meatloaf with (in our case, a cup of frozen peas and some cheddar cheese)
Mix the meat, egg, parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, nutmeg in a mixing bowl. You can add a splash of milk if you want to soften it, or add a little more breadcrumbs if it is too soft.
Once mixed, spread not too thin over a plate or some surface. At this point, you can put in the middle of it whatever you want to stuff your meatloaf with. We used frozen peas and cheddar because that's what we had, but other good options are ricotta and spinach, prosciutto, or whatever cheese or veggie or type of food strikes your fancy.
Fold the layer of meat up the sides and close it, being especially careful about the two ends.
Grease a pan and lay the meatloaf on it, then bake for 30 minutes in pre-heated oven (180°C or 350°F).
It is possible to bake it together with some other vegetables you want to serve the meatloaf with. Be careful that, for example, potatoes might take a longer time to cook, so you might want to start baking the potatoes by themselves and then after 15 minutes add the meatloaf to the pan.
Yum! Thanks D!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

White Bean, Lemon, and Feta Dip

So apparently there are some formatting errors in my last post that I am unable to fix. Everytime I try they just default back to the way they are or, get worse! Unbelievable. Anyways, sorry about that...I will try again another day.

This is an easy dip recipe that is sure to impress at any gathering. If you tell people how you made it, they probably won't believe you, because it's too tasty to be this easy...

White Bean, Lemon, and Feta Dip
1 can cannellini beans
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Juice from 1.5 fresh lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Drain beans and place beans, feta cheese, and lemon juice in your food processor. Begin processing and meanwhile, drizzle the olive oil in the mixture. Process for about one minute, or until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or fresh veggies. For looks, feel free to sprinkle a little bit more feta cheese on top. Or, some fresh parsley!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ginger Mango Chutney

Last fall, I made an apple chutney with great success. Actually, that entry remains second on my 'most viewed' posts. So I decided I would try my hand at another type of chutney. This time, something that screams summer: ginger mango.

We served this chutney with pork ribs cooked for 8 hours on low in the slow cooker. I also placed 1/2 cup chicken broth and spices with the ribs to give them some flavor. As a side dish, we prepared mashed potatoes so the broth 'gravy' that was created while cooking the ribs was used on top of the potatoes.

There seem to be some formatting issues with this post...gah! Will fix later...

Ginger Mango Chutney

  • 2 cups chopped mango

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped ginger

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar 

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

  • Combine all ingredients in a small pan over the stove. Bring to a boil and then let the mixture simmer for about an hour for the flavors to combine. Add water as needed if the chutney starts to dry out during the cooking process; I probably added 1/4 cup water while cooking.

    Serve with your favorite meat and enjoy!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Spicy Beef and Potato Curry

    Whenever Daniele returns from a trip out of town, I find myself inspired to cook him something new and exciting for dinner. Before D came home from Notre Dame, I browsed some recipes on Whole Foods website and came across some great options. I never knew that Whole Foods had so many fantastic (and not too difficult) recipes available!

    I decided on Spicy Beef and Potato Curry. I've had a busy week, so I am not going to type out the recipe here but you can follow the link and take a look (and also browse other recipes). We made the recipe exactly as written here, except we did not use a Cinnamon stick and we used just your plain, run of the meal canola oil. We also added a carrot. One tip I can offer when making this recipe is that the potatoes take longer to cook than written here in the Whole Foods version; therefore, I recommend adding the potatoes sooner.

    This recipe lends itself to some interesting substitutions. For example, I think making the same recipe with firm tofu would also be fantastic, and you can serve your vegetarian (or vegan) friends. I also think you could easily turn this into a crockpot recipe...and you know how much I love my slow cooker!

    We served this over rice. It was fantastic, and something new and different for us to try. We do not cook Indian or Thai food very often, but I'd like to move in that direction!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Eggplant Parmesan

    And now for a recipe featuring item #3 that Daniele does not care for (but I am not afraid to eat when he is gone): eggplant. I made this recipe on a 100 degree day and yes, it does involve both frying and baking. It was a crazy idea...and yet, I survived and it was worth it. There's just nothing quite like a delicious, fried, cheesy eggplant...yum.

    Eggplant Parmesan
    • 1 large eggplant, sliced into strips
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 can diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 lb sliced mozzarella cheese
    • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    Prepare by slicing your eggplant and beating two eggs in a small bowl. Pour bread crumbs on a small plate. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture.

    After you are finished coating the eggplant, heat up your canola oil and fry the eggplant for about 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towel.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange a layer of eggplant slices on the bottom of a baking dish which has been sprayed with a nonstick spray. Place a layer of sauce, parmesan cheese, and mozerella on top of the eggplant. Continue the layering until your ingredients are finished. When the oven is preheated, bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

    With one large eggplant, I was able to make enough eggplant parmesan for three meals. Therefore, I had leftovers to pack for lunch. I suggest you try this one, but maybe not on a day that is 100 degrees (especially if your apartment has no AC).

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Avocado Salad

    Again, a simple salad recipe for a hot summer day using ingredient number 2 that Daniele does not care for: cilantro. I enjoyed this recipe with some cottage cheese topped with hot sauce.

    Avocado Salad
    • 1 avocado-diced
    • 1 small sweet onion, minced
    • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 large ripe tomato, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons cilantro
    • 1/2 lime, juiced
    • salt and pepper to taste
    Simply mix all the ingredients together and you have your meal! Daniele is on his way to Italy this afternoon so this summer will be filled with easy recipes for one. On the list for this week: white bean and feta dip, zucchini with basil and goat cheese, and swiss chard pesto. Yum! But before I get to posting those I'll have some catching up to do-while Daniele was here last week we made some great recipes for you meat lovers. Stay tuned!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Summer Tuna and Olive Salad

    With Daniele in Notre Dame last week for a conference, I had the opportunity to make some easy meals for one using some ingredients that he doesn't like (but I love). Ingredient #1: artichokes.

    Since the weather was a steamy 95 degrees I decided to focus on salads, and on Monday night had a tuna salad with olives, celery, lemon juice, mayo, and (most importantly) artichokes. For seasoning I added salt, pepper, and oregano. I don't often eat dinners 'from the can' but this one was a nice twist on the usual tuna salad and perfect for the summer.

    Try it for your next summer picnic.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Red Wine-Braised Ribs and Mashed Cauliflower

    Back in March when I purchased the new crockpot cookbook, Daniele had picked out his favorite dish: red wine-braised ribs. He knew he would love them and he was right.

    I personally don't like ribs. I find them too much work to eat and simply too messy. Not to mention hard to cook. Well, one of the glorious things about cooking ribs in the crockpot is that after cooking on low for 8 hours, the meat just falls off the bone. So, you don't need to work to get the meat off the bone and none of the meat is wasted! We served this dish with mashed cauliflower, a substitution for mashed potatoes.

    Red Wine-Braised Ribs and Mashed Cauliflower
    • 2 pounds bone-in pork ribs (or beef, if you prefer)
    • salt and pepper
    • canola oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 carrot, chopped
    • 1 celery rib, chopped
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 1 tablespoon balsami vinegar
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • minced, fresh parsley
    Defrost ribs and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet and brown short ribs well on all side for approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.

    Add onion, carrot, celery, tomato, and thyme to skillet and cook for about 10 minutes until onions are softened and browned. Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add wine and vinegar to mixture and stir until a smooth consistency. Bring to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes, transfer to slow cooker.

    Stir in slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve warm with fresh parsley.

    Sidedish: Mashed Cauliflower
    I enjoyed this sidedish, but found it much more difficult to make than I was expecting. To prepare, boil a head of cauliflower until it is very soft (at least 15 minutes, if not longer). Since mashing a cauliflower is actually very difficult, and you will not get the same consistency as mashed potatoes if you do it by hand, I suggest using a food processor or blender. Put the boiled pieces of cauliflower in a food processor, and mix in some milk, butter, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings. Blend until smooth.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    'Robert the Bruce' Ice Cream Float

    When Daniele and I went to Three Floyds Brewery in April, we brought home a case of 'Robert the Bruce' beer. Now, I am a big fan of wheat, Belgian style beers and although 'Robert the Bruce' does not fall close to that category, it is my new favorite beer. Perfect for summer or winter.

    Last week when the heat wave came through Chicago I had a great idea: Robert the Bruce floats garnished with strawberries. Genius. Highly recommended for a hot day.

    If you live someplace where you are unable to find 'Robert the Bruce', you could substitute Guinness or another porter/stout style beer (but I myself will remain faithful to 'Robert the Bruce').

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Slow Cooker Ginger Chicken

    Rarely do I find a slow cooker recipe that I can make impromptu. Typically I look at recipes the week before, pick out one or two, and make sure to get all the ingredients at the store. Not for this guy. For this one, we just so happened to have everything laying around. It was great! We had leftover ginger from a different recipe, and everything else was common kitchen ingredients. Although I tend not to be a huge ginger fan, we gave it a go. This one made me want to try using ginger in a few more of my recipes!

    Slow Cooker Ginger Chicken
    2 large chicken breasts
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1/2 onion, minced
    3 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger
    2 garlic cloves
    1/4 cup all purpose flour
    1 cup chicken broth
    3 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 tablespoon sugar

    Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and brown chicken for 6 minutes, flipping once. Transfer chicken to plate. In the same skillet add onion, 2 tablespoons ginger, and garlic. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stir in flour and coopk for one minute. Whisk in chicken broth and smooth out lumps, transfer mixture to the slow cooker.

    Stir soy sauce and sugar in slow cooker, add browned chicken making sure the chicken is coated with the sauce. Cook for 6 hours on low. Before serving, stir in remaining tablespoon of fresh ginger for extra flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Sidedish: We served this with broiled tomatoes and mushrooms. Simply slice tomatoes and mushrooms, sprinkle them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dry oregano and broil for 5 minutes. Delightful combination!

    I realize these aren't the best food photos I've ever taken but trust me this one was good. I have some more 'quality' photos coming...I promise!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Spinach Mashed Potato Pancakes

    When most people think of potato pancakes, they think of more of a hash-brown type pancake. Honestly, I never considered making them myself. However, while on a lengthy road trip with my boss, we entered into a detailed culinary conversation in which she mentioned spinach mashed potato pancakes. I was intrigued and needed to steal the recipe.

    The great thing about this recipe is that it can be adopted to suit your particular tastes or dietary restrictions. We topped our pancakes with mozzarella cheese and tomato puree, but I could also see them being served with a mushroom sauce, sour cream, or a dill dip. Although we cooked this recipe vegetarian, it could be even adopted for vegans (by eliminating the mozzarella cheese and not using milk, or butter in the mashed potatoes and also skipping the egg) or for meat eaters if you must (by adding crumpled bacon or small slices of ham). Also, you can adopt the recipe based on how much work you want to put in. If you don't want to saute the spinach, use frozen. Buy pre-prepared mashed potatoes. Or, plan a meal with mashed potatoes the night before and then the second night make the pancakes with the leftovers. The possibilities are endless!

    I will definitely be making this one again.

    Spinach Mashed Potato Pancakes
    3-4 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
    1 bunch spinach
    olive oil
    cooking wine
    1 egg
    1/3 cup flour
    tomato paste, canned (if you prefer, you can make your own by broiling some tomatoes for about 5 minutes, placing them in a food processor, and adding a touch of salt)

    Begin by boiling water in a large pot. Place the potatoes in the boiling water with some salt and boil until soft. Drain the potatoes and mash in a large bowl. Add milk, butter, and salt to taste.

    In the same bowl where you cooked the potatoes, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the bunch of spinach and a touch of white cooking wine. Cook on low heat until the spinach shrinks and is fully cooked; between 2 and 4 minutes.

    Mix the spinach and potatoes together in a large bowl. Add one egg and flour and mix thoroughly.

    In a skillet, heat either 1 tablespoon of olive oil or 1 tablespoon of butter. Place about 1/2 cup of the mashed potato/spinach mixture in the skillet and press down with a fork to form a pancake. Repeat. Cook pancakes for about 5 minutes on each side until pancakes are crisp. Between batches, you may need to add more butter or oil. Serve with mozzarella cheese and tomato puree.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Boston Food

    Last weekend I was in Boston to run a half marathon with a good friend of mine.

    We had the opportunity to take more or less of a culinary tour of the city. I did not snap photos of everything, but we did have many of the great dishes that Boston is known for. Primarily: seafood. The last morning I was there, I had a great brunch of crab-cakes served with poached eggs. Amazing. I was also able to sample some clam chowder-much better than the clam chowder you can get here in Chicago! (from the can) (chowder featured in photo below). Post-race, my taste buds sampled a "natural disaster burger" which is not photographed but could easily be replicated for your enjoyment. This was a turkey burger served with swiss cheese, avocado, chutney, and chipotle sauce. Awesome.

    Besides the chowder previously mentioned, also featured below is my pre-half marathon meal. I was told this meal was brave as many racers will not eat something unusual before a race. However, I run these races for fun and not to run so...for me it didn't matter.

    Pre-race we had a wonderful octopus sampler and for my main course I had a ravioli with apple, Gorgonzola sauce, and figs. Very rich and fantastic...Joe (not running the race) sampled the lobster, also photographed. It was his very first lobster and from what I could tell, it was incredibly tasty.

    I can't wait to go back. First of all, because Boston is a great city...and second of all because the food is wonderful and the seafood is fresh...something definitely lacking here in Chi-town.

    Check my running tab for updates on this half-marathon race and my training.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Turkey Chili

    It's hard to believe that just a week and a half ago it was 'chili' weather here in Chicago. Today outside is 85 degrees but feels like 94 (although now it seems it's about to storm)! Crazy.

    The cold spell gave me the opportunity to cook some winter favorites we were craving. So, although you probably aren't desiring this one in the warm weather, save it for a cool fall day (or a stormy summer day!)

    Turkey Chili
    1 slice wheat bread
    1/4 cup milk
    1 lb ground turkey
    salt and pepper
    1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 large  onion, minced
    4 tablespoons chili powder
    1 small can tomato paste
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 tablespoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
    red pepper flakes
    1/2 15 oz can tomato sauce
    1 can red kidney beans
    1 cup chicken broth
    2 tablespoons soy sauce
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle in adobo sauce

    Begin by mashing bread and milk into a paste in a large bowl. Mix in the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

    Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions, chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cookf or about 10 minutes. Stir in the turkey mixture and cook until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Transfer mixture to slow cooker.

    Drain and rinse beans and add to slow cooker. Also add tomatoes with juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, and chipotles into slow cooker. Cover and cook 6 hours on low. (The chipotles are optional, but I suggest adding them. They will add a unique flavor to your chili and although you will not use the entire jar, you can freeze the leftovers and use them in the next batch of chili or add them to your other Mexican or tex-Mex recipes).

    Of course, you should top this recipe with some of your favorites. I suggest: chopped red onion, shredded cheese, and possibly sour cream.


    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Reader Contest Prize Redeemed

    Last weekend, Dan and Hannah came over for dinner in order to claim their reader contest prize.

    We cooked a wonderful dinner of homemade pizza and chocolate cherry dump cake. And Dan was given his long awaited crockpot, so now he can make many more of these recipes on this blog!

    Making the dinner was a lengthy process...when making pizza it seems like torture to wait for the dough to rise. But, it was fun, and in the end, all the waiting made the meal even better. Here are some photos of the slow cooker gifting and our reader prize dinner party.