GH Cretors review and giveaway: Back to school I go – to snack in style!

Fall is here, and so are many beautiful things: pumpkin patches, canning and baking sessions, amber-colored trees – and school, glorious school 🙂 Gone are the days of summer and the luxurious long break I loved so much. It’s fall, I’m back into the classroom to teach several demanding classes, and I need quality food to keep me going. I know from experience that popcorn is one of the best options to have on hand to appease hunger pangs in-between school sessions. Filling, tasty and nutritious, popcorn has been one of my favorite snack options in recent years. While it keeps me satisfied for hours, it also brings back beautiful childhood memories. I just love to go back in time and to remember those many evenings I spent popping corn with my parents, in the kitchen of our tiny apartment. Those were some really happy days!

Enter G.H. Cretors Popped Corn for the perfect school snack 😉 I had seen this brand on shelves at my local healthy food grocery store, but I wasn’t really familiar with its products until earlier this year, when I attended the Sweets&Snacks Expo (you can check out my review here), talked to their reps and sampled lots of their popcorn, which I thought was amazing. This is why I was very excited when I was contacted recently to review their products and to host a giveaway for my readers. Keep Reading

My Angelo’s Wine Bar dining experience: I went to Rome and back!

The Angelo’s pizza: a slice of Chicago history!

I watched La Dolce Vita a few nights after dining at Angelo’s Wine Bar. I’d felt like in a dream at Angelo’s, and now I wanted to go back, to be in Rome again, following in the footsteps of Marcello and Sylvia as they wandered through a city that was as mysterious as it was opulent. Being a guest at Angelo’s truly felt like being in Rome. Far from the skyscrapers of the city, in a neighborhood where style and comfort meet, here I was, savoring every moment of one of the most beautiful nights I’d ever experienced. Why face the crowds, the impossible parking and the stress downtown when you can enjoy quality food in your own neighborhood? Oh, what a gorgeous night – and what a gorgeous restaurant 🙂

My high expectations were surpassed the minute I set foot in Angelo’s Wine Bar in Albany Park. Once you get past the newly added 700-sq ft outdoor patio and into the restaurant, you enter a tastefully decorated sharp and sleek interior, which puts you in a good mood. You expect excellent dishes to match such interior design – and the eclectic menu created by executive chef Julia Helton is the perfect match. Keep Reading

My Culinary Fight Fest experience: I would walk 500 miles!

It had happened again: our car had broken down and DH and I were walking back home, sweaty and exhausted, in the asphyxiating heat of the summer. I had asked him to pick me up from Culinary Fight Fest downtown, and he, the ever-helpful husband, had agreed – but now we were stuck 5 miles away from home, with little money left after towing the car to the repair shop, and not willing to spend extra on a cab. We were walking and talking, and suddenly it hit me: By yourself, the journey is long – but you can walk 500 miles when you have friends to help along the way 😉 Every time I attend a Culinary Fight Club competition I notice surprising things, which previously escaped me. At this edition, I noticed joy: the pure, unadulterated joy of the CFC organizers who were engaged in a meaningful project as friends, walking the long path of life together, as one big family. Re-energized by these thoughts, my draining walk home after the competition alongside DH (my best friend) became easy and made perfect sense 🙂

Currently in its second edition, Culinary Fight Fest Chicago took place at Hard Rock Cafe earlier this month. Chefs who had won either the judges’ vote or the public’s vote at a previous Culinary Fight Club event were invited to compete against chefs who had won other different themed competitions in various cities across the country. A veritable Clash of Culinary Titans, Culinary Fight Fest was also an excellent opportunity to raise money for Fight2Feed, a non-profit organization that feeds the hungry across Chicagoland. It was a display of competitive spirit intermingled with awesome camaraderie – “the best time of my life,” as one contestant put it.

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Grilled veggie sandwich: celebrating the end of summer with two secret ingredients to match :-)

Keeping the family happy and well-fed this summer has been easy thanks to a marvelous piece of technology: the grill! We bought our first outdoor grill back in June, and now we finally know what we’ve been missing out on. Grilling outdoors has made our weekends memorable, and our journey through charred flavors has been exciting and rewarding. Gone are the days of using a grill pan for our grilling needs. It’s grill pan out (for now), outdoor grill in! 🙂

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Hard Rock Cafe Test Kitchen menu review: heaps of Chicago inspiration, loads of delicious food!

The folks over at Hard Rock Cafe surely work hard to please! They want to know what music you like, the first live concert you went to, and what you make of their dishes – and they want your feedback delivered raw, spontaneously, and straight to their faces. I definitely like this no-nonsense approach: what’s better than an honest opinion, delivered on the spot? I like the approach – and I like the HRC food even more 😉

I recently got the chance to taste several dishes from the Hard Rock Cafe Chicago Test Kitchen menu, which showcases HRC’s commitment to locally inspired and responsibly sourced ingredients. It was an amazing night, filled with good jokes, great food, and karaoke performances – and here’s my review of this experience. Keep Reading

CLOSED Nielsen-Massey Vanillas review and giveaway: when baked desserts are done right!

The kitchen is filled with zesty rich aromas, and my daughter is getting impatient: she wants cake, and she wants it now! My repeated attempts to temper her kitchen tantrums are a failure – and, after all, who can blame her? The flowery notes in the air are pungent and unrestrained, promising heaps of flavor and refreshing baked joy. They are just too alluring to resist. Faces covered in sweat, MIL and I have been baking for about one hour, and the waiting will soon be over. I take the round pan out of the oven, and a fresh explosion of citrusy notes permeates the hot air in an instant. Say hello to orange ricotta strudel! 🙂

I have baked a lot this summer. From éclairs to cookies and from clafoutis to strudels, I have baked – and baked – and baked some more! – and have found it very therapeutic. In the process, I have used a variety of extracts to elevate my desserts. Indeed, extracts can add or enhance the flavors of baked goods and can provide convenience to the busy baker. My mom used a lot of extracts in her baking when I was growing up. Sadly, these were all fake extracts – colored water with a drop of artificial flavors and very little else. Since then, we both have learned to appreciate the value of the “real deal,” of authentic extracts made with natural ingredients. This is why I was very excited when I was contacted by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, a Waukegan IL based company with worldwide distribution, for a product review and a giveaway. I chose their pure orange extract for my review.

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