chicagolovespanini

Going panini and beyond in the Windy City – and loving it!


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Getting back is hard – so can a pork roulade make a difference? :-)

These past few weeks have been really hectic for me. First, school is back and I’ve been fretting over classes, syllabi, and meeting new colleagues and students. I have been stressed and out of shape intellectually, and going back to a full work schedule has proved nothing short of exhausting. Second, my mom’s recent flight back to Europe was delayed for several hours, causing her to miss a connecting plane in London and to arrive at her destination well after midnight. My mom is a senior citizen who doesn’t speak English, and the whole experience was a nightmare for her, as it was for us. Such stressful events are definitely not conducive to creativity in the kitchen. :-(

Getting back to cooking and blogging was hard. In the end, I found inspiration in an email exchange I had with my cousin, who is a passionate gardener. This summer he has grown tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers galore, and he was writing me that he had just finished sun-drying some of the tomatoes. My mind instantly went back in time, to the years we spent in England and to a recipe we used to like a lot: pork roulade stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and herbs. Continue reading


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Bringing together the produce stand and the pantry: the story of my “transitional” salad

I don’t know about you guys, but I can see fall creeping in. Birds are not as chirpy as they used to be, nights are getting longer, and mornings are getting chilly – so chilly that I actually had to put on a coat yesterday morning, when I went out to water the plants. This summer has been very challenging for me, as a new mom. However, it has also been a lot of fun: seeing my little one grow up, noticing small changes in her almost daily, has made my journey sweet and unbelievably rewarding. Why do good times have to go by so fast? :-(

With summer almost behind us and with fall coming up shortly, I wanted to prepare a dish to capture the spirit of this transitional, in-between seasons, period – so earlier this week I made a salad using freshly bought produce and ingredients from my pantry. Continue reading


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CLOSED Cheers to smoothies! A review of the Hamilton Beach Wave-Action blender – and a giveaway!

I haven’t always been a “smoothie gal” – but now I am. Since having the baby I have become more aware of what I eat and drink, and more determined to give my body the nutrients it needs to function well. I’m happy to report I’m eating more fruits and veggies than I was before becoming a mom. Thankfully, a new grocery store has opened in our neighborhood, and it takes me very little time to walk there and to stock up on fresh quality produce. The abundance of seasonal fruits and veggies inspires me and keeps me motivated. I love summer – and I love smoothies :-)

Being such a new and passionate smoothie supporter, I was excited when I was contacted by Hamilton Beach and asked to review the latest addition to their range of blenders, the Wave-Action blender. The blender I use regularly is one I bought a few years ago. It is a versatile workhorse, and besides drinks I have been using it to make soups, dips and even mashed potatoes. They all turn out creamy and velvety, just the way we like it. I was curious to see how the Wave-Action blender would fare compared with my old blender, so I happily took on the challenge. Continue reading


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Egg on toast, and much more: Why mayo is out – and dandelion greens are in!

It occurred to me the other day that I had never told you why I don’t use mayo in my sandwiches. Indeed, if you look through my sandwich and panini recipes you’ll find none with mayo, and plenty with sour cream, cottage cheese or mustard. I know mayo is a very popular sandwich ingredient, and for good reason: you need a good creamy component to “bind” everything together and to turn the sandwich into a coherent whole. Still, we find mayo way too heavy and not particularly flavorful, and this is why I’ve been using other ingredients in its place. We’ve always been big fans of sour cream and cottage cheese (both of them lighter than mayo, in our opinion), so why not use these in panini or sandwiches? Moreover, on some occasions, I turn to other less used ingredients and I take advantage of their luscious creaminess to create a satisfying light lunch. Such is the case with the sandwich I am going to write about today, whose creamy component is a fried egg.

This sandwich is special to me because it incorporates a lesser known green element: dandelion greens. Continue reading


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Stylish and functional hydration on the go: my review of the new Contigo Ashland water bottle


With summer in full swing and days getting hot and humid here in Chicagoland, drinking enough liquids is more important than ever, and a good water bottle can go a long way in keeping you hydrated and at the top of your game. The water bottle market offers a variety of products, and I was fortunate enough to familiarize myself with some of its trends and latest offerings at this year’s edition of the International Home + Housewares Show. This is where I met the team behind Contigo, a well-known Chicago company which makes travel mugs and water bottles.

I am a big fan of the Contigo travel mugs. I bought one a couple of Black Fridays ago, when they were on sale at Kohl’s. I wasn’t sure of its quality (a good travel mug for only $9.99? Hmmmm…) but the online reviews and my own experience quickly put my concerns to rest. I use my travel mug religiously every winter – my hot chocolate stays hot for a good few hours even in the coldest of weathers, and the mug looks gorgeous!

What about the Contigo water bottles? I knew nothing about them prior to the Housewares Show, where the Contigo team showed me their latest Ashland water bottle and gave me one to test. Continue reading

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