Our Flag Day dessert: an ode to summer featuring strawberries and cream – and more!

It’s summer, and the floodgates of produce have opened! Who can resist the sweetness and freshness of berries, which are now at their peak of perfection? We for sure cannot. Thankfully, berries have been on sale these past few weeks, which means that we’ve been eating berries – lots and lots of them. I’ve also made two batches of raspberry jam (the recipe can be found here) and I am about to make a third. The abundance of fresh berries is one of the reasons I love summer so much. If only I had more time to cook, bake and generally experiment in the kitchen…

In this dessert I’ve used my beloved berries to visually pay homage to Flag Day, which is today. This sweet dish requires little preparation, and the result is deliciously simple and likely to satisfy the expectations of both adults and children. By the way, ricotta cheese is one of our daughter’s favorite cheeses (she’s a cheeseaholic, just like her mom πŸ™‚ ).

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A meat bonanza which holds up beautifully: my three meat panino – with plenty of cheese and veggies to boot!

Some time ago I asked a “panino pro” for tips on creating the perfect panino, and here’s what he said: 1. Use quality bread; 2. Don’t put too many ingredients in the panino because it will fall apart. I fully agree with tip #1. Inspired by the artisan bread I tried at the recent National Restaurant Association Show (you can read my review here), I have been exploring local bakeries in search for tasty and nutritious bread to use in my panini and sandwiches, and some of the culinary discoveries I have made have been nothing short of amazing. When it comes to tip #2 however, I don’t think that’s true in all situations. As long as you handle the panino carefully and choose a good foundation (aka a sturdy quality bread), the panino will hold up beautifully even if made up of more than a couple of ingredients. To support my case, I’m bringing you this delicious three meat panino πŸ™‚

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My review of this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo: Candy Heaven does exist! :-)

June is National Candy Month – so what better way to celebrate it than to preview the latest and hottest trends in this field at the Sweets & Snacks Expo? Held in Chicago at the end of May, the Expo brought together over 16,000 professionals from the confectionery, cookie and snack industries, who displayed their new creations on over 4 acres of show floor. Whether you’re an industry product developer, a buyer interested in attracting new business partners or a blogger eager to discover the latest manufacturer sweet and snack offerings – this definitely is the place for you to be.

As you know, I have a very sweet tooth, so I was looking forward to attending this Expo. At the same time, due to the focus of my recent academic research, I also wanted to see how sweet and snack companies addressed the complex issue of corporate social responsibility – what they had done to improve the conditions of their workers and the environmental impact of their business, and what issues (if any) still needed to be addressed. Mixing serious business with delicious candy and snacks sounded like a great plan for the day πŸ™‚ Keep Reading

Our Memorial Day appetizer: small pockets of goodness… and summer!

I think of my father every Memorial Day. Although he was never sent into combat, he did work in the military and had a dream to advance in the military ranks. This dream crashed when he was asked to join the Communist Party and he refused. He was expelled for this reason and spent his life longing for a return to the army (which never happened) and hoping his daughter would live a better life in freedom.

Back then, whenever there was a special occasion to celebrate, my mom and aunt would make the same appetizers: deviled eggs, chicken liver patΓ©, eggplant salad, and cheese filled tomatoes. I posted about the first three already, so now it’s time to write about the fourth – a cheerful, summery and vibrant dish. After all, what else says “summer” better than ripe, ruby red, sweet and thirst-quenching tomatoes? πŸ™‚ Keep Reading

The hottest food trends? What I have learned at this year’s edition of the National Restaurant Association Show

If there were one word to describe the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show, that would be: amazing. Every year in May, tens of thousands of restaurant professionals from around the world meet in Chicago to learn about the latest industry trends, to showcase their products, to negotiate business deals, and ultimately to network and share stories and experiences with their peers. It is a high caliber event which has a little bit of everything for everyone. Aspiring chefs, Michelin star restaurateurs, grocery store buyers, food bloggers, niche business owners – there is a panel, pavilion or education session to suit everyone’s tastes, interests or expectations.

Still, what has the NRA Show got to do with the ice cream pictured above? And can ice cream represent a food trend? According to a survey of almost 1,600 professional chefs recently conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the answer to the second question is yes. Keep Reading

Italian flavors and culinary traditions at their best: my review of the Truly Italian food expo

I can still remember the first time I came across Italian food: it was a few years after the fall of communism, when my cousin made pizza and cannelloni. She has always been very adventurous in the kitchen, and she took my family by surprise when she made these two dishes, for the first time ever. We didn’t even know how to pronounce their names – I remember we called them “piza” and “chameleon,” lol

As I ventured out of my parents’ home and into the big wide world, my appreciation of Italian cuisine has gone stronger, and I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since that first pizza I tried in my cousin’s kitchen. To me, Italian cuisine is very much a work in progress. I constantly try to find out more information about its history and phenomenal worldwide impact, and I’m always after new and exciting recipes to try. My husband and I are big fans of Italian food – in fact, as I’m writing this, I have cannelloni and pizza baking in the oven, both of which will be ready just in time for dinner. πŸ™‚

Since I am so passionate about Italian cuisine, I was very happy to be invited to the opening of the Truly Italian food expo, held in Chicago earlier this week. What does true Italian food mean? What does it taste like? These are some of the challenging questions I wanted to explore at the event. Keep Reading

Celebrating Chicago Craft Beer Week at Gino’s East: from Witte Chicks to Killarney Connection… and back!

I just love spring in Chicago! Now that the school semester is finally over and the days are longer and warmer, I want to put all the stress behind me and to enjoy life, as we all should. I want to get out of the house and be gone for hours, to wander the streets downtown in search for the next big culinary discovery, and to enjoy the refreshing beauty of Chicago, the city of my heart. What a great city, what a blessed life πŸ™‚

Of course, no culinary adventure is complete without an appropriate drink pairing – which brings me to the trendiest subject to write about these days: Chicago Craft Beer Week, which started today. A must-do for anyone who loves quality beer and late spring in Chicago, Craft Beer Week is celebrated in hundreds of restaurants across Chicagoland, which mark the occasion by offering quality pints at promotional prices. Gino’s East is one of the Craft Beer Week participating restaurants, and last week I was invited along with other local food bloggers to get a taste of some of their signature beers which are on offer during Craft Beer Week.

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