Osteria La Madia review: I love you, pasta – and I want more of you!

Now that fall is here and the weather has cooled down, I really need my carbs to keep me warm and full. Whole wheat bread sandwiches, risotto, potato stew, pasta – they’re on the menu these days for one simple reason: they’re energy-packed. I can’t get through my day without a healthy dose of carbs as an early lunch, washed down by a big cup of hot English breakfast tea and complemented by a few European biscuits for dessert. Yes, I really like my continental tea and specialty biscuits – I guess old habits die hard 🙂

Coming from Europe, I am a big believer in traditional culinary techniques and products from the “old continent,” yet I am also aware that the key to success lies in reinterpreting glorious traditions to make them appealing to the present. How do you reconcile the old with the new? Can they ever work in harmony? I’ve always been interested to explore these questions, and as such I was very excited when I got an invitation to attend a special “pasta and pizza night” at Osteria La Madia. Named after an Italian cabinet traditionally used to knead dough and store bread, this trendy restaurant in downtown Chicago upholds a respectful understanding of Italian cuisine and traditions.

Osteria La Madia is currently running a half-price pasta promotion for diners seated after 9 p.m., and they invited local food bloggers to sample their made fresh in-house pastas and pizzas and to spread the word. It was an offer my husband and I simply could not refuse. Keep Reading

MOD Pizza giveaway: We have a winner!

Thank you all for entering the MOD Pizza giveaway. The winner is Jennifer H, who wrote, “I would say thin crust. I like sausage and pepperoni. I think this kind of pizza because it has a crunchy crust.”

The winner has been notified. Congratulations, Jennifer! 🙂

Éclairs: a delicious fall treat


What is better than an Ă©clair? Two Ă©clairs! Everyone in my family is a fan of Ă©clairs, but until recently we did not have a recipe to make them at home. The recipe below comes from my mother-in-law, and it took her and me months of testing to get the quantities right.

When I was little I would buy éclairs from a local confectionery shop, on my way back home from school. Crammed and dark, with oversized platters and old-fashioned decoration, that place sold day-old éclairs filled with a custard vaguely tasting of coffee. Sometimes, the custard was sour and the dough was stale, but there was nothing I could do: I had spent good money on the éclair, and I had to eat it. There was no flour or butter on sale at the grocery stores, and sugar was rationed, which meant baking at home was also very limited.

Those days are long gone, thankfully. With so much abundance of ingredients at the stores, why not indulge in one of the favorite desserts of my childhood – and why not share it with the world? 🙂 Keep Reading

CLOSED A review of MOD Sienna Pizza – and a giveaway: They had me at… Brussels sprouts!

*Disclaimer: MOD Pizza offered me a complimentary tasting of their products to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

In my experience, resistance is futile when it comes to pizza – unless I’m told I am going to get Brussels sprouts on a thin crust! I have yet to find the magic of thin crusts – I like the pie crust to be thick, fluffy and pillow-like, and comforting all-around. As for the Brussels sprouts, I used to eat them when we lived in Britain, and I was not a fan (to put it mildly). We mainly ate Brussels sprouts as a side dish on Christmas Day, when they were boiled, seasoned, and paired with crispy bacon for extra flavor and texture. Disguised by the bacon, the Brussels sprouts failed to make culinary sense to me, and I found them pale, gloomy, and not charming in the slightest.

I had to revisit my opinions on Brussels sprouts and thin pizza crust last week, when I was invited to taste MOD Pizza’s seasonal offering: the Sienna pizza. Before this visit, I was unfamiliar with the MOD Pizza brand, and apprehensive about eating Brussels sprouts on a pizza. However, a quick Internet search made me uncover several positive reviews on the topic, and I became anxious to see what the enthusiastic buzz was all about. 🙂 Keep Reading

My aunt’s cocoa cake: moist, spongy, delicious!

I see her, eyebrows raised, sweat covering her forehead, shirt almost translucent, working hard in her tiny apartment kitchen in the sweltering heat of the summer. It was hot, but she didn’t care because she was baking for her family, and that made everything worthwhile. Nevermind the lingering heat, the sweat, the scarce ingredients. She was going to put her imagination to the test and come up with melt-in-your-mouth desserts for her family to enjoy. A labor of love: Isn’t this what baking is all about?

This lady was my aunt, who passed away in 1993. She was a fantastic baker and an all-around cook extraordinaire.  By now, you know I like to remember her in this blog and to recreate her recipes as often as I can. The cake below is yet another trip down memory lane, to my aunt and the wonderful summers we spent together in the countryside – baking, eating, playing childhood games under the old quince tree, living a wonderful life. 🙂 Keep Reading

CLOSED Hamilton Beach rice cooker review and giveaway: Carb season doesn’t have to be boring!

*Disclaimer: Hamilton Beach sent me a rice/hot cereal cooker free of charge for me to review. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Farewell, store-bought pasta, overcooked and dumped in cheese sauce in a hurry! Go away, sad-looking pilaf, grey and textureless like an unfinished cooking experiment! Time to say good bye, soggy sandwiches long-forgotten in the fridge, brimming with wilted lettuce! Who needs such uninspiring carb overloads? Not me, that’s for sure 🙂

I’ve never been a fan of carbs, yet the cold season is fast approaching and I know I’m going to need carbs to keep me warm and energetic during the fall & winter months. If you’re like me and need an extra “something” to get you motivated and interested in experimenting with carbs, a rice cooker might just be what you need! I admit I was very excited when Hamilton Beach contacted me and offered to send me a rice cooker to test and report on. Along with rice, this versatile Hamilton Beach appliance can cook hot cereal and whole grains, and even steam veggies and fish. From quinoa to farro, shrimp to grits and steamed asparagus to salmon – the possibilities seem endless!

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