chicagolovespanini

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


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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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Vive la France! My “almost” French lunch, featuring croissant, Camembert and tomatoes (again!)

I woke up this morning and remembered something: today is the National Day of France, which is also called Bastille Day.  This day is always celebrated in my home country. Our culture is closely related to the French culture – so close that we are members of the International Organization of the Francophonie. I am really glad I remembered about Bastille Day. Better mark the occasion later in the day than not mark it at all!

In honor of Bastille Day, I decided to make a French-inspired lunch: a stuffed croissant. Continue reading


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CLOSED The goodness of tomatoes, the goodness of summer: a review of Red Gold Tomatoes grilling recipes – and a giveaway!

To write about food is to write about memories – and this is certainly true in my case, when it comes to writing about tomatoes. To me, they remind me of the many gorgeous summers I spent in the countryside while I was growing up. My aunt and uncle owned a small house about 20 miles away from the city, and they loved having me and my niece Anne Marie over when school was out for the summer.

Those were the days I never got tired because the world and its wonders kept me in awe, and my uncle’s garden was something to behold. We used to play hide-and-seek in that garden, tirelessly running around the cherry trees, digging deep and hoping to discover allegedly long-lost treasures at the root of the old fir tree, or happily hunting down Colorado beetles in the mild sunset light. We would always play and eat in that garden – who could have resisted freshly picked raspberries, apricots, apples and, of course, tomatoes? Indeed, no day would pass without me eating a tomato from my uncle’s garden. Firm, slightly sweet and deliciously thirst-quenching, my uncle’s heirloom tomatoes would give me that much-needed energy boost to go on with my playing.  Continue reading


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Happy 4th of July! My mighty meaty burger menu

Who has the time to plan in advance and to create elaborate menus? Not me, that’s for sure. The 4th of July weekend is coming up, and I have yet to do any menu planning and to buy any ingredients. Having an infant around has made things harder and less organized for me on the kitchen front. Nowadays, it’s all about the baby – and so it should be. :-)

I know I won’t get the chance to prepare as many dishes as I did last year. I will most likely focus on burgers and I will make a few of my family’s favorites.  Continue reading

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