Chicago Loves Panini

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

January 15, 2016
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Hiding the caraway seeds, preserving the healthfulness: my rye bread panino

What to make with rye bread? This was the question I asked myself the other day when I bought rye bread from the local grocery store. It was on sale and looked really delicious and healthy. Yet, I was a bit apprehensive to give it a try. I’ve never been a fan of rye bread for one simple reason: caraway seeds. I find them way too aromatic, way too pungent – way too “over the top” flavor-wise. Caraway seeds are to me what basil is to my husband – a culinary adversary. :-)

Still, I wanted to know how to “tame” my adversary, and as usual, the deli products I had in the fridge came to the rescue. I decided to “hide” the caraway seeds behind the flavor wall of several deli meats, and to add bell peppers for freshness and crunchiness. Once again, panini was the way to go :-)

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December 29, 2015
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Let’s wrap things up after Christmas! My turkey and three cheese wrap

It’s that time of the year again – the time to ask the question: what should I make with the leftover turkey meat? As a small family, we always buy turkeys that are on the small side. Even so, there is always extra meat left, which lingers in the fridge for days on end. I use shredded turkey in the omelette I make for my husband in the morning, and in the occasional post-Christmas turkey sandwich. Moreover, I have recently started to use leftover roast turkey to make wraps.

My husband is not a big fan of wraps. He gets to eat a lot of them at work, and the ones that are delivered by the catering company are always on the heavy, greasy side (or so he says) and have a lot of mayonnaise in them. Thankfully, I have persuaded him to give wraps another try, with promising results.

As you know by now, I hardly ever use mayo in our home-cooked meals, and wraps make no exception. Instead, I use cheese – a lot of it! In this wrap I used no less than three cheese varieties, all to my and husband’s liking: cottage cheese, feta cheese and mozzarella. The fluid wholesomeness of the cottage cheese works well with the constant assertiveness of the feta and the gooey seductiveness of the mozzarella. In my opinion, this combo can really do no wrong.

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December 19, 2015
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A panino a day keeps the panic away: my grilled eggplant and goat cheese panino

Whenever time is running out for me to come up with complicated meal ideas, the alternative is simple: panino it is! This should come as no surprise to those of you who have been following my blog for awhile now. Especially these past few months, with very little time to “spare” in the kitchen and with lots of things to do inside and outside our home, panini have ruled over our menu, and for good reasons: they are quick, easy to make, and very versatile indeed.

My husband and I are big fans of eggplant. However, so far my use of it has been limited to eggplant salad, eggplant parmigiana and stuffed eggplant. I came up with this idea of a panino because I was simply looking for another way to incorporate this rather unassuming veggie into my cooking. It was a “happy accident,” and pairing eggplant with goat cheese made up for a balanced and earthly panino, with an unadulterated mix of flavors which stays true to its component parts. Continue Reading →

December 12, 2015
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Sweetness has never tasted better! My review of the Lovely: a bake shop holiday menu

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been eating a lot of sweets lately. I don’t think it’s just my body’s response to the stress and exhaustion of these past few weeks – I also believe it’s got something to do with the season. Between my mother-in-law’s baking at home and numerous lunches and potlucks at work, the sweet tooth, pie & coffee cake aficionada in me has never felt happier!

For me, now is the perfect time to indulge and to try to put the worries and challenges of this past year behind me. Lovely: a bake shop provided the perfect opportunity for me to do just that, when they recently invited me to sample their holiday sweets menu. I happily obliged – and off I went :-)

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November 26, 2015
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Happy Thanksgiving! Our vegan pumpkin strudel – at least as good as pumpkin pie :-)

Have you ever been afraid to make pastry dough? I have – and I still am! Luckily, my mother-in-law has recently given me the recipe below, which is an easy to make, but also economical (no eggs, no butter!) strudel-type pastry.

I am a big fan of strudel, that Austrian multi-layered pastry which is not just delicious, but also versatile. I literally grew up eating apple strudels, lol Meanwhile, my husband loves ricotta&raisinĀ  strudel, and always wants me to make more. As a matter of fact, yesterday I brought ricotta strudel to a pre-Thanksgiving party at work, and everybody loved it – and how couldn’t they? Light as a feather and delicately powdered with sugar, this dessert can brighten up any meal, and any occasion, Thanksgiving included. I made it for Halloween last month, and I’m making it again for Thanksgiving. We just can’t seem to get enough of it :-)
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November 6, 2015
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Our winter salad: vitamins in a bowl!

What’s quicker to make: toast or salad? When it comes to cooking, this is the kind of thinking I’ve been using lately.

Yep, easy and fast: that’s all I want from recipes these days. Our little baby girl and my job have been taking a lot of my time, and laboring in the kitchen for hours on end just doesn’t seem feasible anymore – for now, anyway. I long for a day when I’ll no longer feel rushed, stressed out and unbelievably tired. Until then, we still have to eat, of course, :-) so I’ve been trying to come up with quick, easy and healthy meal solutions. For us, salads have been the way to go these past few months.

The salad below is what I usually call “a winter salad,” and it strongly reminds me of the years I spent in Eastern Europe during communism. Back then, cabbage represented a very popular food option (our choices were limited to begin with), and cabbage on the menu was a clear sign of winter. Years later, I found out my mother-in-law made this salad as well. However, she also used chopped dill in it – a sensible addition, which provides the cabbage & carrot mix with freshness and an extra flavor boost.

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