Good bread is king! A few words on my favorite Chicagoland bakeries

Now that spring is finally here (or so I hope!), I can scale down on typical comfort foods and go back to the dishes I crave the most: panini, sandwiches, light soups and salads. So easy to make, so flavorful, so nutritious and satisfying! We’re talking sandwiches, which means now’s also the perfect time to answer some readers’ questions regarding the bread I usually eat and use in my recipes. What is my go-to bread, and why? Do I have any favorite bakeries?

As someone who has lived in Chicago for close to 8 years now, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad bread-related experiences. Keep Reading

Celebrating 20 years of Chicago’s Best Wingfest: Give me wings, glorious wings!

Tamarindo chicken wings served by Estrella Negra at 2019 Chicago’s Best Wingfest

What’s the magic formula for perfect chicken wings? I don’t know about you, but the first thing I notice when eating one is the texture. As I bite into it, I expect it to be moist and delicate, with an almost melt-in-your mouth quality. Once that’s done, the flavor kicks in: I expect it to be a little bit on the spicy side, and fully developed, encompassing several layers of surprising elements. What’s my absolute no-no? The freezer burn taste. I’ve tasted it before – never again, tyvm!

If you’re still unsure what kind of chicken wings you like, how about you try a lot? I reckon the best way to do it is to check out Chicago’s Best Wingfest next year. With so many wings to discover, you’re bound to find a favorite, have a fab time with your loved ones – and maybe even win some prizes in their famous wing eating competition 😉 Keep Reading

Hope & Sesame review and giveaway: Happy Mother’s Day!

I don’t know about you, but I always start the day with oatmeal and coffee – and when I say coffee I mean 4.5oz coffee and lots and lots of milk to top it off. We drink plenty of cow’s milk in this house, and we are fortunate that none of us is lactose intolerant. Drinking cow’s milk is something I truly enjoy – which should not come as a surprise if you consider my life’s story. Milk was always in short supply when I was a kid. My dad would queue for hours to get a couple of bottles of curdled liquid that barely qualified as milk. I still remember the long lines of bottles left on the pavement on purpose, to hold someone’s place in line. Sometimes, we would get lucky and my aunt would bring us some milk from the countryside. That really was a reason for celebration. As we poured the thick, yellow liquid into glasses, my family’s faces would light up, as if witnessing a miracle. Drinking milk and eating bread was so good!

Gone are the days when barely drinkable milk was the only option for me and my family. Thankfully, nowadays not only is cow’s milk pretty much everywhere you look, but you can also find plenty of non-dairy alternatives to milk if you’re lactose intolerant or you just simply want to enjoy a plant-based diet, for a variety of reasons. There’s soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk and rice milk, to name a few. This is the beginning of an interesting food trend, whose dynamic growth has been reported by the media. The possibilities are truly endless. Enter Hope & Sesame, the world’s first line of organic sesamemilk 🙂

Keep Reading

My review of Mezcalito: Are you #DownToFiesta? I’d say we are :-)

Chef Marissa Tuñon’s molletes, featuring refried beans, cheese and pico de gallo

Somewhere in hip River North, tucked in the basement of the famous Mercadito, lies a cocktail lounge that offers inventive food and drinks in an immersive atmosphere. The name of Mercadito’s younger sibling is Mezcalito, and its goal is to capture the hearts and minds of customers who want a quality bar experience, which blends authentic Mexican food with upscale tequila-based cocktails. Ever wondered how to make your night downtown memorable? Whatever you do, I strongly encourage you to check out Mezcalito at some point. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I’m here to spill the beans – or the mezcal, more likely 😉 Keep Reading

Nielsen Massey giveaway: a spring ode to vanilla crêpe casserole!

There are many scenes in Hector Malot’s classic novel Sans Famille (English translation Nobody’s Boy) that have stayed with me over the years, but none are as memorable as those where the main character Rémi helps his foster mom to make crêpes on Shrove Tuesday. Rémi’s descriptions of these moments are pure sensory joy: from the cracking of the eggs to their whisking with the milk and the sizzling of the butter, every word tells a vibrant story about food seen through a child’s eyes. Growing up I was fascinated with the crêpe-making scenes in Malot’s book. Maybe it was because they were about butter, eggs, and milk – items which were in very short supply in our family. Maybe it was because I was hungry a lot back in the day. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because I loved crêpes – I always had, I always will 🙂

I started thinking about the crêpe-making scenes in Sans Famille again recently, after I was asked by Nielsen-Massey to review their Tahitian Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. I have enjoyed reviewing Nielsen-Massey products and incorporating them into my family’s recipes for close to two years now. What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a deliciously aromatic dessert, a classic in our family which pays homage to my childhood fascination with crêpes and gets elevated by the addition of pure vanilla? Vanilla crêpe casserole, here I come! 😉

Keep Reading

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a sunny and peaceful Easter, if celebrating. As for us, we’ll be going out with the little ones. No “real” plans, but I guess that’s how we roll 😂

Harissa pork with mushrooms and chickpeas: one last plate of comfort food before spring time!

This recipe came to me on a whim: I had pork chops in the freezer, mushrooms in the fridge and chickpeas in the pantry, so why not put these three together? It seemed easy enough, but also unimaginative – to me, anyway. And then, I realized there was one thing that was missing: the sophisticated notes of aromatic Middle Eastern flavor coming from harissa. This spice blend was going to be the “glue” to my ingredients, the vibrant burst of color to my dish, and the scent to my entire foodie life 🙂 Keep Reading