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MickyN

My recent BlueStar pizza class experience: the science of pizza, revealed in a cooking space like no other

Chefs Leo Spizzirri and Susan Swanson during the BlueStar pizza class

Chef Leo Spizzirri  is a man of a phenomenal energy and charisma, and what keeps him motivated is something most of us enjoy: pizza 🙂 He talks fast, his hand gestures are broad, and his eyes light up whenever he shares stories from his past as a pizzaiolo certified by the International School of Pizza or as a consultant for some of America’s largest pizza manufacturers. What he’s most passionate about, however, is his current job as a pizza instructor at the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy (NAPCA) in Lisle. Do you ever think about what goes on inside your pizza? About the chemical reactions among the ingredients? About the stress level applied to the dough? If you’d like to find out more about the science of pizza, meeting Chef Spizzirri is a must. Believe me: you will not be disappointed.

I met Chef/instructor Spizzirri when I attended the BlueStar pizza class held at NAPCA, which Chef Spizzirri manages along with his business partners, Chefs Anthony Iannone and Renee Gabbett. This is a full review of my experience – and what an experience that was! Keep Reading

Father’s Day wishes – and an update!

Some of the delicious food gifted to us by our neighbors

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there! Perhaps you’re wondering what we’re going to be eating this weekend, and maybe you’re on the lookout for menu suggestions. I wish I could tell you I will make elaborate celebratory dishes, but that’s not the case. Our world was rocked the best possible way two weeks ago, when we became parents again. Who has time to cook with a newborn in the house? Not us, that’s for sure. Thankfully, our neighbors have come to the rescue (check out pic above for just one example of the foods we’ve been receiving).

So yep, this Father’s Day we will not cook anything special, and we will not follow elaborate menus or use fancy ingredients. We will enjoy every single moment we get to spend together as a family – and I hope you will too 🙂

My vegetarian lunch at Fogo de Chão: enjoying warm spring days one Watermelon Fresca at a time!

Maybe it’s just me and my preconceived ideas, but eating veggies is not something I would normally imagine myself doing at Fogo de Chão. Mention the name of this restaurant and more often than not I’ll have a vision of endless meats roasted over an open fire in a Brazilian steakhouse (aka churrascaria). There is drama and magic in the play of the fire, and the chefs look like illusionists taming a spirited force which turns rawness into deliciousness. And yet, Fogo de Chão is not exclusively about the gaucho way of preparing meat – on skewers impressively maneuvered by the chefs for hours on end – but also about veggies: wholesome, fresh, flavorful veggies meant to satisfy your appetite and to make your hot day lighter, healthier, and overall more bearable.

I visited Fogo de Chão in Rosemont IL for lunch recently following their invitation to try out the new salads featured on their summer menu. Keep Reading

My Memorial Day dessert ideas: ice cream, ice cream, lots of ice cream!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s just the perfect treat for your Memorial Day weekend: ice cream! With the soaring temperatures Chicagoland has seen these past few days, many of us will likely stay under the shade and look for ways to remain cool and refreshed. Ice cream is the perfect decadent treat to enjoy from time to time, especially when you need a respite from the heat. I may have gone overboard when it comes to the size of my Memorial Day Dessert, but that’s OK: I will use the age-old excuse that I’m eating for two – just this once 😉

The dessert above is a combination of a homemade cake I wrote about awhile ago, some crispy thin cocoa cookies I had in my cupboard, and lots of delicious Hudsonville ice cream. Keep Reading

Book reviews, part 2: healthy eating this spring, from breakfast to dessert

An assortment of vegan treats from Heather Saffer’s latest cookbook

Too stuffy clothes, too long a winter, too many chicken wings (see my previous post 😉) – put these together and the first few months of 2018 have been a real downer for a sun-loving Chicagoan like myself. Add a pregnancy with swollen legs and plenty of food restrictions, and the question becomes even more stressful: what should I eat to stay healthy and well nourished this spring? Part #2 of my book review (you can check out part #1 here) focuses on this topic because I believe it’s important not just to me – the ever-tired mommy-in-waiting, lol – but to many of you as well. Want to discover tips and recipes to help you stay well-fed and energized? Read on 🙂

If you’re into healthy eating as a lifelong choice, Devin Alexander’s You Can Have it!: More than 125 Decadent Diabetes-Friendly Recipes fits the bill perfectly. Keep Reading

Winging it at WingFest 2018: so many wings, so little time!

How do you like your chicken wings: mild with dashes of parmesan, hot with ghost pepper galore, or BBQ-style, smothered in smoky bourbon sauce? Or maybe you like the exotic kind, brimming with gochujang, pineapple and mango? Whatever your preferred flavors or tolerance of spicy food, you were bound to find your favorites and to discover new ones at the 19th edition of Chicago’s Best WingFest, which was held at UIC Pavilion earlier this month.

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I’m not into spicy foods. Furthermore, being heavily pregnant has made me very cautious when it comes to trying out new dishes. What if there wouldn’t be anything mild enough for me to be able to eat at WingFest? What if my feet would get more swollen, and my ankles would hurt even more as a result of standing up for hours? All in all, was it really worth it? In the end, curiosity got the best of me: I attended WingFest, and I’m happy to report that my fears were unfounded. The mild wings were plenty and delicious, the crowds were manageable, and the experience was a lot of fun 🙂

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The perfect pre-Mother’s Day afternoon: cooking with Michelle… and Nellie!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope this day brings you lots of happiness and peace, and you celebrate it with your loved ones 🙂

I’m happy to report the school semester is now over and I can go back to cooking – and what better way to celebrate my return to all things foodie-related than with an easy yet super-decadent lemon pastry cream French toast, just in time for Mother’s Day? Truth be told, I had plenty of help to bring this recipe to life – first from my daughter Michelle, and then from Nellie. Nellie is the brown hen mascot behind Nellie’s Free Range Eggs brand, whose reps have recently contacted me to review their products. With May being National Egg Month and with Mother’s Day right around the corner, I thought this was the perfect moment for an “egg-ucation” refresher – so I said yes, and I embraced the challenge 😉

I ate a lot of free range and organic eggs when I was growing up. There was famine in the cities and eggs were scarce, which meant that my family would always arrange for me to spend the summers in the countryside. Local peasants were so poor they just couldn’t afford to buy expensive cages for their hens, which meant the hens were kept outside and only fed natural food – lucky me! Keep Reading