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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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My crunchy three cheese and veggie panino: “Blame” it on the celery sticks!

Yes, I want texture – and I’m looking at you, celery stick. Why did you have to make my three cheese panino so crunchy and delicious? Firm and perfumed, with an emerald appearance and a lovely bite, you are the perfect addition to lunches in a hurry – and you are here to stay 🙂

We’ve always been celery root fans – but sticks? Not really. My mom and aunt never used the sticks in their cooking, and eating them raw was unheard of. They would add shredded celery root to soups and stews and would throw away the stalks – or, in the best case scenario, they would use the stalks as a “filler” when canning stuffed peppers or cabbage.

Since coming to this country I have learned there’s more to celery sticks than meets the eye, and my appreciation of them has increased. My mom used a few sliced sticks in a soup just before she left for Europe: I simply couldn’t believe how much the flavor of the soup had been enhanced! Still in awe, I decided to use celery sticks in a panino. The recipe below is the result of these recent “celery experiments.”  Keep Reading

Our Flag Day dessert: an ode to summer featuring strawberries and cream – and more!

It’s summer, and the floodgates of produce have opened! Who can resist the sweetness and freshness of berries, which are now at their peak of perfection? We for sure cannot. Thankfully, berries have been on sale these past few weeks, which means that we’ve been eating berries – lots and lots of them. I’ve also made two batches of raspberry jam (the recipe can be found here) and I am about to make a third. The abundance of fresh berries is one of the reasons I love summer so much. If only I had more time to cook, bake and generally experiment in the kitchen…

In this dessert I’ve used my beloved berries to visually pay homage to Flag Day, which is today. This sweet dish requires little preparation, and the result is deliciously simple and likely to satisfy the expectations of both adults and children. By the way, ricotta cheese is one of our daughter’s favorite cheeses (she’s a cheeseaholic, just like her mom 🙂 ).

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Our Memorial Day appetizer: small pockets of goodness… and summer!

I think of my father every Memorial Day. Although he was never sent into combat, he did work in the military and had a dream to advance in the military ranks. This dream crashed when he was asked to join the Communist Party and he refused. He was expelled for this reason and spent his life longing for a return to the army (which never happened) and hoping his daughter would live a better life in freedom.

Back then, whenever there was a special occasion to celebrate, my mom and aunt would make the same appetizers: deviled eggs, chicken liver paté, eggplant salad, and cheese filled tomatoes. I posted about the first three already, so now it’s time to write about the fourth – a cheerful, summery and vibrant dish. After all, what else says “summer” better than ripe, ruby red, sweet and thirst-quenching tomatoes? 🙂 Keep Reading

Super Bowl, vegetarian style: my quinoa, sweetcorn and spinach patties

Up until these past few months, I never actually thought much about the versatility and healthfulness of grains. As a child, my exposure to them in their unprocessed state was minimal. We used to eat a lot of carbs – mostly white, refined bread – but never wheat, oats or other grains per se. Since then, my diet has changed tremendously, and for the better. Still, it was only lately that I have decided to give the much-lauded grains a try, and I couldn’t be happier with my find. We have become “grains aficionados” – and we love it! 🙂

I made these quinoa patties earlier in the week, and I will make them again today, on Super Bowl Sunday. My husband likes to eat them for lunch at work. He says they are light yet satisfying, and they make them feel good about himself and his eating habits. As for me, I really enjoy the crunchy texture of the quinoa, and I think the pairing of the sweetcorn with the mighty red pepper flakes makes these patties stand out and deliver a truly rewarding flavor experience. I like sweetcorn – and I love sweetcorn and red pepper flakes!

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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. Keep Reading

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&raisin  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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