Nielsen-Massey review and giveaway: baking dreams of crème brûlée!

Ask me about my earliest baking memories, and I’ll tell you they revolve around mom making spice cake in the kitchen of our small apartment. With the patience that always characterized her, she would gently mix the batter with a wooden spoon (spatulas were non-existent), and would slowly pour it in an age-old baking pan with smooth edges and black interior. I would watch her lost in the beauty of colors and aromas, and ready to devour the copper-hued cake brimming with cinnamon and juniper berries, if we were lucky enough to get hold of the latter.

Ask my husband about his earliest baking memories, and he’ll have two words for you: crème brûlée. The first thing he remembers about the baking process is the smell of fresh caramelized sugar – and his trepidation in anticipation of the forthcoming treat. His mom (my mother-in-law) would make crème brûlée in a big enamel pot, capable to feed an army – and thus definitely capable to feed four small children! As the years went by and the children grew up an left home, MIL had to reduce quantities and to give up on her humongous crème brûlée enamel pot – and yet, everyone’s love of her dessert (myself included!) never subsided.

I thought crème brûlée would be the perfect dessert to make using Nielsen-Massey Vanillas products. I have been incorporating Nielsen-Massey extracts into my family’s recipes for two years now (some of my previous reviews can be found here, here, and here). Nielsen-Massey Vanillas contacted me again recently and offered to send me one of their vanilla extracts to review as part of their latest “Better Your Bake” campaign. Baking dreams of crème brûlée? Yes, please! 🙂

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My duck egg sandwich: flavorful, rustic, and perfect for Meatless Mondays!

Ask me about some of my oldest food obsessions, and I’ll have two words for you: duck eggs. I loved these as a youngster growing up in Europe, I love them now, as a busy mom living and working in Chicagoland. What makes duck eggs so special, and how can you best enjoy them? Read on 🙂

Duck eggs are packed with vitamin B12 and selenium, but they are not amenable to tiny appetites: famous for their high fat and cholesterol content, they exhibit an intense yellow yolk color and a rich egg flavor, which makes them a delicious, yet rather decadent treat. I remember eating my first duck egg hard-boiled, with salt and pepper sprinkled on top and crusty bread on the side, and marveling at the depth of egg flavor I was experiencing. It was rather overwhelming, to be honest! The good news is that duck eggs are versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in a variety of ways, hard-boiled or as an ingredient in cakes and custards.

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More eating from the pantry: tricolor vegetable pasta salad – with fresh basil for DH!

If you’ve been reading my posts these past few weeks, you know what we’ve been eating up: the pantry! 🙂 Every day this summer, I have worked diligently to declutter the pantry and to give new life to long-forgotten ingredients – and the work is far from over. In the process, I discovered I had a stockpile of high quality rice and pasta, perfect components for easy light summer salads. These pantry staples can be used creatively particularly in the summer, when there’s an abundance of in-season affordable produce.

Growing up, my family and I had no knowledge of pasta salad and how delicious it could be. We would usually eat pasta with feta cheese, if available, or with hot milk, with some sugar on top. Our meal was nothing fancy: pasta was sustenance, a good filler for our bellies when nothing else was available to eat. As we went on to discover different countries, cultures, and eating habits, we gained a better understanding of the versatility of pasta. We said goodbye to pasta with warm milk (we still make it from time to time, but as a treat/dessert, not as a main meal), and hello to pasta salads and their vibrant mix of flavors. The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to pasta, right? 🙂

To make the salad pictured above I used one of the best gourmet pastas I’ve ever had the chance to work with: Tuscanini Foods pasta, imported straight from Italy. Keep Reading

My visit to Arun’s Thai: the magic of approaching food as a postgraduate research project

Ask me about my favorite Chicago neighborhoods, and I’ll have two words for you: Albany Park. Every time I visit one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, I’m in for a treat. I love the people – warm, friendly, bursting with excitement and imagination -, the streets – a mosaic of cultural symbols seamlessly intertwined – and, of course, the food. Many popular Chicago restaurants are located in Albany Park, yet none of them manages to capture the hearts of minds of diners the world over like Arun’s Thai does, which I got the chance to visit recently.

Located on a corner lot on North Kedzie Avenue, next to a grocery store, Arun’s Thai Restaurant looks rather unassuming from the outside. Keep Reading

2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo: mindful eating, part #2

Torie & Howard organic hard candies, on display at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo

Is there a better time to talk, taste and enjoy sweets and snacks than during the summer months? I reckon there isn’t. I don’t know about you, but we’ve been gorging on berries – nature’s best sweet snacks, available in abundance as we speak 😉 Indeed, summer produce offers plenty of options to indulge while keeping an eye on the environment and your own well-being – and that’s exactly what US consumers have been craving lately. Sweet and snack manufacturers have been trying to capitalize on the increased demand for mindful, healthier, closer-to-nature products, and this trend has been on full display at the latest edition of the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held in Chicago recently. Keep Reading

My vegan couscous salad: eating from the pantry, summer-style!

What have you been up to this summer? I don’t know about you, but cleaning and tidying up the house has been one of my priorities. I know it sounds boring, routine and uneventful, but that’s the truth: I have been using my summer break to bring some semblance of order to our house. I hardly ever get the chance to do it during the school term, and I have found that two small kids can cause a lot of clutter – or maybe I’m just disorganized and looking for someone else to blame 😛 In any case, these past few weeks I’ve been on a mission to declutter things around the house, starting with the pantry.

Working my way through the pantry has led to many discoveries – who knew I had so many awesome ingredients which needed to be used? Take Bob’s Red Mill’s tricolor pearl couscous, for example. Keep Reading

The magic of the foodie weekend: a recap of fun places & events across Chicagoland

Cake pops served at the recent official launch of Offshore at the Navy Pier

What are you doing this weekend? There’s so much to do, see and eat in Chicago, that choosing can be really difficult. Don’t worry: I understand – as a matter of fact, I’m in the same boat! How can I say “yes” to some experiences, and “no” to others? I want them, and I want them all, lol

And yet, I have to pick – and with that being the case, my first pick is Taste of Chicago. Keep Reading