Nielsen Massey review: ‘Tis the season for a holiday giveaway – and vegan pastries!

Every year around the holiday season, the same question pops up: What should I bake? There’s so much to do and so little time – and as much as I’d love to spend days trying, tasting, and perfecting new recipes in the kitchen, that really isn’t possible. Unavoidably, I revert to a few foolproof family recipes, and I build my menu around them for certainty and peace of mind. I do love some peace of mind in the midst of the holiday shopping/cooking craziness, lol

How do I reinvent my family recipes, and step them up a notch? The answer is simple: I work on their spice content, fine-tuning it until my family (aka testers 😉) approve of it. And when it comes to spices, there’s no better ally in the kitchen than Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and their wonderful range of products.Β  Keep Reading

2019 holiday gift guide: spices, wines, books, coffee!

Happy holidays, everyone! Another year has nearly passed – a year of eating, drinking, creating, enjoying. Now is the time to put my feet up for once, lol – but not until I finish my holiday shopping 😉

Are you excited about shopping for gifts for friends and family? I love spending hours in small shops, looking for the next big artisan foodie discovery – but sometimes time just passes me by, or I’m way too tired, or I just have to be somewhere else. This is why I have found gift guides to be of great help, and the perfect time-saver. Having experienced their usefulness first-hand, I have decided to put together my own gift guide, in an effort to streamline information on excellent products I’ve come across this past year, and to help passionate foodies in need of gift giving advice.

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2019 Chicago Gourmet: Lights, Camera, Napkin – and delicious food galore!

Fall just isn’t complete in Chicago without the usual great food extravaganza that is Chicago Gourmet. The sun may come and go, the theme of the fest may be funny or pensive, and the participating restaurants may change – and yet, year after year, the magic remains. Where else can you find a plethora of America’s most talented and most diverse chefs gathered in one place, sharing their talent and their time with an unashamedly food-obsessed audience? I dare you to give me a counterexample 😉

This was the third time I attended Chicago Gourmet (you can read my reviews of previous editions here and here), and my experience this year was on par with what I have come to expect from one of Chicago’s most popular annual celebrations of excellence in food, held at Millennium Park. This year’s theme – Lights, Camera, Napkin! – highlighted the connections between food and entertainment through a series of super fun cooking demonstrations. Keep Reading

My farro & chayote squash salad: make it in the fall, make it all year-round!

Who here is a fan of farro? I’ll admit I’ve never had farro in savory applications until recently. Sweet, however, is a totally different matter. Growing up, ever so often, my aunt would make me a dessert that is very popular in my home country, which involves a combination of farro, sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts and sometimes lemon. I used to love this dessert so much that I would often dream of it – yes, really πŸ™‚ Coming in contact with the cooked farro, the nuts would turn into a velvety mass of milky goodness – and that’s exactly why I liked this dessert so much. What’s not to love about a creamy, ever so comforting sweet treat?

My farro repertoire has expanded recently, and for a good reason. I’ve been trying to find ways to use up a boatload of organic farro I got on sale from the grocery store – and in the process, I came up with a simple recipe for a vegan farro salad we absolutely love.

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Chicago Food Planet Chinatown food tour: from bao buns to astral signs, and a splash of bubble tea!

What is your favorite Chinese dish? Is it bao buns or sweet & sour pork? Spring rolls or Szechuan chicken? As for me, I love them all, without exception – and there’s a reason for it πŸ™‚

Growing up, I never got the chance to experience Chinese food. There was one Chinese restaurant in our city, but my family and I never visited it, for various reasons. Having lived with zero Chinese food for the better part of my life, nowadays I feel spoiled for choice living in Chicago – a big diverse city, where restaurants and cuisines are as varied as they are flavor-packed. It is this variety which sometimes confuses or overwhelms me. How to make sense of a myriad of regions, styles and interpretations? How does one begin their exploration of Chinese cuisine in Chicago – and, equally important, where?

Luckily, Chicago-based food tour companies have taken on the task of making Chinese cuisine accessible and easy to understand by tourists and local residents alike. Take, for example, Chicago Food Planet, whose “food ambassadors” have worked hard for the past 13 years to connect their clients “to the greatest food city in the world and the gourmet artisans who call Chicago home.” I was very excited when Chicago Food Planet (CFP) contacted me and asked me to review one of their food tours. I needed all the expertise I could get to gain an in-depth understanding of Chinese food in Chicago – so I said yes to their Chinatown Adventure Food Tour 😉

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Cabbage and curry roasted potato salad: fresh and fiery – and perfect for fall!

I can’t remember the first time I used curry powder in my cooking, but I’m sure it happened while I lived in the UK. Indeed, back in those days, I would find the sophisticated pungent aroma of curry pretty much everywhere: in the dorm room I used to live in while working on my postgraduate dissertation; intermingled with the deep-fried smells coming from the local chippy; on my hands after lunch in the noisy cafeteria. Steeped in a long history and perceived by some as a tool for re-imagining a cuisine largely characterized by robust ingredients and rustic applications, the lasting impact of curry on British dishes is nothing short of extraordinary. Indeed, I fell in love with this ingredient while living in the UK – and I will cherish it forever πŸ™‚

This salad pays tribute to my ongoing fascination with curry while also epitomizing my belief in plant-based eating, which has fueled my inspiration in the kitchen these past few years. I have been roasting a lot of veggies lately (it is fall, after all, lol), and for this recipe I decided to pair roasted veggies with fresh carefully picked ones to create a balance of flavors and textures. This salad is all about the present (fall roasted veggies) and the future (fresh veggies in all their colorful glory). Something fresh, something roasted – and a lot of plant-based goodness in between πŸ™‚

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Basic Invite review: ‘Tis the season for great food and fabulous party invitations!

Nothing says holidays like delicious home-cooked food and precious moments spent with family and friends. Indeed, if there’s any time when I can’t seem to get myself out of the kitchen, it is around the winter holidays. The smell of decadent roasted turkey or ham, the crunching sound of crispy fresh baked cookies, the soothing velvet layers of potato and zucchini casseroles – there’s nothing quite like these, right? πŸ™‚ And yet, the food we eat is only one component of our usual winter holiday magic. When it comes to organizing festive gatherings, I like to show my appreciation for my loved ones by thinking things through, not just in terms of food alone, but also table setting, choice of wines, and party favors. Every little detail matters – and it all starts with a beautiful invite.

Thankfully, my knowledge of stationery companies has expanded recently upon being contacted byΒ  Basic Invite, who expressed their interest in a collaboration. I jumped at the opportunity – and who wouldn’t? I love festive cards and invitations, and the quality of the products I had seen on Basic Invite’s website appeared unsurpassed by any other company currently on the market. So I said yes to Basic Invite’s offer – and I let the invites roll 😉

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