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Chicago food blogger

Purple cauliflower, red bean and chickpea salad: one more light dish before fall kicks in!

How do you like your salads: light as in chock-full of greens, or filling as in chock-full of pasta? I’m asking because to me, eating salads is a seasonal experience. While during the summer I usually gravitate toward less calorific lettuce-based offerings, when the cold weather kicks in I want nothing more than a bowl of hearty warm salad, brimming with all the carbs I can find. Since the days are still reasonably mild and the fall seems far and away, I think eating light is the way to go at the moment. Enter one of my latest creations, featuring purple cauliflower, red beans and chickpeas.

I developed this recipe by chance, following a shopping trip during which I found purple cauliflower on sale. It was not just any cauliflower, but organic cauliflower, grown by Amish farmers and sold at one of my favorite local stores. I wanted to treat this nutrient-packed cauliflower variety right, and the recipe development period which followed was truly a labor of love.

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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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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 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

My review of NRA Show’s centennial edition: when mindful eating takes center stage

Every year in May I get incredibly excited for what’s about to come. Not only am I eager to finish the school semester and enjoy a long-awaited summer break, but I also fidget at the thought of the upcoming National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show. In my opinion, this is one of the year’s best food-related events which take place in Chicago, unrivaled in scope, in number of attendees, in showcase of inspiration.

This year’s edition was bigger and better than ever before, for a good reason: restaurateurs and industry experts from all across America came together to celebrate 100 years of existence for both the National Restaurant Association and for the Show. What’s the connection between the NRA Show and my sandwich, pictured above? Read on for the answer 😉 Keep Reading

Five things I learned from Chef Fabio Viviani at Macy’s latest cooking demo

Chef Fabio Viviani’s fresh bean salad with roasted chickpeas and crispy mortadella bites

Is there anything better than a walk in downtown Chicago when the flowers are in bloom and the weather is crystal clear? Yes, there is 🙂 To make your day even better, I encourage you check out the cooking demo schedule on Macy’s Culinary Council website before leaving home. If you’re in luck, you’ll catch a demo at Macy’s on State Street – the perfect destination for foodies and fashionistas alike.

Go downtown, eat fresh food made on the spot, and build memories to last a lifetime: That’s exactly what I did recently, when I visited Macy’s State Street to attend a cooking demonstration given by Chef Fabio Viviani 😉 Keep Reading

Chef Battle Midwest Regionals: I ate, I judged, I had a fabulous time!

I don’t know about you, but I love cooking competitions! There is something truly addictive in watching the adrenaline, the sweat, the trembling – and sometimes the desperation – of talented chefs working under pressure. Be it the ingredients that are hard to work with, be it the technology that fails, be it last-second misfortunes which render the final dish inedible – it’s all that drama that keeps me glued to the TV screen, waiting for the chefs’ next move. As a Chicago-based foodie, I’ve also had my fair share of live cooking competitions, which I attended and then described in detail on this blog.

The most recent competition I was invited to was Chef Battle Midwest Regionals. I also agreed to be a judge for the preliminary stage of this event. Spending Sunday downtown eating food made by talented local chefs and grading them for their efforts? Yes, please 🙂

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