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Chicago foodie

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