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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

Hiding the caraway seeds, preserving the healthfulness: my rye bread panino

What to make with rye bread? This was the question I asked myself the other day when I bought rye bread from the local grocery store. It was on sale and looked really delicious and healthy. Yet, I was a bit apprehensive to give it a try. I’ve never been a fan of rye bread for one simple reason: caraway seeds. I find them way too aromatic, way too pungent – way too “over the top” flavor-wise. Caraway seeds are to me what basil is to my husband – a culinary adversary. 🙂

Still, I wanted to know how to “tame” my adversary, and as usual, the deli products I had in the fridge came to the rescue. I decided to “hide” the caraway seeds behind the flavor wall of several deli meats, and to add bell peppers for freshness and crunchiness. Once again, panini was the way to go 🙂

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My review of 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria: for the love of pizza!

UPDATE: This pizzeria has closed.

With a baby at home and demanding jobs outside the home, who has time to dine out? Not me or my husband, that’s for sure. We haven’t had the chance to go out in what seems like forever, and sometimes I do miss the free time I once used to enjoy. Thankfully, 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria has recently come to our rescue, when we were invited to the opening of its newest restaurant in Evanston, IL.

After opening its first California location in January 2012 to rave reviews, 800 Degrees has been turning out, on average, 800-1,200 pizzas per day, serving 300,000 pizzas in its first year from a single location (wow!). 800 Degrees is also credited with starting the “assembly-line” pizza phenomenon. I couldn’t wait to be a part of this phenomenon myself, so I gladly accepted the invitation to check out their new location. It was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse 🙂 Keep Reading

Hummus panini: wholesome, protein-packed and delicious

You have leftovers in the fridge and you really don’t want to throw them away, so you frantically think of ways to use them up creatively – who hasn’t been there before? I, for one, have been there and have done that lots of times – perhaps too many times 🙂 It happened again the other day, when I had some leftover hummus I wanted to use before expiration. I have always been a fan of hummus – I like its earthly flavor and healthy protein content – and I really did not want it to go bad before I got the chance to use it. My mind went straight to the most convenient and familiar option: panini!  Keep Reading

Italian beef panini: I’ve got a panino for every occasion – and my husband will eat it!

I went to the doctor earlier this week and he confirmed my suspicions: I’m pregnant! This is big news for our family and explains the fatigue, nausea and sleepiness I’ve been experiencing lately. I won’t go into details, but I’ll say this: these past few weeks have been hard. Physically, I feel drained of energy and can hardly eat anything due to the nausea. Moreover, with mom absent and my husband at work till late every day, I often feel isolated, lonely, and I’m overwhelmed by anxiety and worries. I’ve been told I’ll feel better in the second trimester of my pregnancy. I hope that’s true – I really don’t like this new lethargic me. 🙁

Food-wise, being pregnant means I had to stop eating certain products, including deli meats. This part was hard – as you know, we are “panini aficionados,” and up until this week I used to eat deli meats on a daily basis. No more, though. I’ll have to come up with new lunch ideas for myself – or maybe I’ll still eat panini, but I won’t use any deli meats? I’m still wondering which way to go.

I may no longer be able to eat panini with deli meats, but I’m still more than happy to make them! Earlier in the week I made this Italian beef panino for my husband, using a few slices of American cheese I had in the fridge. The beef was on sale at the local Italian grocery store, so I bought some.  Keep Reading

Roast pepper panini: comforting yet light, and great to eat in the summer

There is something really comforting in eating cheese on freshly sliced bread. To me, it’s simplicity at its best – and it’s also the symbol of many happy memories. I love this combination because it reminds me of my childhood and of me eating feta cheese with white bread and juicy red tomatoes alongside my parents. Back then we used to travel quite a bit in the summer, and being on the go and on a tight budget meant that we didn’t care much for fancy restaurants. It was all about improvisation – improvisation with a few simple ingredients, bought from local producers who sold their fruits and veggies on the side of the road. Keep Reading