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Chocolat Uzma Sharif & a Lovely Chocolate Giveaway

Some time ago I sat down for coffee with the very talented local pastry chef, Uzma Sharif. I had just approached her after noticing she was donating her ‘East meets West’ chocolates to a charity event we were mutually involved in, though we had never met.

She was energetic and enthusiastic about our meeting and was thrilled to share her story with me so that it could be told right here with all of you, as well.  During our coffee, she offered a couple of sample bags and boxes of her exotic and unique brand, Chocolat Uzma Sharif.  I felt they were too pretty to open, so my first instinct was to photograph the packaging- what a gorgeous gift these will make. In fact, I waited a couple of days before trying anything because I simply enjoyed how the eco-friendly packages were decorated.

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Sauteed Spinach with Garlic

Spinach is that quintessential health food. We know it’s good for us, but how often do we really eat it fresh and lightly cooked? With numerous health scares related to tainted spinach, it’s a food many people are often weary of eating at restaurants or even fresh or frozen from the grocery store. In that … Read more

Roasted Pepper Frittata

Talk about a quick dinner- and yes, frittatas make great quick and nutritious dinners. Just take it from the rural Italians who live on such rustic, satisfying food. I roasted my peppers ahead of time, but you can easily purchase peppers in glass jars from most grocery stores How to Roast Peppers Peppers of all kinds can … Read more

Three-Cheese Baked Pasta

Pasta is such a quick, easy and filling dinner meal. This recipe only requires a few simple ingredients, but it’ll help you get a satisfying meal on the table in no-time. Check out my list of where you can find halal cheeses on the front page under the category, Halal Cheese & Dairy. Three-Cheese Baked … Read more

Churros & Chocolate at Xoco

I’ve wanted to come to this restaurant ever since I first heard of its opening a while ago. It’s local (to me) here in Chicago and now considered a gem of a restaurant in our city. An addtiion to the line of Rick Bayless restaurants, it’s one of the newest he’s added to his very … Read more

Sun-Dried Tomato & Cheese Appetizers

Ever been in a pinch for a quick appetizer or dish to take to an event or someone’s home?

I had a meeting over with the awesome folks at Crescent Foods and decided I wanted to bring something. Last time it was my banana blueberry loaf, but this time I wanted to bring someting savory so I decided on this super quick appetizer.

I used what was on hand: fresh herbs, multi-grain bread, cream cheese, mozzarella (or my homemade yogurt cheese ) & a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil.

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Chicken Parmesan for Two

There’s just two of us at home for dinner on most nights, unless we have guests.  With guests dinner just instantly doubles or quadruples and I can make great use out of larger pots and pans.  So, because of the clean up involved, on most nights it’s a pain to use big, oversized dishes when I only need just a small pan to make enough of one of my favorite dishes for one night.

Chicken Parmesan is cooked to perfection in these wonderful, high quality stoneware dishes by Le Creuset. They’re not too deep, so this dish bakes faster in the oven than with some of my other pans.  Best of all, they’re super easy to clean.

I have to say, this is one of the best cookware companies out there. They stand behind their products and have a great call line to help their customers out with any problems related to their products, which is actually quite rare. In my house the only problems we’ve had with Le Creuset cookware have been ‘homemade’.  I’ll spare you the details of that for now…

I got this snazzy package of Le Creuset Stoneware from Cooking.com— and so can you!  They have lots of nice colors so for me it was hard to choose between Kiwi Green or Caribbean Blue, but I went with the color of most of my cookware and stemware, which is mostly a rustic Mediterranean or Mexican style. I think it’s actually much prettier, even a bit darker, in actuality than in the picture.

So, back to the recipe (which is in full detail at the end of this post). I”ll show you some of the steps involved here, which are quite simple.

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Homemade Pizza

 

Homemade Pizza. It’s by far my #1 favorite food. Anything with cheese. Anything with bread.

When you combine the two, you have my undivided attention.

I grew up on my Sicilian grandmother’s homemade pizza. With homemade sauce.

She would make pizza on the days she was making her homemade bread. The whole family would gather in the evening just to get slices of the pizza (she had begun early in the morning to make the bread and pizza dough and fried bread dough, too. Oh, how the list goes on).

Her pizza was long and a bit thick, made on very large baking sheets. Although I never saw her actually making them as a kid, I always noticed that there was little sauce, little cheese and the dough was always perfectly chewy. She judiciously cut every piece herself with large black and silver kitchen shears– my first memories of the utilization of scissors used to cut food. Judiciously because the pizza was precious- it was laborious to make and I know she wanted to ensure that everyone in our large family had a filling taste of the way she showed us love.

Nothing in the world has ever replaced the smell of her bread and pizza dough. As I lifted the square slice (cut in squares by those famous scissors), the smell completely encompassed my soul and began my love of food. Real food. Real pizza.

That’s a very hard act to follow.

Not many people or restaurants have ever fully satisfied my craving for Nonna’s pizza. She doesn’t make them anymore, nor did I ever really learn her recipe. Over phone calls to her during college, I caught a glimpse of what she did to make it, but so much was lost in translation.

Ever since then I’ve been on a quest of my own to replicate (though that can never truly happen) a pizza dough tradition of my own that honors my grandmother’s love of bread, of pizza and of feeding her family with lots of both.

Here’s my experience of mixing the old (fashioning homemade dough) with the new (a lovely new pizza pan I’m going to tell you all about).

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Superbowl Foods

I’m not the biggest football fan in the world. Actually, I really don’t understand the rules of the game. I know what a touchdown and a field goal is, but that’s about it. All the other things the players do to bring each other down is just one big question mark in my head.  I’m … Read more

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