Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dipped Strawberries + My Cooking Challenge Continues

It seems as if I am constantly searching for something sweet after dinner and this recipe from The Forest Feast is the perfect substitute for rich brownies and ice cream and tastes fresh and rich! It was easy to assemble and no baking or waiting involved!

1 small carton of fresh strawberries
3/4 cup greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 graham cracker

1. Use a food processor or mort and pestle to make the graham crackers crumbly, then combine it in a bowl with the brown sugar.

2. Dip the strawberries first in the greek yogurt.

3. Dip it lightly and roll it into the brown sugar and graham cracker mix.

* Make these right before you plan on eating them because they will get soggy after a while. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Potato - Asparagus Salad + My Cooking Challenge

My cooking challenge is coming along very well. I am becoming more confident when I cook and I love how I am even surprising myself with my skills! The Forest Feast by Erin Gleason has been such a great help and has even let me get a little creative in the way create and display the dishes. Her recipes are easy to follow and are never over complicated, perfect for someone who is just getting her bearings in the kitchen. 

Originally the recipe was a Potato and Green Bean Salad and while I didn't have any green beans in the kitchen, they also aren't my first choice vegetable, so I opted to use asparagus which I can't get enough of! 

The dressing can either be a simple rice vinegar and olive oil combo OR you can be a little more adventurous and mix it with her Greek Caesar Dressing that I could drink like soup it's so good!

25 Mini Potatoes(I used fingerling)
6 Garlic Cloves
1 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

10-15 stalks of Asparagus

3/4 cup Olive Oil
2 whole Garlic Cloves
1/4 cup Greek Yogurt
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1. Turn the oven on to 425 degrees and place the potatoes and garlic on a tray and sprinkle the olive oil, salt and pepper on top. Let them roast for about 25 minutes. 

2. While they cook, lightly cook the asparagus in a skillet with some olive oil for about 5 minutes. 

3. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients into a jar and shake until well combined.

4. Once both are cooled toss them together and combine with the dressing! Then try and stop yourself from eating the entire thing!

This dish has so far been one of my favorites and I can't wait to make more of it this summer!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

6 Reasons to Visit Paris in the Spring

It didn't take much convincing to get me to move to Paris when I was 20 years old and a junior at university. My first trip was when I was 16 and the two weeks we spent wandering around the arrondissements and the gardens had me itching to return and stay for even longer. 

I started taking french classes my freshman year and only wish I had taken them longer so that I could've had a better foundation when I got there. I spent the first 3 months getting down the small daily interactions like how to greet someone(Ça va?, Salut, etc..), to always say good bye and thank you as you leave a boutique or small store and memorizing the grocery stores that are closed on Sundays or Mondays in my neighborhood  So here are some more tips for visiting my favorite city in the spring when everything is blooming and the sunsets will stop you in your tracks. 

1. Luxembourg Gardens.

One of my favorite places to hang out between classes and eat lunch was in front of the Medici Fountain inside the Luxembourg Gardens. It is tucked away in a little corner of the park and the seclusion from the vibrant city always felt inviting. 

The Luxembourg Gardens was always one of my favorite places to sit and people watch. 

2.  Rue de Rosiers

There was nothing I loved more in the spring than walking around Le Marais. I would always end up strolling through Rue de Rosiers for their falafals (best falafals in the world!)and vintage shops. Le Marais (the old jewish quarter) is beautifully preserved with cobble stone streets and small store fronts that are inviting and full of intrigue. One day I was in search of a book for school and popped into a book shop on Rue de Rosiers and quickly turned around when I realized that it was a naughty gay book shop that probably wouldn't carry a 17th century novel by Voltaire. It was embarrassing but I immediately started laughing at myself the second I left. 

3. Notre Dame + The Bell Tower

It was ridiculous that every day on my walk to school I got to walk past Notre Dame. It is absolutely stunning and the view from the top is even better. I had already been living there for 5 months before I climbed to the top with my cousin.

The view from the top is worth the 10-20 minute wait outside. I couldn't stop snapping my camera once I got to the walk way, you are able to see Sacré-coeur to your right and the Eiffel Tower to your left. Afterwards you can walk around the back of the church and sit in the peaceful park while admiring the buttresses and stained glass that often times get overlooked. 

4. Cafés and café au laits

I highly encourage walking around the city and going down little streets and wandering around different arrondissements and inevitably you will easily stumble upon a dozen or so outdoor cafés just waiting for you to take a seat and flip through your travel books and sip cappuccinos. 

5. Delacroix Museum

Yes the Louvre is an iconic Parisian landmark but wander off the beaten museum path a bit and visit the Delacroix Museum near St. Germain Des Pres. I had the luxury of having a student ID that got me into any museum for free so I took advantage of visiting some of the lesser known museums scattered around Paris. The Delacroix museum was a pleasant surprise because they had converted his old house into a gallery and just in back there was a beautiful little garden with benches and chairs to admire this space where he had been so creative.

Other museums worth a visit

Musée de l'Oragnerie 
Musée de la Mode et du Textile
Musée Rodin
Musée des Arts et Decoratif
Musée Bourdelle
Musée de Cluny

6. Markets

Marché aux Puces de St. Ouen

The markets in Paris can not be missed, even if you aren't out to purchase a 17th century chandelier, the atmosphere and small trinkets you'll find are well worth the visit. While markets take place year round in every corner of the city and every day of the week, when the weather gets nicer more vendors will be out and you'll be more willing to wander up and down the aisles admiring each stall.Here is a weekly guide to the markets in Paris.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Raspberry Chocolate Ricotta Mousse Cups + My Loyalty to Parisien Yogurt

So continue my cooking and baking attempts found in the beautiful Forest Feast cookbook. I thought I'd try a dessert today since my sweet tooth is above average, and I had the perfect jars to display the finished products in! 

The jars I used were from my time spent living in Paris. They were actually old yogurt containers that I had saved and lugged back with me. Paris obviously takes its yogurt game pretty seriously, and Danone puts its yogurts into ceramic clay jars that you can reuse. Let's just say that I was such a die hard yogurt fan there that my apartment probably could have been a designated redistribution center for those jars, and now I am always finding different ways to reuse them.  

In each recipe I recreate I am always searching for ways to somehow make it my own or simply use what I have in the kitchen and adapt the recipe. The original recipe didn't call for any raspberries but I think they add a nice balance and tartness to the dish. 

The chocolate shavings I used were actually from chocolate my parents and I had brought back with us from South Africa from our day of vineyard hopping across the countryside of Capetown. 


4 oz. chocolate (any kind)- usually 1 bar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 cups ricotta
1 container of whipped cream

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. 

Since the bar of chocolate I used wasn't exactly 4 oz. I tossed in a handful or so of chocolate chips as well. 

2. Blend everything together in a food processor for no more than a minute.

After I blended it for 30 seconds I stopped to taste it to see if there was anything else it was missing. It still tasted very ricotta-y so I added a little more brown sugar. Then blended it for about 10 seconds. 

3. Spoon the mixture into 3-4 small ramekins or small containers then let them chill for about an hour. 

I used ramekins as well as old clay yogurt containers that I had carried home with me from my time living in Paris. 

4. Once they have chilled, remove them from the fridge and garnish them with whipped cream and whatever toppings you like. 

I always love how raspberries taste with chocolate so I added some to the top of my desserts.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Purple Mashed Potatoes + My Cooking Challenge

Cooking has never come naturally to me. Cooking to me can sometimes seem intimidating and overwhelming so I typically will stick with making things I know and can't mess up like pasta or my lunch go to of turkey bacon and eggs with tortillas. I want to start being a little more adventurous with my cooking skills and learn to be more confident with the dishes I serve. So I have decided to try cooking every dish in The Forest Feast by Erin Gleason. Consider her my Julia Child...

My boyfriend gave me her book for Christmas and I have made just one thing so far (Rosemary Roasted Nuts) and it came out really well, I think! As I am deathly allergic to nuts, I left him to be the judge! The book is AMAZING! It is so colorful and beautifully photographed, I could look at it every day. The book has great fresh recipes that are simple to make and great for someone that is trying to develop their cooking abilities. So here goes my attempt at cooking...

6 purple potatoes*
1/2 C greek yogurt 
2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tspn garlic powder
salt and pepper

* I couldn't find regular sized purple potatoes and as I was leaving Mariano's I found a display with a variety of fingerling potatoes. So I stood there rummaging through the basket and picking out just the purple ones. Just a tip incase you can't find larger ones!

1. Boil 6 purple potatoes for 15-20 minutes(until tender).
2. Peel the potatoes. 
3. Combine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mash until smooth.
4. Garnish with greek yogurt and chopped scallions and ENJOY! 

The recipe was incredibly easy to follow an they came out beautifully! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Old Fashion Donuts + My Plate Obsession

I am not quite sure where my affinity for beautifully crafted plates originated but perhaps it all started when I was growing up. Ever since I can remember my mom has always had colorful and delicate plates hanging in our kitchen. Her collection from around the world creates a wonderful aesthetic and always keeps me eyes wandering around the walls. 

Anthropologie is a store I will cautiously visit because I literally would buy everything in this store. I recently discovered a collection of Calligrapher Canape Plates with 26 unique and delicately water colored paintings and I was lucky enough to receive them as christmas and birthday gifts this year! I am looking forward to seeing this collection grown and finally getting to use them!

To say I like donuts is a complete understatement because if I had the opportunity I would gladly eat a dozen of them with absolutely no shame! Not to mention if I'm ever in the city before 12 pm I will always make it a point to try and go to either Donut Vault(if I have cash) or Do-Rite-Donut. So now I thought it was my turn to have a go at making these sinful treats!

2 1/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tspn baking powder
1 tspn salt
1/2 tspn ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP butter, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
Canola oil(for frying)

3 1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 1/2 tspn corn syrup
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 tspn lemon extract(or vanilla)
1/3 cup hot water

1. In a bowl sift together the cake flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.

2. In a mixer beat the eggs and sugar together. Then add the egg yolks until well blended. 

3. Add the dry ingredients AND the sour cream alternating between the two. Start with the dry ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for an hour. 

4. On a floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Then using a donut cutter, cut out as many donuts as you can, rolling out the dough a few time with the scraps. 

5. Pour about 2 inches of canola oil into a heavy pan or deep fryer and heat it to 325 degrees. Then toss in 2-3 at a time and cook about 2 minutes on each side. Then lay on paper towel to soak up the excess grease. 

6. For the glaze whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon extract, hot water, corn syrup and salt together until smooth. Then dip the donuts in the glaze and let it sit on the rack for about 10 minutes. 

7. ENJOY!!!!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Milkshakes, Errands + Fundraisers

Saturday started out with errand adventures to Dick's Sporting Goods, Chick-Fil-A(where my life was put to risk)and then an impromptu trip to Oberweis. It ended in high heels at a fundraiser - gala for the Riverside Foundation!

Marc and I can be doing the most mundane things like grocery shopping or going to a sporting store and we manage to laugh and have a blast. Such was the case at Dick's Sporting Goods as we strolled through the store testing out punching bags and picking out backpacks for an imaginary trip we're going on. 

Our next stop was Chick-Fil-A. I had never been there before but I have no issues with chicken nuggets so we devoured the chicken and waffle fries and it was pretty good! As Marc was finishing up I noticed on the box they proudly advertised that their chicken was fried in 100% peanut oil… This is not what someone with an allergy to peanuts and no Epi pen wants to hear. I started chugging water and iced tea and luckily didn't get anything more than a tingly lip and tongue.

After my brush with death I decided I needed something to wash it down with so naturally we went to Oberweis for cookie dough milkshakes and a rousing game of chess. If you've never been to Oberweis and you've always wanted to experience a 1950's ice cream parlor vibe, than this is the place for you!! All we were missing was a leather jacket and poodle skirt. 

Fast forward 4 hours and we found ourselves at the Annual Riverside Foundation Gala. My entire Domanico family attends every year to help raise money for the assisted living home where my Uncle Paul lives. The night consists of a silent auction, live auction, trip raffle, open bar, dinner and dancing in a beautifully tented room at the Marriott Lincolnshire. 

Marc, myself and my parents.

Marc and I started wandering through the tables with the silent auction items with NO intention of bidding on anything, however we happened to find an Amazon HD Fire tablet that had a reasonable bid price of $55. We got excited and placed our bid at $70 and as we pressed the button we felt a little adrenaline but it was immediately met with defeat when we were outbid by the first bidders maximum bid of $100. Our joy was short lived but none the less fun!

When the live auction began Marc and I took a paddle for fun and watched money fly around the room. One item in particular sent the room into a frenzy, 18 person suite at a Bulls or Blackhawks game. It got down to 2 men, at the same table that were clearly trying to show each other up and it sold for $10,000. Absolutely INSANE!!! For a girl who doesn't really care for sports and doesn't have $10,000 to throw around, the thought of biding on that item is mad!

My mom however did walk away with a great silent auction item, a curator led tour of the Art Institute for 4 people. I of course quickly volunteered Marc and I to be her plus 2 for the day!

This fruit tart deserved its own shot out!

The food at this event is always pretty good so I was of course excited to feast on the meal… until the first course came, a walnut + apple salad. I'm allergic to walnuts and I'm kind of allergic to apples so I ate a leaf or two because I'd already let my life hang in the balance once that day and I still wanted to dance that night so I waited for the main course. 

I knew the main course was going to have red meat and fish portion so I let Marc have a second helping of filet mignon. When desert came and Marc couldn't eat another bite, I gladly stepped in and fell on that berry lemon sword and helped finish both our deserts!

The night ended with everyone on the dance floor and watching my dad boogie to B-52's Loveshack. 

They raised over $128,000 for the foundation and we had an amazing night.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Focaccia + My Pursuit of Being a Baker

I am always looking to challenge myself a little bit and I finally decided to tackle focaccia bread! I'll admit throughout the process I was met with bouts of anxiety… will the dough rise?  Did I let the yeast bubble enough? My friend Colleen was over and asked if she had to help me, I said no but that it would turn into The Little Red Hen story that I used to read as a kid. I would put in all the work and she would want a piece of bread at the end but she didn't help out! So the bread making adventure began...

I felt inspired to make focaccia because my boyfriend's dad will make it all the time and he makes it seem effortless. I thought it was going to be 1,2,3 and I'd be shoveling focaccia into my mouth… apparently there is a lot of waiting time during the process to let the yeast do its job. 

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp honey
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
10-12 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. In medium bowl, stir together the yeast, honey and warm water. Let it rest until bubbles form at the top. (About 10 mins)

2. Stir in the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tsp of salt. Once it is well mixed. Knead it on a floured surface until smooth. (About 5-10 mins)

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap and let it sit there for about an hour. 

4. While you anxiously wait for it to rise you can chop 1/2 an onion and toss them into a skillet with a TBSP of olive oil and let them cook for about 20 minutes until they are caramelized. Stir it occasionally. 

5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it into a cast iron skillet. Then with your CLEAN finger press light little holes into the dough and let it sit there for about 15 minutes. Then drizzle the dough with 2 TBSP olive oil.

7. Slice the tomatoes thinly then sprinkle them over the dough. Then add the onions, salt and parmesan to the top and toss it into the oven for about 20 minutes!!

8. Get ready to enter a carb coma!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Olives + Orzo… What More Do You Need?!

One thing you should know about me is that I love orzo and I will find any excuse to cook with it! If you've never had orzo, shame on you, but it is a small rice - shaped pasta that cooks quickly and is great for a lot of dishes.

Having lived in Milan for 3 months a lot of the dishes I made at home consisted of mozzarella, pasta and olives. Sounds kind of plain but the pasta in Milan was so rich in flavor and the fresh mozzarella and olives were a perfect compliment to the pasta. So I stumbled upon this recipe on Bloglovin and the dish was so abundant in color and reminiscent of my meals in Milan that I  had to give it a go…


1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 whole Lemon (juiced)
1 clove Garlic (Minced)
Salt and Pepper 

12 oz Orzo Pasta
1 cup Red Grape Tomatoes
1 cup Yellow Grape Tomatoes
1 cup Kalamata Olives
1 cup Chickpeas
1/4 of a Red Onion
2 TBSP Fresh Parsley
1 cup Crumbled Feta


1. Bring the water to a boil and throw the orzo in. Usually cooks within 8-10 minutes.Drain it then set it aside.

2.Use a cutting board to dice the tomatoes, olives, onions and parsley into small pieces. 

3. Open the chickpeas and drain all the water then set to the side until you combine all the ingredients. 

4. In a jar combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt/pepper and garlic. Shake until well combined. 

5. In a LARGE bowl toss in the orzo and all of the ingredients. Then evenly drizzle the dressing over the mixture and combine until it is evenly distributed. 

6. I like to add the Feta cheese last so that it stays fresh and doesn't get too soggy. 

7. Lastly add salt and pepper to taste but because the olives are already pretty salty, add cautiously!

The end result is a delicious, vibrant and fresh salad. It's nearly effortless to make and it's great to pack for a smart lunch!