April is Grilled Cheese Month

a grilled cheese sandwich inspired by the ploughman's lunch

I'm not usually so last-minute about things, but did you know that April is Grilled Cheese Month? If you are a regular reader of food blogs, my guess is that you already knew about Grilled Cheese Month because everyone has been chiming in with their versions of this lunchtime classic. I am so late to the game, in part, because of Passover. I spent … [Read more...]

A New Documentary about the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers

illinois farms

Today’s post is sponsored by Illinois Farm Families, for which I serve as a Brand Ambassador. You can read more about my role as a Brand Ambassador here. Did you know that of the 317 million people living in the United States, fewer than 1% are farmers? It used to be the case that the majority of Americans grew some or all of their own food. … [Read more...]

How to Make a Chopped Vegetable Salad

crunchy veggies in a yogurt-sumac sauce

Last week, sometime after the third night of repurposed leftover brisket, multiple bowls of matzo ball soup and the umpteenth plate of scrambled eggs, I longed to sink my teeth into some food that would resist.  Give me something -- anything! -- with some crunch to it. I went to my fridge and pulled out all the raw vegetables I could find: … [Read more...]

Meringue Bites with Lemon Curd and Berries

miniature pavlovas

This is the dessert that I wish I had made for my Seder: bite-sized meringues shells filled with luscious lemon curd and topped with a juicy strawberry.  The dessert that I actually made was kind of a flop.  The idea was similar but my proportions were way off. For the Seder dessert last week, I made saucer-sized meringues filled with sliced, … [Read more...]

The Only Brisket Recipe You Will Ever Need

brisket recipes

I was all set to make chicken for Passover this year. I had a terrific recipe worked out and given that I was hosting a Seder on the second night of the holiday, I figured that my guests would appreciate a lighter entree. And then my husband asked me if I would please make brisket. "Your brisket is special," he cajoled. Well, how could I resist … [Read more...]

Passover Menu: Chocolate-Covered Matzo Toffee

passover desserts

So much of cooking for Passover seems to be about making up for what we can't have during the eight-day festival. Many Passover recipes, especially those for Passover desserts, claim to be "as good as" a regular dessert made with flour and leavened. The author cheerfully declares that he or she would eat this Pesadich dessert all year round - it's … [Read more...]

Spring Cooking: Asparagus, Ricotta and Lemon Flatbread

asparagus pizza

When people ask me what my blog is about, I say that it is about fitting ambitious food into family life. This recipe is exemplifies what that tagline means to me. This flatbread can either be a quick weeknight meal or a cool, all-from-scratch, DIY project depending on how you approach it. You can make this seasonal, vegetarian flatbread in no time … [Read more...]

Turnip Greens and Potato Frittata

how to use turnip greens

I have always maintained that if you have eggs in your refrigerator, you have the makings for a perfectly good dinner. Whipping up a quick omelet will get dinner on the table far quicker than ordering pizza. Add a green salad and you have a complete meal that is perfect for when it feels like there's nothing in the house. If you have a few … [Read more...]

Review of Preserving by the Pint

pickled turnips

My friend Marisa McClellan changed the way Americans think about water-bath canning with her iconic blog Food in Jars. Writing from her apartment in downtown Philadelphia, Marisa showed a new generation of cooks that preserving fruits and vegetables food was the logical extension of their interest in local, seasonal produce from CSAs and farmers … [Read more...]

Scenes from the Naples Farmers Market

naples farmers market

My family just returned from spring break in Naples, Florida. We have been going to Naples since 2004 and we love the area. Southwestern Florida is less developed than some other parts of the state and is filled with natural beauty. There is a protected mangrove swamp near my mother's house that we cross every time we go to the beach. Sometimes we … [Read more...]

Mariano’s Simplifies my Passover Shopping

mariano's chicago grocery store

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. Popping into Mariano's, my favorite Chicago grocery store, this week I noticed that the Passover displays are out in full force. Is it really that time of year … [Read more...]

French Patisserie Meringues

how to make meringues

When you think about French pâtisseries, or pastry shops, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? An impossibly flaky, buttery croissant? An almost-too-beautiful-to-eat tarte aux fruits? A towering croquembouche encased in spun sugar? Rows of brightly colored macarons? Sensible choices all. But for me, the favorite French pâtisserie … [Read more...]

Change How You Think of Gluten-Free


Today's post is sponsored by Udi's Gluten-Free, the premier gluten-free brand in America, and I was selected to participate in this campaign by The Motherhood. Many of you know that my daughter, Zuzu, was allergic to wheat for the first seven years of her life. At that time, Zuzu was also allergic to eggs, dairy, nuts, sesame and peanuts. In … [Read more...]

Understanding the Terminology in the Meat Case

how to buy meat

Today’s post is sponsored by Illinois Farm Families, for which I serve as a Brand Ambassador. You can read more about my role as a Brand Ambassador here. What do you look for when you buy meat? Is taste the most important factor in your purchasing decisions? Is it price? Safety? Sustainability? Do you see terms such as "organic," … [Read more...]

Meatless Spaghetti a la Carbonara

vegetarian pasta recipes

Today's post is sponsored by Safest Choice Eggs as part of its March Meatless Meals Party. Before March 31st, enter to win one of two Safest Choice Prize Packs, worth over $450, containing a $200 Amex gift card, a 10" inch Lodge Round Fry pan, a set of Sur La Table mixing bowls, a year's supply of eggs and more. When I was a little girl, one … [Read more...]

Hamantaschen Galette for Purim

hamentaschen galette

Saturday at sundown, the Jewish festival of Purim begins. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from an evil government minister, named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish community in ancient Persia. In essence, Purim is the Jewish "carnival" holiday -- every culture has one -- where people are encouraged to dress in … [Read more...]

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower

cauliflower baked pasta

Last week, when I was planning my week of meatless meals, I had intended to make a baked pasta dish with cauliflower that I had read about in the April 2013 issue of Food and Wine. When my husband saw the recipe, however, he practically had a heart attack -- a preview of the actual heart attack that he would have had after eating the dish, which … [Read more...]

Chunky Red Lentil Soup

lentil recipes

Since I started cooking with lentils about two years ago, I have become increasingly enamored of these little pulses. They are a great source of vegetable protein -- the third highest level of protein by weight among legumes -- and relatively quick-cooking. Unlike dried beans, which need to be soaked prior to use or take long to cook, lentils are … [Read more...]

Change Up Your Squash with Risotto

how to make risotto

I'm making all meatless meals this week. No, it's not in anticipation of Lent. Rather, we are atoning. Last weekend, we took the kids to one of those Brazilian steakhouses where men dressed as gauchos circle the room and slice hunks of meat off pitchforks for gluttonous guests. And that's after you have loaded up on vegetables, cheese and cold cuts … [Read more...]

Make Gougeres (and Feel a Little French)

make-ahead appetizers

As longtime readers of West of the Loop know, I am a confirmed Francophile. There was a time in my life when I thought I might become an ex-pat and live in France when I grew up. A year of actual living in France cured me of that notion, but I still love all things Gallic, the food perhaps most of all. If you go a French person's house for … [Read more...]

Homemade Tortellini? You Can Do It!

how to make tortellini

2014 is turning out to be the year of fresh pasta. Ever since I took the Pasta Workshop at The Chopping Block, I have been cranking out homemade pasta -- literally -- every few days. I have a habit of getting obsessed with a new skill or piece of equipment and when that happens my poor family ends up eating the same food for weeks. At least with … [Read more...]

Visiting Eataly Chicago

chicago grocery store

Eataly Chicago, the latest colonial outpost of Chef Mario Batali's culinary empire, opened just two months ago to record-breaking crowds. How record-breaking? After more than 120,000 visitors during the first week, Eataly Chicago had to close for a day just to restock. In other words, Chicago broke Eataly. Take that, New York! I can't stand … [Read more...]

Chicken Tinga Tostadas for Easy Weeknight Mexican Flavor

easy chicken tinga

If someone asked me to name my favorite trick for making weeknight meals easier, it would be this: roasted split chicken breasts. If you roast several chicken breasts over the weekend, or whenever you have time and then shred the meat and save it in the refrigerator, you have the makings for at least two or three quick and easy weeknight dinners. … [Read more...]

Asian Steak Lettuce Wraps

steak lettuce rolls

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. If you are like me, you are always wondering what chefs know that the average home cook doesn't. Without access to restaurant equipment and ingredients, can home … [Read more...]

Recap of the February Chicago Food Swap

Many swap items had a Valentine's theme.

The Chicago Food Swap held its February swap this past weekend, on February 8, at the kitchens of All Natural Chicago Catering, a local catering company specializing in healthy, freshly made food for corporate and private events. Husband and wife owners Tess and Mickey -- he's the chef -- were incredibly gracious hosts and everyone loved their … [Read more...]