Saturday, March 12, 2016

Famiglia Italiano

As a chef, the most common question that I get asked is, "What is your favorite meal to make?" My answer is always handmade pasta and gravy. Chef Darrin and I traveled to New Jersey a couple weeks ago and the food experience on that trip revealed why my love for this particular cuisine runs so deep.

My Italian Grandmom Stella and Uncle Vince from South Jersey share their love for us via food. And boy do I feel loved by the end of my visit! Upon arrival, I was delighted to learn that my Grandmom already prepared the gravy and meatballs and my Uncle Vince wanted to make "homemades" (which is what he calls handmade pasta) to go with it. He went to a cooking class of one of his favorite chefs in Philly at Nunzio's where he learned a great recipe for homemades. He enrolled my brother, Brian, Darrin and I to help with the process. We were very happy to do so!

Uncle Vince, Darrin and I made the pasta dough on Saturday. We find that it is always best to let the dough rest overnight, if possible.

Brian and Uncle Vince rolled and cut the pasta, I eagerly and diligently captured photos. The recipe calls for more than a dozen eggs, which surprised me. But the fettuccine was the most silky, tender, paper thin pasta that I have ever enjoyed. It is a memory that will stick with me forever.

Prepping the dough to be cut.

An old pro at work.
Passing on family traditions with teamwork!

The cut pasta hanging out to dry.
Did I mention that my Uncle makes extraordinary wine too?!
That pairs so nicely with the pasta! The pasta is ready for a quick bath in boiling water.

Time to taste our efforts!
And there is nothing like having a beautiful woman serve you some pasta!

Much love to this group! From left to right: Brian, Barry, Grandmom, Jim and Debbie

Famiglia Italiano!

Wine. Lots and lots of wine...

Our dinners are always filled with belly deep laughter, memories and tales of Grandmom Stella's adventures! I love you so much Perla family :) Thank you for sharing your Love of Food with me!

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chamber of Commerce

As mentioned in a previous post, one of our New Year's Resolutions is to get more connected with the community via Chamber of Commerce. Last week we went to a business after hours at Ivy in Wheaton. They had a delicious spread of food for us to enjoy and we learned who has been nominated for Best of Wheaton. Some of our favorite businesses are in the line up. You can vote for your faves here.

While mingling, we met interesting entrepreneurs. Dick O'Gorman, the owner of Ivy, was one of the most intriguing. His passion for food and entertaining is palpable. You can tell that he wants people to feel like they are coming to a friend's house when they eat there. We also met a cool cat, Frank Curiale. He owns We Know Tickets. He knows the ticket market in and out, so if you are looking for those hard to snag tickets, he is the man with a plan. He watches the ticket market as intensely as a stock broker watches the Dow. Frank said that he can help people figure out when to purchase in order to get the best price.

As our faithful customers know, we love highlighting local wineries and breweries in our cuisine, so we were happy to discover that Dry City Brewery is part of the Chamber. Chef Darrin went to school with one of the Ebel's, so we have an allegiance to Two Brothers, but we will definitely stop by Dry City Brewery and see what we can weave into our menus.

After the event, we headed over to Lynfred Winery. We treasure that place and we are looking forward to doing a wine and food pairing event with them on April 28th. I will fill you in our connection to them and give details about the pairing soon.

All in all, we learned that connecting with the community will be like nurturing a garden. Thriving vegetables don't pop up over night. It takes time, commitment and a desire to make our community a better place. Fortunately, Wheaton is a great place to sow roots. The businesses around here are long lasting and service oriented. We look forward to the relationships that we will develop with fellow entrepreneurs.

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Power of Aphrodisiacs

oh!, ooooh! oooooooooh!

It is almost that time of year that people (likely mostly women ;)) are gleefully looking forward to a romantic evening to be remembered. Valentine's Day is the time to take extra care when it comes to sexy outfits and sensuous food. As a food lover, I am thrilled that the dining experience is an integral part of this holiday that is designed to bond couples.

The thought of going out to eat on V-day makes me slightly cringe. Long wait time, distracted servers and awkward new lovers sitting a couple tables away are almost always a guarantee. So my vote is to turn to the aphrodisiac method and make some love filled foods at home.

I read quite a bit about aphrodisiacs. The general consensus is that aphrodisiacs were originally used to improve fertility. So nowadays they say that the lustful feeling is simply placebo effect.  But the romantic in me believes! Perhaps if you only eat one or two of the foods listed below, you will not necessarily feel the fire ignite. But if you are intentional, think sexy thoughts while preparing and load up your menu with aphrodisiacs, I think that you will create a Valentine's Day to remember!

These foods boost blood flow, which is handy if everything goes right ;)

Red Wine
Hot Chili's
Olive Oil

These foods increase testosterone and estrogen:

Oysters (they also look like the lady parts, which, you know, can be sexy to see someone eat)
Pumpkin seeds

For dessert, you may want to incorporate:

Dark Chocolate because it increases dopamine, which is a pleasure trigger

Cherries contain melatonin, so it can possibly steer you towards the bedroom earlier than anticipated

I teach a class on how to pack in the aphrodisiacs because, after all, the best way to someones heart is through their stomach. Have fun with your Valentine and enjoy the lovey dovey feelings that flow.

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

To Make Stone Soup

Chef Darrin and I were brainstorming soup ideas a few weeks ago. Darrin said to me, "Maybe we should make a Stone Soup." My response was, "A wha??..."  Apparently I live under a 'stone' because I had never heard of it before. He shared the Stone Soup story with me and I couldn't help but feature the tale of Stone Soup with you.

A few weary traveling soldiers were in need of some nourishment and a place to rest. They approached a village where they received cold shoulders. However, via a little entertainment and kindness of children, they won the crowd over and whipped up a soup that left a lasting positive impact.

Here is a recording of Stone Soup An Old Tale Retold by Marcia Brown, read by yours truly.

Or you can read it here.

Our hope is that you are inspired to create your own Stone Soup experience. Pull together ingredients out of your pantry; or invite guests to bring different food items over; better yet pass the story and message on to your children as they join you making the soup. Read, or have them listen to the story and give this recipe a whirl!

The recipe below is our take on a Stone Soup. If you decide to make this, keep in mind the theme and heart of this recipe. What I mean is that you don't have to use the exact ingredients that we have listed. If you have Russet potatoes, but not red potatoes, use the Russets. If you have barley, but not wheat berries, then use the barley, or split peas, or whatever you have on hand. Catch my drift? Good!


1 large parsnip peeled and sliced into 2" wedges (about 2 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 2" rounds (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp oil
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c tomato paste
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
1/2 medium head cabbage, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup Red Winter Wheat Berries
2 quarts (64 oz) vegetable stock
2 lb. bone in chicken pieces (optional)
Salt and pepper

This soup is versatile in terms of the option to add chicken. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken. Or you can braise the chicken by placing it on top of the soup throughout the simmer and then broil at the end.


In a large pot or dutch oven, add oil, parsnips, carrots, onions, and bay leaves. Saute over medium heat until onions are translucent and parsnips and carrots are fragrant (about 8-10 minutes).

Make a well in the center. Add tomato paste and garlic and saute until browning occurs (about 3 minutes). 

Stir to thoroughly combine tomato paste and garlic throughout the vegetables. Add red potatoes, cabbage, wheat berries, vegetable stock, 1 Tbsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. 

If you would like to add the chicken, put it on top and season with salt and pepper, paprika and thyme. 

Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 1 1/2 hours. The chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Prior to serving

If you are serving the vegetarian version, stir the soup, taste and add salt and/or pepper to your liking. Serve immediately

If you are serving the chicken version, turn broiler onto high. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and set chicken on a broil safe pan. Place under broiler until skin is browned-approximately 3-4 minutes. 

Pour soup into a wide bowl or deep plate along with the broiled chicken.

Buen provecho!

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Farmed Here

The farmer in the dell
heigh-ho, the derry-oh!
The farmer in the dell

Farming has been an important part of my journey as a chef. After completing my studies at The Natural Epicurean I interned at Green Gate Farms in Austin, TX. I picked tomatoes for hours, meticulously harvested green beans, carefully trimmed herbs, fed the pigs, pulled weeds for days and more. I would often go home with scrapes, bites, bumps and bruises.

My experience on that farm made me eternally grateful for all of the farmers out there, especially the organic farmers. It is back breaking work that requires tough character. I think that I know why most farmers put in all of that hard work though. For the love of food! There is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that your work translates into people eating and enjoying better health.

FarmedHere is a Chicago-based company that we were thrilled to stumble upon one day at our local grocery store. During the winter, fresh herbs and lettuces still find their way into our menus, thanks to them. Chef Darrin and I always aim to serve seasonal and local foods. This company has the values and practices that we admire.

  • FarmedHere is an indoor farm that relies on vertical growing technology. They use hydroponics which maximizes yield and conserves energy and real estate
  • They have a sustainable local distribution model
  • Instead of using more energy to build buildings for the farms, they are conserving by reviving postindustrial buildings
  • They boost local employment via direct employees, suppliers and partners
  • And, of course, best of all, the product is excellent!

Their basil and arugula show up in our hors d'oeurves menu frequently. We are always looking out for companies like this so that we can keep our menus fresh in spite of the freezing temps that are blasting our way. Let the freshness in and enjoy!

For the love of food, Jeanine

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I resolve to...

oh! Happy New Year! 

It is a refreshing time of year. I can clearly vision my "better self". Feelings of optimism are flowing. I also sense a battle rumbling. One with my own integrity! Who will be victorious? The new me? Or my old self? When considering resolutions for the business, I decided to stack odds in my favor by selecting ones that simultaneously make me happy and create a positive butterfly effect. 

Sow roots in our community

Chef Darrin and I want to support and collaborate with the businesses in the area.  The Chamber of Commerce in Wheaton seems like a good start. Their goal is to foster business relationships, advocate for local economy, and develop business education and opportunities. I just registered oh! and I look forward to getting to know fellow business owners very soon.

Organize an effort

The question, "What are you doing for others?" regularly pops up in my mind. Darrin and I intend to create an avenue for community members to join us in donating food to civil service workers to thank them. We plan to put together a team to serve the underprivileged. This is a tough one because we are in the beginning stages of organzing. But where there is will, there is a way. 

Cultivate a garden

This one is personal. I interned at an organic farm and I managed personal garden beds when I lived in Austin, TX. Gardening is tedious in terms of prepping the soil, properly planting the seeds, weeding, and fertilizing. But the grand prize of harvesting fresh vegetables is so delicious! Having a garden inspries me as a chef, so it is a win-win for my home meals and oh!'s menu development.

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine

Monday, January 4, 2016

What to Expect

Being a chef is not for the meek. It is job that often requires tedious concentration to create menus and forage food. The hours are long and itineraries do not always go as planned. People often ask Chef Darrin and I why we do it. The answer is simple, "For the love of food."

We have an obsession with the art of food. We want to nourish our community, while supporting local businesses. This blog is an exploration into the inner workings of how we go about doing so. Join us in exploring the farmer's markets, wineries and farms. Read about the journey of connecting with and supporting community programs.

oh! and thank you for taking the time to hang out and interact.  

For the love of food,
Chef Jeanine