Antipasto & Pickles

Every year for Thanksgiving we are lucky to be included in a huge celebration with friends at “The Richmond”.  My mom and I always prepare a huge antipasto platter, one of my family’s signature dishes for the holiday season.  But we always like to add a few new twists. This year, in addition to the array of sliced Italian meats and cheeses, we made Zucchini & Squash Pickles. The recipe was one that my mom’s friend sourced from an issue of Southern Living.  It was a quick pickle recipe that we made two weeks in advance. They were not only sweet & sour, crispy & crunchy – but they also looked beautiful in the mason jars we stored them in, as well as on the platter.

Hope you all had an amazing holiday with family and friends! Now, let’s get ready for Christmas …

Back Yard Tea and BBQs

Hopefully by now we are all getting ready for our Fourth of July BBQs! Our friends from LeaderBar gave us some #burgerlove and topping tips, so any spread can look like it’s done by an expert grill master.

We already got the party started with the upbeat crew at You and Me This Morning on WCIU – and if you didn’t see it live – you can catch it here. Matt Roan was spinning, Corri McFadden was glamming-up and host Melissa Forman and I were getting the Sailor Jerry cocktails ready!

The El Diablo is the spiciest burger on the planet.  If you like HOT – this summer add some spicy pepper jack cheese, habanero relish, jalapeño, grilled onions and sriracha mayo to your burger. On the menu – this comes with a WARNING.

Baked goat cheese in marinara, served with crostini. A crowd pleaser. I might make this for a party I am going to tomorrow.

Todd Rubin from LeaderBar and I celebrating with some Sailor Jerry Backyard Tea.

Holiday Antipasto

Assembling a holiday antipasto plate is an art, especially in my family.  The key is to pick everyone’s favorite item to snack on, and then make it look as best as you can.  Our go-to choices are Genoa salami, mortadella with pistachios, a sharp aged provolone, assortment of olives, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, hot soppressata, spicy salume, capers and hearts of palm.  You have to have the perfect combo of variety, color and flavor. The Italian meats should be sliced super thin. Have the deli counter show you a sample, so you are certain it will be easy to roll, and eat.  Just hope there will be some left over. Mangia!


This post is dedicated to my newly born cousin!  Born just today – he will be promised a life-long feast of antipastos.  Love you Lauren, Mike, Luca, Matteo and The Newbie!

Happy Cheesy New Year

Our Second Annual Stay at Home New Year’s Eve French Onion Soup Fete – was a success!  The recipe was adapted from the October 2011 issue of Bon Appetit: I held on to the issue to try it out.  In place of the brandy, one cup of white wine was added, as well as a few springs of thyme.  It helped to have a few Cheladas and bourbons with friends before we got started at Big Star.

Happy New Year – May it be Very Very Cheesy!

Joyeux Noël & Bonne Année!

The most festive of dinners on Christmas Eve at Bistro Campagne in Chicago with friends and family included authentic French fare.  Perfectly decorated for the holiday, they serve one of the best French Onion soups in the city, and the escargot is so reminiscent of trips to Paris during this bright season!  There is nothing more satisfying than dipping crusty baguette into sauce.

Stay tuned – I will try and make a French Onion soup for the second time on New Year’s eve this year, and hope it will be that good.  If you have any recipes or pointers – let me know!

Cookie Madness

After baking dozens of cookies last weekend – there were still a few more to make.  Tis the season after all.  Esquire Magazine posted this Bourbon Ball recipe on their Eat Like a Man Blog (hint ladies – food that men really like) last week.  Since I had a bottle of Maker’s Mark lying around I couldn’t resist giving it a try.  Delicious, festive and best of all – boozy.

Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago spruces up the chocolate chip cookie with hints of peppermint in their baking mix.  Just whip some butter, add the magical bag of ingredients and an egg – and voila!  A stack of minty chocolately cookies Santa will love on Christmas Night! 

*Guest Razzi – Ashley Boll & our XA Holiday Party at Bar Toma

Damn, Ashley Boll from XA, our social media co-ordinator, is a great RAZZI!

Straight from our XA Social Blog -

Last night the XA team celebrated the holiday season the best way we know how, with food and drinks. The team headed to Chef Tony Manutano’s latest restaurant Bar Toma for mouth watering pizza, gelato and delicious wine. 

The unique concept located in former Bistro 110 features a 250 seating area, wood-burning oven, wine on tap, a pizza bar, a mozzarella bar, house-made gelato, and a one-of-a-kind espresso machine from Italy. 

Bar Toma’s menu offers delicious food for everyone, even vegetarians!
House-made gelato flavors include basil, raspberry, chocolate hazlenut, chocolate chip and amaretto.
Freshly baked pastries at the espresso bar!
We started the evening off with both red and white wine.
Whole Burrata
Rock Shrimp Polpette
Rosticcino Di Abruzzo
Zucchini Pizza with pesto, mozzarella, pecorino
XA team: Yevi, Jean, Catherine, Dawn, David, James, Chris, Amanda, Alli, Laura, Victoria, Ashley

Happy holidays from the XA family!

Want to see more of the XA holiday party? Head to our Facebook page

Chocolate or Sequins???? Hmmmm …..

After a delicious lunch at NoMI Kitchen in Chicago - Kiran and I didn’t realize the BEST WAS YET TO COME!  After our Sequins for Breakfast planning meeting – JLynne introduced us to the Park Chocolate Bar, where we were like kids in a hot chocolate candy store.

I have always been a fan of Valrhona chocolate ever since I was making pastries at Cornell.  Of all the chocolates I have worked with it has the most velvety and creamy flavor, so it is a natural for hot chocolate.  It is also my choice for baking.

So, you get a steaming cup of hot chocolate splendor – and then you can add …

Cinnamon sticks or peanut butter marshmallows. (Dying over these BTW – The Bomb will love these).

Candy Canes, cookie tuilles or peppermint shavings …

Crushed oreos or white chocolate curls ….

Vanilla Sugar Marshmallows …

A shot of espresso, passionfruit or salted caramel syrups …

CHOCO ala MP – with espresso, vanilla marshmallows and peppermint shavings


CHOCO ala KIRAN – with whipped cream, passion fruit and cherry sprinkles.

Who needs sequins when you have this – the best $10 ever spent.  Kudos to pastry chef Meg Galus!  I was AMAZED!

Also a fun idea for a holiday party – just add booze!