Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

It’s been a crazy few months. We moved into our new place in Chicago, almost immediately left for a whirlwind trip that took us through France and Italy, then ended back in the Midwest in Madison before heading back home. I’m eventually going to share a little bit about each trip, but for today I’m starting with the most logical place to begin – the middle! Italy!

Jack and I spent 4 days in Milan and Parma at Barilla® Pasta World Championship. It’s crazy to reflect and see where our work takes us. Eating our way through northern Italy was a blast, to say the least.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

The competition started in Milan with 19 young chefs competing, each with their signature pasta dish, for the title of Pasta World Champion. Each dish was more creative and artful than the last. Look at those colors! My #1 takeaway from this event was that my pasta twirling skills definitely need some work 🙂

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

At the end of Day, 19 chefs were narrowed to 10 to compete the following day. We weren’t in Milan very long, but we managed to squeeze in an evening walk to the Milan duomo and the next day, of course, some gelato time.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

On day 2 of the competition, each chef made their version of Spaghetti Pomodoro. It was fun to watch the variations that each chef made using tomato, pasta, and basil. The dish at the top of this post was my favorite (not the winner, but maybe next time they’ll let me judge, ha ha).

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

After the competition was whittled down to 3 contestants, we headed to Parma where we strolled the picturesque cobblestone streets with fellow bloggers Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking and Jenny (with her husband Jordan) from Spoon Fork Bacon. (Not pictured, we had 2 great meals at La Forchetta and Ristorante Cocchi).

On day 3, each chef made their signature dish again and a winner was chosen – Chef Accursio Lota the chef from San Diego (originally from Sicily) was named the Pasta World Champion. We were especially rooting for him, not just because he was representing America, but because his dad (who speaks no English) bravely stopped waiters from taking my bread away at dinner the night before.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

The last day was the day I was waiting for – the day we visited a Parmigiano Reggiano factory. Look at those rows! We also visited a balsamic producer where we tasted tiny drops of the best aged balsamic vinegar ever in Modena.

Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma Pasta World Championship in Milan & Parma

So that was it, and we had a blast! We got to photograph and taste amazing pasta, hang out with friends and see Parmigiano Reggiano making in Parma! Plus, we can’t wait to visit Chef Lota’s restaurant in San Diego and try more of his delicious pasta!

Crispy Butternut Squash & Poblano Tacos

Crispy Butternut Squash & Poblano Tacos

Even though we all officially celebrated the first day of fall a few weeks ago, my season starts the day I roast a butternut squash. I love love love roasted butternut squash. First off, it makes my kitchen smell so warm and cozy. Second, it’s such a delicious and versatile squash that works in so many of my favorite comfort food recipes like soups, risotto, and pastas. But I’m saving comfort for another day because today is taco day! I’m so obsessed over these tacos with crispy baked butternut squash.

This recipe starts with a pretty darn awesome sauce, if I do say so myself. Roasted poblanos, onions, and garlic get mixed with lime juice, cilantro, and the best mayo on the planet – Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I love Sir Kensington’s condiments (see here, here, and here). They source the best ingredients and their ketchups, mustards, and mayos just taste so darn good because of it. I could eat this mayo straight from the jar, but since this blog is about recipes, I whipped it up into this spicy, tangy sauce to go with the tacos. Btw, if you’re vegan, go ahead and make this with Sir K’s Fabanaise.

Part two of this recipe is the baked crispy squash. There’s no need to fry anything here because this spiced panko & hempseed “breading” makes the squash cubes crispy and delicious in the oven. The hemp seeds might seem like a strange addition, but they offer a lovely nutty flavor (as well as some nutritional benefits).

As the squash roasts in the oven, make a quick slaw with a scoop of the poblano sauce.

Pro tip: once the squashed is baked, try not to stand at the kitchen counter dipping and snacking on the crispy cubes like I did! Assemble the tacos with the slaw, the remaining roasted poblanos & onions, the crispy squash, avocado (optional), and generous scoops of the sauce.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

I finally got my pantry in order. Ok, that’s not totally accurate – it’s a mess of nuts, seeds, oats, and flours all piled on top of each other because nothing has “its place” yet in the new kitchen. But the fact that I have most of the essentials at least in there is progress (right?). So when I brought this beautiful broccoli home from the farmers market a few weeks ago, I turned to my mostly-stocked pantry to make my broccoli – stems, leaves, and all! – into a full meal. What came out is this creamy white bean puree that I poured over shells and broccoli.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

One thing about this recipe – it’s not mac & cheese. I know it looks cheesy and there’s an option below to use cheese if you don’t want to use nutritional yeast, but this sauce isn’t meant to recreate cheese. It’s lusciously bean-y, a little tangy, super homey, and delicious in its own way.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

I serve this the way I serve most saucey pastas – mix most of the sauce into the pan with the broccoli and the shells, and reserve the remaining sauce to spoon on top of the portioned bowls.

Creamy White Bean Shells with Broccoli

Our Chicago Kitchen Sneak Peek

Our Chicago Kitchen Sneak Peek / Love & Lemons

In case you hadn’t heard – we’ve moved to Chicago! Long story short, last spring we left our beloved city of Austin and came to Chicago (where I’m originally from). Our original plan was to stay in Chicago temporarily for the summer and definitely(!) leave before the winter. Well, as you see, that didn’t really happen because here we are. I’ll spare you the details, but we spent about 7 months this past year jumping between airbnb’s, hotels, friends’ houses, and parent’s houses (with a marble slab in our car’s trunk to continue shooting recipes). After all of that, we are SO happy to finally be settling into our new home in the windy city.

Here’s a sneak peek of the new kitchen! What I love about it is that it evokes the style of our Austin kitchen without being a clone of it. I will always love subway tiles, white cabinets, and marble (although the new counter-tops are quartz that look like marble), but here I love the pop of the dark blue and and the brushed brass details.

Our Chicago Kitchen Sneak Peek / Love & Lemons

I’m also so smitten over these curvy wooden Norman Counter Stools from Rove Concepts. Choosing counter stools is difficult because they’re such a focal point in the kitchen. I absolutely love the way these look here. They’re also super comfortable to sit in, which is important to me. Rove Concepts SO kindly sent them to us and they’re also offering a giveaway to our readers – see the bottom of the post for details!

Our Chicago Kitchen Sneak Peek / Love & Lemons

On the other side of the kitchen, we have this cute breakfast nook. We thought about doing a built in bench/banquette sort of seating but I really wanted a round table to contrast the strong lines of the kitchen island. I had this Carrara Tulip Table in my mind from the get go – it’s a 100% marble top (it weighs a ton!) and I love it because we can do some of our photography in this area. It’s also a cozy nook to have breakfast in, hence its name: the breakfast nook.

Our Chicago Kitchen Sneak Peek / Love & Lemons

Rove Concepts is giving away a $250 credit to one lucky reader – if you win, you get to use the credit toward anything you want from their store! Their furniture and home decor items are so so lovely! To enter, follow Rove Concepts on Instagram, then go to roveconcepts.com and come back here to leave a comment below telling us your favorite product.

This giveaway will end November 6th and is open only to U.S. and Canadian readers. 

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Something that’s at the top of my fall bucket list: apple picking. Ok, I haven’t actually made a fall bucket list, but I should because I have all these things that I want to do now that we’ve moved back to Chicago and are experiencing the season to its fullest.

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Growing up, one of my absolute favorite fall activities was our family’s annual apple picking trip. We’d all pile into station wagons and drive to a nearby orchard for the day. Joining us were grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles… the whole family! Afterward, we’d go back to someone’s house and order pizzas (this is Chicago, after all) while the moms made apple pies. After that, we’d have bushels of apples (and pies!) for weeks.

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I realize that this story should end with apple pie, but it ends with the next best thing – apple cookies! These cookies are on the healthy-ish side. They’re soft – more like a muffin top than a crispy cookie. They’re both vegan and gluten-free, made with oat flour. They’re also low in sugar, thanks to Truvia’s Brown Sugar Blend. I get SO MANY requests for lower sugar stevia-based recipes, so I’m happy to share this recipe in partnership with Truvia.

Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, a blend of Truvia Natural Sweetener and brown sugar, bakes and browns just like regular brown sugar with the same texture and moistness, which makes it easy to swap into your favorite fall baking recipes! Half a cup of Truvia Brown Sugar Blend is equal to 1 cup of traditional brown sugar with 75% fewer calories, so I can feel good about munching on cookies!

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These apple cookies are packed with oats, raisins, apples, and walnuts – basically fall in a cookie 🙂

Apple Oatmeal Raisin Cookies