Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese

As a kid, I wasn't really into tomatoes. I basically liked ketchup. I also enjoyed dipping my grilled cheese sandwich into a warm bowl of tomato soup. I didn't actually eat the tomato soup on its own, but I always had to have it with my grilled cheese. At least I got part of it right back then. 

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic comfort food. It always reminds me of Minnesota snow days, which were the happiest days of all when I was growing up. I remember listening to the radio early in the morning with my little brother (Lee) and hoping that our school was on the list of cancellations. When we heard our school on the list, we would immediately throw on our snowsuits, grab our sleds and head out to meet our neighborhood friends. After a few hours of sledding, we were starving. Grilled cheese with tomato soup was a frequent go-to and while we wolfed them down, we'd watch The Price is Right with Bob Barker followed by Young and the Restless so we could learn the latest scandal between Victor Newman and Jack Abbott.

Anyway, when I realized I haven't shared this recipe combination for the blog yet, I knew it would be the perfect comfort food to help start off the week. One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes is to roast them. It enhances the flavors for this soup and the flavor of the basil shines through so perfectly. I also add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. It's SO good. I use a couple of different cheeses for my grilled cheese sandwiches, but this recipe is flexible, so use the cheese of your choice. Just be sure to get really, really good bread. 

You are going to love this one.

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Pumpkin Doughnut Bites with Chocolate

Fall is definitely my favorite season. I love the vibrant mix of colors, over-sized sweaters, sipping lots of my favorite tea and the home-style recipes that always bring people together. As the weather starts to get colder, I can't help but feel a sense of warmth and an inspiration to experiment with fall flavors.

I recently decided to make Pumpkin Doughnut Bites with Chocolate. I've never made doughnuts before, but when I saw this recipe on Aninas Recipes, I was inspired to finally give it a try. The recipe seemed pretty easy and straight forward, but there were two obstacles that I ran into.

First, the temperature of the oil needs to be just right. I found this to be a challenge, because it was either too hot or not hot enough. The ideal temperature should be 375 degrees so you can cook the inside without completely over-frying the outside. It would have helped if I had a deep fry thermometer.

Second, forming the doughnuts to a consistent size was tricky. Mine turned out to be a variety of odd shapes and sizes and some were more chocolatey than others, but I just went with it. I am always drawn to the imperfections of food. It's natural and real and I love to show off that honesty with my food photography. 

My favorite part about the recipe was the combination of the pumpkin flavor and the chocolate drizzle. Delicious. My mom suggested that I make a maple syrup frosting, but I stuck to the recipe since it was my first try. Next time, I will definitely experiment a little more... and I'll have a deep fry thermometer to ensure that all the doughnuts are perfectly cooked through. Lesson learned! 
Cheers!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon and Rosemary

Back when I was balancing a day job with my photography, Mike would handle cooking our weeknight dinners. Now that I am a full time photographer and in charge of my own schedule, I tend to take on that role. But, whether you're in charge of your schedule or not, sometimes at the end of a long day, cooking dinner just seems like one extra thing to do. 

I've been excited to share this recipe with you, because we all know how it feels to not want to cook at the end of a long day. Fall seems like the ideal time to share this recipe, but honestly, it works its magic throughout the entire year. 

Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon and Rosemary is comforting and flavorful - but the best part is that you can sit back, relax and let it do its thing. You just throw the ingredients into a 9x13 roasting pan, pop it in the oven for about an hour and it's done. It makes a lot for two and the leftovers taste even better the next day. 

Add this recipe to your "go-to" recipes, because it hasn't let us down yet. And, if you're still not satisfied, you can always do the next best thing... go out! I'm going to be talking about Chef Paul Virant's, Vie Restaurant in Western Springs, IL in an upcoming post, so be sure to stay tuned for that!

Cheers and Happy Friday!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Country Apple Galette

Today is Mike's birthday! I love birthdays, but Mike is the complete opposite when it comes to his own. And, despite his preference that I not mention it at all, I'm simply too big of a fan of him to let it pass by without sharing a little something.

As you know, I started learning to cook when I met Mike. When we first started dating, I remember him telling me that he grew up watching Julia Child, amongst several other cooking shows.  It's funny for me to think about now, because whenever he feeds our cat (Ollie), he says, "Bon Appétit!!" as he sets the bowl down in front of him. It cracks me up every single time.

For Mike, cooking shows are about the discovery of new recipes and new tips and tricks you learn about the ingredients. For me, that's definitely part of it, but I also love how calming cooking shows can be. They force me to slow down and learn something new... and for some reason, they always inspire me to make my next shoot even better than the last one.

One of our all-time favorites, next to Julia Child, is Jacques Pépin. We have his book and watch his cooking shows together. Whenever I get in a creative rut, Mike will tell me to sit down and watch one of his shows with him. As much as I hate getting in a rut, I love how Mike always knows how to pull me out of it.

When I discovered Jacques's Country Apple Galette recipe, I was immediately inspired to head out and grab the ingredients. It sounded like a perfect recipe for "almost fall." I actually made two so I could nibble while I worked and Mike could enjoy some without having to wait for me to finish the shoot. One of my favorite parts is the drizzle of honey and lemon on top. Delicious! A galette is basically a "rustic tart" and is a lot of fun to prepare since the crust is folded over and not perfectly formed like you might do with a pie. It takes the pressure off and honestly, I love how natural and imperfect it looks. You'll have to add this to your list of recipes this fall for sure!

So... here's wishing a very Happy Birthday to Mike. My love, and my number one fan, who always sees the best in me and keeps me laughing daily. I love you!

xo

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

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Saint Dinette

I've lived in Illinois for almost twelve years now, but honestly, Minnesota always feels like home to me. I can't really describe it, but there's a sense of comfort and familiarity without ever feeling stagnant. There's always something old to go back to, but there's always something new to inspire me at the same time. 

When I was in St. Paul, MN a couple weeks ago for some photography work, I was invited to shoot at Saint Dinette. This place is beautiful... and a classic example of Minnesota introducing me to something new. The restaurant can be found on the main floor of the historic Rayette Building just down the street from the new CHS Stadium (home of the Saint Paul Saints). The loft-space with high ceilings, giant windows, exposed brick and an open kitchen is spacious and welcoming. The dining room is comfortable with several tables near the windows that bathe in the natural light. I imagine it's quite pretty and romantic at night too, with the evening lights sparkling in. 

I was immediately drawn to the long walnut-topped bar that faces the kitchen where you can watch Chef Adam Eaton work his magic. If you follow along with my restaurant adventures, you know that an open kitchen is one of my happy places.

The food he prepared was the Heirloom Tomato with buffalo mozzarella, cucumber, hazelnut and garum and the Octopus with barbecue sauce, potato salad and benne seeds. The presentation alone demonstrates Adam's passion for his craft. The menu is inventive, but also approachable. I can be guilty of sticking to what I know and ordering the same thing again and again, but his menu would pull me out of that habit pretty quickly. Read more about their menu here

I can't wait to bring Mike back to this place sometime soon. If I had to guess, we'll show up when they open at 5, belly-up to the bar facing the kitchen and order a couple of drinks. We'll probably start with the Duck Tartar and Ceviche and continue work our way down their delicious menu... 

Saint Dinette, Thank You for having me! It was a pleasure to shoot for you and I hope we can do it again soon!

Cheers!

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

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