Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

What’s for Dinner?

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Things that are fun in the summertime: going to outdoor concerts, attending fairs and festivals, walking in the park and relaxing at the pool. Something that’s not fun in the summertime: spending time cooking, especially in front of a hot stove. Here are a week’s worth of healthy recipes you can make for dinner pretty quickly.

Monday

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Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced firm, ripe fresh peaches (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Parmesan Vinaigrette, recipe below
  • 6-oz penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 10 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Toss together the first 6 ingredients and half of the dressing in a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add hot the cooked pasta, chicken and basil to the vegetable mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with parsley. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette.

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Process Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add basil and cilantro; pulse 5 or 6 times or just until blended.

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Carrot Spice Muffins

Make these when you have time and store them in the freezer for when you need them.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine.

Add the carrots and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday

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Salmon Cucumber Boats

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 6 oz canned pink salmon, drained or leftover cooked fresh salmon
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled

Directions

Combine the first six ingredients. Halve cucumbers lengthwise, remove seeds in each half and stuff with salmon mixture. Chill.

Salad with Tangerines

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh lettuce or spinach, torn into bite size pieces (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 seedless tangerine, peeled, pith removed and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tangerines and nuts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined. Toss with salad mixture and serve.

Wednesday

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Chilled Tomato Soup with Melon

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 of small melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew, plus a wedge of seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 cup chopped seedless cucumber, optional
  • Basil pesto, thinned with a little water for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes with the olive oil, basil, garlic, vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over low heat until hot but not boiling, about 10 minutes.

Pass the soup through the fine disk of a food mill into a medium bowl to remove the tomato seeds and skin.

Cover the bowl and chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight or quick-chill it by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water.

Cut the melons into 1/2-inch dice. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the melon, cucumber, if using and drizzle with the thinned basil pesto sauce and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The tomato soup can be refrigerated for 1 day without the garnishes.

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Grilled Shrimp Pita

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing grill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2 cucumbers (about 1 pound), peeled
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 small red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 4 whole-grain flat breads (pita)
  • 8 small romaine leaves

Directions

Preheat  an outdoor or indoor grill.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Stir together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon each dill and oregano in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to combine. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

To make cucumber sauce: Stir together 1/4 cup of the yogurt, half of the garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dill in a serving bowl. With a vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers into lengthwise ribbons, discarding the seeded core. Toss cucumber ribbons with yogurt mixture and pepper, to taste.

To make yogurt sauce: Combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon dill and remaining garlic in a small serving bowl. Season with pepper, to taste.

Toss tomatoes and onion with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl.

Grill shrimp, tomatoes and onion in a lightly oiled well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or grill pan or basket, turning once, 5 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, tomatoes are softened and onion is golden and tender. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Grill flat bread until golden brown and slightly crisp. Transfer to 4 serving plates; top evenly with cucumber salad, shrimp, onions tomatoes, and romaine, if desired. Top with yogurt sauce.

Thursday

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Rib-Eye Steak with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios*
  • 1/2 cup arugula, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 boneless rib-eye steak ( about 8 oz)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Process pistachios and arugula in a food processor until minced. Add butter and blend until smooth, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small container and chill.

Heat a charcoal or wood-fired grill to high (450°F to 550°F; you can hold your hand 5 inches the above cooking grate only 2 to 4 seconds).

Coat steaks and asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, turning once, until done the way you like it: medium rare or medium.

Grill asparagus in the last few minutes, turning once, until tender-crisp.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board, dollop steaks with butter and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with asparagus.

Make ahead: Chilled Pistachio butter will keepup to 1 week.

*If you can’t find unsalted pistachios, use unsalted butter to balance the salty nuts.

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Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Romaine leaves, optional

Directions

Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and garlic powder together in a bowl. Crumble oregano between your fingers to release the flavor and add to the tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt. Let flavors marinate before serving, 5 minutes or up to an hour. Serve over a romaine leaf, if desired.

Friday

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Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned and skinned halibut, cut into 2-in. chunks or firm white fish available in your area (such as grouper, swordfish, cod, etc.)
  • 4 cups 1 1/2-in. cubes crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced paper-thin
  • Four – 10 inch metal skewers

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill to medium (350°F to 450°F).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Add halibut and bread. Toss to coat, then set aside for 5 minutes.

Skewer an end of 1 pancetta strip, then alternate fish and bread cubes on a metal skewer weaving pancetta between them. Repeat 3 times.

Grill kebabs, turning frequently, until fish is cooked through and the bread is slightly charred in places, about 6 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and cover with foil.

Don’t turn off the grill - you will need it to grill some of the ingredients for the salad below.

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Grilled Peach-and-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and halved
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Dressing

Process 1 large peach, peeled and chopped; 6 tablespoons olive oil; vinegar and honey in a blender until smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Salad

Gently toss 2 large peaches, peeled and halved and avocado in 1 tablespoon olive  oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or until charred. Slice and serve over arugula. Top with peach vinaigrette and cheese.

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Mediterranean Recipes for Lunchtime

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The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

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Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

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Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

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Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

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Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

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Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.

Making Use of Your Garden Herbs

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If you are growing herbs in your garden, you’re already an expert at grabbing a handful of aromatic herbs, roughly chopping them and adding them to your favorite salads, sauces, soups and marinades. Your serving plates are garnished with greenery and your dips are made with fresh herbs instead of dried. As for pesto, you’ve made them all: basil, parsley, arugula, etc. But it’s late summer and after all that culinary creativity, do you still have an over-abundance of herbs? Before you even think about letting them go to waste, think about the following uses.

  • Branches of woody herbs such as rosemary can be used as garnishes in mixed drinks. Rosemary makes a great swizzle stick and delicate herbs like mint, coriander and lemon balm can also add a different taste to your summer cocktails.
  • Reserving a few of those sturdy rosemary branches to use as skewers for grilled kabobs. Fragrant thyme, sage or rosemary can also add flavor to barbecued food just by tossing a few dampened bunches of them directly on hot coals or in a grill box for a gas grill. The oils mingle with the smoke adding a smoky-herbal essence to whatever you’re grilling.
  • Next time you crave a cup of herbal tea, don’t search the cupboard for a stale teabag. Instead, check your garden for the most aromatic herbs you can find and steep them until you have a fragrant infusion.
  • Although herbs are usually used in savory recipes, they also lend themselves beautifully to sweet preparations. Herbs are excellent in sorbet, especially basil, lavender, rose and edible flowers such as scented geranium. Besides sauces and sorbets, simple baked goods can also benefit from the addition of herbs, for example, blueberry-sage corn muffins.
  • Make your own flavored vinegars. Start with good quality vinegars: red or white wine, or cider—but not balsamic. Then create several varieties of vinegars by using different herbs. Make sure the herbs are always covered by liquid and let it rest for a couple of weeks.

Make Compound Butters

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Lemon Herb Butter

Unsalted butter combined with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and sage makes a nice spread for rolls or to top a grilled steak or to use as a flavorful ingredient for cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Mash butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to use in a recipe.

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Herb and Walnut Butter

This is a great sauce to go with grilled fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 juniper berries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 16 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup watercress, leaves and tender sprigs only
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small skillet, toast the walnuts over moderate heat for about 3 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the butter, juniper berries, orange zest and lime juice. Scrape the nut butter onto a sheet of wax paper and spread into a 3-by-6-inch rectangle; wrap in the paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Put the garlic in a small saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain. Transfer the garlic and reserved water to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Scrape the garlic puree into a bowl.

Add the watercress, arugula, parsley, basil and dill to the blender and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup each of olive oil and grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Add the Parmigiano, lemon zest, lemon juice, the garlic puree and pulse to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Mix well.

Spoon a little of the sauce onto a plate and top with grilled fish or steak. Unwrap the butter and place 1 tablespoon on top of the fish or steak and serve.

Make Herb Sauces

1. Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

In Italy, salsa verde often accompanies poached chicken or fish and boiled meat. The tangy green sauce is also delicious on sautéed and grilled foods.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, 1 whole, 2 minced
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Put the parsley, capers, the whole garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times.

With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup oil in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree. Leave this mixture in the food processor; if necessary, pulse to re-emulsify just before serving.

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Herb-Nut Salsa

This is a great addition to grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 2 teaspoons minced tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon minced chervil
  • 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F and toast the hazelnuts in a pie pan for 12 minutes or until the skins are blistered. Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel; let cool slightly, then rub off the skins.

Finely chop the nuts and transfer them to a bowl. Add the parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil, anchovies, capers and shallot.

Stir in the vinegar, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well. Serve alongside grilled steak.

2. Artichoke

Smoked-Herb Mayonnaise

Serve with cooked whole artichokes or other vegetables as a dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • Hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, dill, capers, lemon zest and juice, salt and paprika. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and season the mayonnaise with pepper. Chill until serving time.

Make Something Sweet

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Pineapple and Basil Sorbet

Who knew basil paired so well with pineapple?

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple – peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves

Directions

Blend the pineapple, sugar, pineapple juice and basil in a blender until smooth; chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place mixture in an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions; pour into an airtight container and freeze 8 hours or overnight.

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Summer Berry and Rosemary Parfait

Ingredients

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

  • Juice from 1 large lemon, strained
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses

Parfait Layers

  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • 10 fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar, molasses, vanilla and rosemary. Bring to a boil; then allow to cool.

Parfait Layers

Place berry and fruit varieties in small bowls and evenly distribute rosemary infusion syrup over each. Mix well, until the fruits are coated in the rosemary syrup.

In a glass sundae/parfait dish, layer the infused berries and fruit with yogurt.

Top with your favorite granola.

Note: Recipe amounts given should yield 2 large parfaits. Adjust amounts to desired number of parfaits.

Make Drinks

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Rosemary Lemon Margarita

Ingredients

  • 8 Lemons (juice only)
  • 24 ounces club soda
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 ounces Tequila

Directions

Combine lemon juice, club soda, sugar and tequila in pitcher. Mix well. Refrigerate until cold. Place 1 rosemary sprig in each of the 4 serving glasses. Add margarita and serve cold.

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Basil Iced Tea

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 1 cup tightly packed chopped, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves completely)
  • Ice

Directions

Bring water to a boil and then steep tea bags and basil for one hour or until the liquid comes to room temperature. When cool, remove tea bags and strain out basil leaves.

Stir in lime juice and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Pour over ice and add simple syrup to taste.

VARIATIONS

Substitute  mint or lemon verbena in place of basil for a different taste.

Make A Rub

Food & Wine, Web shoot

Spicy Herb Salt

This mildly spicy salt is delicious rubbed over big cuts of meat or thick steaks, but it is also good sprinkled on buttered bread or corn on the cob.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rosemary leaves (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup thyme leaves and tender stems (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a food processor or blender, pulse the herbs and garlic until chopped. Add the salt and pulse until finely chopped. Add the crushed red pepper and pulse to blend.

Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand, stirring occasionally, until dried, about 2 days. Transfer the mixture to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

The herb salt can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Italian Treasures – The Glassmakers of Piegaro

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In 1292 the rulers of Venice decreed that all glass blowing was to move to the island of Murano, as this was a way to protect the city from burning from the glass workshops. The artists became virtual prisoners to their craft as the Venetians attempted to keep a monopoly on glass making and the blowers, under pain of death, were kept permanently on the island.

However, aided by local monks, two craftsmen did manage to escape and traveled south to Piegaro, near the shores of Lake Trasimeno.  The sturdy walled town was an ideal place to establish their own furnaces and glass making business. The wood from the local forests and sand from the bed of the River Nestore gave the men all the natural resources they needed. They soon gained a reputation for producing quality glass and in 1312 their services were called upon to make the glass tiles used in the glass mosaics of the facade for Orvieto’s new duomo. The glass workers were famous and creating mosaics and stained glass windows for many cathedrals.  Over time the glass industry in Piegaro grew and, by the 15th century, there were a number of small glass studios within the walls of the town. As the town’s fame and popularity increased they saw the creation of a large industrial sized factory, that today is the Museo del Vetro, Glass Museum. Here mechanised presses and automated annealing ovens were built to produce bottles, goblets and flasks on an industrial scale.

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There was also a profitable industry in producing the classic wicker based bottles, famously used for Chianti wines. Many women were employed within the town to weave the bases giving the bottles their distinctive raffia style.

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This glass works continued until the beginning of WWII when it was occupied by German soldiers.  This was a sad time in the history of Piegaro, for when Germans left, the beautiful Comune Palazzo building was mined and destroyed. Glass work continued through the efforts of the Marchesa, who lived in the Palazzo Pallavicini Piegaro, by making the remaining glass factories into worker owned cooperatives.

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Despite modernisation in the 20th century, by the 1960s the factory was proving to be inadequate for the levels of production necessary and a new premises built in the valley. Finally in 1968 the 750 year history of glass making with in the town center came to an end as the furnaces were shut down and left to cool.

The Annual Sagra della Castagna, The Chestnut Festival.  Chestnuts are roasting in every piazza, food booths offer Torta al Testo, chestnut pastries and the first wine, Mosto, barely fermented.  Full course feasts, pizza, music every night with dancing and theater performances fill the ten days of celebration.  Traditional crafts booths of straw weaving, jewelry making and glass blowing offer shopping opportunities.

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In August, travel back time to medieval days for the il Giorni del Vetro: Days of Glass Festival.  Don a medieval costume, join in the Royal Corteo and follow the drummers in a procession through the narrow cobblestone streets. This day honors Piegaro’s heritage and fame as a glass making capital of Italy, that is just as important as Murano.  Three days of festival with music, food, glass artisans working their craft and booths of glass art and jewelry.

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The Cuisine of Piegaro (Umbria) Italy

Having no access to the oceans has limited Umbria cooking to land based food, but the variety of dishes is no less plentiful for it.  Many of dishes rely on vegetables.  Locally grown lentils, cardoons, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts are important staple foods. The region’s olive trees are responsible for making some of the best olive oil in Italy.

Fresh produce and fruity, local olive oil, wild greens, mushrooms and truffles create luscious dishes without the need for additional ingredients.  White truffles are a delicacy eaten fresh in this cuisine.  Norcia provides most of Italy’s black truffles.  Recipes use truffles to elevate the plainest egg, pasta or meat dishes to a gourmet meal.  They are also made into a paste with garlic and anchovies.

Shepherding is important to the local economy, so sheep’s milk cheese is an important staple food.  Unlike most of Italy where Pecorino cheeses are aged in salt, Umbrian cheeses may be rubbed with tomato paste or buried in ashes in terracotta urns to age.  Some cheeses are aged in cool natural caves.  Each of these aging methods gives a unique texture and flavor.  Generally cheese is eaten plain or with preserved vegetables or meats, fresh fruits or simply out of hand with a glass of wine.

The local lentils are of especially high quality.  Fava beans are used to make a hearty soup seasoned with pork rinds and rosemary.  Onion soup is flavored with tomatoes, salt preserved pork, fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Freshwater fish are available and they are often made into a mixed stew called tegamaccio.   Anguille alle brace marinates freshwater eels in white wine seasoned with pepper and bay leaves before grilling.

Poultry, wild game and roasts are cooked over pans filled with herbs.  The drippings are collected and made into a sauce after the meat is finished cooking.  Chianina beef,  lamb, wood-pigeon and free range chickens are commonly eaten.  Boar and hare are especially enjoyed and Lepre alla cacciatora braises hare in red wine and is flavored with garlic, sage and bay leaves.

Norcia is well-known for the quality and variety of their cured pork products.  Over time, Norcia has come to be the general Italian term for butcher, due to the quality of the meats from this area.  In addition to the salame, they produce mazzafegati, a pungent sausage made from liver and flavored with pignolis, raisins and orange rind. Porchetta and Prosciutto di Norcia.from Umbria are very highly prized.

Dried pasta and many handmade kinds of egg pasta are eaten in Umbrian cuisine.  Tagliatelle with meat sauces are popular.  Hand rolled ciriole and stringozzi look somewhat like the more familiar spaghetti.  These are often enjoyed with a fresh sauce of black olives, tomatoes and garlic.  Spaghetti alla norcina is served with black truffle sauce.

Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio.  Tore, springy pecorino or pork rind flavored breads, are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough. Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.

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Fettuccine With Black Truffle Sauce

Ingredients

12 oz fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 anchovy fillet, mashed
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 medium Umbrian black truffles, (or any black truffle you can get), cleaned of soil, grated
6 quarts water

Directions

While pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over very low heat.
Sauté the crushed garlic for 2 minutes. Do not let it brown. Remove the garlic.
Add the anchovy, cooking gently, crushing it to a paste with a wooden spoon.
Add the truffles and heat through.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Immediately mix in the truffle sauce. If you prefer the sauce moister, or it seems too dry, add one tablespoon of the reserved liquid at a time till desired moistness is reached.

Serve on pre-heated plates.

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Pork Roast Braised with Milk

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied
3 juniper berries (see note, below), crushed
2 large rosemary sprigs
2 large sage sprigs
4 dried bay leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups whole milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack in the middle.

Heat oil in a wide 5 to 6 quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then lightly brown roast on all sides with juniper berries and herbs, 8 to 10 minutes total. Add garlic and sprinkle roast with sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then cook until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Pour wine over roast and briskly simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast and bring to a bare simmer.

Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk will form curds), 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer roast to a carving board and loosely cover. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (discard solids), reserving pot, and skim off fat. Return juices to pot and boil until flavorful and reduced to about 2 cups. Season with sea salt and pepper. Slice roast and serve moistened with juices.

Notes:

Juniper berries can be found in the spice aisle at supermarkets.
Pork can be braised 1 day ahead and chilled in liquid, uncovered, until cool, then covered. Bring to room temperature, then reheat and proceed with recipe.

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Asparagus, Peas and Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound shelled fresh peas (2 1/2 cups; 1 3/4 pound in pods) or 1 (10-ounce) package thawed frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Handful of torn basil leaves (about 3/4 cup)

Directions

Cook shallots in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes.

Stir in asparagus, peas, sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then seal skillet with foil. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender but still slightly al dente, about 8 minutes.

Stir in basil and sea salt to taste.

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Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

Ingredients

10 firm-ripe large apricots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons), crumbled (1/3 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts (if using). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Making Semifreddo

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Semifreddo desserts are easy to make but look and taste like you took a class at Le Cordon Bleu! Semifreddo is an Italian word meaning “half cold” or “half frozen.” It refers to a class of frozen desserts that are similar to ice cream, but made with heavy cream instead of churning air into the mixture while it freezes. Semifreddos are very similar to mousses and are often served in the form of ice cream cakes or tarts.

There are many different recipes for semifreddo, that use different bases to mix with the cream. In Italy, semifreddo is commonly made with gelato. Cooked custards and custard-based sauces are another common choice to mix with the cream. One of the biggest benefits of making semifreddo is that you don’t need an ice cream maker or other specialty equipment to make it. Many semifreddo recipes involve no cooking at all. The most difficult part of making semifreddo is waiting for it to freeze, which typically takes from several hours to overnight in your freezer.

Semifreddos are a great base for just about any flavor or combination of flavors. Once you learn the basics of the recipe, you can customize your semifreddo with your favorite blends of fruits, chocolate, coffee, spices and more! Best of all, the texture and flavors are delicious. For semifreddos with a crust, use a springform pan so it’s easier to remove and present. But you could just as easily form the crust in the bottom of a loaf pan and mold your semifreddo on top of that. Using individual ramekins works well, too.

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Raspberry & Chocolate Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 ounce) box chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, unsweetened raspberries (if using frozen berries, thaw before use)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Break cookies into pieces and place in a food processor; process to finely ground crumbs. Combine crumbs with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and halfway up sides of a 9 inch round and 3 inch deep springform pan. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is set; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form; transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Place raspberries and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until pureed. Place mixture in a strainer placed over a large bowl. Press firmly on the raspberry mixture to extract all the juice. Discard seeds. Gently stir in half the meringue. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream mixture. Repeat stirring in remaining meringue and whipped cream until well combined.

Pour mixture over cooled crust, smoothing top. Cover tightly with foil. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin spatula between semifreddo and edge of rim to loosen. Remove rim from spring-form pan. Cut semifreddo into wedges; serve immediately. If there is any remaining semifreddo, reattach the rim of the springform pan, cover and return to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4 ounces), hulled, halved
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy(whipping) cream

Directions

Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3″) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.

Grind pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.

Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill vanilla mixture.

Purée strawberries and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set strawberry mixture aside.

Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high-speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Add one-third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.

Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add one-third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over and smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Fold plastic wrap over; seal tightly and keep frozen.

Uncover semifreddo. Using plastic wrap as an aid, lift from mold. Invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic. Slice crosswise.

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Triple Layer Berry Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1⁄3 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups halved and hulled fresh strawberries (6 ounces)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries (6 ounces)

Directions

Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch metal loaf pan lightly with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap extending generously over edges of pan.

In large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form, scraping down bowl once. Transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Combine milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl; set aside. Place strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to a second medium-sized bowl. Place blueberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in clean food processor; puree until smooth. Place strainer over another medium-sized bowl; sieve blueberry mixture through strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard blueberry skins.

Gently stir 1/3 of the meringue into each of the three bowls. Gently stir 1/3 of the chilled whipped cream into each of the three bowls. Pour blueberry mixture into bottom of prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate the bowls of vanilla and strawberry mixture. Freeze loaf pan until firm, 45 minutes. Gently pour vanilla mixture over blueberry mixture; freeze 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over the vanilla layer, smoothing top with a spatula. Pan will be full, so do not cover with foil until top is firm, about 45 minutes. Continue freezing at least 3 ½ hours or overnight.

To unmold: wrap sides of pan with a hot, wet cloth or dip briefly in a sink of warm water to loosen. Using plastic wrap as an aid, remove semifreddo from pan; place on a serving platter; discard plastic wrap.  Cut into slices; serve immediately. To store, cover and return any extra semifreddo immediately to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Apricot Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

A healthier version.

Serves 12

APRICOT SEMIFREDDO

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh apricots
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries

BLACKBERRY SAUCE

  • 1/2 pint fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

To make the Apricot Semifreddo:

Line 4-cup loaf pan with plastic wrap. Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light yellow, about 1 minute.

Bring milk to a boil in saucepan. Slowly pour hot milk over egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan; cook over medium-low heat (do not boil), stirring often, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain, and cool.

Meanwhile, place dried apricots in heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let stand 15 minutes, or until softened. Drain, and cool. Put in food processor with fresh apricots, and purée until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add custard, sour cream and almond extract.

Put egg whites in large bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into apricot mixture.

Pour half of mixture into prepared pan. Place 3 rows of blackberries on their sides down the center of loaf pan; top with remaining mixture. Cover; freeze at least 4 hours.
To make the Blackberry Sauce:

Press blackberries through fine-meshed sieve into bowl. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.

Remove Apricot Semifreddo from freezer; let stand 10 minutes. Unmold onto plate, and cut into 10 slices. Drizzle with Blackberry Sauce and serve.

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Espresso Semifreddo with Dried Cherries

Serves 8

Ingredients

Semifreddo

  • 1/3 cup freshly made strong espresso or coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, yolks and whites separated
  • 6 crisp amaretti cookies

Fruit

  • 1/4 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon, in strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (1/2 pound) dried cherries

Directions

While the espresso is still hot, add all but 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and with a wooden spoon or a spatula, push ricotta through. Add half of the espresso mixture, amaretto, lemon zest, and salt, and whisk until well combined.

Combine egg yolks and remaining espresso in a stainless-steel bowl and whisk until eggs are foamy. Set the bowl over, not in, a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture is foamy, light-colored, and tripled in bulk. This could take up to 10 minutes. If cooking too quickly, turn heat off and work over the hot water. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whip to stiff peaks.

Stir 1/4 cup of cooled yolk mixture into the ricotta mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining yolk mixture and 1/3 of the whites. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and gently smooth top. Crumble the amaretti cookies and spread over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 24 hours.

For the fruit: Combine Kirsch and sugar in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight at room temperature.

To serve:

Remove semifreddo from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Uncover top; invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove plastic wrap. Cut into 1-inch slices, spoon on cherries, and serve.

Italian Cooking with Healthy Fats

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Research shows that not all fats are created equal in terms of their health effects. For heart health, you should get the majority of your fat from monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (especially the omega-3 kind), consume less saturated fat and strictly limit trans fat because it tends to raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, manufactured trans fat is the worst fat for your heart and, yet, it is still out there in some packaged foods.

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat, which has long been known to help improve cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help fight inflammation, high blood pressure and cancer.

Look for extra virgin olive oil, which, unlike other olive oils, has not undergone refinement that strips the oil of some flavor, phytonutrients and other beneficial compounds. Compare “best by” dates on oils and choose the furthest date, which suggests it’s fresher and more likely to contain higher levels of antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in low to moderate heat cooking; it’s generally stable up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also perfect for dipping, salad dressing and sauces.

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

Similar to olive oil, more than 70 percent of the fats in avocado oil are monounsaturated, plus it naturally contains beneficial antioxidants, including lutein, that is important for eye health. You’ll get the best flavor, aroma and nutrition in unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil, which is mechanically rather than chemically extracted. Extra virgin avocado oil can take the heat a little better than olive oil, tolerating temperatures up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, although this may vary a bit with the variety of avocado used. Avocado oil’s buttery, nutty flavor is also perfect when drizzled on steamed vegetables or grilled asparagus. Fresh avocado slices are good on sandwiches in place of mayonnaise.

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

Most tree nuts—including macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios—contain more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than any other type of fat. Plus, studies suggest eating nuts regularly may help reduce the risk of major diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as boost longevity.

Try a variety of whole, raw, dry-roasted nuts, natural tree-nut butters and nut oils. Some nut oils and nut butters, such as almond, are easier to find and are less expensive than others, such as macadamia and pecan. Delicate nut oils are less heat-stable than other oils. Unrefined nut oils are best used in salad dressings and dips, drizzled over roasted vegetables or tossed with whole grain pasta and herbs.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory and heart-health benefits. Research is not clear, however, on whether supplements can provide all of the benefits of eating fish regularly. Buy oily seafood that is rich in omega-3s but low in mercury, such as salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, Pacific oysters and halibut, herring, mussels and anchovies. In general, aim for at least two 4-ounce servings of oily fish per week (which equates to about 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily).

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Italian Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small head of radicchio—halved, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tender celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably Sicilian
  • 8 peperoncini
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (1 cup)

Directions

In a large salad bowl, mash the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the vinegar and oregano, then whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve.

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Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe, fresh California or Florida (large) avocados, seeded and peeled*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coarsely mash (DO NOT PUREE) avocados.
Stir in vinegar.
Fold in remaining ingredients.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Guacamole is best made as close to serving time as possible. For short-term storage, seal in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole.

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Fettuccine with Sardines

Serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed with Italian vinaigrette and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fettuccine (whole wheat works well in this recipe)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two 4 ounce cans boneless, skinless sardines, flaked
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling but not brown, about 20 seconds. Transfer the garlic and oil to a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and transfer to a plate.

Whisk lemon juice, tomato paste, pepper and salt into the garlic oil in the serving bowl. Add the pasta to the bowl along with sardines and parsley. Gently stir to combine.

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

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Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon or any omega 3 fatty fish, about 1/2 inch thick
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 small red and/or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large zucchini, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 pieces; set aside.

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a shallow dish, stir together cornmeal, nuts and salt.

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

Dip each piece of fish into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip fish into egg mixture, then into the nut mixture to coat. Place in the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine peppers, zucchini and squash. Add oil and seasoned salt; toss to coat. Arrange vegetables next to the fish, overlapping as needed to fit.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

healthyfat5

Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds, blanched
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds (about 4-5) red plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Grind almonds, garlic and herbs in the food processor. Add the oil, gradually. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the tomatoes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.

Healthy Options For Kids

Healthykids

Want your children to be healthy – start with healthier food.

Providing healthy food in school and at home and educating children, parents and school staff about the importance of good nutrition and exercise definitely leads to improved the health.

At home, try to serve healthy meals and have healthy snacks available, such as apples, yogurt, whole grain cereals and cut-up fresh veggies in the refrigerator.

If your child’s school does not offer physical activity and nutrition education programs, contact the principal or the school board to find out if changes can be made to these programs. Check the lunch program for healthy options for your child and if, you are not satisfied with what they offer, give your child a lunch to take to school. At the same time, try to get the school to offer healthy options for those who want them.

The good news is that as long as you provide a wide variety of nourishing foods, your child’s diet will balance out over time. Here are some healthy foods that are as good for you and your children as they taste.

Blueberries

A perfect finger food for tiny eaters, blueberries usually go on to become life-long favorites. They are packed with vitamin C for immune health and fiber that can help keep kids regular. Berries of all kinds may help combat allergies, as well

Fresh blueberries are always a favorite with children. Add them to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, desserts and even salads.

Black Beans

The darker the bean, the more nutritious it is, elevating black beans to the top of the superfood list. Their protein and fiber content help balance blood sugar and provide growing bodies with long-lasting energy. One cup of black beans also supplies about 20% of your child’s iron needs for the day.

Black beans can be added to chili, pureed into a dip with garlic, tomatoes and herbs or mixed with scrambled eggs.

Eggs

Eggs provide high-quality nutrition at an affordable price and are a great source of choline, an often overlooked but essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development. They’re also high in protein and are a good dietary source of vitamin D.

Since eggs can be added to virtually any baked good, chances are your kids are already enjoying them. Look for muffin and pancake recipes using several eggs, and experiment with omelets and frittatas. Popular combinations include: zucchini and basil, onions and potatoes, and tomato, mozzarella and ham.

Spinach

Spinach is another highly nutritious food and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K for optimal immunity and bone health. It’s also high in iron, several B vitamins and boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a winner for heart and eye health.

If your child likes the flavor of pesto, replace half of the basil in the recipe with fresh spinach. Use as a sandwich spread, pizza topping or pasta sauce. Frozen chopped spinach is perfect for adding to meatballs or meatloaf.

Keep on trying different foods Don’t assume that your kids will never like something, if they’ve tried it once and dismissed it. Tastes change over time.

After School Snacks

healthykids1

Apple Snack Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2 medium apples
    1 cup Rice Chex (or other healthy crispy cereal), crushed
    1-1/2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Directions

Core apples; cut each into six wedges. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a small shallow bowl, combine the cereal and brown sugar. Spread cut sides of the apples with peanut butter; roll in cereal mixture. Serve immediately.

healthykids4

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup low fat milk
    1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
    1-1/2 cups halved fresh strawberries
    1 medium mango, peeled and chopped
    4 to 6 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Stir if necessary. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

healthykids3

Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    1/3 cup honey
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Combine the oats, brown sugar and salt; add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in the dried fruit and chips. (Batter will be sticky.)

Press into a 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.

Lunch Box Ideas

healthykids5

Chicken Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hummus
    1 whole wheat tortilla (8 inches), at room temperature
    1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
    1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
    1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Directions

Spread hummus over the tortilla; top with spinach. Place chicken, carrot and red pepper strips in a row near the center of the tortilla; roll up tightly. If desired, cut crosswise into slices. Wrap securely or pack in an airtight container; and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 1 serving.

healthykids6

Lunch on a Stick

Ingredients

  • Cheddar or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
    Grape tomatoes
    Whole wheat bread slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
    Leaf lettuce
    Sliced deli ham and/or turkey, cut into 1-inch strips
    Seedless red or green grapes
  • Wooden skewers (5 to 6 inches

Directions

Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices. Thread a skewer with 1 piece of cheese, bread, ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce and grape. Repeat the order again on the skewer. Make 3 more skewers.

Let children be creative and place their favorite healthy ingredients on a skewer. Yield: 4 servings.

healthykids9

Bean Dip & Chips

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fat-free canned refried beans
    1 tablespoon salsa
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1 minced scallion
  • 1 ounceh ealthy tortilla chips, (about 10)

Directions

Combine refried beans, salsa, cilantro and scallion (if using) in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.

Healthy Dinner Options

healthykids7

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 cup Italian seasoned panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Marinara sauce

Directions

Place butter in a shallow bowl.

Combine the panko crumbs, cheese, garlic powder and salt in another shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.

Place in a single layer on two 15-inch x 10-inch x 1-inch baking pans.

Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

healthykids2

Pizza Meatloaf Cups

These are great to reheat for a quick dinner on soccer night.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup pizza sauce
    1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
    1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
    1-1/2 cups (6 ounces each) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Additional pizza sauce

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the egg, pizza sauce, bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.

Divide among 12 greased muffin cups; press onto the bottom and up the sides. Fill the center with cheese.

Bake at 375° F for 15-18 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink.

Serve with additional pizza sauce, if desired. Or cool, place in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen pizza cups: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Heat on a microwave-safe plate on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 1 dozen.

healthykids8

Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots
    1 medium green bell pepper
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups marinara sauce
    2 cups part skim milk ricotta cheese,
    2 cups (16 oz) shredded part skim milk mozzarella cheese, divided
    3 oz grated parmesan cheese
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz lasagna noodles, no boil

Directions

Chop carrots, green pepper and onion.
In a skillet, saute the vegetables in oil. Stir in the 2 cups of marinara sauce to heat it through.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 cup sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Layer 1/2 each, uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, sauce,. Repeat layering, and top with remaining cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F  for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.


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