Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: August 2012

The art of tailgating can be described as a delicate balance between sports and eating. It’s a place where fans can not only paint their faces, but enjoy a beer with a fellow supporter. It’s a medium where sports can be enjoyed pre-game and post-game.

There is something about the combination of friends, family, appetizers and beverages that excites fans like few other things can. Grilling burgers that are branded with your team’s logo, competing to see whose flag can fly the highest, and dressing children in sports paraphernalia – all are as American as the hot dogs and apple pies that are consumed while doing them. And while this time-honored tradition dates back to some of the earliest sporting events, tailgating has arguably grown more popular than the events with which they are associated.

How did tailgating begin?

One of the first tailgating events was first documented during the Civil War, although participants, in all likelihood, were not sharing recipes or playing a friendly game of horseshoes. The event took place in 1861 at the Battle of Bull Run. At the battle’s start, civilians from the Union side arrived with baskets of food and shouting, “Go Big Blue!” Their efforts were a form of support and encouragement for their side to win the commencing battle.

Although this event was a far cry from tailgates of today, this is one of the first historical events of passersby cheering on an event. This day also is important in that it documents food being used to celebrate a specific event.

Another event that would help shape the history of tailgating happened just five years after the Battle of Bull Run, in 1866 when Texas rancher, Charles Goodnight, transformed a U.S. army wagon into a portable feed wagon. Goodnight saw the need for cowboys to eat regardless of location, and invented his contraption – the chuck wagon – to help mobilize hearty meals. The chuck wagon, named after a lower-priced cut of beef called “chuck,” helped transform the face of the ranching industry. Goodnight’s portable cooking design was efficient, and more importantly, on wheels. Goodnight’s chuckwagon was an early model of many tailgating setups that are still used in present times.

Up to this point, however, each form of early tailgating had yet to be performed at an actual sporting event. The act of pre-game celebration would not be introduced to competitive sports until 1869, when the earliest signs of tailgating at a sporting event took place at the inaugural intercollegiate football game between Princeton and Rutgers. However, what arguably had the biggest effect on tailgating at this game, was a group of Rutgers fans and players, who wore scarlet-colored scarves (converted into turbans), in order to be separate from the other fans. Their school colors were a show of support, and defined them as belonging to a certain team. Back then, spectators traveled to the game by horse-drawn carriages, and spent the time prior to kick off grilling sausages and burgers at the “tail end” of the horse.

Still others claim that the cradle of tailgating is Green Bay, Wisconsin, and point to the year 1919, when the three-time Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers were first formed. Wisconsin farmers would back their pickup trucks around the edge of the open football field, open their tailgates to sit on and graze from a picnic basket of food as they watched “The Pack” play.

Freelance writer Chris Warner, who wrote A Tailgater’s Guide To SEC Football, produced a 2003 documentary on tailgating for The History Channel cable network’s Modern Marvels series. In it, Warner suggests any of the three origins could be considered valid, but that “While modern tailgating has only recently [within the last 30 years] become popular, the practice of enjoying both food and football has post-Civil War, 19th century roots.”

At the dawn of the Automotive Age, the word “tailgate” referred specifically to the hinged back section of a vehicle that could be removed or let up or down for the ease in loading or unloading cargo. Although its invention was a convenience for the driver and passengers, it became the foundation for the modern tailgating experience  seen at concerts and sporting events.

Ever since that first competitive collegiate game, the traditional form of tailgating has been practiced at sporting events everywhere. Ever since opposing players have faced one another, fans have worn the colors of their teams. And from the first meeting of schools, onlookers have cheered throughout the game for their teams.

Nowadays, food and beverages have become a staple before the big game. There are barbecues before baseball events, beers shared hours before kickoff, and cold cuts spread out at the start of a racing event. Tailgating is a large part of American culture, and is enjoyed today more than ever.

To date, tailgating has changed as much as the game of football itself. Where turbans were once worn to distinguish which team you were rooting for, caps, jerseys, themed T-shirts, and body paint now are the norm. And where food was once transported in a horse-drawn wooden wagon, grills and coolers now are transported with ease, allowing tailgaters to consume the best of foods and beverages on the road. Despite the changes in the evolution of tailgating, one thing has endured: the fans’ spirit.

Some Healthy Recipes For Your Next Tailgate Party

Zesty Baked Chicken Wings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 16 chicken wings, each halved at joint and with tip removed
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup grated fresh Parmesan
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs

Dip:

  • 1 cup fat-free yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire

Directions:

1. Combine first 8 ingredients (through lemon zest) in a large bowl, and whisk until combined. Pour over wings, transfer to a zip-top plastic bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 425°.

3. Line a baking pan with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray; set aside.

4. Mix together Parmesan, parsley, and breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Coat wings in breadcrumb mixture. Place on prepared pan.

5. Bake on lowest oven rack for 20 minutes, then turn and cook for 10 more minutes.

6. While wings are baking, combine dip ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the wings with the dip.

Cucumber Cups Stuffed with Spicy Crab

6 servings

 Ingredients

  • 3 long English cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup crab meat, excess water removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon green onion, minced plus extra for garnish
  • Paprika

 Directions:

Peel the cucumbers and cut into 2 inch slices. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out 3/4ths of the inside, being careful not to scoop through the bottom. You want to leave the walls and a thick portion of the bottom intact.

In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream and cream cheese until well combined. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill each cucumber cup with the crab mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle paprika and minced green onion on each cucumber cup for garnish.

Pigs-in-a-Blanket

(Makes 42 pigs)

Ingredients:

  • 2 (8-ounce) cans refrigerated quick light crescent dinner rolls
  • 2 tablespoons grainy, Dijon, or honey mustard
  • 1 package Applegate cocktail franks (contains 42 franks)
  • Ketchup, mustard, or prepared horseradish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Working with one package of rolls at a time, separate dough into 8 triangles. Cut each triangle into thirds and spread with mustard. Place one cocktail frank on widest end of triangle and roll up tightly. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, point side down. Repeat with remaining dough and franks. You will have a little extra crescent roll dough left over.

2. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with ketchup, mustard, or prepared horseradish.

Make-ahead tip: Prepare pigs-in-a-blanket and freeze for up to a week. To reheat: place pigs, thawed, on cookie sheet, covered loosely with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small eggplants, peeled
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Toasted baguette slices.

Directions:

Slice eggplant in thin circles, brush lightly with olive oil, salt them lightly, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

Bake them on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool. Finely dice and combine with remaining ingredients.

Spread on toasted baguette slices.

Italian Sausage Chili                                                      

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian Sausage links, any flavor
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet yellow pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large sweet green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 (14.5 ounce) cans Italian style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (16 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
  • Asiago, Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Grill the Italian sausages and cut into half moon slices. Set aside. In a soup kettle, saute the onion, celery, sweet peppers and garlic in oil until tender. Add sausage and the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until flavors are blended.

2. Sprinkle chili with grated Asiago, Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

Directions:

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add chili powder, oregano, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add zucchini and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is deep brick red, 3 minutes. Stir in black beans, pinto beans, and both cans diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes.

Mini Muffulettas

Tailgate Tip: Prepare sandwiches the day before the game.

Place in zip-top plastic freezer bags, and refrigerate overnight.

12 servings                                              

Ingredients:

  • 2 (16-oz.) jars mixed pickled vegetables (Mezzetta Italian Mix Giardiniera)
  • 3/4 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil-and-vinegar Italian dressing
  • 12 small whole wheat rolls, cut in half
  • 6 Swiss cheese slices, cut in half
  • 12 thin Applegate Farms deli ham slices
  • 12 Applegate Farms Genoa salami slices
  • 6 provolone cheese slices, cut in half

Directions:

1. Pulse pickled vegetables in food processor 8 to 10 times or until finely chopped. Stir in olives and dressing.

2. Spread 1 heaping tablespoonful pickled vegetable mixture over cut side of each roll bottom. Top each with 1 Swiss cheese slice half, 1 ham slice, 1 salami slice, 1 provolone cheese slice half, and roll tops. Cover with plastic wrap. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.

Tomato and Provolone Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 slices whole-grain country bread
  • Olive oil for grilling bread
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Directions:                                                                                                                                                                                       

Preheat grill to medium on one side of the grill.

Mash garlic on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or a spoon until a paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl and combine with mayonnaise, basil, lemon juice, pepper and salt.

Brush bread slices lightly with olive oil and place on the hot side of the grill. Grill until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the bread over onto the cool side of the grill and divide cheese among 4 of the pieces. Continue grilling with the cover down until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble sandwiches with tomato and the garlic-herb mayonnaise. Top with the melted cheese bread.

 

 

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The history of the American staple – meatloaf – offers more than a trip down culinary lane. It provides a glimpse into how advances in technology have shaped the way we eat and prepare food today. Your grandmother’s hand-cranked grinder, the kind that attached to the edge of a table, was key to meatloaf becoming an everyday dish. Cooks relied on it, particularly in the early half of the 20th century, until butcher shops installed refrigeration units that were able to safely store more perishable chopped meat.

Early meatloaf recipes called for veal, which was less expensive than beef at the time. The meat in one widely published version was first cooked then chopped, blended with other ingredients, molded, then cooked again into a loaf. Recipe history indicates that meatloaf as we know it today – blended with bread or cracker crumbs, egg and seasonings, then baked in a rectangular pan – gradually became popular between 1900 and the 1920s.

Among the most popular early recipes were several created by the Quaker Oats Company using their product as a binder in place of breadcrumbs. Binder is an essential meatloaf ingredient because it creates an even, smooth texture. In addition to whole-wheat breadcrumbs, oats or even cooked rice, it can include a generous amount of finely shredded or chopped cooked vegetables like spinach, carrots or onion. Nutritionally smart, the vegetables help keep a meatloaf moist.

How Meatloaf is Made Round the World

Austria

The Austrian meatloaf version is called Faschierter Braten. Most of the time it is wrapped in ham before baking it. Often it is served with mashed potatoes (when warm) or with a sauce (when cold).

Denmark

Danish meatloaf is called forloren hare, mock hare or farsbrød (ground-meat bread) and is usually made from a mixture of ground pork and beef with strips of bacon or cubed bacon on top. It is served with boiled or mashed potatoes and brown sauce sweetened with red currant jelly.

Finland

Finnish meatloaf is called lihamureke. It is completely based on the basic meatball recipe. The only spices used are salt and pepper. It is not customary to stuff lihamureke with anything. The usual side dish is mashed potatoes, and lihamureke is usually served with brown sauce.

Germany

In Germany, meatloaf is referred to as Hackbraten, Faschierter Braten or Falscher Hase ‘mock hare’. In some regions it often has boiled eggs inside.

Greece

In Greece, meatloaf is referred to as rolo (Ρολό) and it is usually filled with hard boiled eggs, although several other variations exist.

Hungary

Stefania meatloaf or Stefania slices are a type of Hungarian long meatloaf baked in a loaf pan, with 3 hard boiled eggs in the middle, making decorative white and yellow rings in the middle of the slices.

Italy

In Italy, meatloaf is called polpettone and can be filled with eggs or ham and cheese.

Jewish cuisine

In Jewish cuisine, meatloaf is called Klops (Hebrew: קלופס‎) and can be served cold or hot. It is sometimes filled with whole boiled eggs. The source of the word might be German, Klops, meaning meatball.

Macedonia

Rolat is a similar dish to the Arab and South-Asian, kofta. Ground beef is rolled and cooked until brown. It can be cooked with vegetables and various sauces.

Philippines

The meatloaf dish called Embotidot is made of well seasoned ground pork, minced carrots, sausages, and whole boiled eggs. The meat is molded into a roll with the sausages and hard boiled eggs set in the middle. It is then wrapped in aluminum foil (historically, banana leaves) and steamed for an hour. The cooked Embotido may be stored inthe freezer. It is usually served fried and sliced for breakfast.

Romania

In Romanian cuisine, there is a meatloaf dish called drob, similar to other minced meat dishes in the region like the Bulgarian Rulo Stefani or the Hungarian Stefánia meatloaf, the major difference being that it is always made with lamb organs (or a mixture of lamb organs and pork or veal) and the hard boiled eggs in the centre of the drob are optional.

Bulgaria

Rulo Stefani (Bulgarian: Руло Стефани).The Bulgarian rulo Stefani meatloaf is similar to the Hungarian Stefánia meatloaf, with hard-boiled eggs in the middle.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, meatloaf is referred to as sekaná ‘chopped’. It is optional to put hard boiled eggs, gherkins, or wienerwurst inside.

Greater Middle East

Kafta or kofta is a similar dish which the mixture can be made into hamburgers and kebabs. It usually has parsley in it.

United States

In 2007, meatloaf was voted the seventh-favorite dish in the United States according to Good Housekeeping.

During the Great Depression, cooking meatloaf was a way to stretch the food budget for families, using an inexpensive type of meat and other ingredients, such as leftovers, spices and cereal grains to stretch the meat.

Meatloaf is typically eaten with some kind of sauce or relish. Many recipes call for pasta sauce or tomato sauce to be poured over the loaf to form a crust during baking. The tomato-based sauce may be replaced with simple brown gravy or onion gravy, but the meatloaf is prepared in a similar manner. Barbecue sauce, tomato ketchup, or a mixture of both tomato ketchup and mustard may also be used. American meatloaf may be garnished with ketchup. Another variety of meatloaf is prepared by frosting it with mashed potatoes, drizzling it with a small amount of butter, and browning in the oven.

Meatloaf is normally served warm as part of the main course, but can also be found sliced as a cold cut. Meatloaf can also be considered a typical comfort food and is served in many diners and restaurants today.

Vietnam

The Vietnamese meatloaf version is called “giò”. It’s boiled rather than baked or smoke.

Some Nontraditional Recipes

A popular recipe for meatloaf that utilizes a package of dried onion soup mix has been around for many years. I used this ingredient for a long time in my meatloaves until I became aware of  how much salt was in each serving – 610 mg. While this mix adds great flavor to meatloaf, it also contains many ingredients you do not want to eat if you are cooking healthy. I suggest you read the nutrition label on this package the next time you go shopping.

So I created my own dried onion soup mix, minus all the salt and preservatives, that I keep in the pantry for just such uses. Here is my recipe, in case you would like to make it. A recipe follows that shows how to include this ingredient.

Homemade Dried Onion Soup Mix

You can double and triple this recipe.

  • 8 teaspoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

 Mix all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Healthy Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

In mixing bowl combine:

  • 1/3 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup ( 6 oz. can) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 3/4 cups oats
  • 5 tablespoons of the substitute soup mix
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Steak Grilling Blend                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Directions:

Mix in 2 lbs. ground lean turkey breast. Form into a loaf and place in the middle of a roasting pan.

Mix together the remaining tomato paste, 1 tsp. horseradish, 1 tsp. water and 1/2 tsp agave. Spread over the top of the loaf.

I put a selection of cubed vegetables around the loaf, such as butternut squash, sweet potato or fingerling potatoes, onion and carrots.

Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Dinner all in one pan! A 1 inch slice has about 250 calories. If I don’t roast it with vegetables, I sometimes add 1 cup of either shredded zucchini or carrot to the meatloaf mix.

The Best Meat Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 generous tablespoons instant low sodium beef broth powderBuffalo Meatloaf with Spinach and Roasted Baby Potatoes
  • 2 or 3 dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lbs. grass fed ground beef or bison

Directions:

Combine eggs, bread crumbs, celery, onion, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, broth powder and seasonings in bowl and mix well.

Add ground beef and mix well. Shape into loaf. Place into 9 X 13 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour.

Crock Pot Meatloaf

8 servings

Cook Time: 8 hours

 Total Time: 8 hours, 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup horseradish
  • 3 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 eggs                                                                                                                             
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup soft fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 2-1/2 lbs. ground turkey

Directions:

In medium pan, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Place in large bowl with all ingredients except turkey and mix well.

Add turkey and mix gently just until combined.

Tear off 2- 30″ pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil and fold to make two 2″x 30″ strips. Lay strips in bottom of crockpot in an X pattern, letting the edges hang over the crockpot. Form turkey mixture into a loaf that will fit into the crockpot. Place on top of the foil strips.

Cover crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours, until meat thermometer registers 170 degrees. Drain off fat as needed during cooking time using a turkey baster. Use foil strips to lift meatloaf out of crockpot when it reaches 160 degrees F on a meat thermometer. Cover and let stand 20 minutes before slicing. 

Vegetarian Lentil Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups firm-cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup ketchup                                                                                                                        

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In a large sauté pan over medium high heat add the oil; when hot, add the onion and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the bell pepper and celery; cook, covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the sautéed vegetables with the walnuts, lentils, rice, cranberries, breadcrumbs, basil, thyme, oregano, eggs, flour and milk. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and then spoon into the loaf pan. Brush ketchup on the top of the loaf.

Bake until firm, about 45 minutes.

Italian Meatloaf Roll with Spinach Filling

Servings: 10

Roll

  • 1 1/2 lbs. extra lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • 3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/5 teaspoon pepper

Topping

  • 1 cup Marinara sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon mozzarella cheese

Filling                                                                                                                                                                            

  • 1 package frozen 10 oz spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Heat oven at 375 degrees F.

In a bowl combine beef, crumbs. egg, salt and pepper.

Flatten into a 1/2 inch rectangle shape.

For filling.

In a bowl combine, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, garlic powder and spinach.

Cut a piece of foil or wax paper into a 12×8 inch rectangle.

On foil, pat mixture to12x8-inch rectangle. Spread with filling leaving a 1 inch border. Starting at short end, roll up tightly, using foil to start roll and tucking in filling; seal ends. Place seam side down in ungreased 12×8-inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.

Cook for 1 hour. Spread marinara sauce and cheese over top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until thermometer inserted in meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Tuscan Meatloaf with Mushroom Sauce

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • One 2-in square of Italian bread, crust removed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup unflavored bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine                                                                                                                               

Directions:

1. Soak the mushrooms in two cups of lukewarm water for half an hour or more.

2. In a bowl, break up the pork with a fork. In a small bowl, combine the milk and bread, and mash until creamy. Add the milk and bread to the meat, along with the onion, salt, pepper, prosciutto, cheese, and garlic. Mix thoroughly by hand. Mix in the lightly beaten egg. Shape meat into a firm, round ball; then roll this into a loaf about two and a half inches thick. Tap with your palm to drive out any air bubbles. Roll the loaf in the bread crumbs until evenly coated.

3. Drain the mushrooms (reserving the soaking water) and rinse them several times in clean, cold water. Chop the mushrooms roughly and set aside. Strain the soaking water through a fine sieve lined with paper towels. Whisk in the tomato paste and set aside.

4. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy casserole pan just big enough for the meat. Brown the meat on all sides in the pan over medium heat. Drain off the fat. Add the wine. Increase heat to medium high. Boil wine briskly until reduced one half, turning meat carefully once or twice. Turn heat to medium low and add chopped mushrooms. Add the tomato paste mushroom water to the meat and mushrooms. Cover and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes, turning the meat once or twice.

5. Carefully remove meat to a cutting board. Allow it to cool slightly and settle. Cut into slanted slices about 3/8 of an inch thick. If the sauce seems thin, concentrate it by boiling rapidly for a few minutes. Pour a little sauce on a warm serving platter, arrange the meat slices, then cover the remainder of the sauce.

“The Ultimate Meatloaf cookbook offers recipes from around the globe, from the All-American Meatloaf to Hawaiian Style to the more exotic Greek, Mexican, Indian and Asian twists. While traditional recipes suit the ever-popular protein diet, this cookbook provides vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low-salt, and low carb alternatives. Bestselling cookbook author John Chatham provides the authoritative guide on the All American favorites that feature 100 meatloaf recipes from a breakfast to hearty, healthy meals for every appetite and diet plan.”


Grilled vegetables.

Grilling vegetables is not difficult. The general rule is to cut the vegetables into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. All pieces should be of consistent thickness and no more than about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Brush lightly with oil to prevent sticking. Do not overcook and you’ll have vegetables better than you thought possible. If you like grilling vegetables and want to try smaller things use a grilling basket to keep them out of the fire.

Some Guidelines in Grilling Vegetables

Asparagus: Cut off ends. Soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pat dry and brush with olive oil. Place on grill, turning every minute. Remove when tips start to turn brown. You can add some extra flavor to asparagus by mixing a little sesame oil in the olive oil before you brush them.

Bell Peppers: Cut through the middle of the pepper top to bottom. Remove stems, seeds and whitish ribs. Brush lightly with oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Chili Peppers: Brush with oil. Grill whole on each side, 2-3 minutes. To reduce the heat, cut off the stems and pull out the seeds.

Corn on the cob: Gently pull back the husks but don’t remove. Remove the silk and cut off the very end. Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Dry and brush with butter. Fold the husks back down and tie or twist the ends. Place on grill for about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn to avoid burning.

Eggplant: Cut lengthwise for smaller eggplants or in disks from top to bottom for larger eggplants. Soak in water for 30 minutes. Pat dry, brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes.

Garlic: Take whole bulbs and cut off the root end. Brush with olive oil and place cut side down over a hit fire. Grill garlic bulbs for about 10 minutes or until the skin is brown.

Mushrooms: Rinse off dirt and pat dry. Brush with oil and grill. 4-5 minutes for small mushrooms, 6-8 minutes. Use a grill basket or skewers for small mushrooms.

Onions: Remove skin and cut horizontally about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with oil and grill 3-4 minutes.

Potatoes: There are many ways to grill potatoes. You can do them whole for a baked potato or cut into wedges Brush wedges with olive oil, and grill until browned. Rub whole potatoes with oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally.

Tomatoes: Cut in half, top to bottom. Brush with a light coating of oil and grill cut side down 2-3 minutes.

Zucchini and Small Squash: Slice 1/2 inch thickness. Brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes per side. Small squash can be cut down the middle and grilled.

Recipes That Use Your Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Parmesan-Basil Crumbs

Serve with Grilled Corn on the Cob and a Green Garden Salad.

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs or Italian flavored panko crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 pounds eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the bread crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil; toss well. Bake for 8 minutes, until the bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown. Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with the basil and cheese.

Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, fanning them out. Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and hot, about 1 minute per side.

Arrange the tomato slices over the eggplant and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.

Grilled Vegetables With Ravioli

Tasty grilled vegetables and pasta – that’s ready in 25 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic-pepper blend, such as Mrs. Dash
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 medium bell peppers (any color), cut lengthwise in half and seeded
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 package (9 oz) cheese refrigerated ravioli or 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil grill rack with cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil. In small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic-pepper blend and salt. Brush on cut sides of zucchini, bell peppers and onion.

Place vegetables, cut side down, on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 to 12 minutes, turning once and brushing occasionally with oil mixture, or until each kind of vegetable is tender, removing from grill when done.

While vegetables are grilling, cook ravioli as directed on package. Drain and return to saucepan; keep warm.

Cut zucchini crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut bell peppers into slices. Separate onion into pieces. Add vegetables to ravioli in saucepan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the basil and thyme; toss and heat through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Caesar Vegetable Salad

This grilled vegetable salad is ready in 25 minutes – perfect for dinner. Serve with a light soup and a really good loaf of bread.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat Caesar dressing, see recipe below
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, cut into fourths
  • 4 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 medium bell peppers (any color), cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

In small bowl, mix dressing and parsley; set aside. Brush mushrooms, summer squash and bell peppers with oil.

Place mushrooms, summer squash and bell peppers in grill basket (grill “wok”) or directly on grill rack. Cover and grill over MEDIUM heat 5 to 7 minutes, shaking basket or stirring or turning vegetables occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender.

To serve, arrange mushrooms around edge of serving platter and remaining grilled vegetables in center; sprinkle with tomatoes. Drizzle dressing over vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

Makes about 1/2 cup. Can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small clove garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Place garlic and salt in a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste. Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste (if using), and pepper; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and whisk to combine.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Quick Grilled Herbed Vegetables and Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a small eggplant (about 6 oz.)
  • 1 small zucchini (about 4 oz.)
  • 1 small fennel bulb (about 6 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 16 ounce tube plain refrigerated cooked polenta, cut into 12 slices
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can Muir Glen diced tomatoes with garlic and onion

Directions:

Peel the eggplant, if desired. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and fennel crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. In a small bowl combine the oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Brush the vegetables with about half of the oil mixture, reserving remaining oil mixture for the polenta.

Preheat an outdoor grill on high setting.. Arrange half the vegetables on a greased grill rack. Grill 6 to 8 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender and grill marks appear, turning once. Remove vegetables from grill rack or pan; set aside. Repeat with remaining vegetables.

Brush the polenta slices with reserved oil mixture. Place the polenta slices on the grill rack. Grill 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through and lightly browned, turning once.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat the undrained tomatoes until boiling. Add the grilled vegetables. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place 3 polenta slices in each shallow bowl or on each dinner plate; spoon the vegetable mixture over the polenta.

Indoor Method

Prepare vegetables and oil mixture as above in Step 1. Preheat a grill pan on the range top over medium-high heat. Grill half of the vegetables as in Step 2; repeat with remaining vegetables. Use the grill pan to grill brushed polenta slices as above in Step 2. Continue with Step 3 and serve as directed above.

Grilled Pizzas with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), thick ends removed
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), thinly sliced, plus 3 tablespoons oil from jar
  • 1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup ricotta

Directions

Heat grill to medium. In a large bowl, combine asparagus, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 6 to 9 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut asparagus and scallions into thirds.

Brush a large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. On a lightly floured work surface, divide dough in half. Roll or stretch to form two 9-inch ovals. Transfer to prepared sheet, and brush with remaining tablespoon sun-dried tomato oil.

Transfer dough pieces to grill. Cook until undersides are firm and beginning to char, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a large spatula, transfer crusts, grilled side up, back to baking sheet.

Dividing evenly, top crusts with ricotta, then asparagus, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Slide back onto grill and cook, rotating occasionally, until crusts are cooked through and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pizzas to a cutting board, cut in half, and serve.

 


Recent studies have shown that the skin on pears contains at least three to four times as many phytonutrients as the flesh. These phytonutrients include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory flavonoids, and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients like cinnamic acids. The skin of the pear has also been shown to contain about half of the pear’s total dietary fiber.

In recent studies measuring risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. women, pears have earned very special recognition. Researchers now know that certain flavonoids in food can improve insulin sensitivity. All pears contain flavonoids and the flavonoids in pears have been associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes in both women and men. However, a new analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study has shown that of all the fruits and vegetables analyzed for their flavonoid content, the combination of apples/pears showed the most consistent ability to lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Pears are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits. In 5,000 B.C., Feng Li, a Chinese diplomat, began grafting peaches, almonds, persimmons, pears and apples as a commercial venture. In The Odyssey, the Greek poet laureate Homer lauds pears as a “gift of the gods.” Pomona, goddess of fruit, was a cherished member of the Roman Pantheon and Roman farmers documented extensive pear growing and grafting techniques.

Thanks to their versatility and long storage life, pears were a valuable and much-desired commodity among the trading routes of the ancient world. Evident in the works of the Renaissance Masters, pears have long been an elegant still-life model for artists. In the 17th century a major increase in cultivation of the present pear varieties took place in Europe. And in popular culture, the pear tree was immortalized alongside a partridge in the 18th-century Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Early colonists brought the first pear trees to America’s eastern settlements where they thrived until crop blights proved too severe to sustain widespread cultivation. Fortunately, the pear trees brought west to Oregon and Washington by pioneers in the 1800’s thrived in the unique agricultural conditions found in the Pacific Northwest.

Pear Picking Near Medford, 1910

Today’s Northwest pear varieties are the same or similar to those first cultivated in France and Belgium where they were prized for their delicate flavor, buttery texture, and long storage life. As more sophisticated irrigation and growing techniques developed during the past century, pear orchards flourished dramatically in the Northwest’s river valley regions located in a serpentine sprawl from Northern Central Washington to Central Southern Oregon.

Today, pear orchards in Oregon and Washington are as specialized as the regions that support them. Organic, commercial and multi-generation family orchards all contribute high-quality fruit to the Northwest’s fresh pear industry. Consumer interest and enjoyment of Northwest pears grows each year. Thanks to advancements in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage technology, fresh USA Pears are available to consumers nearly year-round.

There are many different types of pears. The most commonly known are Bosc, Bartlett, and Anjou.

Bosc pears are the large, slender pears with a rough brown skin. They hold their shape very well when cooked, so are an excellent choice for baked dishes.

Bosc

Barlett pears have rounded globes with soft and tender skin. They come in red and yellow varieties. They are perfect for eating out of hand because they are tender and juicy.

Barlett

Anjou pears, which are either red or green, are juicy and sweet, good for baking or eating fresh.

Anjou

The expensive and hard-to-find Comice is considered the best tasting, juiciest pear.

Comice

Seckel pears are tasty and very tiny, perfect for using in centerpieces.

Seckel

French Butter pears are hard to find but very tender, just like their name.

French Butter

To ripen pears just let them sit on the counter for a day or two; when they yield to gentle pressure they are ready to eat. Most pear varieties do not change color as they ripen; the yield test is the only way to tell if they are ready or not.

Pears can be served during any course of a dinner menu. Try some of the recipes below to see how versatile they can be.

Pear and Cranberry Cocktail

Use a high quality pear vodka, such as Grey Goose.

Makes 4 drinks

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 3/4 cups pear vodka
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ice
  • Fresh pear slices
  • Fresh mint

Directions:

Add cranberry juice, pear vodka, triple sec and lime juice to a pitcher, stir to combine.

Fill 4 glasses with ice, pour cocktail over ice and garnish with a fresh pear slice and a mint sprig.

Appetizer Course

Pear and Prosciutto “Carpaccio”                                                                                                           

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 red Bartlett pear, cored, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes.

Divide the pear slices between two plates, arranging them in a circular pattern; top with prosciutto. Drizzle with balsamic syrup as desired, and season with pepper.

First Course

Risotto with Fresh Pear Sauce

Servings 4

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                         

  • 1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pear Sauce

  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 2 sprigs marjoram
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 pears plus sliced pear for garnish

Directions:

To make the sauce:

Peel the pears and cut into small pieces. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wash the marjoram and pull off the leaves.

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the pear. Saute for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and marjoram. Cover with the broth and cook until the pears are soft.

Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pears cool, then puree the pan contents using a blender. Adjust the salt and pepper and keep the sauce warm until serving.

To make the risotto:

Peel and chop the onion.

Place a pot over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the onion.

Cook slowly so that it doesn’t brown. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes or until it becomes transparent. Add a pinch of salt.

Add a couple of ladlefuls of broth to the rice. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add more broth.

The rice should take about 16 to 18 minutes to cook, depending on its quality. When al dente, remove the pot from the heat and add half the cheese and all the butter. Stir and cover. Let rest for two minutes.

Then add the remaining cheese. Stir until creamy. Pour the pear sauce into the bottom of the individual bowls and spoon the risotto on top.

Garnish with a slice of pear, a sprig of marjoram and a grating or fresh black pepper.

Second Course

Italian Braised Pork Loin with Pears

Serves 6

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                         

  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground (dry) mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 boneless pork loin, about 2 pounds, tied
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 small carrots, peeled, trimmed if desired
  • 15 pearl onions
  • 3 parsnips sliced into 15 pieces, trimmed and peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed with the flat side of a large knife
  • 6 red Anjou pears

Directions:

Combine salt and spices. Coat pork with the spice mixture, and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add pork to pot. Sear pork until golden, turning with tongs, about 2 minutes per side. Stir in wine and bay leaves, scraping bottom of pot to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover, and simmer, basting meat with cooking liquid several times, 25 minutes. Remove pork from pot, and set aside.

Stir in carrots, onions, parsnips, and garlic. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Make a well in center; return pork to pot. Quarter and core pears. Add pears, and simmer until pears are tender and a meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 degrees for medium, about 15 minutes. Let rest in pot 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Transfer the vegetables and pears to a platter with the sliced pork. Pour sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl; pour over pork.

 

Dessert

Italian Pear Tart

Yield – 10 inch tart

Almond Pastry Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (or Smart Balance Baking Blend), very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ice water, very cold

Place ingredients in work bowl of a processor and process the ingredients until the dough forms a ball. (Add a little more ice water if the dough doesn’t form a ball.) Pat into a cylinder, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

Tart Ingredients:

  • 1 tart crust
  • 5 pears, quartered, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided or 1/3 cup light sugar alternative
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto liquor

Tart Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch glass pie plate.

Prepare the crust: Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and trim to fit the pie pan.

Poke the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. Bake the crust approx 7-10 mins until lightly brown.

While pastry is baking do the following:

Slice pears thin and mix with half of the sugar and all the lemon juice.

Arrange pears over the crust in an attractive design (reserve 5 pear slices for glaze).

Bake until the pears are tender, about 40 minutes.

The Glaze:

While the tart is cooking bring remaining sugar, reserved pear slices, and 1/3 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook until the syrup thickens and the pear slices break down. (about 10 minutes) Take the syrup off the burner, set it aside and let it cool. Stir in the amaretto and brush over the pears. Cool.


Benefits of Freezing Summer Produce

Freezing fruits and vegetables is a great way to serve the family healthy, nutritious fresh foods all winter. By using safe, approved techniques, the nutrients will be preserved. Freezing foods is quick and easy and doesn’t take a lot of equipment.

Home freezing techniques to preserve high quality foods with the maximum nutritional value are based on the same principles commercial companies use. Freezing fruits and vegetables is perhaps the best method of preserving their nutrients and quality.

Blanching Vegetables Before Freezing

Blanching involves dipping foods into boiling water for a short period of time, then chilling rapidly. Foods are then drained, packaged and frozen. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or blanching is not long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colors, off-flavors and toughening. Blanching deactivates the enzymes and helps destroy microorganisms on the surface of foods.

Steps in Blanching Vegetables

Use a large pot that holds at least 2 gallons of water. Figure 1 gallon of water for each pound of vegetables. Other items needed: wire basket or colander, timer, large bowl or pot with ice water, extra ice cubes, additional colander for draining, freezer containers or bags, marking pen for labeling.

  • Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  • Place vegetables in basket (do not crowd), immerse basket into water.
  • Cover pot, keep boiling.
  • Time as soon as water returns to a boil, using the chart below, on “How to Prepare Vegetables for Freezing”.
  • Put the basket in ice water for the same amount of time as blanching. Keep ice in the water.
  • Drain the vegetables thoroughly to avoid too many ice crystals.
  • Pack, using either the dry or tray pack method, see below “Packaging Vegetables for the Freezer”.
  • Label, freeze.

The blanching water may be used 2 or 3 times; change when cloudy. Microwave blanching in not recommended; off-flavors, colors and textures may result.

Freezing Chart for Vegetables

Asparagus:

Wash asparagus and cut off any tough parts. Blanch small stalks for 2 minutes and large ones for 4 minutes. Cool, drain, and pack into containers by alternating tip and stem ends. Do not leave a headspace.

Beans, Green or Wax:

Pick young, tender beans. Remove stems and break into 1-2 inch pieces. Wash. Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes and dip into cold water. Drain, pack and freeze. Leave a 1/2-inch headspace.

Beets:

When triming beets, leave 1-inch of their tops on. This will prevent “bleeding.” If you don’t, your beets will lighten during cooking. Wash beets and cook them for 25 minutes. Cool in cold water and peel them. The skins should easily slip off now. Cut into cubes or slices, pack and freeze, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.

Broccoli:

Wash and peel stalks.To remove insects, soak for 1/2 hour in a solution of  5 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of water. Boil for 3 minutes and cool in cold water. Drain and pack into containers leaving no headspace.

Brussels Sprouts:

Trim and remove outer leaves. Wash and boil small heads for 3 minutes and large heads for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water, drain, and pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Cabbage:

Remove outer leaves and cut into wedges. Wash and heat in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water, drain and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Frozen cabbage is only suitable for use as a cooked vegetable, as in soup or sauteed with apples as a side dish, and not for coleslaw.

Carrots:

Remove tops, wash, and scrape or peel. Leave small carrots whole and slice larger ones. Boil whole carrots for 5 minutes and sliced ones for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Cauliflower:

Break into 1-inch pieces and wash. Remove insects by soaking for 1/2 hour in a solution of 5 teaspoons salt to 1 gallon of water. Drain and rinse. Boil for 3 minutes and cool in cold water. Pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Corn:

Husk the ears and remove the silk. Heat the ears in boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain. Cut kernels from the cob and cover corn with water. Pack into containers leaving 1-inch headspace.

Corn-on-the-cob:

Husk, remove silk and blanch (same as above.) Wrap in plastic wrap and pack into containers. Freeze.

Mushrooms:

Wash in cold water.  Rinse well. If mushrooms are larger than 1 inch, slice or quarter them. Soak the mushrooms in an anti-darkening solution (lemon juice or Fruit Fresh) for 5 minutes, drain. Steam mushrooms for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Okra:

Pick tender pods, wash, and cut off stem end. Be careful not to cut open the seed cells. Heat for 4 minutes in boiling water and cool promptly in cold water. Leave whole or slice, and pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Onions:

Wash and peel onions. Chop and place into containers. Leave no headspace.

Peas:

Shell peas and wash to remove blossom ends and pod particles. Heat in boiling water for 2 minutes and cool in cold water. Drain. Pack peas into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Peapods:

Wash and blanch pods for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and pack into containers. Freeze.

Peppers:

Wash, cut out seeds, and chop. Pack into containers, leaving no headspace.

Pumpkin:

Wash pumpkin and cut into quarters. Cook until soft by either boiling, steaming, or baking. Press through a sieve. Cool and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Sweet potatoes:

Wash sweet potatoes and cook until almost tender. Cool in cold water and peel. Slice, mash, or leave sweet potatoes whole. To prevent darkening, dip sweet potatoes in lemon juice or Fruit Fresh for about 5 seconds. If sweet potatoes are mashed, just add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to a quart of sweet potatoes. Pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Tomatoes:

Wash, remove stem ends, and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Cool in cold water and remove skins. Quarter, halve or leave whole. Pack into containers leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Tomatoes, stewed:

Wash, remove stem ends, and blanch for 3-4 minutes. Cool in cold water and remove skins. Quarter and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Place the pan of cooked tomatoes in cold water to cool, and pack into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Packaging Vegetables for Freezing

Packing vegetables tightly  into the freezer container will cause them to freeze in a “clump,” which is fine, if the entire package will be cooked at once. This is called a “dry pack.”

Sometimes, a loose pack is desired, called a “tray pack.” Foods are spread out on a tray or flat pan to freeze, then packaged.

Freezing Fruits

Fruits are usually served raw, so blanching is not used. Instead, ascorbic acid is added to prevent browning and the loss of Vitamin C. The acid interferes with the enzymes and compounds that destroy the nutrients and food quality.

Most fruits will darken after they are cut, so you will need to prevent this by using an anti-darkening agent. I usually soak cut fruit in a solution of water and bottled lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon per quart), but you can use a commercial anti-darkening agent, such as Fruit Fresh. Both work with great results.

Sugar is added to some fruit to help retain color and to enhance taste. You can either add sugar to the fruit and mix it in, or you can mix sugar and water together to form a syrup and pour it over the fruit. I have had good results with packing fruits for the freezer without sugar.  Some fruits, including rhubarb, blueberries, cranberries and strawberries freeze well without sugar. Light sugar syrup is an alternative but I would skip heavy sugar syrup additions.

Freezing Chart for Fruits

Apples for pies: Peel, core and slice apples. Treat apples with an anti-darkening agent. Drain. For each quart of apples, sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar (optional). Mix, seal and freeze.

Applesauce: Wash and quarter apples. Cook until tender with enough water to prevent apples from scorching. Run cooked apples through a food mill and sweeten, if desired. Pack into containers.

Apricots for pies: Wash, halve, pit and peel (optional.) If you do not wish to peel, heat apricots in boiling water for 1 minute so skins won’t toughen. Treat with an anti-darkening agent, drain and mix one quart fruit with 1/2 cup sugar (optional).

Blackberries for pies and jams: Remove stems, wash, and drain. Mix 3/4 cup sugar (optional) to 1 quart berries. Fill containers and freeze.

Cherries for pies: Stem, wash, drain and pit. Mix 3/4 cups sugar (optional) to 1 quart cherries. Pack, seal and freeze.

Gooseberries: Remove blossom ends and stems. Wash and pack into containers. You do not have to add sugar. If you wish, you may cover with a sugar syrup and freeze.

Melons: Cut up melons and pack into containers with a sugar syrup. Seal and freeze.

Peaches for pies: Wash, pit and peel. If you do not wish to peel the peaches, you can dip them in boiling water for a minute to loosen skins; the skins will be easier to pull off. Treat with an anti-darkening agent, drain and pack peaches into containers. Cover with cold water, seal and freeze.

Pears: Wash, peel, core and quarter. Heat pears in light syrup for 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack pears in containers with syrup and anti-darkening agent (Fruit Fresh or lemon juice). Seal and freeze.

Plums: Wash, pit, and cut in halves. Pack into containers and freeze.

Raspberries: Same as for Blackberries.

Rhubarb: Wash and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. Heat in boiling water for 1 minute and cool in cold water. Pack into containers and freeze.

Strawberries: Wash, drain, and remove stems. (Optional-add 3/4 cups sugar to 1 quart berries and mix.) Put into containers and freeze.

Steps in Freezing Fruits

  • Wash, sort fruits carefully. Discard portions that are not high quality and fully ripe.
  • Cut the fruit as you would want to serve it (slices, bite size pieces, etc.).
  • Refer to the How to Prepare Fruits for Freezing chart to determine if anti-browning treatment is needed. Use ascorbic acid as directed in the chart or on the package label.
  • Prepare dry sugar or sugar syrup as directed in the How to Prepare Fruits for Freezing chart.
  • Light Syrup Recipe: Boil 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water=5 cups syrup Dissolve the specified amount of sugar in the specified amount of water, stir. Let sit until sugar is completely dissolved. Do not heat. Sugar syrup may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
  • Pack into good quality freezer plastic bags, freezer boxes or jars. Allow 1/ 2 inch head space at the top for expansion. Seal bags or fasten lids on tightly.

Packaging Foods for the Freezer

  • Frozen foods need to be packaged properly to prevent “freezer burn,” or loss of moisture from the foods.
  • Packaging must be both moisture and vapor proof, keeping moisture in the product and outside odors out.
  • If using containers, be sure they are freezer storage containers. Reusing food containers is a great practice, but things like cottage cheese boxes do not keep moisture in or vapors out. Lids need to fit tightly.
  • If using bags, be sure they are freezer bags, not regular food storage bags. Freezer paper is lined with plastic, and is easier to mold to the shape of firm foods.
  • No matter what containers are used, be sure to expel as much air as possible before closing. Label containers with the product and date to ensure using them before the quality declines.

Storing Frozen Foods

Store frozen foods (home prepared and purchased) at 0 degrees F. or lower. 

Most frozen fruits maintain high quality for 8 to 12 months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than those packed in sugar or sugar syrups.

Most vegetables will maintain high quality for 12 to 18 months at 0° F or lower. However, it is a good idea to plan to use your home frozen vegetables before the next year’s crop is ready for freezing.

Longer storage of fruits and vegetables than those recommended above will not make the food unfit for use, but will decrease its quality.

Freezing Herbs

Herbs can be preserved for a long time if they are properly frozen. Freezing an herb does not change its flavor, but it can no longer be used as a garnish because it becomes limp when defrosted. You can, however, add frozen herbs to your favorite cooked dishes, soups and stews. 

Pick fresh herbs when they are almost ripe and the flower buds are beginning to open up. Choose herbs such as parsley, sage, tarragon, basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, mint or rosemary.

Remove the stems and wash the herbs gently under running cold water. Put them in a strainer and then transfer to paper towels to remove all moisture. You can also spin them dry in a slad spinner.

Spread the herbs on a cookie tray and place it in the freezer. When they are frozen, store them in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.

Some other methods for freezing herbs:

  • Place the the washed and chopped herbs in ice cube trays. Fill the trays with a little water to give the cubes some shape. Place the trays in the freezer and use when needed.
  • Grind the washed herbs in a blender. Add two tablespoons of olive oil per one cup of herbs. Transfer the pureed herbs to the ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Pick out a few leaves from each herb and tie them together with a string to make a bouquet. Place the bouquet on a cookie tray and freeze. Transfer the frozen herbs to an airtight plastic bag.

How To Freeze Basil                                                                                                                                      

Freezing basil is a great way to preserve its deep, unique flavor to enjoy during the long winter when its taste brings to mind happy thoughts of summer gardens.

Unlike other green herbs which suffer little from freezing, basil requires one extra step if you want it to emerge from the freezer as green as it was when it went in: blanching. Simply bring a pot of water to a boil, dip the basil leaves in for 30 seconds, drain the basil, and squeeze out as much liquid as you can (rolling it in a clean kitchen towel does a good job).

At this point you can simply double-bag the basil, pushing out as much air from the bags as possible, and place it in the freezer. I prefer, however, to whirl the basil in a blender with a bit of olive oil to make a thick puree. Freeze this in small covered containers or in a clean ice cube tray (once frozen through, transfer the basil cubes to a sealable plastic bag for long-term storage).

If your favorite way to use basil is in pesto – go ahead and make the pesto when the basil is fresh and freeze the pesto itself. I leave the cheese out when I freeze pesto. It can be added when you make the pasta.

Methods of Preparing Basil for Freezing

Option 1: Wash and dry the basil leaves (the stems should be discarded). Then, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and flash freeze. Transfer the frozen basil to freezer bags, and use as needed.

Option 2: Blanch the basil leaves for 15 seconds. Then, plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry thoroughly. Then, flash freeze using the method described in option 1.

Option 3: Use a food processor to coarsely chop clean basil leaves. Then, add a drizzle of olive oil, and pulse to lightly coat the leaves with oil (this will keep the basil from turning black in the freezer). Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Transfer the finished cubes to freezer bags and use as needed. Once cube is the equivalent of about two tablespoons of fresh basil.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Tips:

1. Basil tends to turn black when frozen. If maintaining that bright green color is important to you, use option 3.

2. Oil should only be added to basil if it will be frozen. Storing basil in oil, either in the refrigerator or at room temperature, causes a risk of botulism.

3. Planning to use your basil in heated dishes? Just add your frozen basil directly to the pot. There’s no need to thaw it first.

 


Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882. Two years later, in 1884, it was celebrated on the now-traditional first Monday in September. Originally celebrated in New York, by 1885, it had spread to many industrial centers of the country. This holiday originated in other countries first, then in Canada in the 1870s. In the aftermath of many deaths from the hands of the US military during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland made reconciling with labor a priority and the holiday in the US emerged.

There is some dispute as to who first proposed the Labor Day holiday. Some records show that it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a holiday to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold”. But McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Recent research shows that the originator of Labor Day may have been Matthew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ. Maguire may have proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as the secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted the proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic. By 1894, 23 states had adopted Labor Day legislation and in June of that year, Congress passed Federal legislation recognizing the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882

Over the years, many traditions have been added to the US holiday including parades, festivities for the family, BBQs, water sports, fireworks, and public events. Many people also view Labor Day as the end of summer. It has become a day of rest, relaxation, and spending time with the family. Labor Day weekend is also the start of football season for the US. So, as you take your final trip to the beach or fire up the grill for your Labor Day picnic, take a moment to commemorate the founders of Labor Day, both of them!  (Source: US Department of Labor)

Menu For Your Get Together

Rosemary-Lemon White Bean Dip                             

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage, extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Two 19-ounce cans low sodium cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Pita chips and Cut Up Vegetables, for serving

Directions:

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant and the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add the beans and toss to coat.

Transfer the cannellini beans to a food processor. Add the lemon juice, season with salt and cayenne and process to a fairly smooth puree. Transfer the dip to a small serving bowl, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with pita chips and veggies.

 

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Basil and Tomato

Before grilling, soak the toothpicks or wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning. Butterflying the chicken — splitting each piece in half and fanning it open like a book — creates two layers to contain the stuffing.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For The Stuffing:

  • 12 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Butterfly chicken breasts: Put halves on a cutting board, smooth sides down, with the pointed ends facing you.

Pound Chicken Cutlets Lightly

Starting on one long side, cut breasts almost in half horizontally (stop about 1/2 inch before reaching the opposite side). Open cut breasts like a book. Place each breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and pound lightly to even out the thickness of the cutlets.

Sprinkle each piece all over with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate, and coat both sides with garlic and oil. Let stand 30 minutes.

Heat a grill or grill pan until medium-hot.

Place 3 basil leaves on the bottom half of each opened chicken breast; top each with 2 slices tomato and one slice of cheese. Fold over other half of chicken breast, and secure with two toothpicks or short skewers.

Stuff Chicken with Basil, Tomato Slices and Mozzarella Cheese

Grill chicken breasts, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes. Place on a clean serving platter; garnish with basil.

Cook Stuffed Cutlets on the Grill

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Cutlets

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

It is always a good idea to offer a vegetarian option for your friends. This salad can serve as a side to the chicken entree or a main dish option for vegetarians. If they are vegan, then leave the parmesan cheese out of the dressing and serve it in a bowl to sprinkle on top of the salad.

Salad:

  • 1 pound fusilli or pasta of your choice
  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Parmesan Vinaigrette:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and place in a large bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the eggplant, zucchini and summer squash lengthwise into 3/4-in.-thick slices. Brush the eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, red onion and red pepper with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes.

Add the tomatoes, olives, parsley and grilled vegetables to the pasta.

In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Serving size 3/4 cup.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

  • 8 ears corn
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

 Directions:

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Combine oil, minced garlic, minced chives and hot sauce in a small bowl.

Brush husked corn with oil mixture. Grill the corn, turning occasionally, until some kernels char a little and others are light brown, 6 to 10 minutes.

 

Green Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans—halved on the diagonal
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned (about 2 minutes). Set aside.

Cook the green beans in rapidly boiling water for 6 minutes, then refresh under cold water and drain.

Add all the remaining ingredients, except pine nuts, to a screw top jar and shake to combine.

Place the green beans in a serving bowl, pour over the dressing mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.

Let stand at room temperature. Stir in the pine nuts just before serving.

 

Berry Cobbler

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative, such as Truvia for Baking or Light Domino Sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 /4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in berries. Transfer to an 11 x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.

For topping, in a small bowl, beat sugar and butter until crumbly, about 2 minutes. Beat in milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into butter mixture just until blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls over fruit mixture.

Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted in topping comes out clean. Serve warm.


While much of the Italian food choices are healthy; breakfast, generally, is not. Breakfast in Italy is sweet. Cake is a traditional breakfast food, and so are cookies. Continental breakfast is a concept Italians embrace. Even fruit is looked upon with suspicion! The typical Italian breakfast is made of a hot beverage, such as espresso or cappuccino, with something sweet to eat- cake, cookies, pastries, brioche, croissants, or toast and jam.

Moka Pot

When at home, caffe latte and coffee made in a moka pot are the more common choices for drinks, and usually small breakfast cookies provide the sugar rush. Cereals are available on the shelves in the grocery store, but mostly eaten as an afternoon snack, not for breakfast! Italians often consume their breakfast out- the thousands of bars you will walk by everywhere in Italy serve cappuccino and paste (brioches, or bomboloni) for a breakfast you can conveniently consume while standing at the counter.

Italian sweet bread, like most Italian cooking, is rich in flavor. The most common flavorings used in these breads are:

  • Vanilla is considered to be the most important ingredient in Italian sweet bread recipes. Vanilla tends to give the bread more flavor and brings out the flavor of other ingredients. Pure vanilla extract is recommended.
  • Raisins are used in the bread to give it a sweet taste in every bite. Yellow raisins are commonly used, but darker raisins can be used as well. 
  • Orange zest is what makes Italian sweet bread so unique. Orange peel is shredded in order to give the bread that extra zesty flavor.
  • After being baked, Italian sweet bread is often brushed with rum to give it that extra kick. 

Here are some lower calorie versions of Italian Sweet Breads to bake:

Italian Breakfast Sweet Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm 2% milk (70° to 80°)
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar or 2 tablespoons light sugar alternative
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast                                                                                                                       
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sugar

Directions:

Place the first seven ingredients in large mixer bowl with paddle attachment and mix until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape each portion into a ball; flatten slightly.

Place in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Beat egg and water; brush over the dough and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 350°F  for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).

SCHIACCIATA CON ZIBIBBO (ITALIAN SWEET BREAD WITH RAISINS)

Double the ingredients to make two loaves and put one in the freezer.                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm (105 to 115 degree) water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment. Stir in raisins, sugar, oil, orange peel, egg substitute and enough flour to make a soft dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Shape into round, slightly flat loaf about 9 inches in diameter. Place on greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until bread is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire rack. 1 loaf.

Italian Braided Sweet Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water ( 110 degrees F)
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute

Directions:

Mix yeast and warm water, and let sit so that the yeast can react. The yeast should begin to foam.

Mix dry ingredients together.

In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter, and egg substitute. Be careful not to let the eggs cook and become solid.

Mix yeast/water with dry ingredients in large bowl of the mixer with a paddle attachment. When thoroughly incorporated, mix in milk/egg mixture until a dough is formed.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough, then cover, and let rise about 20 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. (Times vary depending on warmth of environment.)

Punch down the dough and divide in half to make 2 smaller loaves. Divide each half into three equal pieces and braid the ropes together and tuck in the ends.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let double in size. Bake bread at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes.

Optional Step:

Rum Syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon dark rum

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature.

Brush all over bread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let bread cool before slicing.

Rustic Raisin Walnut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.

Stir in the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and salt. Mix until well combined. Keep adding the rest of the white flour until dough leaves sides of bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Be sure not to add too much flour.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover with damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Punch the dough down and place it on a floured board. Gently knead the raisins and walnuts into the dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on prepared baking sheet.

Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Using a spray bottle, spray loaf with water. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.

Ricotta Crumb Cake (Italian Breakfast Cake)                                                                                                              

Crust:

  • 2/3 cup toasted almonds, ground
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter or Smart Balance Blend
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions for the Crust:

Mix in a bowl the almonds, flour, baking powder, brown sugar. Using a pastry blender cut in the cold butter with the dry ingredients. Pour the egg and vanilla over the butter mixture and toss together just until moistened. Spoon half of crumb mixture into a 10 inch springform pan and set the other half aside.

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 1/2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light sugar alternative

Directions for the Filling:

Put 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in the processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to grind the almonds into small pieces. Do not ground too fine.

In a bowl mix together the ricotta, rum and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Stir in almond/sugar mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over crumb crust in the springform pan. Spoon remaining crumb mixture over the ricotta filling and pat down to make top flat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, Let cool and sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Sweet Bread from Valtellina (Bisciola)                                                                                               

Makes 1 (8-inch) oval loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon grappa or rum
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons egg substitute
  • 15 dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, roughly chopped

Directions:

Heat oven to 350º F with oven rack placed on the middle shelf. In a small bowl combine raisins, grappa or rum and water; set aside.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then roughly chop.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until just warm, then remove from heat. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, all-purpose flour, rye flour and salt. With mixer at medium-low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix until well blended, then add remaining flour mixture, butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons egg substitute. Reduce speed to low and mix 5 minutes more.

Drain raisins; discard liquid. Add raisins, hazelnuts, figs, walnuts and pine nuts to dough; mix on low until just incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough to form a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On prepared baking sheet, form dough into a 8-inch-long oval loaf. Cover loaf with a lightly dampened clean dishtowel and let rest, in a draft-free place, 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350º F. with oven rack in the middle.

Brush dough with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons egg substitute, then bake, rotating pan once halfway through, until bread is deep golden, about 30 minutes. Let bread cool completely on pan on wire rack.

 

 

 



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