Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beans

lunchtime

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Cucumbers are in season and they are plentiful at the Farmers’ Market. Want to make something other than cucumber salad? Try pickles. Making pickles isn’t complicated. You can preserve homemade pickles using three basic methods: lactic fermentation (cured with a salt brine), canning (soaked in pickling lime) or refrigeration (immersed in a vinegar solution).

Brined Pickles

Many enthusiasts swear fermentation yields a better pickle than the pickles made with vinegar. They are also called “crock pickles” or “brine pickles”.

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Procedure:

Place the recipe ingredients inside the crock. Make the pickle brine and pour into the crock. Cover with a weight to keep food submerged and drape with a towel to keep out the dust. Ferment at room temperature for 2 or more weeks. Check container daily and skim any scum from the top. Fermentation bubbles may be visible. Taste pickles regularly.

When the pickles reach a flavor you like, you have three options for storing them:

1. Refrigerate to slow fermentation. Pickles should last 4 to 6 months this way. Note that pickled vegetables last longer than pickled fruits, which generally keep well for only 2 to 3 months.

2. Store in a dark, cool spot, such as the basement, where your homemade pickles will continue to ferment but should stay safe for several months.

3. Can fermented pickles for extended storage. The heat of canning compromises their crisp texture and kills the beneficial bacteria, but the flavor will remain. Canned fermented food could last a couple of years.

Kosher Dill Pickles

This recipe, adapted from, The Joy of Pickling, uses grape, oak or sour cherry leaves, which contain tannins believed to help keep fermented homemade pickles crisp. Store-bought, canned grape leaves will also work. Yield: 1 gallon.

Equipment

Clean, gallon-sized glass jar or ceramic crock

Gallon-sized plastic bag or fitted crock weights

Ingredients

  • 1 handful clean grape, oak or sour cherry leaves
  • Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed
  • Peeled cloves from 2 to 3 heads of garlic
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 1/4 cup dill seed or 2 handfuls dill fronds

Directions

Place the leaves in the bottom of a clean crock. Slice blossom ends off the cucumbers and pack cucumbers into the crock, smallest ones first, adding garlic cloves throughout. Do not fill the crock more than two-thirds full.

In a separate container, stir together water, vinegar, salt and dill until salt dissolves. Pour this brine over the cucumbers until the liquid is an inch above the cucumbers when you’re pressing them down. If your crock has weights, set them on top of the cucumbers to submerge them. If you don’t have special weights, fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with water and set it on top to keep cucumbers submerged. Cover the crock with towel to keep out dust.

Ferment pickles for 1 to 4 weeks at room temperature, checking crock daily. Scum may develop on top; this is normal. Carefully lift off the weight and rinse it to remove scum. Skim scum from the top of the container before replacing the weight and towel. Do this daily.

You may notice bubbles after the first few days, indicating lactic fermentation is underway. After a week, begin tasting the pickles daily. Keep fermenting until you enjoy the flavor.

To store, place crock in a cool, dry, dark spot (the basement, for example), or remove pickles to smaller, lidded containers in the refrigerator. (If using metal lids, place a piece of plastic wrap between the container and the lid.) You may rinse fermented pickles and cover them with fresh pickle brine and seasonings or strain and reuse the original brine. The pickle flavor will improve after about a month in cooler conditions.

Note: If pickles become slimy or moldy during fermentation, discard them and try again.

Canned Vinegar Pickles

(If you are new to canning methods, the Ball Canning Company has excellent directions. visit their website at  http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started)

Most modern pickling recipes rely on an acetic acid (vinegar) solution and heat treatment to preserve the vegetables. Vinegar pickles can be sweet, spicy or extremely sour. Popular examples include bread-and-butter pickles, sour gherkins and dill beans. You must use vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity to produce pickles that are safe for long-term storage.

Distilled white vinegar is the best choice because it’s inexpensive and won’t darken the cucumbers and  its flavor is mild in comparison to cider, malt or wine vinegars. Avoid using rice vinegar and homemade vinegars, because their acidity is usually too weak. Always use canning recipes that have been tested for safety.

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Procedure:

Heat vinegar, water and seasonings to make a brine. Pack whole or chopped ingredients into sterilized canning jars. Cover with hot brine, leaving appropriate head space. Apply lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath.

Vinegar-Preserved Old-Fashioned Lime Pickles

This combination of ingredients and techniques makes a super-crisp, complex flavored sweet-and-sour pickle. Pre-soaking cucumbers in pickling lime keeps them very crisp.

Yield: 4 quarts.

Equipment

4 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings

Water bath canner with rack

Candy thermometer

Ingredients

Approximately 6 pounds of 4- to 5-inch unwaxed pickling cucumbers (preferably freshly picked), scrubbed and rinsed

Soaking Solution

  • 1 cup food-grade pickling lime (calcium hydroxide)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 gallon cold water

Syrup Mixture

  • 2 quarts cider or white wine vinegar (minimum 5 percent acidity; cider vinegar will darken pickles)
  • 6 cups granulated sugar or 5-1⁄4 cups honey (honey will darken the brine)
  • 2-1⁄2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt or pickling salt
  • 2 teaspoons mixed pickling spice, store-bought or homemade
  • 3 pounds white or yellow onions, diced

Homemade Pickling Spice

Enclose the spices in cheesecloth and close the top with kitchen string.

  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1-inch piece of turmeric root, peeled, or 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small, whole, dried chile pepper or 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried chile pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

To prepare cucumbers for soaking:

Cut them into quarter-inch slices and discard the ends. In a 2-gallon or larger non reactive (glass, plastic or ceramic) container mix pickling lime with salt and water. Add cucumbers and soak for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Scoop slices from lime solution, rinse in a colander and soak for 1 hour in fresh, cold water. Repeat rinsing and soaking in cold water at least two more times to completely remove the pickling lime. Drain well.

In a large pot, whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice or your homemade spice packet. Add onions. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes to make a syrup.

Sterilize 4 quart-sized canning jars and lids in boiling water. Pack cucumbers and onions into the jars and pour hot syrup over them, leaving a half-inch head space. Use a knife or chopstick to eliminate air bubbles. Wipe jar rims clean. Apply lids and rings.

The pickles can be canned via low-temperature pasteurization to avoid the higher heat that softens them.

To pasteurize:

Fill the canner halfway with water and heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Set filled jars in the canner and continually monitor water temperature for 30 minutes. Make adjustments to maintain 180 degrees for the duration. The thermometer reading should never exceed 185 degrees. (Learn more about how to make pickles using the low-temperature pasteurization method at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.)

Alternatively, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. The flavor of vinegar pickles will improve after about a month in storage.

Refrigerator Pickles

Sometimes called “quick pickles,” refrigerator pickles are technically vinegar pickles minus the canning. You can adjust a refrigerator pickle recipe — to use less salt or sugar or none at all — without food-safety fears. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp because the cucumbers are not subjected to heat. Making pickles using this method is fast and they are typically ready to eat within a day but should be consumed within a few months.

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Procedures:

Prepare vinegar solution and pour over sliced vegetables. Cover and refrigerate.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 6 pickling cucumbers
  • 3/4 ounce fresh dill

Directions

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seeds and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.

Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise or in thick round circles and place in a 1 quart glass jar; add fresh dill. Top with hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Pickles will be ready to eat the next day and will stay good for roughly a month.

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Any combination of vegetables can be used in place of the cucumbers in the easy refrigerator pickle recipe. Here are a few examples:

  • 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
  • A few pieces of cauliflower
  • 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos

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Interested in learning how to prepare Nordic Food? Here is your chance.

From September 13-20, 2014, New York City will be hosting the second annual NORTH Food Festival. You can attend one of the elegant dinners or attend the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship where Chefs battle it out for the prestigious title of Nordic Hot Dog Champion. If you will be in the area, you may want to sign up for some cooking classes. Here are just two of the featured classes. The remainder are listed on the website.

Cooking Lessons on Preparing  Nordic Seafood

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-taste-and-cook-with-the-future-of-food-seafood-from-norway-tickets-12487589717

Cooking Lessons on Nordic Pastry Making

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/cooking-class-nordic-pastry-class-with-chef-maria-ostberg-presented-by-fika-tickets-12487679987

Here is a Video from the 2013 Festival to pique your interest.

http://vimeo.com/77597221

For more information on the North Food Festival:

http://honestcooking.com/north-food-festival-new-york-city/

 


Gallipoli1

Gallipoli (beautiful town) is a village of 20,969 inhabitants in the province of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy, in the heel of the boot. It is located by the Ionian Sea and is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century. It’s a picturesque town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks coming from the sea. The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522, the eastern wall was added. Extending out into the sea, the impressive and majestic Castle remains a focal point of Gallipoli, as does the Cathedral in the town center. Started in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th, the Cathedral, with its decorative facade and Baroque interior, was built in honor of Saint Agata.

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Once an important fishing center; it feels more like a working Italian town, rather than what it is – a resort region. The attractive port is still used by fishing boats and one will see fishermen mending their nets and houses decorated with fishing baskets. Restaurants serve fresh seafood and sea urchins are a specialty of Gallipoli. Gallipoli has a mild climate and can be visited year-round but the main season is May through October, when the weather is almost always hot and clear. There are celebrations and festivals for Easter Week, Carnival (40 days before Easter), Sant’ Agata in February and Santa Cristina in July.

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Gallipoli7With its labyrinth of narrow streets and churches, palazzi and structures, Gallipoli’s history and mix of different influences and cultures is apparent. Strolling through the old town, it’s impossible not to be facinated with the charming alleys and courtyards that greet one at every turn. There are many places of interest in the city, beginning with the Greek-Roman fountain (III Century BC) above photo, which one will see after crossing the bridge that divides the new city from the old.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

There was a time when oil was as valuable as gold and the subterranean cisterns of Gallipoli were full of it. We are talking about lamp oil, needed to light the chandeliers in palaces and aristocratic mansions or transformed into soap for the great ladies of Paris. Apparently from the by-products of Gallipoli’s oil mills the famous “Marseilles kitchen soap” was made.

The oil from Gallipoli was the best in the Mediterranean and the most popular. From the 17th to the 19th century ships crowded the port of Gallipoli,  loading precious liquid that reached the seaports of Northern Europe and Russia. That was because this oil, thanks to its purity, was the only one allowed to burn along with incense in front of the statues in the Moscow orthodox churches.

Even the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg was only lit with the lamp oil from Gallipoli, which made less smoke as compared to other oils and gave more sheen in the vast salons. The Czarina, Catherine, sent envoys to try and discover the secret. The secret, yes olive oil, had its origin in the ancient Gallipoli subterranean oil mills that did not depend just on the quality of the olives, but also, on the stone in the cisterns, in which the oil was often stored for long periods. The carparo (tuff) stone filtered the oil, giving it a special pureness. Many historians believe that the rough stone in these ancient subterranean oil mills blended the olive oil with the saltiness from the sea below to give it its uniqueness..

In the old town center there once were about thirty oil mills. It was not only the production of olive oil (which in the 19th century employed about 8,000 workers from October to May) that had developed, but also a number of satellite activities, such as the production and marketing of casks, whose wood was aged in salted water so as to make it more resistant and ideal for long voyages. A rich class of craftsmen and traders established themselves, which made possible investments in the restructuring and building of new churches. A donation of the “dockers” was the church of Santa Maria della Purità and the lamp oil trade gave the town of Gallipoli an international atmosphere. The ships that loaded oil brought to the town a variety of goods, which even came from America, England, France, Germany, Venice and Trieste, trays from Sheffield, Limoges porcelain, glasses from Murano, cheese from Bavaria and foreign wines.

All European languages were spoken on the quays of Gallipoli and merchants and consul authorities abounded, with the British playing a leading role. The trade of lamp oil was controlled from London and a number of families related to the industry moved to the area to oversee the oil trade. This can explain why in the region, even today, one can find the descendants of numerous families with English surnames and that the relations between the United Kingdom and this far corner of the boot have been close throughout the centuries.

Gallipoli

The Cuisine of Gallipoli

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Friselle Bread and Tomato Salad

Friselle are ring-shaped rolls, similar to bagels. They’re partially baked, removed from the oven and divided into two halves, which are returned to the oven and allowed to bake until done, then dried completely.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wheat friselle
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 4 basil sprigs
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the Friselle for a couple of minutes in a bowl of cold water before using. Drain and break them into chunks. Place in a serving bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, basil and oregano and mix well. Season with a generous pinch of salt and dress with the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to eat.

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Mussels au Gratin

Cozze al gratin is a classic dish from this region. It’s easy to make, especially if you buy pre-cleaned mussels.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds live mussels, washed and purged
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, add 1 clove of peeled garlic.

When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the mussels open, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When cool, remove the half-shells without mussels and discard.

Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil, the minced parsley, 1 minced garlic clove and the crushed red pepper. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spread the mixture over the mussels, put them in a low-sided oven-proof dish, drizzle the remaining oil over them and bake them until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.

Gallipoli0

Ciceri e tria (Tagliatelle with Chickpeas)

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, celery and garlic and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover the mixture with ample water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the chick peas soften.

Add the fresh pasta simmer until the pasta is cooked. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in pasta bowls.

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Gallipoli-Style Swordfish

Ingredients

  • 4 swordfish fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions

Combine the herbs with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Rub some olive oil on both sides of the swordfish, then dredge in the breadcrumbs to coat them well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the fish, about ten minutes per side. Serve with the orange slices on the side.

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Sesame Seed and Olive Oil Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Beat the egg with the sugar, honey, vanilla and olive oil. In another bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.

Use a rubber spatula to stir the liquid mix into the dry one, then use your hand to mix until you have a smooth ball of dough.

Roll it out roughly between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Then cover with sesame seeds.

Place the cookies onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and prick them with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool a couple of minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool further.


summerdinner

Being outside, we need to be aware of dehydration, skin sensitivities and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may happen to our bodies during the peak of summer. Nature has a bounty of different fruits and vegetables that are just right for the summer. These vegetables and fruits are high in water content and are light on the stomach and easy to digest.

Easy to digest food items are best for the summer, as they do not stay in the stomach for long and do not make you feel heavy or lethargic. Junk food, fries, fried foods and other foods that are high in fat content will make you feel excessively hot after a short period of time. This is because fat in the body acts like an insulator for body heat. On top of drinking water, fresh juices and smoothies, eating fresh fruit can also help your body stay energized and hydrated.

Foods that are especially good for you in the summer are:

Beverages – Potassium rich water with lemon and coconut water
Fruits – Mango, watermelon, melons, cherries, berries and banana
Vegetables – Squash, cucumber, corn and tomatoes

For summer dinners forget about processed foods. Instead, use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a balanced meal that includes vegetables, salad, proteins and healthy snacks like hummus.

  • Use legumes — beans, peas or lentils — to make salads or side dishes. They are high in fiber and vitamins and are much healthier than sugar-loaded baked beans or calorie-laden mayo-based potato or macaroni salads.
  • Use healthy oils and vinegars to add flavor to salads. For example, blend olive with different types of vinegar or citrus juices.
  • For snacks, try raw unsalted nuts, marinated olives, guacamole and sliced vegetables.
  • For grilling, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat. Don’t forget fish – it is wonderful on the grill. Be sure to add vegetables and fruit to the grill. Good choices include red, yellow and green peppers, green or yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions and peaches.

Try these dinner menus to get you started.

Dinner One: 6 servings

  • Tuna Zucchini Cakes
  • Remoulade Sauce 
  • Grilled Corn Salad

Tuna Zucchini Cakes

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Yield: 6 servings: 2 patties each.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 12 ounces fresh cooked tuna or canned tuna in water, chopped
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten or 1 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (Old Bay)

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Remove from heat.

Add tuna, 1 cup bread crumbs, zucchini, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to onion mixture; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick patties; coat with remaining bread crumbs.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add 6 patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve with Remoulade Sauce.

Healthy Remoulade Sauce

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions
Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, anchovy paste and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in capers and parsley.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Grilled-Corn Salad

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Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 6 fresh ears corn (with husks)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 medium sweet bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • Romaine leaves

Directions

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the hot pepper sauce. Cover and shake well; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Peel back the corn husks but do not remove them. Gently rinse corn and scrub with a stiff brush to remove silks. Spread butter over corn. Sprinkle with rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Fold husks back around corn and tie with kitchen string or strips of husk.

For a charcoal grill, grill corn on the grate of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 20 to 25 minutes or until corn kernels are tender, turning and rearranging ears occasionally. Add sweet peppers to the grill the last 8 to 10 minutes of grilling, turning often to brown evenly.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place corn and sweet peppers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed.). Cool corn for 30 minutes.

Remove string; peel back husks. Cut kernels from the cobs. Remove stems from sweet peppers and cut peppers into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl combine corn, peppers, cheese and dressing; toss lightly to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature over a bed of romaine leaves.

Dinner Two: 4 servings

  • Grilled Garlic Shrimp
  • Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil
  • Sliced Tomatoes Drizzled with Italian Dressing

Grilled Garlic Shrimp

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
Combine the oil, shrimp and garlic in a plastic ziplock bag. Let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Turn it from time to time to let the marinade cover all of the shrimp.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium and remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Place the shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers and brush with the marinade from the bag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Make sure the heat isn’t too high. Turn the shrimp over, brush with the marinade and cook for another minute.

Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil

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4 servings

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from the juiced lemons
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Whisk the oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large pasta serving bowl to blend. Set the lemon sauce aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well to moisten the pasta.

Transfer to individual bowls and serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Dinner Three: 2 servings

  • Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
  • Baby Lettuces with Tomato Dressing 
  • Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

 

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

summerdinner 10

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet red bell peppers
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
  • 3/4 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place peppers in an ungreased shallow microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until tender. (You may also boil the peppers.)

Combine the tomatoes, rice, beans, corn, onions, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes in a mixing bowl; spoon into the pepper halves. Place in a baking pan just large enough to hold the peppers. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the peppers uncovered for 30 minutes.

Baby Lettuces and Green Beans with Tomato Dressing

summerdinner 4

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, cut into eighths

Salad

  • 2 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups mixed baby lettuces
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula

Directions

In a blender or processor combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and shallot just until combined. Add chopped tomato and process or blend just until the tomato is chopped into small pieces. Set aside. This dressing recipe makes more than you need for this salad.

Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain; run under cold water.

In a serving bowl, combine green beans, lettuce and arugula. Toss with some of the dressing and serve immediately.

Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain coconut water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 small mango (about 10 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the coconut water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree the diced mango with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup.

Transfer 1/4 cup of the puree to a bowl and whisk in the Greek yogurt, coconut milk, lemon juice and the remaining sugar syrup.

Pour the mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for 1 hour, until frozen around the edges. Whisk the mixture to break up the clumps and return to the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours longer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is nearly frozen. Spread the remaining mango puree on top and, using a butter knife, swirl it into the yogurt. Freeze until nearly solid.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the shredded coconut over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it’s golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the coconut to a plate and let it cool.

To serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and top with the toasted coconut. Alternatively, in a tall glass, layer the coconut between small scoops of the frozen yogurt, like a parfait.

Dinner Four: 8 servings

  • Orange Marinated Flank Steak
  • Chopped Salad
  • Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

Orange Marinated Flank Steak

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
  • 2 lb flank steak, fat trimmed
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs mint, for garnish

Directions

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and mint. Add steak to the marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in marinade.

Remove steak from the marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl.

Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.

Lightly grease the grill rack and preheat a charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ash color or preheat a gas grill to high heat.

Place steak on the grill directly over the heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil), for approximately 4 minutes, turning once and brushing frequently with marinade.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing. Arrange orange slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.

Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.

Chopped Salad

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Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salad

  • 4 small new potatoes or fingerling potatoes (6 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (1 medium)

Directions

For vinaigrette: in a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano , honey, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside.

In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans in enough boiling water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking; drain again.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuce, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes and shallot. Add about half the vinaigrette; toss gently to coat

Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz pizza dough
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic,crushed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into an 8 × 4-inch rectangle.

Cook olive oil and crushed garlic cloves in a small skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Discard garlic.

Brush half the oil over the rolled out dough; sprinkle with ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cut dough into 4 (4 × 2-inch) rectangles and roll into thin sticks.

Repeat with the second half of the dough and remaining ingredients. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8- 10 minutes.


Nemi

Lake Nemi, Diana’s Sacred Grove, is a small circular volcanic lake in the Lazio region of Italy, 30 km (19 miles) south of Rome. The shores of the lake were the setting for one of the cruellest religious rites in honor of a local divinity, Diana of Nemi also known as “Diana of the Woods”, an Italian version of the Hellenic goddess, Artemis. Her sanctuary was found on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the cliffs of the town of Nemi. The lake has often been referred to by poets and scholars as, “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is one of the more complex goddesses of mythology and her cult at Nemi was especially violent.

The “Rex Nemorensis” or king of the sacred grove, was the high-priest of Diana’s temple. The legend says that in her sacred grove there grew a large oak tree from which it was absolutely forbidden to break off a branch. Only a runaway slave could break off a branch, thus earning the right to fight the presiding high priest of the temple to the death. If the slave won, he could take the place of the priest and adopt his title of “rex nemorensis”. This violent rite of succession was based on the premise that the High Priest of Nemi always had to be at the height of his powers. He could never be ill nor could he die of old age.

Diana

Diana

This ritual continued up until the Imperial era, according to the ancient Roman historian, Suetonius. Emperor Caligula, angered by the fact that the high priest of Nemi had been in his role for too long, ordered him to be killed by an opponent of greater strength. In the II century AD the fight to preside over the sacred altar became symbolic in nature and the cult of Diana itself began to wane, almost completely disappearing after the advent of Christianity. The origins of the cult of Diana are mixed with legend and it is probable that this ancient myth on the Italian peninsula had Greek origins.

The locals will tell you that the spirit of the “rex nemorensis” still wanders in the woods around the lake and that you should take special care when walking in these parts. However, the lake is most famous for its sunken Roman ships, discovered there in the XV century. These ships were very large and technologically advanced for their time.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, acquired the nickname Caligula when he was still a little boy, playing in soldier’s boots several sizes too big for his feet. People started calling him Caligula which means “Little Boots” and they still called him that when he became the Roman Emperor in 37 A.D.

Caligula

As one of his royal passions, Emperor Caligula ordered several large barges to be built to use on Lake Nemi. For centuries scholars and historians debated Caligula’s reason for building the barges. Some contend that Caligula built the barges to show the rulers of Syracuse, Sicily and Egypt that Rome could match any luxurious pleasure barges that they built. Caligula bragged that his ships were the most luxurious in the world. Other scholars argue that Caligula designed one of his ships as a floating temple to Diana and some say that the other ship may have been used as a floating palace where Caligula and his court could indulge in the depravities that history has credited to him.

Suetonius, the Roman historian, described the two biggest barges as being built of cedar wood adorned with jeweled prows, rich sculptures, vessels of gold and silver, sails of purple silk and bathrooms of alabaster and bronze. The floors were paved with glass mosaic, the windows and door frames were made of bronze and many of the decorations were costly.

The flat-bottomed Nemi barges were not self-propelled. Instead, they were attached to the shore by chains and bridges stretching across the water so people and commerce could travel back and forth. The two largest ships were about 250 feet long and 70 feet wide, nearly covering Lake Nemi.

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Nemi 2

Caligula had no suspicions that officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate and of the Imperial Court were conspiring to assassinate him. Although they successfully assassinated Caligula on January 21, 41 AD., the assassins were unsuccessful in their goal of restoring the Roman Republic. After Caligula’s assassination, the Roman Senate and the Praetorian Guard attempted to destroy everything connected with him, including his barges, which they pillaged and sank.

Fishermen handed down memories of Caligula’s palatial Nemi ships to their descendants, some swearing that they could see the shadowy outlines of the ships in the waters of Lake Nemi. The ships were actually buried in the mud 200 yards distant from each other in five fathoms of water; one 150 feet from the bank and the other 250 feet from the bank.

Legends of Caligula’s sunken ships filled with fabulous treasures were passed down through generations of Lake Nemi citizens. For centuries local fisherman considered Caligula’s sunken barges local landmarks and some explored the wrecks and took small treasures from them, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone tried to explore and raise Caligula’s legendary ships.

In 1446 Cardinal Prospero Colonna, an Italian humanist, and Leon Battista Alberti, a  renowned engineer, followed the clues in the local legends about the Nemi barges, but the wrecks lay too deep to be salvaged effectively at the time. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini worked to recover Caligula’s ships for about five years – from October 1928 to October 1932. Mussolini ordered the Italian Navy engineers to drain Lake Nemi. A London Times story reported that everyone on the site cheered as the waters receded to reveal the first Nemi ship.

With all of the water removed, the level of Lake Nemi dropped 66 feet and a mud shower occurred as a result of the sinking of the lake floor. Work stopped while the government and the archaeologists debated the future of the project and Lake Nemi began refilling with water. The second ship had already begun to dry out and re-submerging caused a great deal of damage to it. The Italian Minister of Public Works ordered the project and all of the research related to it to be abandoned on November 10, 1931. The Navy Ministry, which had participated in the original recovery, petitioned the Italian Prime Minister to resume the project on February 19, 1932 and the government granted permission. Pumping out the waters of Lake Nemi resumed on March 28, 1932 and the second ship was recovered in October 1932.

The hulls of the Nemi ships and their contents were recovered, as well as items scattered around the ships, including bronze and marble ornaments, tiles and utensils. The recovery of the Nemi ships settled a prolonged and contentious scholarly argument. Before the ships were recovered, many scholars scoffed at the idea that the Romans were capable of building large enough ships to carry grain, despite ancient sources that said they had built such ships. The size of the Nemi Ships proved that the ancient sources were correct.

Over the centuries, scholars have also debated whether or not the lead bars found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea were from anchors used on Roman ships. The Nemi ships were built during the transition between the use of wooden and iron anchors and they were the first Romans ships found with intact anchors. The Nemi ships confirmed that the lead bars were from the anchors. Additionally, the Romans made ball bearings out of lead and they probably used the ball bearings on the Nemi ships to make the statues of the gods rotate.

Both of Caligula’s Nemi ships contained several hand-operated bilge pumps working like modern bucket dredges, the oldest example of this type of pump ever found. Piston pumps on the two Nemi ships supplied hot and cold running water through lead pipes. The Romans used the hot water for baths and the cold water for fountains and drinking water. This piston pump technology later was lost to history and not rediscovered until the Middle Ages.

The Italian government built a museum called the Lake Nemi Museum over both ships in 1935 and it opened in January 1936.

Source: History Because It’s Here

The Cuisine of the Roman Empire

Food, like the weather, seems to be a universal topic of conversation, endlessly fascinating and a constant part of our lives. In addition to art and archaeology, we have information on Roman food from a variety of written sources. Here are two ancient recipes for porridge written by Cato the Elder from De Agricultura.

Recipe for Punic porridge:

Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, 1/2 pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

Recipe for wheat pap:

Pour 1/2 pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

For those who could afford it, breakfast, eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. The Roman lunch, a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables and cheese. Dinner, the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg and fruit.

An Ancient Roman Meal

Nemi 4

 

Roman Egg Drop Soup – Stracciatella

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (liters) mixed meat broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons semolina
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina, grated cheese, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture all at once, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork to break up the egg, which will form fine, light flakes or small rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.

Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

SAMSUNG CSC

Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml sweet white wine
  • 250 g green lentils
  • 3 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • Pinch of asafoetida (an ancient spice similar to garlic with an onion flavor)
  • Dash of bitters
  • Generous handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 225 g honey (This amount used in the recipe’s translation is excessive, as a reader kindly pointed out. After researching amounts of honey used in the Roman days, I would say no more than a half a cup should be used, if that. A couple of tablespoons would probably suit our current tastes. That was all I used when I tested the recipe.)
  • Generous splash of wine vinegar
  • Generous splash of must (grape juice boiled until it’s reduced to 3/4 of its volume)
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a little oil to a pan and, when hot, stir-in the asafoetida and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to splutter, then grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and pound to crush them. Add just enough vinegar to bring the mixture together as a paste and add a dash of bitters.

Combine the sweet wine and lentils in a pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender (about 60 minutes). When the lentils are almost done add the leeks, honey, coriander and mint along with the spice and vinegar blend. Flavor with a little more wine vinegar and must.

Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Garnish with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then serve.

Nemi 6

Aliter Sepias

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a classic dish of cooked squid or cuttlefish served in a spiced and herb white wine sauce thickened with an egg yolk.

1 kg cooked squid or cuttlefish

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled 
  • 1 raw egg yolk 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 60 ml fish stock 
  • 60 ml white wine 
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Pound together the pepper, lovage (or celery) seeds, coriander and mint in a mortar. Work in the honey, stock, wine, vinegar and olive oil then pour into a pan.

Heat slowly and, when warm, gently whisk in the beaten egg yolk. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and cook on low heat until thickened.

Arrange boiled or fried squid (cuttlefish) on a warmed serving dish, pour the sauce over the squid.

Nemi 7

Honeyed Quinces

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a dessert of quinces boiled in a sauce of white wine and honey. Pears can be substituted but quinces are more tart. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime.

Ingredients

  • 10 quinces 
  • 100 ml honey 
  • Cinnamon 
  • 250 ml sweet white wine

Directions

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft (reduce the cooking time for pears). Chill before serving. Pour into individual bowls.

 


Lake

Lake Bolsena is a crater lake of volcanic origin in central Italy, which began to form 370,000 years. It is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and is the fifth largest lake in Italy with a circumference of over 26 miles (43 km). Lake Bolsena’s bed was formed from a caldera in the extinct Vulsini volcano. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The underlying rock in the area where the lake formed, the caldera, collapsed into a deep bowl. This bowl was gradually filled by rain water and underwater sources.

Roman historical records indicate volcanic activity last occurred there in 104 BC and it has been dormant since then. The two islands, Bisentina and Martana, in the southern part of the lake, were formed by underwater eruptions following the collapse that created the caldera.

Lake 2

The lake is fed primarily by underground springs and rainwater and has a single outlet, the river Marta that flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the vicinity of Tarquinia. The lake has an oval shape, typical of crater lakes. The long axis of the ellipse is aligned in a north-south direction. The entire lake is surrounded by hills and is a good vacation spot. It has beaches, a harbor, restaurants, hotels and a medieval historic center surrounded by walls with a castle at the top. On the lake one can enjoy water sports, from canoeing, water skiing, sailing to surfing. Unlike most lakes, Lake Bolsena displays tidelike movements, called “sessa” with the difference between low and high tides being as much as 50 cm or 20 inches.

Lake Bolsena is north of Rome in the Northern Lazio region, just south of Tuscany. Bolsena, the main town on the lake, is on the northeastern shore. In the 7th century BC, it was the site of a Villanovan settlement whose huts were built on stilts directly over the water, using reed platforms, hay roofs and cobbled floors. About four hundred years later, it was settled by the Etruscans after they fled from the Roman destruction of Velzna in 264 BC. Velzna eventually became Volsinii, a Latin name which has been transformed over the centuries into Bolsena.

Lake 1

The Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the medieval quarter of the town. The castle was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It has been completely renovated and, since 1991, has housed the Museo Territoriale del Lago di Bolsena (Lake Bolsena Territorial Museum). Each of its three floors is dedicated to various aspects of Bolsena’s history, ranging from its prehistoric volcanic origins to its Etruscan-Roman period. The Church of St. Christine is the town’s other major site. It is a Romanesque church built in 1078 in a typical basilica style over the catacombs where St. Christine, a young woman martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was buried.

The Cuisine

Lake 5

The territory of Lake Bolsena brings with it a whole host of ancient traditions that are also reflected in the local cuisine, with flavors and products typical of their ancient recipes and cooking methods. It is also famous for its clear lake waters and the nickname “the lake with a drink. Long ago, lake water was used in cooking. Fishermen prepared the Sbroscia in a clay pot using freshly caught fish; it was one of the few means of survival, when they had little more than what the lake could offer. It was prepared within the small hut on the shore that was used as a refuge and as a warehouse for their supplies.

Acquacotta is the name of a typical local soup prepared with chicory, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, dried cod, dry bread and olive oil. Other soups of the local cuisine are made with mushrooms, legumes, chestnuts, lake fish (sbroscia) and lamb. First courses often include rice and lentils, pasta and potatoes, rice and chicory, peas with quadrucci (small squares of hand-made egg pasta) and “minestrone alla Viterbese”.

Pasta dishes include maccheroni, ceciliani, lombrichelli (made with only flour and water), potato gnocchi, fettuccine, pappardelle, gavinelle or polenta. These dishes are often served with a classic ragout – meat sauces prepared with hare, wild boar, mushrooms, spare ribs and pork sausages or, in summer, with fresh garden vegetables, such as: zucchini, eggplant, turnip greens or sweet peppers.

For main courses, rabbit alla cacciatora, stewed chicken with tomatoes, wild boar with tomato sauce, stewed hare, baked lamb, tripe with tomato sauce, fried coratella (veal intestines), roasted pork or pignattaccia (a stew made with meat and vegetables) are most common. Main fish dishes, prepared with lake fish, include: fried perch fillets, stewed eels, fried lattarini, stewed or fried pike and baked or grilled whitefish.

Typical desserts include: sweet ravioli made with ricotta, ciambellone (simple white cakes), tarts made with ricotta or jam, crunchy biscuits and cookies made with hazelnuts and sweetened fritters made with rice.

Lake 4

Chickpea and Chestnut Soup

This ancient soup recipe of chickpeas and chestnuts is one of the typical dishes of the area.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 oz pancetta
  • 10 ½ oz chestnuts, chopped 
  • 4 peeled tomatoes 
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic,
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt

Directions

Cover the chickpeas with water in a bowl and soak for about 24 hours; drain and pour into a pot with water to cover. Cook until the chickpeas are softened, about an hour; add the salt. Drain the chickpeas; set aside a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree half the chickpeas.

Chop together the garlic, rosemary and pancetta. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in the pot used to cook the chickpeas and cook the pancetta mixture for a few minutes.

Add the pureed chickpeas, the whole chickpeas, the cooking water and the chopped chestnuts. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaf.
Mix add the broth, stirring well; let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Lake 3

The Sbroscia of Lake Bolsena

Sbroscia is a stew of fresh fish from the lake. There are many species of fish that inhabit the lake: whitefish , eel , pike , tench , trout, perch and silversides are a few examples. Any combination of fish may be used in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 tench (minnow family)
  • 1 pike
  • 1 eel
  • 4 perch
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • Stale bread ( 3-4 slices per serving dish)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the garlic, mint and onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the potatoes and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add all the fish, 6 cups of water and salt to taste, cover the pan, and cook for 30-35 minutes.

Place 3 to 4 slices of bread in each serving bowl and pour in the stew. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Lake 6

Whitefish (Coregone)

The whitefish sauce is served with fettuccine or spaghetti.

Ingredients

  • 1 whitefish, filled
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3-4 peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Cooked pasta

Directions

Saute the onion and garlic in a large skillet. Add the whitefish fillets and saute until cooked through. Break up the fish into smaller pieces.

Add the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook until no longer raw. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper.

Mix in the cooked pasta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Lake 7

Risotto with Perch Fillets

This risotto uses the freshwater perch in the starring role.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 3 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour or bread crumbs for coating

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon butter until it melts. Add the chopped onion and cook until it is tender. When the onion becomes transparent, add the rice to the pot and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add the wine to the pot. Mix the rice until the liquid evaporates, then add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly to allow even absorption of the liquid. When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and cheese and allow to melt.

Meanwhile, to cook the fish – batter the fillets in the flour or bread crumbs and then cook the perch in batches in a hot skillet using some of the remaining butter. Turn the fillets over once and cook until each side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining fillets and butter.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets. Just a note to add an additional Italian twist to this risotto: heat some butter in a pan and add a handful of sage leaves. Let the butter melt and become infused with the herbs. When the risotto is ready to be served pou,r the butter sauce over the fish.

Lake 8

Sweet Rice Fritters (Frittelle di Riso)

Makes about 40

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) short grain rice (arborio)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon or orange (or a mixture of both)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian dessert wine: Vin Santo
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn’t burn or overflow – don’t take your eyes off it! You will need to stir it quite often to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and the rice is very soft, take the pan off the heat and add the citrus zest and sugar.

Set aside. Once completely cool, add the wine, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using. The mixture may look quite runny, like a pancake batter.

Drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a deep brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain before rolling in powdered sugar. These are best eaten the day they are made.



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