Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

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Mix and match the recipes below according to your taste. These meals can easily come together, if you have pizza dough in the freezer or pick it up from your supermarket. Keep vegetables in the freezer for a quick put together soup recipe. Supermarkets, today, carry diced onion, celery and peppers that make it easy to make soup in a short amount of time. Mushrooms are also available pre-sliced. Fresh refrigerated pasta is great for soup and cooks very quickly. It is easy to make substitutions, if you don’t have the exact ingredients listed in the recipes below.

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MUSHROOM SOUP

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Heat a large soup pan on high heat and add the oil, onions and garlic; cover and cook 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Combine in a large bowl, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper and thyme, Whisking continuously, add beef broth, sherry and milk to the spice mixture.

Slowly whisk broth mixture into the mushroom mixture in the soup pan. Simmer uncovered 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix flour and water in a small bowl to form a creamy paste. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth from the soup pot in 1/4-cup increments, stirring after each addition, to make a thin paste.

Add to the soup, slowly while whisking continuously. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.

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SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup homemade or store-bought pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and add oil and sausage. Brown 5–6 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage, or until no pink remains. Let stand 2–3 minutes to cool.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Top crust with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 18–25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until crust is golden, cheese is melted and toppings are thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

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TOMATO GNOCCHI FLORENTINE SOUP

Ingredients

4 large tomatoes

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (4 oz)
  • 2 ½ cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (14-oz) can vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (16-oz) package gnocchi pasta

Directions

Cut tomatoes in half; remove seeds and chop coarsely.

Chop spinach coarsely; set aside.

Combine crushed tomatoes, broth and butter in large saucepan; bring to a boil on medium-high. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes, dill weed, salt and pepper; return to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir 12-15 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Puree soup using a stick blender. Stir in gnocchi and spinach; cook 3 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Serve.

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CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets, (or frozen florets, defrosted)
  • 2 cups roasted chicken (10 oz)
  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Place oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Mix the ricotta with the basil, oregano and garlic salt and spread it evenly over the crust to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Evenly distribute the chicken and broccoli over the ricotta.

Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over pizza;

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve.

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POTATO EDAMAME SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-oz) bag frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (32-oz) box reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Thaw edamame in a colander under cool running water just until the beans separate.

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium-high. Add onions, potatoes and garlic; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Stir in Italian seasoning, salt and chicken broth, then cover; cook, stirring occasionally 10 minutes.

Stir in edamame, then cover; cook 10-15 more minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Mash lightly to thicken the soup a little. Serve.

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BURGER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8 large slices Swiss cheese, broken into large pieces
  • 12 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 packet dry beef bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour  Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and place 1 tablespoon oil in the pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes or until tender. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the saute pan and add the onions; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until soft and golden. Add meat to the pan; brown 4-5 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat until no pink remains. Add the bouillon, Worcestershire and 1/2 cup water; simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into a lightly greased pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Spread ricotta evenly over the dough and spread the meat/mushroom mixture over the ricotta. Place pieces of cheese evenly on top of the meat mixture. Bake 18-25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and serve.

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CORN CHEDDAR CHOWDER

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of each: diced onions, diced red/green peppers and diced celery
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasoning blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan on high and place bacon in the saucepan. Cook until crisp, stirring frequently.

Add onions, peppers and celery and cook until softened. Add seafood seasoning and black pepper.

Stir corn and hash brown potatoes into the bacon vegetable mixture.. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk flour, water, milk and broth in a bowl or large measuring cup until smooth.

Add flour mixture slowly to the chowder, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese, stir until melted and serve with additional cheese, if desired.

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SEAFOOD PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 6 ounces crab meat
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven 450°F. Spread pizza dough on a greased pizza pan.

Combine ricotta and pesto in a small bowl until blended and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Dice roasted red peppers. Cut crab meat into bite-size pieces.

Arrange shrimp, crab, peppers and mushrooms evenly over pizza. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.

Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Slice basil leaves into very thin strips. Sprinkle over pizza and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

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TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounces water (1 can)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup each of diced onions, carrots and celery
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan and add sausage and garlic. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until brown and no pink remains. Add diced vegetables, italian seasoning and cook until softened.

Stir in chicken broth, water, tomatoes and chili. Cover and bring to boil. Once soup boils, reduce heat to low. Simmer 7-10 minutes. Increase heat to high and add tortellini to boiling soup; cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

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PIZZA BAGUETTE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach (loosely packed)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced thinly
  • 1 Italian baguette
  • Olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons pesto sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 teaspoons feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add spinach and water to a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Cut bread in half lengthwise, then into fourths and brush lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet.

Spread each with 1 teaspoon pesto sauce.

Top each piece of bread with ¼ of the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, red pepper slices and olives.

Sprinkle each with seasoned salt and Italian seasoning.

Place in the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes.


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Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.

Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.

Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.

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Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.

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The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.

I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.

Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.

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Hurricane Cocktail

1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • Juice of a half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grenadine
  • Orange slice and cherry for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.

Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.

Shake well.

Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.

Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

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Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce

Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings

Ingredients

Shrimp

  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups grapefruit juice
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Garnish: citrus fruit slices

Louis Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Make the Louis Sauce:

Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Make the Shrimp

Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.

Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.

Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 8-12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups cornflake crumbs
  • 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Louis Sauce, recipe above

Directions

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.

Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.

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Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes

Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.

8 Servings

STEAKS

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
  • 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
  • 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish

POTATOES

  • 8 medium white baking potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces

Directions

For the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 475ºF.

Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.

Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.

Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.

Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.

For the steaks

Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.

Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).

Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.

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Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 navel oranges
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
  • 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin 
  • 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
  • Black or green olives, slivered

Directions

Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.

Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.

Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.

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Country Corn Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.

Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm

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King Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles

Directions

Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)

Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, US store shelves are stacked with candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed animals, but not every country turns to greeting cards and heart-shaped candies to their declare love. Some exchange wooden spoons and pressed flowers, while others hold a special holiday for the loveless to mourn their single lives over black noodles.

Italian Love Locks

Italian Love Locks

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Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love and Italians traditionally are considered to be lovers. Known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati,” Valentine’s Day is celebrated only between lovers and sweethearts. Young sweethearts in Italy profess their love for each other with a more recent tradition, attaching padlocks or “lucchetti” to bridges and railings and throwing away the key. The tradition of locking padlocks to bridges, railings and lamp posts began in Italy a little more than four years ago after the release of the best-selling book “Ho voglio di te” (I want you) by the Italian author, Federico Moccia. This was followed by the popular movie with the same name, starring Riccardo Scamarcio and Laura Chiatti. In the story, young lovers tie a chain and a padlock around a lamppost on the north side of Rome’s Ponte Milvio and inscribe their names on it, lock it and throw the key into the Tiber River below. The action suggests that the couple will be together forever.

Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark (celebrated since the early 1990s according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark), the country has embraced February 14th with a Danish twist. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.

With a reputation as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, it’s little wonder France has long celebrated Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers. It’s been said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, Valentine’s Day cards remain a popular tradition in France.

Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea and variations of the holiday are celebrated monthly from February through April. The gift-giving starts on February 14th, when it’s up to women to woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th, a holiday known as White Day, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but also with a special gift.

With Carnival held sometime in February or March each year, Brazilians skip the February 14th celebration and instead celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” on June 12th. In addition to exchanges of chocolates, flowers and cards, music festivals and performances are held throughout the country. Gift giving isn’t limited to couples, either. In Brazil, they celebrate this day of love by exchanging gifts and sharing dinner with friends and relatives, too.

Like many parts of the world, South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It’s also customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th. Women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.

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Dinner For Two

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Risotto with Fresh Pear Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (12 oz) Carnaroli rice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese

Pear Sauce

  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig marjoram, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 small to medium pears

Directions

To Make The Sauce:

Peel the pears and cut them into small pieces. 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 minute. 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 hand blender. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm until serving.

To Make The Risotto:

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

Cook slowly so that the onion 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 the hot 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 Gorgonzola and butter, cut into pieces. Stir and cover. Let rest for two minutes.

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

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

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White Sea Bass with Orange-Fennel Relish

U.S. white sea bass is a sustainable choice–not to be confused with Chilean sea bass. Other good fish choices are Gulf of Mexico caught snapper or halibut or mahimahi.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Half of a (12-ounce) fennel bulb
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange sections
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 ounce halved Castelvetrano (green) olives (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 (6-ounce) white sea bass fillets
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Directions

Combine the first 4 ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Remove fronds from the fennel bulb and chop them to measure 2 tablespoons. Remove and discard fennel stalks. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise and save one half for another use. Discard the core. Thinly slice the fennel bulb half. Add sliced fennel, orange sections, onion and olives to the orange juice mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in fennel fronds.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add butter to the pan; swirl until butter melts. Add fish and cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with relish.

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Cheddar Biscuits

Make the entire dozen and freeze the extras.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk; (up to 2/3 cup)

Garlic Butter

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Whisk together to combine thoroughly. Add chunks of butter. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until it is coarse and pea-sized (doesn’t need to be fine).

Add oil, grated cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup milk. Stir together. Keep adding milk a bit at a time, just until the dough is moistened and no longer dry and powdery. (Shouldn’t be sticky, just moist enough to hold together).

Drop approximately 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly golden.

While biscuits are baking, melt 3 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and the parsley.

When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the garlic butter. Serve warm.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 pint Strawberries; hulled, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions

In the top of a double boiler (not directly over heat), sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup buttermilk; let stand to soften, about 5 minutes. Place water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring to a simmer.

In a separate small pan bring cream and 3 tablespoons sugar to a boil.

Add to the gelatin mixture in the top part of the double boiler and place the pan over the simmering water; whisk until gelatin dissolves, 5 minutes. Stir in remaining buttermilk thoroughly with a whisk.

Divide mixture into two dessert bowls. Cover; refrigerate until set, 4 hours.

Meanwhile, mix strawberries with Grand Marnier and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Let stand for about 1 hour. Top panna cotta with strawberries and juice collected in the bowl..

valentine


Tuscany4

Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture. Tuscany is unrivaled as the center of art. One can find examples of every age and style: from the Etruscan civilization to Roman monuments and ruins; from the Romanesque architecture and impressive Gothic cathedrals to the exceptional artistic explosion of the Renaissance. Florence has preserved its masterpieces and great works of architecture over the centuries.

Tuscany borders the regions of Liguria to the northwest, Emilia-Romagna to the north and east, Umbria to the east and Lazio to the southeast. Tuscany has a western coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, containing the Tuscan Archipelago, of which the largest island is Elba. The climate is fairly mild in the coastal areas, but much harsher and rainier in the interior, with considerable fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer.

Tuscany

Florence is the capital of Tuscany. Other important cities are Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Pistoia, Prato, Lucca, Livorno, Grosseto and Massa Carrara.

The most important collection of paintings in the world is found in the Uffizi Gallery. Great paintings can be seen in the Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, such as Tiziano’s and Raffaello’s masterpieces. Florence also has the Museum of the Costume, the Museum of the Carriages and the beautiful Italian gardens, Giardino di Boboli. In the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the famous “Pietà” by Michelangelo can be admired.

The Via de' Tornabuoni in Florence, the city's top fashion and shopping street,

The Via de’ Tornabuoni in Florence, the city’s top fashion and shopping street.

The fashion and textile industry are the pillars of the Florentine economy. In the 15th century, Florentines were working with luxury textiles such as wool and silk. Today, the greatest designers in Europe utilize the textile industry in Tuscany, and especially Florence.

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Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made up of Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced and the region is known for its many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate also provides ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

It is Carnival time in Tuscany

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It was February 1873 when a group sitting around a table at the Caffè del Casino in Viareggio had the great idea to have an annual parade of floats to celebrate carnival time. They wanted a parade out in the piazzas, in the streets and, most of all, among the people. The parade floats take center stage each year and usually represent satirical versions of politicians, figures from popular culture or show business. The floats are always based on the hot topics of the day. The floats parade through the crowds along Viareggio’s seafront every Sunday for 4 weeks until Mardi Gras. For 4 weeks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, the 4 districts of Viareggio hold large open air street parties with music and masked balls until the early hours. Open air restaurants offer local specialities, mainly fresh seafood dishes, and stages are put up on street corners where free live concerts are performed. Bands and DJs give it their all, dressed in costumes and wearing carnival masks.

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Cenci’ are traditional sweets that are often prepared throughout Tuscany during Carnival time. These treats are made with fried dough and covered with powdered sugar. In Italian, their name means ‘rags’ because that’s exactly what these haphazard squares look like! They’re golden, crispy, light and easy to prepare.

Take A Tour Of Tuscany

Traditional Tuscan Regional Cooking 

Soups, sauces and stews are the cornerstones of Tuscan cooking, many beginning with and relying upon the mastery of a soffritto on which to build more complex flavors. A soffritto can be considered the Italian verson of mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that creates a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto as needed to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans, kidney-shaped and pink-speckled, provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in Tuscan baking, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking and pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

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Tuscan Bread

This is a three-day process.

Makes 2 Loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups warm water (110 F)
  • 9 cups unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Semolina or cornmeal to flour the work board

Directions

To make the biga:

Combine the yeast and ½ cup of water in a bowl; stir and set aside. Measure 2 cups of the unbleached flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour with your hands and pour in the yeast mixture. Move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the yeast mixture and combine. Gradually pour in 1 cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour and yeast mixture together to form a thick paste. Sprinkle another cup of the unbleached flour over the top and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a cool place to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of warm water and another cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl and mix, kneading the dough slightly in the bowl with your hands. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and set aside again to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

On the third day, stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Work in the remaining flour, leaving a little of it aside to spread on the board or work surface. Turn the dough onto the floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is silky and springy and has lost its stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place (75 F) to rise for 2 to 3 hours.

It is best to bake the dough on a baking stone. To do this, preheat the oven stone at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes prior to baking the bread.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, knead it briefly and divide in half. Form each into an oval or round loaf. Set the loaves on 2 oven peels lined with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and allow them to rise for 45 minutes while the oven is heating.

Transfer the loaves from the peel to the stone; if you only have one peel, form one at a time and set one on a piece of parchment paper.

Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking another 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.

To bake the loaves without a stone, form the loaves as above and place each one on a lightly oiled and cornmeal lined baking sheet. Cover as above and let rise. Bake as above. Cool the bread on a rack before slicing.

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Ribollita

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans, uncooked
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • 10 zucchini, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups swiss chard, shredded
  • 1 leek
  • 1 savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch kale, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Loaf of stale Tuscan bread

Directions

Soak the beans overnight and then cook over low heat. It will take approximately 1 hour for them to cook.

In a soup pot, gently saute the onion, carrot and celery in a little olive oil. Add the other vegetables, with the exception of the cabbage, kale and beans which are added at a later point. When the vegetables have sweated out their juice, cover the ingredients with hot water and then add all the cabbage and kale. Cover and simmer for an hour over medium heat.

Add the cooked beans, salt and pepper. Let simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently because the beans tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste.

Slice the stale bread and, in an earthenware casserole, alternate layers of bread with the soup until the bread is soaked. Cover and refrigerate the soup until the next day.

To serve, reheat it or “re-boil” it, as the name in Italian suggests.

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Lemon and Black Pepper Grilled Chicken Legs

Serves: 4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken legs with thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

Arrange the chicken in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the grill and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. If using a gas grill reduce the heat to low and cook 20 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, move the chicken to the edges of the grill, cover and cook over indirect heat. Check for doneness after 20 minutes.

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Ricciarelli – Tuscan Almond Cookies

These cookies just happen to be gluten-free.

Makes about eighteen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind the almonds in a food processor until reduced to a semi-fine powder. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites on high-speed, adding the sugar a little at a time. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla.  Continue beating the whites until very thick and glossy, at least 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the ground almonds and orange zest.

Use 2 tablespoons to scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.  The cookies should be oval-shaped, about 2-1/2 inches long x 1 inch wide.  Only put about 9 cookies on each baking sheet as they will spread a little. Dust the tops of the cookies with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch, but pale in color, not brown.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.  When completely cool, re-dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.


quickbreadscover

Tips To Make Your Baked Goods Better

Use Room-Temperature Ingredients

Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with warm ingredients. The exception – biscuits and pie dough need chilled butter to make a tender dough.

Invest in Quality Bakeware

Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies or pastries to bake unevenly.

Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously

When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pans, it’s for a reason: Your batter has the potential to stick to the pan and the cake will be difficult to get out of the pan in one piece.

Use Fresh Ingredients

The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and become stale.

Measure Accurately or Weigh Ingredients

Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible and, that means, making sure your measurements are exact.

Use Salt

If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookies.

Rotate Halfway Through Baking

Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked pastries—or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked.Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress—it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.

Follow Directions

Pay attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined” and “fold in gently.” Otherwise, your end result will be dense and heavy.

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Chive Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the whole wheat flour to make sure there are no clumps.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.

Add cold butter and pulse until a fine crumb is formed, about 10 pulses.

Through the feed tube of the processor, drizzle in the milk and process until a ball of dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; knead in the chives.

Press dough into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal parts and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.

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Squash Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup mashed roasted butternut squash or 1 cup frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sixteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add squash, ginger, egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the squash mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched.

Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.

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Walnut-Yogurt Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until very lightly brown. Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them; then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

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Spinach Corn Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or 3/4 cups oat flour)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a blender, blend oats to the consistency of flour.

In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir. Stir in spinach and sage.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with the batter. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.

Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Garlic Knots

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
  • 1 pound pizza dough from your supermarket or homemade and thawed if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips.

Tie each strip into a knot and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

While the rolls are baking, heat garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic, about 5 minutes.

Pour garlic and oil over the bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Serve.


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Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Seafood is a major staple of Liguria, as the sea has been part of the region’s culture since its beginning. Another important aspect of the culture is the beach. Tourists have been flocking to the Italian Riviera for decades to experience its calm, deep blue water.

Liguria is the coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. This narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Mountains and steep cliffs that rise loftily out of the Ligurian Sea in the most northerly part of the Western Mediterranean.

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region’s economic growth was remarkable: steel mills and shipyards flourished along the coast from Imperia to La Spezia, while the port of Genoa became the main commercial hub of industrializing Northern Italy. During the tragic period of World War II, Liguria experienced heavy bombings, hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led. When Allied troops eventually entered Genoa, they were welcomed by Italian partisans who, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command.

Steel, once a major industry during the booming 1950s and 1960s, phased out after the late 1980s, as Italy moved away from heavy industry to pursue more technologically advanced and less polluting productions. Ligurian businesses turned towards a widely diversified range of high-quality and high-tech products (food, electrical engineering, electronics, petrochemicals, aerospace etc.). Despite this new direction, the region still maintains a flourishing shipbuilding industry (yacht construction and maintenance, cruise liners and military shipyards).

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A good motorways network (376 km, 234 mi) makes communications with the border regions relatively easy. The main motorway is located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice (in France), Savona, Genoa and La Spezia.

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San Remo

The capital, Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today, one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions and churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city. Numerous historical treasures and be found throughout Liguria. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place. Other important cities in Liguria are: Imperia, Savona and La Spezia.

Genoa Port

Genoa Port

Visit Liguria in the video below:

The forests are covered with pine trees, providing the fresh pine nuts (pignoli) for Ligurian dishes. Mushrooms and chestnuts abound in the hills, as do rabbits and other wild game, making the region ideal for producing hearty and rustic country dishes. The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives, wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, onions and artichokes. Because of its wide coastline, fish and shellfish are the predominant proteins used in Ligurian cooking, though the region shares its love of pork and pork products with both its Italian and French neighbors.

Pasta is important to the region’s cuisine. A small lasagna noodle originated here, made from chestnut flour, is still popular today. The innovative Ligurians were skilled in making do with locally grown ingredients, like chestnuts and chickpeas, to produce flours to use in pasta, polenta and bread. Today, wheat is fairly easy to import to the region, so it is now the primary ingredient in pastas and breads.

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Pesto sauce is popular as a topping for pastas and is widely consumed, since basil and pine nuts are so readily available. Fidelini, a local favorite pasta, cut long and thin, is the perfect base for light sauces. Other favorites include, trenette a form of flat, thin pasta similar to linguine and hearty gnocchi, both of which can be found on almost every menu.

High on the list of Ligurian specialties is the bread known as focaccia. This flatbread is not meant to be stored for any length of time, but rather is best eaten straight from the oven. Though usually baked plain, the region’s abundance of herbs are often combined and sprinkled on top. Cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables are other regional additions to focaccia. Ligurian focaccias have a dense texture, perfect for sopping up rich sauces or simply a great tasting olive oil.

Regional Favorites To Make At Home

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Ligurian-Style Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
  • 1 cup  warm water
  • One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups  flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 tablespoons  rosemary or thyme leaves

Directions

Oil a large bowl and set it aside. Pour the water into a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.

Mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, then stir the yeast mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Coat your hands with flour, then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 2-3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the oiled bowl and roll it in the bowl to coat it lightly with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm spot until the dough roughly doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle to fit the baking pan. Put it in the oiled pan and pat the top down gently so it is even. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, make regular rows of slight indentations across the entire surface, spacing the indentations about 2 inches apart. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise for another hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the top of the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If desired, sprinkle 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves over the top of the focaccia after it has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.)

Serve warm or at room temperature and cut into wedges or squares.

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Cozze alla Maggiorana ed Aglio alla Ligure (Steamed Mussels with Marjoram and Garlic Ligurian-Style)

Serves 4

Mussels are plentiful along the rugged Ligurian coastline. Marjoram, a favorite herb in Liguria, is usually added to seafood dishes. Toss the mussels with 1 pound of cooked linguine for a first course.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

Directions

Soak the mussels in cool water to cover with 1 tablespoon of the salt for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly a few times. This step is essential for ridding the mussels of any dirt or sediment.

Place the garlic, marjoram, parsley and olive oil in a 4-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, mussels and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and serve hot, with the cooking juices.

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Ligurian Style Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Pesto, recipe follows
  • Besciamella, recipe follows
  • Butter, for baking dish, plus 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces for the topping
  • 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

BESCIAMELLA

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

PESTO

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about 4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of pignoli
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

BESCIAMELLA

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, while bringing the mixture to a boil; simmer for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

PESTO

Rinse the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.

Grate the cheeses and peel the garlic.

Combine the basil, the garlic, the pignoli and the olive oil in a blender and process until a paste forms. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

MAKING THE LASAGNA

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 13″ × 9″ x 4″ pan layer the ingredients as follows:

– a thin layer of besciamella

– cover with a layer of pasta

– a thin layer of besciamella

– 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface

– sprinkle the layer with 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan

– cover with a layer of pasta

– repeat the layering until you use all the pasta

– top with a very thin layer of besciamella and remaining pesto, parmesan cheese and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter

Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve with extra parmesan cheese.

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Italian Plum Cake

10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unblanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and sliced thickly

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or springform pan.

Put the almonds and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse once more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk for a minute or two until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the plum slices on top on a circular pattern. Sprinkle the 1/ 3 cup sugar over the plums.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


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The Super Bowl is a few days away. And whether or not you care who wins, you may want to invite a few friends over to watch the game. So, what should you serve?

The average football fan eats about a day’s worth of calories during the game. Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.

If you haven’t started planning what you’re going to serve, here are some ideas. The foods below are not going to ruin anyone’s New Year’s Resolutions.

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Spicy Tortilla Strips

Ingredients

  • 6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut tortillas in half and cut each half into 5 strips to form 60 strips. Divide the tortilla strips evenly among 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray.

Brush strips evenly with oil. Combine cumin and red pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle over strips. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned, rotating baking sheets after 5 minutes.

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Fresh Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Stir the tomatoes, green bell pepper, onion, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. Serve with the tortilla strips.

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Barbecue Spice Roasted Chickpeas

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-15 ounce cans no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue spice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine garbanzo beans, oil, barbecue spice, paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt and onion powder.

Spread in an even layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast about 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring once halfway through roasting. Cool completely.

To Make Ahead: Place cooled chickpeas in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Italian Parmesan Pretzels

Makes 10 pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed or homemade, recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Mustard, for serving

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 15-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel, hold one end of the rope in each hand and form a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other and then twist. Then lift the ends across to the bottom of the U-shape; press to seal.

Arrange shaped pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper; let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl stir together Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush pretzels evenly with half of the melted butter then sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until browned. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Drizzle pretzels with the remaining melted butter. Serve warm or cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack. Serve with mustard.

Whole Wheat Bread Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon water, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups + 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • 2 teaspoons yeast, active dry, instant

Directions

Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients—by hand, mixer or bread machine—to make a soft (though not very sticky) dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

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Turkey and Roast Beef Muffuletta

Makes: 10  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 jar (4.75 oz) pimiento-stuffed olives, drained and chopped
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup  olive oil
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons  red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1 large round crusty Italian bread (about 11/4 lbs)
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli roast beef
  • 1/4 pound  sliced American cheese
  • 1 jar (12 oz) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 pound  sliced deli turkey
  • 1/4 pound sliced Provolone cheese

Directions

In a small bowl, combine olives, tomato, olive oil, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and black pepper.

Cut the loaf of bread in half crosswise. Spread bottom cut side with half of olive mixture. Layer on roast beef, American cheese, red peppers, turkey and Provolone cheese.

Spread remaining olive mixture over cheese and top with the other half of bread.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and weigh down with a heavy pot filled with canned goods for at least an hour. Slice into 10 wedges to serve.

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Slow-Cooker Brisket Sandwiches

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Brisket

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 1/4 pounds brisket
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 16-ounce bottle beer or 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth

Sandwich

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 8 -10 whole-wheat buns
  • Bread & Butter Pickles

Directions

To prepare the brisket:

Combine paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper in a small bowl. Rub all over brisket. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the brisket and brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.

Add beer (or broth) to the pan along with any remaining spice blend from your cutting board; increase heat to high. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour over the brisket. Cover and cook on High for 6 hours or Low for 9 hours.

To prepare the sauce:

Mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a paste in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon on a cutting board. Combine the garlic mixture with mayonnaise in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When the brisket is done, transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pull the brisket apart into shreds with 2 forks and then coarsely chop the shredded meat. Combine the chopped brisket with the liquid in the slow cooker.

To serve:

Spread each bun with 1 tablespoon garlic sauce and top with about 3/4 cup brisket. Serve with pickles.

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Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 cups air popped  popcorn

Directions

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat and stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and salt over medium heat until just boiling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Add popcorn and toss until coated.

Place coated popcorn in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large piece of foil to cool. Place in a serving bowl.

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Frozen Neapolitans

Makes 48 bars

Ingredients

  • 4 cups chocolate-flavored crisp rice cereal
  • 1 ¼ cups chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 pint chocolate ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1 pint strawberry ice cream (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup

Directions

Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over short ends of the baking pan. Butter foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl combine cereal and 3/4 cup of the almonds; set aside.

In a large saucepan heat butter over low heat until melted. Stir in marshmallows until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add cereal mixture to marshmallow mixture; stir gently to coat. Using a buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture firmly into prepared pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Let ice creams stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate ice cream evenly over cereal layer in pan. Freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread vanilla ice cream over chocolate ice cream layer; freeze about 30 minutes or until firm.

Spread strawberry ice cream over vanilla ice cream layer. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup almonds and chocolate pieces or chocolate syrup.

Cover and freeze about 4 hours or until firm.

Using the edges of the foil, lift frozen mixture out of pan. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

Makes 30

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup  packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/2 cup  chunky-style applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cup  old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1 cup  golden raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low-speed until combined. Add egg and applesauce, mix until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in raisins.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden and just set, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack set over parchment paper; let cool completely.



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