Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

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Fruits and vegetables can be added to bread to enhance the flavor and create a moister texture. You will find breads and desserts baked with onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach and even avocados. Vegetables can be added raw, canned, dried or freshly cooked to produce delicious baked goods. Vegetable breads are richer than basic breads because the vegetables contribute flavor and texture to the loaves. You can also use potatoes, corn, rutabagas, parsnips and other starchy vegetables to sweeten and bring a soft texture to the bread.

Some vegetables, like zucchini, are 80% to 90% water so you have to remove some of that water before adding it to the dough.  You can do that by mixing the shredded vegetable with a little salt, letting it drain in a colander and squeezing it dry in a paper towel.

Any time that you add vegetables to your bread, be prepared to adjust the amount of flour that you use. Vegetables will add moisture to your bread and if they are grated or pureed (along with the type of vegetables) will determine the moisture added. The kneading process will also extract some water from the vegetables. It’s easy to add a little more flour if the dough feels too watery.  Because it is easier to add more flour than water, start your dough a bit on the wet side and add flour as needed.

Make sure the bread is completely baked.  It should register 195 to 200 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If it’s not thoroughly baked, the water in the vegetables will make the bread soggy.

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Corn and Bacon Spoon Bread

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup yellow or white cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen/defrosted
  • 4 large eggs, separated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Heat a 9″ square or round cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it’s starting to crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard the drippings, but don’t clean the pan.

You can also make the spoon bread in a 9″ square or round cake pan. Cook the bacon in a regular skillet and grease the 9″ pan with some of the bacon drippings.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat it to simmering. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring to prevent lumps from forming.

Add the sugar, salt, pepper, cooked bacon and corn. Stir over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the egg yolks one at a time until incorporated. Allow to cool slightly, 10 to 15 minutes.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a small amount of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture to lighten it a little, then fold all of the cornmeal mixture into the egg whites. Transfer the batter to the bacon-seasoned pan.

Bake the spoon bread for 50 to 60 minutes, until it’s set in the middle and golden brown around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and serve it hot, right out of the pan.

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Sweet Potato Biscuits

One large sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cooked, will yield about 1 cup mashed. I cut my biscuits into squares instead of rounds because it saves time and there is no waste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups flour (you can also substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour in place of 1 cup of all-purpose flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Mash or puree cooked sweet potatoes with milk and honey until smooth. Set aside; cool to room temperature.

Mix dry ingredients together  in a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Make a well with dry ingredients and add the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a rectangle about to 1-inch thick. With a sharp knife cut biscuit dough into 3-inch squares.

Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly browned on top. Serve warm with butter and jam.

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Orange Carrot Quick Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup, firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened orange juice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and gradually add the sugar, beating well. Beat in milk, orange juice, egg, vanilla and orange zest. Stir in carrots and walnuts. Add reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon batter into a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Since gluten-free batter is thinner than standard batter, the chips and nuts tend to sink to the bottom of the loaf; that’s why it’s important to let the batter rest and thicken for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir to redistribute the add-ins before pouring it into the pan and baking. Another technique you can try is leaving the chips and nuts out of the batter initially, then stirring them into the top third of the batter once it’s been poured into the pan.

Yield: 9″ x 5″ loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup molasses or honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Place shredded zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and let it drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini dry.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, molasses or honey, oil, sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Add the flour, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon, mixing until well combined.

Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes, then stir to redistribute the chips and nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the bread for 65 to 70 minutes or until the loaf tests done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean).

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack.

Cool completely before slicing; store well-wrapped, at room temperature.

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Pizza-Style Dinner Rolls

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup seeded and chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup  shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough, at room temperature, See recipe homemade below.
  • Milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl combine tomato, mozzarella cheese, garlic and basil; set aside.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each dough portion into a 3-inch round.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the tomato mixture into the center of each dough round; shape the dough around the tomato mixture into a ball, pinching the dough together to seal.

Place rolls, seam sides down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (30 to 45 minutes).

Lightly the brush tops of the rolls with milk and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Easy Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 1 pound of pizza dough

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, (105-115°F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

Directions

Stir water, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl; let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in whole-wheat flour, bread flour and cornmeal until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, mix the dough in a food processor. Process until it forms a ball, then process for 1 minute to knead.)

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.


 

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Use in-season spring ingredients to create some healthier dinners this week. After a few weeks of holiday eating and chocolate candy, you may want to eat a bit lighter.

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells or shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

For the marinade:

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and salt. Pour marinade over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to coat shrimp. Marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the risotto (15 to 25 minutes).

For the risotto:

In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in peas. Let stand about 1 minute or until heated through. (Rice should be tender but slightly firm and creamy.) Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Cook shrimp in a skillet or on the grill as described below. Serve shrimp with risotto and lemon wedges.

SKILLET: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade to the skillet. Cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring frequently.

GRILL: Drain shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between shrimp. Brush shrimp with the reserved marinade.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place kabobs on the grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover and grill for 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling.

Dinner Menu 2

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Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pound boneless pork top loin roast
  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or use thawed  frozen artichoke hearts, if you cannot find fresh
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole baby carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine rosemary, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Trim fat from meat. Place meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; spread the remaining oil mixture over the meat. Arrange potatoes around the meat. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash artichokes if using fresh; trim stems and remove loose outer leaves. Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into quarters. Place quartered artichokes in a medium bowl; toss with lemon juice.

In a covered large saucepan cook artichokes and carrots in boiling, lightly salted water for 10 minutes; drain.

Add artichokes and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to combine with potatoes. Roast for 15 to 35 minutes more or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F and vegetables are tender, stirring vegetables occasionally.

Remove from the oven. Cover meat and vegetables with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before slicing meat.

Dinner Menu 3

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Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillweed
  • Paprika and coarse salt

Directions

In a 3 to 4 quart pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, rice, stock and salt. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 35 minutes until rice and carrots are very tender. Cool slightly.

Using a handheld immersion blender, process the mixture in the pan until completely smooth. Whisk in milk and creme fraiche.

Heat and stir over low heat. For a thinner texture, stir in additional milk. To serve, sprinkle with green onion, dillweed, paprika and coarse salt, if desired.

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White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-5 ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced and toasted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beans, tuna, arugula, red onion and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Dinner Menu 4

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Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in meaty chicken pieces (breasts and thighs), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep skillet with a cover. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Scatter the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley and oregano over chicken pieces in the skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the wine and the chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and place on a serving platter.Place the the chicken on top of the spaghetti and pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Dinner Menu 5

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Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Boiling water
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large slices country-style white or whole grain bread
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp cooked

Directions

Place asparagus spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour enough boiling water over the asparagus to cover. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright colored and crisp-tender. Drain. Finely chop three of the asparagus spears; set aside.

In a small bowl use a fork to mash the avocado; stir in lime juice. Stir in the chopped asparagus; set aside.

For the omelet:

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, the water, salt and pepper until combined but not frothy.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat until the skillet is hot. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add half of the egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Immediately begin stirring eggs gently but continuously with a wooden or plastic spatula until the mixture begins to come together. Stop stirring. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the egg is set.

Remove from heat. Using a spatula, lift and fold an edge of omelet to opposite edge. Transfer to a warm plate. Cover with foil and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining egg mixture to make a second omelet.

Toast bread. Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 2 of the bread slices. Top with each with half the bacon, half the asparagus spears, omelets and the remaining 2 slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half to make 4 servings.

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Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh beets with tops
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces sliced ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the tops from beets; set tops aside. Place beets and rosemary on a piece of heavy foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold in remaining edges to completely enclose. Roast beets about 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully open the packet to release the steam. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skins from the beets and cut into wedges. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry the beet greens. Thinly slice just the beet greens and discard the stalks.

In a large bowl gently toss warm beets, shredded beet greens and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the greens are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

On a large platter or four salad plates arrange the beet mixture. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts. Top with cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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Molise is a region of Southern Italy. Until 1963, it formed part of the region of Abruzzi. The split, which did not become effective until 1970, makes Molise the newest region in Italy. The region covers 4,438 square kilometres/1,714 sq mi making it the second smallest region in Italy with a population of about 300,000. The region is split into two provinces, named after their respective capitals, Isernia and Campobasso. Campobasso also serves as the regional capital.

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Molise is also one of Italy’s less developed and poorest areas. In Molise, one can see two different centuries existing side by side when, on one side of the street grandmothers all in black are purchasing produce in the market and on the other side of the street there are young girls dressed in Benetton carrying mobile phones. Outside the cities are underdeveloped villages that seem to have been forgotten in time, while in the big cities progress is pushing ahead. However, one does not travel to Molise to explore the big cities but to enjoy the region’s natural beauty, the unspoiled beaches and the archaeological excavations.

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More than 40% of Molise is covered by mountains. In the Matese area, located on the border of Campania, you will find magnificent mountain ranges. The region is also home to eagles, bears and wolves in the deep forests and it is one of the best locations to harvest mushrooms.

Though there is a large Fiat plant in Termoli, the industrial sector is dominated by the construction industry. With small and medium-sized farms spread widely throughout the region, food processing is another important industry. Pasta, meat, milk products, oil and wine are the traditional regional products. In the service sector the most important industries are distribution, hotels, catering, transport, communications, banking and insurance.

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After the earthquake of 2002, some of the communities in Molise adopted a policy which contributed state money to individuals willing to make their homes more resistant to seismic activity. Larino, near Termoli, was a particular beneficiary of this policy and the town, already one of the most beautiful in the province, was transformed. The policy included returning the houses to their historical colors and, based on careful research, the structures were painted in a range of soft pastel tones. As a result, Larino has become an important center for tourism and scores of expatriates from all over the world are returning to live in the revived center. Larino is also famous for the Festa di San Pardo (Larino’s patron saint) and you will witness more than one hundred cattle drawn carts completely covered in flowers made by local families during the three days of festivities.

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International tourism is becoming more prevalent as a result of the international flights from other European countries, Great Britain and North America which enter Pescara, not far to the north in Abruzzo. The tourists are attracted by large expanses of natural beaches, a relative lack of congestion and a gentle pace of life.

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The cuisine of Molise is similar to the cuisine of Abruzzo, though there are a few differences in the dishes and ingredients. The flavors of Molise are dominated by the many herbs that grow there. Some of Molise’s typical foods include spicy salami, locally produced cheeses, lamb or goat, pasta dishes with hearty sauces and regional vegetables. In addition to bruschetta, a typical antipasto will consist of several meat dishes, such as sausage, ham and smoked prosciutto.

Main dishes of the region include:

  • Calcioni di ricotta, a specialty of Campobasso, made of fried pasta stuffed with ricotta, provolone, prosciutto and parsley and usually served with fried artichokes, cauliflower, brains, sweetbreads, potato croquette and scamorza cheese
  • Cavatiegl e Patane, gnocchi served in a meat sauce of rabbit and pork
  • Pasta e fagioli, pasta-and-white-bean soup cooked with pig’s feet and pork rinds
  • Polenta d’iragn, a polenta-like dish made of wheat and potatoes, sauced with tomatoes and pecorino
  • Risotto alla marinara, a risotto with seafood
  • Spaghetti with diavolillo, a chili pepper sauce
  • Zuppa di cardi, a soup of cardoons, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil
  • Zuppa di ortiche, a soup of nettle stems, tomatoes, onions, pancetta and olive oil

Typical vegetable dishes may include:

  • Carciofi ripieni, artichokes stuffed with anchovies and capers
  • Peeled sweet peppers stuffed with bread crumbs, anchovies, parsley, basil and peperoncino, sautéed in a frying pan and cooked with chopped tomatoes
  • Cipollacci con pecorino, fried onions and pecorino cheese
  • Frittata con basilico e cipolle, omelette with basil and onions

Fish dishes include red mullet soup and spaghetti with cuttlefish. Trout from the Biferno river is notable for its flavor and is cooked with a simple sauce of aromatic herbs and olive oil. Zuppa di pesce, a fish stew,is  a specialty of Termoli.

The cheeses produced in Molise are not very different from those produced in Abruzzo. The more common ones are Burrino and Manteca – soft, buttery cow’s-milk cheeses, Pecorino – sheep’s-milk cheese, served young and soft or aged and hard, Scamorza – a bland cow’s-milk cheese, often served grilled and Caciocavallo – a sheep’s-milk cheese.

Sweets and desserts have an ancient tradition here and are linked to the history of the territory and to religious and family festivities. Most common are:

  • Calciumi (also called Caucioni or cauciuni), sweet ravioli filled with chestnuts, almonds, chocolate, vanilla, cooked wine musts and cinnamon and then fried
  • Ciambelline, ring-shaped cakes made with olive oil and red wine
  • Ferratelle all’anice, anise cakes made in metal molds and stamped with special patterns
  • Ricotta pizza, a cake pan filled with a blend of ricotta cheese, sugar, flour, butter, maraschino liqueur and chocolate chips

Traditional Molise Recipes

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Polpi in Purgatorio

Spicy Octopus, Molise Style

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 sprigs Italian parsley, minced
  • 2 teaspoons peperoncini, or more to taste
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds young octopus
  • Salt

Directions

Clean the octopus in salted water and rinse well.

Heat half the oil in a medium skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, parsley and peperoncini and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the octopus to the onion mixture with the remaining oil. Season lightly with salt.

Cover the pan with a lid and cook over very low heat for 2 hours, stirring the octopus from time to time with a wooden spoon. Serve as an appetizer.

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Baked Fettuccine with Tomato and Mozzarella

Fettucine con salsa d’aromi

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1-15 oz can Italian tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 peperoncino or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, more or less to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or other pecorino)
  • 1/4 lb scamorza (you can substitute mozzarella)
  • 1 lb fettuccine

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté garlic until golden.

Add basil, parsley, mint and peperoncino. Sauté a minute or two more.

Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat (a fast bubble) stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile bring pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Do not overcook.

Preheat oven (while pasta cooks) to 425 degrees F.

Drain the pasta very well and mix with the sauce in the pan.

Transfer all to a greased ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle on the cheese and lay the slices of scamorza or mozzarella on top.

Bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts and bubbles. Serve hot.

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Molise Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 6 medium green bell peppers
  • 5 cups day old bread, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small can anchovies, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the filling
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the peppers. Cut a hole around the stem. Remove the stem.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and ribs.

In a bowl, combine the bread, parsley, garlic and anchovies.  Mix together. Sprinkle with olive oil and toss to coat; do not saturate the bread with oil. Fill the peppers evenly with the stuffing.

Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a baking pan.  Lay the peppers on their sides in the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally to cook evenly.

Sprinkle each pepper fresh Parmigiano Reggiano at the end of the cooking time and allow it to melt over the pepper.

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Isernian Calzones

Calzoni d’Isernia are named after the town of Isernia in Molise

Makes 12 Calzones

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water

Filling

  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Oil for frying

Marinara sauce for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the whole eggs and mix into the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Don’t add too much water or the dough will become sticky. Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.

For the filling:

Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned. Cool.

Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.

Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough.  Fold the dough over to form a triangle.  Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough.  Be careful not to over-stuff the dough or the filling will come out during frying.

Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil.  Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).

Remove the calzones with a slotted spoon or spider when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides.  Let them drain on a paper towel.

Serve warm with marinara sauce, if desired.

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Calciuni del Molise

Chestnut Fritters

Adapted from Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published 1969, Dutton (New York) (Note: this was the first cookbook I owned.)

Makes 15 fritters

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 1/4 pound fresh chestnuts

Filling

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

Cinnamon for garnish

Directions

Put the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, water, wine and olive oil. Mix the components slowly until a dough has formed. Once the dough is formed, put it on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.  Cover the dough and set aside. (You can also do this in an electric mixer.)

Using a paring knife make an X on one side of each chestnut. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chestnuts and let boil for about 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and remove the shell and  the skin from the chestnuts.

In a food processor, chop the toasted almonds until finely ground.  Add the chestnuts and continue to grind until no large pieces remain.

Put the ground chestnuts and almonds in a bowl. Grind the chocolate in the food processor until no large pieces remain. Add to the chestnuts and almonds.

Add the honey, Amaretto, cinnamon and vanilla to the nut/chocolate mixture.  Stir well.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-4 inch circle cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough. You should be able to get 15 rounds.

Place about 1 tablespoon in the center of each circle. Do not overfill the pastries. Fold one end over and pinch tightly around the edges to close. Seal edges completely so the filling does not come out while frying.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Fry the fritters, a few at a time, until golden brown on each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and place on a paper towels to drain.

Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.


campaniacover

Campania  faces the Tyrrhenian Sea and includes one of the finest coastlines in Italy. Naples is the regional capital. Other important cities are Caserta, Benevento, Salerno and Avellino. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region in Italy. Campania is rich in culture, music, architecture and archaeological sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius.

Campania

Campania, mainly, produces fruit and vegetables, but has also expanded its production of flowers grown in greenhouses to become one of the leading producers in Italy. Campania produces over 50% of Italy’s nuts and is also a leader in the production of tomatoes. Animal breeding is widespread and the milk produced is used to make dairy products, such as mozzarella cheese. Olive and fruit trees cover a good portion of the agricultural land and wine production has increased, as well as, the quality of the wine.

The region has a dense network of roads and motorways, a system of maritime connections and an airport (Naples Airport), which connect the region to the rest of the country. The port connects the region with the entire Mediterranean basin and brings tourists to the archaeological sites, the cities, the beautiful coastal areas and the well-known islands.

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Capri

Campania is home to several national football, water polo, volleyball, basketball and tennis clubs. The fencing school in Naples is the oldest in the country and the only school in Italy in which a swordsman can acquire the title, “master of swords”, which allows a graduate to teach the art of fencing. The “Circolo Savoia” and “Canottieri Napoli” sailing clubs are among the oldest in Italy and are famous for their regattas. The region is also home to water polo teams. Many sailors from Naples and Campania participate as crew in the America’s Cup sailing competition.

Campanian cuisine varies within the region. While Neapolitan dishes center on seafood, Casertan and Aversan dishes rely more on fresh vegetables and cheeses. The cuisine from Sorrento combines the culinary traditions from both Naples and Salerno.

Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza

Pizza was conceived in Naples. Historical and original pizzas from Naples are pizza fritta (fried pizza); calzone (literally “trouser leg”), which is pizza  stuffed with ricotta cheese; pizza marinara, with just olive oil, tomato sauce and garlic and pizza Margherita, with olive oil, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Neapolitans were among the first Europeans to use tomatoes not only as an ornamental plant but also as a food ingredient.

The cheeses of Campania consist of Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) a mozzarella made from buffalo milk, fiordilatte (“flower of milk”) a mozzarella made from cow’s milk, ricotta from sheep or buffalo milk, provolone made from cow milk and caciotta made from goat milk. Buffalo are bred in Salerno and Caserta.

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca, a spicy pasta dish made with a sauce of tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers is a dish that originated in Campania. Ravioli di ricotta di pecora, also called “ravaiuoli” or “slim ravioloni”, are an ancient traditional specialty of Campania: handmade ravioli filled with fresh sheep ricotta.

Campania is home to seafood-based dishes, such as “insalata di mare” (seafood salad), “zuppa di polpo” (octopus soup) and “zuppa di cozze” (mussel soup), that are very popular. Other regional seafood dishes include “frittelle di mare” (fritters with seaweed), made with edible algae, “triglie al cartoccio” (red mullet) and “alici marinate” (fresh anchovies in olive oil). The island of Ischia is famous for its fish dishes, as well as, for cooked rabbit.

Campania is also home to the lemons of Sorrento. Rapini (or broccoli rabe), known locally as friarielli, are often used in the regional cooking.

Sfogliatella

Sfogliatella

Several different cakes and pies are made in Campania. Pastiera pie is made during Easter. Casatiello and tortano are Easter breads made by adding oil and various types of cheese to the bread dough and garnishing them with slices of salami. Babà cake is a Neapolitan delicacy, best served with rum or limoncello (a liqueur invented in the Sorrento peninsula). Sfogliatella is another cake from the Amalfi Coast, as is zeppole, traditionally eaten on Saint Joseph’s day. Struffoli, little balls of fried dough, are dipped in honey and enjoyed during the Christmas holidays.

Traditional Recipes From Campania

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Dried Red Peppers and Lemons

Mozzarella in Carrozza (Mozzarella in a “Carriage”)

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This is a classic recipe from Naples served as an appetizer.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 pound fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

Place 4 slices of bread on the counter. Top with the mozzarella, trimmed to fit the bread.  Cover with the 4 remaining slices of bread, making 4 sandwiches in all.

Spread the flour on a plate. Dip the four edges of each sandwich in the flour. Then coat the sides lightly in the flour. Place them in a baking dish or on a plate with sides..

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the salt. Pour the mixture over the sandwiches and set aside for 10 minutes.

Delicately flip the sandwiches over and set aside for another 10 minutes. The purpose is to allow the bread to soak in the egg as much as possible.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour enough olive oil in to cover the bottom of the pan.

Add the sandwiches and cook until brown; turn and brown the second side. Remove the sandwiches to serving plates, cut in half and serve with hot marinara sauce.

Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro (Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce)

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Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino or a combination of both, plus extra for serving
  • 1 pound paccheri or other large tubular pasta, such as rigatoni
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A few leaves of finely cut or torn fresh basil

Directions

Heat the marinara  sauce.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water until al dente. Before draining it, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve it.

In a pasta serving bowl, combine the ricotta and the grated cheese. Mix them together with a spoon or fork until well blended.

Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Stir well.

Add the drained, hot pasta to the sauce, then add black pepper to taste. Toss well, adding hot pasta cooking water by the tablespoon if a looser, creamier texture is desired. The sauce tends to thicken as it cools in the plate, so 2 or 3 tablespoons are usually a good idea.

Serve immediately, preferably in hot bowls, each portion topped with a little more tomato sauce and with additional finely cut basil, if desired. Pass grated cheese and the peppermill.

Braciole Alla Napoletana (Pork Loin Braciole)

campania7

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless pork loin
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 oz. capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or one 14-1/2-ounce can of Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the pork loin into ¼ inch thick slices and flatten slightly with a wooden mallet.

Chop 2 cloves of garlic very finely and mix with the sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and capers. Place a small amount of this mix on each slice of pork and roll up the slices of pork. Tie with kitchen string.

Brown the remaining garlic in the olive oil and then remove it. Add the pork braciola, brown on all sides and add the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes over a low flame. Sprinkle with parsley, remove from heat and serve.

Casatiello (Neapolitan Stuffed Bread)

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This version is made without the whole eggs added to the dough prior to baking. At Easter time, whole eggs are added to the dough and baked.

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound chunk provolone or scamorza cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 pound chunk mortadella, salami or boiled ham cut into cubes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a 10 inch tube pan with a removable bottom and set aside.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and let rest until foamy.

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix it into the flour with the paddle attachment; add the cheese and enough additional warm water to make a soft ball of dough. Cover and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place or until it doubles in size.

Knead the dough on a floured surface and roll out into a large 18 by 14-inch rectangle. Scatter the cheese and mortadella over the surface to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Starting at the longest side, roll the dough up as for a jellyroll, making sure to tuck in the ends and place it in the tube pan. Tuck the two ends together.

Cover and allow to rise for about 1 hour or until the dough is 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack then run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan, loosen the bottom and remove it.

Turn the bread out. Serve warm; cut into wedges.


cannedfishcover

For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish:  safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers

Tuna

Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.

Salmon

Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.

Sardines

These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.

Anchovies

Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.

Crabmeat

While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.

Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.

Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.

Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.

Clams

While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.

cannedfish2

Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
  • 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese

Directions

Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

cannedfish6

Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed

Directions

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).

Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.

For serving:

Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.

Tips:

To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.

Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.

cannedfish5

Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
  • 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives

Directions

Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.

Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.

cannedfish1

Tuna Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
  • 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

cannedfish3

Salmon and Potato Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.

Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.

Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.

Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

cannedfish4

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.

Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.


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As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.

Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.

What spring foods are you most looking forward to?

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Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia

Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)

8  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 8 ounces  mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

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Spring Onion Soup

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
  • 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.

Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.

Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before  serving.

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Spring Shrimp Salad

Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).

4 servings

Ingredient

  • 1  lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
  • 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions

From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.

In a large bowl, toss lemon  peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.

Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.

In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.

spring5

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb

TOPPING:

  • 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

spring2

Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese

Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.

Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.

spring6

Spring Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions

Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

spring7

Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.

spring8

Herbed Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.

spring9

Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.

spring0

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.


saladrutcover

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.

The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:

Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad. 

Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.

Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.

With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.

While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.

saladrut1

Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
  • Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
  • 4 cups arugula
  • Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.

Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.

Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.

Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.

Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.

To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.

saladrut2

Pea Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.

Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.

Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.

Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.

saladrut3

Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.

saladrut4

Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped

Directions

Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.

Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.

saladrut5

Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves

Directions

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately

 



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