Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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BalancedLunch

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.

But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.

For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.

Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.

Lunches at Home

Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs

Directions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.

spanakopita-quiche-h-4

Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought) 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill 

Directions
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.

Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.

Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.

chicken-salad-rs-1213081-l

Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.

Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat wraps
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions

Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

pesto-turkey-club-1994854-x

Pesto Turkey Sandwich

If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 ounces sliced turkey
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.

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pantry

THE ITALIAN PANTRY

A well-stocked pantry makes cooking delicious Italian meals a snap. Countless dishes can be made from ingredients on hand, especially on snowy days.

High-quality ingredients are essential to Italian cooking: the better your olive oil, tomatoes and cheese, the better your meals will be. In most Italian kitchens, you will find the following items in the pantry:

OLIVE OIL – One of the essential ingredients of Italian cooking, olive oil is used not simply as a cooking oil but for the flavor it adds to a dish. For this reason, it’s important to use only extra-virgin olive oil for garnishing dishes and salads– it has the most flavor. If you splurge on any one item, I would suggest you buy the best you can find.

DRIED PASTA – Use pasta imported from Italy such as Barilla and De Cecco. Generally, any imported pasta products made from semolina flour are good choices. For egg pasta, avoid the “fresh” pasta sold in refrigerated cases. Either use homemade or buy the dried noodles packaged in nests.

TOMATOES – Use good canned tomatoes (unless the recipe specifically calls for fresh). Tomatoes come whole, peeled, chopped, crushed or strained. Use imported Italian tomatoes if you can find them; they’re the best. Tomato paste in a tube is very handy when you only need a tablespoon or two.

ONIONS AND GARLIC – Generally, white onions for cooking and red onions for salads and dishes that do not require cooking because they are milder. Garlic is a must have.

SUN-DRIED TOMATOES – Buy tomatoes packed in olive oil – they have more flavor than the dried. You can even use the oil to add flavor to delicate dishes.

ARTICHOKES – Jarred artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers add delicate flavor when tossed with pasta, salads or as a topping for pizza.

LEGUMES – Keep dried cannellini beans, borlotti beans, ceci and lentils on hand to use in soups, stews or as a side dish. Farro and barley are good for soups, salads and risotto-like dishes.

CORNMEAL – Use a medium textured cornmeal to make polenta. Keep it in a tightly closed container and it will last for months. I also use cornmeal to dust my pan when making pizza.

RICE – Arborio is the most common rice used in making risotto, but other varieties, such as Carnaroli or Vialone Nano, which are just now becoming available in America, are perhaps even better. One characteristic they all share is a translucent, starchy exterior that melts away in cooking to give risotto its distinctive creamy consistency.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR – There are a variety of different balsamic vinegars. Depending on its age, it can be extremely expensive. You can use an inexpensive one for salads, as long as the quality is good. Red wine vinegar is also essential for a good salad dressing.

ANCHOVIES – Keep a jar or can packed in oil to add a zip to certain dishes. You can also find anchovy paste in a tube, which is milder in taste and is quite convenient.

DRIED PORCINI MUSHROOMS – Look for packages that have large slices of mushrooms. They add a wonderful rich flavor to risottos, pasta sauces and stews, and can infuse cultivated white mushrooms with their robust flavor. Although they can be an expensive item, a little goes a long way and, if kept in an airtight container, they’ll keep for a long time. Keep the water used to rehydrate them. Strained, it will add a depth of flavor to many soups, sauces and stews.

CAPERS – You can find two types of capers. The smaller ones that are pickled in vinegar and the larger ones that come packed in salt. The larger ones are very flavorful, require rinsing of the salt before using and tend to be a little more difficult to locate. A few chopped capers can add a punch of flavor to dishes that seem to need just a little something.

OLIVES – Both the black and green varieties are good, if packed in brine and imported from Italy even better. They can be added to pastas and salads for great flavor.

HERBS AND SEASONINGS – Generally fresh herbs are preferred in everyday cooking, but it is also important to keep dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil and sage available. Whole black pepper, sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes are also important seasonings to have on hand.

FLOUR – All-purpose flour, bread flour and white whole wheat are needed for pizzas and breads. Semolina flour is also very useful for some bread and pizza doughs.

BREAD CRUMBS – Italian seasoned crumbs come in handy for quick toppings.

TUNA IN OLIVE OIL – a must have for a quick pasta dinner. Canned sardines in olive oil are another good addition.

Although these are the bare basics to have in an Italian kitchen, stocking these basic staples in your pantry will ensure that you can create authentic tasting Italian recipes. All you’ll need to add are a few fresh ingredients and you’ll be all set.

ceci_pasta

Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Pasta

Canned tomatoes provide the flavor here, so you can make this warming soup any time of year. If you’d like to use an herb other than sage, either rosemary or marjoram would be a good choice.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 7 cups canned tomatoes with their juice (two 28-ounce cans)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 2 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (one 19-ounce can)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes with their juice. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic.

Add the pureed tomatoes, the sage, broth, water and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil. Stir in the pasta and chickpeas. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley, pepper and the 1/3 cup grated Parmesan. Serve topped with additional Parmesan.

Note: Look for high-quality canned tomatoes for this soup, such as plum tomatoes from the San Marzano region of Italy.

easy-polenta-with-tomato-sauce

Easy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups store bought spaghetti sauce, or your favorite recipe

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch square baking dish.

In a large pot, combine the milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it is at a rolling boil, gradually whisk in the cornmeal, making sure there are no lumps. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish and spread the spaghetti sauce over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven or until the sauce is bubbling.

Note: This dish can be topped with mozzarella cheese or sauteed peppers or sausage or any topping you like. It also makes an excellent side to meatloaf.

Pasta with rosemary

Pasta in Rosemary Garlic Sauce

This dish is also good with the addition of sauteed mushrooms or canned tuna in olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (16 ounce) package bucatini or thick spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions; cook and stir until they turn a light brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Mix in the chicken stock and rosemary and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until reduced by a third, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, add 3 quarts of water and about 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a full rolling boil. Add the spaghetti, return to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the cheese; mix well until the butter is incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Serve in a big bowl or on 4 individual plates.

17recipehealth risotto

Herb Risotto

Use dried herbs if fresh are not available. When substituting dried herbs for fresh the ratio is 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat oil and butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons basil, 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon rosemary and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Saute, stirring, until onion is slightly softened (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Stir in rice and saute while stirring until rice grains are oil-coated (about 3 minutes). Pour in wine and stock and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is tender but firm. (Note: Stir once or twice while simmering.)

Remove the pan from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining herbs and lemon zest, then add lemon juice and cheese. Cover saucepan with waxed paper and let stand 8 to 10 minutes before serving.

Omelet Open 2

Mediterranean Omelet

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 canned, drained, water-packed artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce (about 2 pieces) roasted, drained red bell peppers, diced

Directions

In a small bowl, beat eggs well. Add cheese, stirring to mix. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-inch, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add artichokes; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until artichokes begins to brown. Add roasted red peppers and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more, until liquid has evaporated. Add garlic and stir about 30 seconds. With a rubber spatula, transfer artichoke pepper mixture to a small plate; keep warm.

Return the skillet to the heat. When the pan is hot, add egg-Parmesan mixture, tilting pan and lifting eggs as they begin to set with a spatula to allow uncooked portions to flow underneath the omelet. Cook 1 or 2 minutes, until omelet is almost set. Spoon reserved artichoke-pepper mixture onto half of the omelet. With a spatula, carefully fold omelet in half to cover filling. Let cook 2 minutes more or until set.

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69208_631304800228285_414594421_nIf you and your children regularly skip breakfast in the interest of saving time, calories or getting a few more minutes of sleep, remember that eating a wholesome, nutritious morning meal will probably save you time in the long run. By recharging the brain and body, you’ll be more efficient in just about everything you do. While adults need to eat breakfast each day to perform their best, children need it even more. Their growing bodies and developing brains rely heavily on the regular intake of food. If you and your children seem unable to make time for breakfast, consider enrolling your children in a school breakfast program, if possible, or pack a breakfast brown-bag or smoothie the night before that can be eaten on the way to school and work.

Some people skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, but the practice is more likely to cause weight gain than weight loss. Skipping breakfast is strongly linked to the development of obesity. Studies show that overweight and obese children, adolescents and adults are less likely to eat breakfast each morning than their thinner counterparts. Breakfast skippers tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal or nibble on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. Several studies suggest that people tend to accumulate more body fat when they eat fewer, larger meals than when they eat the same number of calories in smaller, more frequent meals.

Are you skipping breakfast because you are trying to limit calories ? To teens, especially teenage girls, skipping breakfast may seem like a perfectly logical way to cut down on calories and lose weight. However, skipping breakfast can lead to a number of problems when it comes to trying to lose weight and keep it off. If you are trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, consider the following reasons to eat breakfast every morning. Eating breakfast is a great way to get your metabolism working well for the day. When your body receives food in the morning, it tells your brain that you’re going to need to start working to digest it. This wakes up the system and warms up the metabolism, so it’s ready to work throughout the day. When you don’t eat breakfast in the morning, your body thinks that it needs to conserve the energy it has because it isn’t getting any more through nutrition. This actually slows your metabolism down, which results in a decrease in the amount of calories you burn all day long.

Feeding yourself in the morning will keep your spirits up throughout the day for a number of reasons. First, since your body won’t think that it’s starving after a nutritious meal in the morning, it’s easier to get in a good mood and stay that way. It also provides plenty of needed energy to help you get through the regular tasks of your day, which can help keep your mood bright and optimistic. Second, a healthy meal in the morning can also help to regulate your blood sugar levels until lunch time, which plays a vital role in your mood.

Overall, eating something for breakfast is better than eating nothing at all. Although, the more balanced your meal is, the better off you will be. Instead of a breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast that will leave you feeling heavy and sluggish within just a few minutes, consider having a fruit smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh berries, which will invigorate your body and give you the energy needed to get through the day.You can also save time by preparing breakfast in advance. See below for some of my recommended recipes.

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cups of steel-cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Toppers, such as dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, or snipped apricots; coconut; chopped nuts; brown sugar; maple syrup; low fat milk, fat free half-and-half. See additional suggestions below.

Directions

In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine the water, oats and salt. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 1/2 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Top each serving with desired toppers. Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Prepare as directed in Step 1, except stir 1/2 cup apple butter and 1/4 cup dried cranberries into oat mixture before cooking. Top each serving with vanilla yogurt and cinnamon.
  • Prepare as directed in Step 1. Stir 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter into cooked oatmeal. Top each serving with strawberry jam and granola.

Top each serving:

  • with sliced banana and chopped peanuts. Drizzle with honey.
  • with fresh raspberries and/or blueberries and chopped pistachio nuts.
  • with cubed mango and toasted coconut. 
  • with purchased trail mix and snipped dried apricots or mixed dried fruit.
  • with fresh blackberries, graham cracker crumbs and toasted chopped walnuts.

Breakfast Pita Pizzas

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms or vegetable of choice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 small)
  • 3 ounces mozzarella cheese or cheese of choice, cubed (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion (1)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 whole wheat pita bread round, split horizontally
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, drained well

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green pepper; cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, green onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and black pepper.

Place pita halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each with the mozzarella cubes. Top with vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Allow to cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat for 1 to 2 minutes in the microwave or 4 to 5 minutes in the toaster oven.

Easy Frittata

Prepare this casserole the night before. It can bake in the oven while you watch your favorite TV show. If you have leftover meat you want to include, replace ½ cup of the fresh vegetables with a ½ cup of cooked meat.

Serves: 8 (square slices)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 sweet medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 5 cups chopped vegetables of choice (zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, red bell pepper, asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli florets, leftover cooked potatoes)
  • 12 large eggs or 3 cups refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a glass baking dish (9 x 13 or 8 x 11 or similar size dish) with cooking spray.

In a skillet, saute onions and vegetables in olive oil until tender for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk eggs; add shredded cheese, milk and seasonings. Fold in cooked vegetables. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly brown and puffed on top and firm. Let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into 8 squares, wrap individually and refrigerate or freeze.

The next morning reheat a square in the microwave or toaster oven for your breakfast. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

Almond Cereal Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 cups whole-grain cereal flakes (such as, Kashi or Kellogg’s)
  • 2 cups oat and bran O cereal (such as, Cherrios)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, unsweetened dried cherries or other dried fruit of choice

Directions

Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave the almond butter and honey on high for 30 seconds, then stir until blended.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the cereals and dried fruit. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until warmed.

Gradually stir the almond butter mixture into the cereal until thoroughly and evenly coated. Press into the prepared pan. Refrigerate until set and firm. Cut into 10 bars.

Pack each bar (only 144 calories) in plastic wrap or freezer bags and refrigerate or freeze for a grab-and-go breakfast. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

Yogurt Fruit Cups

4 servings

Love the convenience of yogurt with fruit in the bottom but hate the added sugars? Make your own with fresh fruit and rich Greek yogurt for a more healthy breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint strawberries or whatever fruit is in season
  • 1 17.6-oz. tub nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (about half of a medium lemon
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey

Directions

Rinse, hull and finely chop the strawberries. Toss with the lemon zest and sugar in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften and become slightly syrupy.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk and Greek yogurt together.

Alternate 2 layers of fruit and yogurt in four 8-oz. Mason jars or other lidded container of your choice.

Yogurt cups will keep in the refrigerator for about a month. So, you can double or triple the batch to have plenty on hand.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

Makes 12 sandwiches

  • 12 Whole Grain English Muffins (100% whole wheat)
  • 12 large eggs
  • Salt, to taste
  • 12 thin slices ham or cooked Canadian bacon
  • 12 thin slices white American cheese

Directions

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin generously with cooking spray. Crack 1 egg into each spot. Break each yolk with a fork. Sprinkle each egg lightly with salt.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until eggs are completely set.

Remove eggs from pans using a spoon and let them cool on a large platter.

Cut English muffins in half and toast them. (Either in a toaster or in the oven on a baking sheet at the same time you are baking the eggs).

Place 1 slice of cheese on the bottom muffin half of each sandwich. Top with a slice of ham or bacon. Add 1 egg. Close the sandwich.

Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil and freeze.

When ready to serve, remove all packaging and wrap the sandwich in a white paper towel.

Microwave for 1 minute on 50% power. Turn sandwich over and microwave for 1 more minute on 100% power.

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Can’t imagine eating one more boring turkey sandwich? Extra roast turkey and the leftover side dishes make quick and thrifty dinners

It’s important to remember that any food that you don’t intend to eat within a few days after Thanksgiving should be frozen. Food-borne illnesses don’t take a vacation over the holidays and food safety is just as important now as it is during any other time of the year. Take your time around the dinner table, but start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within 2 hours of dinner. It may be tempting to keep any leftover sweet potatoes or green beans in the half-empty serving dish and just cover it with plastic wrap, but it’s best to put everything in a clean, smaller container. It will also save space in the refrigerator.

Storing tips:

  • Refrigerate leftover Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, gravy and other cooked side dishes. It’s okay to place warm food in the refrigerator.
  • Carve leftover turkey meat off the bones before refrigerating. Place the leftover turkey and stuffing in separate containers.
  • Divide leftover turkey and other cooked dishes into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Pack side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes into airtight freezer containers or plastic freezer bags.
  • Slice the meat from the turkey and wrap it in freezer paper or foil, then seal in plastic freezer bags (make sure to press out all the air before sealing).
  • Liquids, like soup or gravy, will expand slightly as they freeze, so leave a little space at the top of the container. It’s fine to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze them, but to preserve their freshness, the sooner they go in the freezer the better.
  • Cool in the refrigeraor for a few hours before moving it to the freezer and avoid stacking the containers until they’re frozen solid.
  • Don’t forget to label and date your leftovers. Everything will look the same once it’s wrapped.
STORAGE TIME
    Item
Pantry
Refrigerator
Freezer
Tips
•     Turkey  — whole, cooked
        3-4 days
      2-3 months
Cut whole bird into smaller pieces before refrigerating. Use carcus for soup.
•     Gravy — homemade
1-2 days
2-3 months
Bring leftover gravy to a full boil before using.
•     Cranberry sauce
10-14 days
1-2 months
Store leftovers in covered plastic or glass container.
•     Stuffing — cooked
3-4 days
1 month
Remove stuffing from turkey before refrigerating.
•     Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes; green bean casserole
3-5 days
10-12 months
Mashed potatoes freeze well; whole baked potatoes don’t.
•     Pumpkin pie — baked
3-4 days
1-2 months
Keep refrigerated. Texture may change after freezing, but taste shouldn’t be affected.
•     Apple pie — baked
2 days
2-3 days after pantry storage
1-2 months
To freeze, wrap pie tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place in heavy-duty freezer bag.
•     Wine, red or white — opened bottle
3-5 days
1-2 months
Freeze leftover wine for use in cooked dishes such as sauces and stews.
•     Bread
4 -5 days
2-3 months
Refrigerator storage is not recommended, as bread will quickly dry out and become stale — for longer-term storage, freeze bread instead.

Try these easy ideas to turn your leftovers into tasty new meals.

Turkey Tortellini Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped roasted turkey
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • One 9-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese 

Directions

With A Slow Cooker

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine broth, the water, chopped turkey, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours. If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in tortellini. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more or until tortellini is tender. Stir in spinach. If desired, sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Without A Slow Cooker

Combine broth and water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and return to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes. Lower heat and stir in turkey, tomatoes, seasoning and spinach. Simmer about 10 minutes. Garnish each serving with cheese.

Leftover Stuffing Cakes

Mix in leftover mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes if you like, using 1 egg for every 2 cups leftovers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups leftover Thanksgiving stuffing
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions

In a large bowl, stir stuffing and egg together until blended. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Shape 1/2 cup stuffing mixture into a ball, then flatten into a 3-inch patty. Repeat with remaining mixture. Place patties in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and heated through. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

Turkey and Wild Rice Pilaf

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1-14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup long grain rice
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 8 ounces cooked turkey, cubed
  • 2 medium red-skinned apples, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • Butterhead (Boston or Bibb) lettuce leaves 

Directions

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery and onion; cook about 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add uncooked wild rice; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in uncooked long grain rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes more or until wild rice and long grain rice are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, adding carrot for the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Stir in turkey breast and apple. Cook, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes more or until heated through. Stir in parsley. Line serving plates with lettuce leaves; spoon turkey mixture onto lettuce.

Butternut Squash Hash with Leeks and Turkey

If you have sweet potatoes leftover, you can use them in place of the squash.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium leeks, dark green parts removed, remaining light green and white parts cleaned and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups). Reserve a few sliced pieces of leek for garnish.
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 3 cups leftover butternut or acorn squash, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
  • 8 ounces chopped cooked turkey (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Poached or Fried Eggs

Directions

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add leeks and cook about 3 minutes or until beginning to brown and stick to the pan, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and continue to cook 3 minutes longer or until leeks are tender and softened.

Add squash, crushed red pepper and remaining broth, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in chopped turkey and Italian seasoning; cook 5 minutes longer or until squash and turkey are heated through. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Place poached eggs on top of hash and garnish with reserved leeks.

Sage and Cream Turkey Fettuccine

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces dried spinach or plain fettuccine
  • 1/3 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces leftover cooked turkey breast, cut into bite-size strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together sour cream and flour until smooth. Gradually stir in broth until smooth. Stir in snipped or dried sage and pepper; set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, green onions and garlic to hot skillet. Cook and stir about 3 minutes. Stir in turkey and mix well.

Stir sour cream mixture into turkey mixture in skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Serve turkey mixture over hot cooked pasta.


AUTUMN ELEGY by Leonid Afremov

Does autumn find you missing summer’s sweet corn and juicy peaches? Nature has shifted gears. Hardy and slow-growing fall crops have come into their own. Some of these foods are grown from coast to coast; others are more regional.

Apples

There’s certainly an apple variety for every need, from snacks to stuffing. Some of the best-known and easiest to find are multitaskers, good for both eating and baking. These include Rome, McIntosh and Golden Delicious.

Pears

Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc, ranging from deep red to pale green to golden in color, are produce-department staples. Their firm texture is equally suited for eating fresh or cooked.

Grapes

Grapes fall into three main color types: red, green (also called white) and black (or blue-black). Each group includes seeded and seedless varieties, but the latter are most often found in supermarkets.

Citrus Fruits

Whether sectioned, sliced, juiced or zested, these fruits are a kitchen staple. Choose firm fruits that have smooth skins and are not moldy. Don’t worry about brown patches on the skin; this does not indicate poor quality.

Leafy Greens

Some leafy greens cope with cold weather better than most people do. Temperatures near freezing slow plant metabolism. Using fewer carbohydrates — that is, sugar — for maintenance, results in sweeter leaves in the cold weather.

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Collards

Leafy greens should be crisp and fresh-looking. Avoid those with brown speckles, large, tough stems and wilted edges. Collards absolutely must be cooked, but other greens can be eaten fresh in salads, quick sautéed as a side dish or simmered in soups. Cook chard stems separately from the leaves, as stems are more fibrous and take longer. Greens will keep refrigerated in a plastic bag, damp-dry, for three to five days. Wash them very well just before using.

Parsnips

Pale yellow and slightly bumpy, the parsnip resembles a large carrot. Compared to carrots, parsnips are less sweet and more nutty. They respond well to the same culinary treatments (except being eaten raw). As a side dish, parsnips take well to roasting and also hold their own in baked casseroles and slow-cooked stews.

Potatoes

Of the thousands of potato varieties known, only a few varieties have gone mainstream. Fall is the ideal time to try some lesser-known varieties in your market.

Sweet Potatoes

Look for sweet potatoes that feel solid and nick free. For cooking success, try to pick those that are uniform in shape, since fat bodies with tapered ends can lead to overcooked ends and semi-raw centers.

Winter Squash

With so many different shapes and sizes and colors, fall is definitely the time to cook with squash. The varieties described below barely scratch the surface:

  • Acorn can be small, round and ridged and they might have variegated orange and green skin; its deep orange flesh is sweeter than pumpkin.
  • Butternut is typically long-necked and pot-bellied with creamy beige skin. The orange flesh is mildly sweet and slightly nutty.
  • Spaghetti –  when baked and scraped out with a fork, the flesh forms golden strands that look like spaghetti and taste like zucchini.
  • Sweet dumpling has yellow flesh that looks and tastes something like sweet corn.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Consider some of these diverse examples:

  • Round-headed cabbage has flat leaves of pale green or reddish-purple; Savoy cabbage has frilled leaves.
  • Cauliflower has stalks that are topped with bunches of florets.
  • Turnips, a rounded, cream-colored root, are most flavorful in autumn.
  • Rutabagas, a round root with pale orange flesh, is thought to be a cross between a turnip and wild cabbage.

Cruciferous vegetables have assertive flavors and can take strong seasonings. Cabbage pairs well with vinegar. The sweeter rutabaga can be spiced with cloves. Try turnips with garlic and onions. These veggies have a reputation as being smelly when cooked. Actually, it’s overcooking that releases their unpleasant aroma. If steamed or braised until just fork-tender, not limp, they actually smell lightly sweet.

Here are some healthy fall family recipes that make use of some these seasonal foods:

Italian Cabbage and Bean Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Two 19 ounce cans cannellini beans ( or 5 cups home cooked) divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups green cabbage, (1/2 medium head)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Thick slices day-old Italian country bread
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella or Italian fontina cheese

Directions

Mash 1 1/2 cups beans with a fork and set aside. Thinly slice cabbage.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cabbage and minced garlic; cook, stirring often, until the cabbage has wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, mashed beans and whole beans; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer until the cabbage is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Shortly before the soup is ready, toast bread lightly and rub with the cut side of the halved garlic. Place bread in a soup bowl. Ladle soup over the bread and sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle a little oil over each serving.

Frittata with Chard and Feta Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups swiss chard, washed and stems removed
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg whites (or egg substitute)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 6 small potatoes, cooked and halved

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an  8″ or 10″ ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper. Toss quickly until leaves are wilted. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Whisk the eggs, egg whites, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the chard and halved potatoes (cut side down).

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet (do not stir) and cook over low heat until the eggs are set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler for 30 to 45 seconds to finish cooking the top of the frittata. Serve with a tomato salad.

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

Servings: 6

  • 3 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place squash halves cut side down in baking pans. Fill pans with about 1/2 inch water. Bake squash 40 minutes or until tender.

While squash bakes, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and celery and cook until tender. Stir in the ground turkey, garlic powder and dried herbs. Cook and stir until evenly brown.

Remove squash from the oven and carefully scrape the pulp from the rinds. Set rinds aside on a baking sheet. Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Mix in the cooked turkey mixture, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Fill the reserved rinds with the stuffing mixture and bake 25 minutes or until heated through.

Citrus Fish Fillets

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces white fish fillets, such as tilapia, flounder, halibut, etc.
  • 1 medium orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced mango or pears or apples
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green or red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2-1 fresh hot chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl combine orange pieces, mango, the 3 tablespoons orange juice, the bell pepper, the parsley and the chile pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

In a medium shallow nonmetal bowl stir together the 1/2 cup orange juice, the oil and cayenne pepper. Place fish in the bowl; turn to coat well. Marinate fish in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drain fish, discarding marinade.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place fish in a small baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Top fish with the fruit sauce and serve. This entre goes well with brown rice.

Lasagna with Spinach Ricotta 

Ingredients

  • 1 box no boil lasagna or homemade fresh noodles or 1 pound regular, boiled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • Two 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 pounds Ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups lowfat milk gently warmed
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated and divided
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

In a large skillet saute the onion in olive oil over moderate heat for 4-5 minutes. Add spinach and season with salt and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool.

Ricotta mixture: Combine ricotta and 3/4 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled spinach mixture.

Prepare béchamel sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, continuously stirring, cook for 2-3 minutes

Add warm milk slowly, whisking well, so that there are no lumps. Season with salt and pepper. When the sauce comes up to barely a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Coat a 13” x 9” lasagna dish with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

Top with 4 lasagna noodles, 1 cup ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Continue the same procedure for 3 more layers.

Spread remaining béchamel and ricotta mixture on the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly on top. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting the lasagna.


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This Parma Ham sponsored post is about helping you with some holiday entertaining ideas.

What does “entertaining” mean to you? Take a moment and think of what comes to mind.

The best advice I have is that, when it comes to holiday parties, nothing beats the power of planning.

Begin early:

  • Set the Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Get the Word Out Early
  • Plan the Food and Drinks
  • Decide the Set Up for Beverages, Food and Decorations
  • Set Aside Time for Shopping, Preparing the Food, Cleaning and Decorating
  • Once the Doorbell Rings Have Fun

Holiday appetizer recipes are a must-have in your party plan book. They help tide over your guests until the main event or make for great eating on their own, along with a few cocktails and some desserts. Simple finger foods work the best. Instead of worrying about finding out whether anyone attending your party has a particular dietary restriction, prepare a variety of hors d’oeuvres that will suit any taste and diet. Make two or three meat-based dishes ( red meat and poultry), two fish dishes (one fish, one shellfish) and three vegetarian dishes (one with dairy, two without). You might consider gluten-free choices, as well.

Here is a tip – when Italians entertain guests, they are often greeted with a platter of prosciutto, crisp breadsticks and fruit. It’s an effortless but elegant crowd-pleaser that you can put together quickly. The famous Prosciutto di Parma brand is the one to use for this dish.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced in Parma, Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions, today, as the ones used then. By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in the hills around Parma where the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce ham of the highest quality. All Parma Ham authorized producers must be located within the geographical boundaries of the Parma region and meet the requirements set by the Consorzio, in order to receive the official certification mark – the Parma Crown. Through the long and carefully controlled curing process, the meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Parma Ham emerges. This year the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Parma Ham is a naturally gluten free product, so are the recipes I developed for this post. If you’d like to try something more impressive for your guests, try one of these Parma party bites at your next party.

Stuffed Vegetables and Parma Ham

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You can double the recipe or use all mushrooms or use all mini bell peppers.

Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Prosciutto di Parma slices cut into 1 inch squares (about 5-6 slices)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut the bell peppers in half, lengthwise; remove the seeds and stems. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side down.

Remove mushroom stems (reserve for another use) and brush mushroom cavities lightly with olive oil. Place them on the baking sheet with the peppers. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to show some color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Place the cream cheese, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and black pepper in a bowl or in a processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate until ready to make the appetizers.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the peppers and mushroom caps liberally with the filling and place them back on the baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to high broil and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the top of the cheese stuffing begins to brown. (If they’re already brown at this point, you can skip the broiling).

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Top each pepper and mushroom with a square of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Parma Ham-Wrapped Shrimp

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Makes 18 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 18 thin slices prosciutto
  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Directions

In a bowl, gently combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and garlic and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on your work surface, short end parallel to the edge. Place 1 basil leaf at the short end of the prosciutto slice. Place 1 shrimp on top of the basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Thread shrimp on a skewer.

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Repeat with remaining prosciutto, basil, shrimp and skewers. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.)

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Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat) or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil wrapped shrimp until opaque in the center, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Herbed Frittatas with Prosciutto di Parma

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Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, drained tomato
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Prosciutto di Parma, about 12 slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Dry the chopped tomatoes on a paper towel.

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Beat eggs and water with wire whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the herbs.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool.

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Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and gently turn it out onto a cutting board.

Cut the frittatas into 1-inch squares and top with a piece of prosciutto. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD:  The frittatas can be baked up to 3 hours ahead.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham


Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious foods. They are a very nutrient-dense food because they provide a significant amount of vitamins and minerals (14 in total), yet only contain 70 calories. Eggs make a valuable contribution to a healthy, balanced diet. They provide protein, vitamin A, riboflavin and other vitamins and minerals. The yolk contains all the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in an egg. Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein and are far less expensive than most other animal-protein foods.

Yet, though they’re incredibly easy to make and the ingredients are usually at hand, many of us hardly ever think of preparing eggs for lunch or dinner. Perhaps that’s because eggs have gotten such a bad rap. They do contain dietary cholesterol. However, scientific research has made it clear that saturated fat — mostly from full-fat dairy products and red meat — is really the villain behind rising blood cholesterol levels. Although eggs contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they need not be excluded from the diet. Including protein-rich eggs in your meals and snacks helps sustain your energy level and curb hunger, cravings and unhealthy snacking. Protein is the most filling nutrient. It helps control the rate at which food energy (calories) is absorbed by your body.

Try to find eggs that are not mass produced from caged chickens. Healthier cage-free chickens produce yellower, more flavorful eggs, and your recipes will taste better for using them. Eggs are sold in standard sizes: small, medium, extra-large and jumbo. Most recipes call for large eggs but, if a recipe doesn’t specify, assume it means large. In recipes that don’t call for a lot of eggs, substituting one size for another is usually not a problem. However, as the number of eggs increase, the difference in the amount will become pronounced.

Eggs sold in supermarkets in the US are packed in cartons with the USDA shield on them indicating that they came from a USDA-inspected plant. Though not required, most egg cartons contain a “sell by date” beyond which they should not be sold. This date cannot be 30 days beyond the packing date. The USDA does require that egg cartons display the ‘pack date’, which is the day that the eggs were washed, graded and placed into the carton. You can find this date embedded in code on the side of the carton. The first 3 numbers, usually preceded by the letter ‘P’ indicates the plant number where the eggs were packed. The last 3 numbers is a 3-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year, starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

Egg products you see at the store may include whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks in frozen or refrigerated liquid, and dried forms available in a number of different product formulations like cake and cookie mixes, as well as specialty egg products. Specialty egg products can include pre-peeled hard-cooked eggs, egg salad, pre-cooked omelets, egg patties, quiches, scrambled eggs, fried eggs and others. When purchasing egg products, look for containers that are tightly sealed and packages that are unopened. Although egg products have been processed, it is important to follow all cooking instructions on the packaging to ensure maximum safety. Buy refrigerated eggs and store them in your refrigerator as soon as you get home from the market.

After shell eggs reach home, it is very important to refrigerate them at a temperature of 45 °F or below. Keep the eggs in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door. Storing eggs in the refrigerator door could lead to temperature fluctuations that can lead to bacteria growth. Eggs may be refrigerated 3 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The sell-by date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use. Liquid egg products should be kept refrigerated at all times and consumed within two to six days from the date of purchase. Once liquid egg products are opened, they should be used immediately.

However, even under refrigeration, eggs slowly lose carbon dioxide, which causes the egg to lose moisture and enlarges the size of the air space between the egg and the shell. The combination of these changes makes an old egg a lot easier to peel than one that is fresh. So the best guarantee of easy peeling hard boiled eggs is to use older eggs.

It may be tempting to stop at a fast food drive in for lunch, but why do that when you can make a quick and delicious meal with eggs? If you’ve got eggs, you’ve got options.

Italian Egg Sandwich

For 1

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 slices Italian bread or 1 English muffin
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 slice fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lettuce, optional

Directions

Heat oil in a small saute pan with a lid. Crack egg into a small bowl and pour into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cook for 2 minutes, turn egg over and place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top. Place lid on the pan to melt the cheese and remove the pan from the heat.

Toast bread or muffin, if desired. Spread pesto on the bread.

Place egg on top of bread or muffin bottom and top with sliced tomato, lettuce and bread.

Potato Hash with Fried Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, divided plus extra for garnish
  • 2 Vidalia or sweet onions, chopped
  • 8 large eggs

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes and toss until coated in the butter, then add water and sage leaves. Bring water to a simmer and cook potatoes, uncovered, until the water has almost evaporated and the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. If there is any excess water in the pan, remove it with a large spoon and reserve.

Continue cooking potatoes, scraping pan frequently with a spoon, until crusty brown, about 10 more minutes. Add a tablespoon of the leftover cooking liquid or fresh water, if the potatoes stick or begin to scorch.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, adding water as necessary when the pan gets dry, until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer onions to the pan with the potatoes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the empty skillet and cook the eggs, 4 at a time, to your preference.

Place potato and onion mixture in the center of 4 plates and top each plate with 2 fried eggs. Garnish plates with sage leaves.

Baked Asparagus & Cheese Frittata

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound thin asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 10-inch pie pan or ceramic quiche dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, tapping out the excess.

Snap tough ends off asparagus. Slice off the top 2 inches of the tips and reserve. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch-long slices.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add water and the asparagus stalks to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes (the mixture should be very dry). Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add ricotta, parsley, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; whisk to blend. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, gently shaking the pan to distribute. Scatter the reserved asparagus tips over the top and sprinkle with cheese

Bake the frittata until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Winter Vegetables with Egg

You should figure about 8 ounces of roasted vegetables per serving.

For the vegetables:

  • Small carrots scrubbed and trimmed
  • Small parsnips, peeled and trimmed
  • Brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the mustard sauce:

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

One fried or poached egg per serving

Directions:

In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat oil, brown the vegetables and cook them until tender and caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl.

Add shallots to the skillet and saute until softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in olive oil and mustard; stir. Return vegetables to the skillet and mix thoroughly.

Top each serving of vegetables with a fried or poached egg.

Italian Eggs Over Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 12 slices (picture below)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Arrange polenta slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush tops of polenta with olive oil. Broil 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated and beginning to brown.

Bring sauce to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Stir in spinach; cover and cook for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Stir to combine.

Make 4 indentations in the top of the spinach mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with cheese.

Place 3 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 egg and one-fourth of spinach mixture.


While strolling through Citta’ Della Pieve, a northern Umbrian town during the Festa dello Zafferano held each fall, you will pass shops with baskets of lilac colored crocus petals and zafferano packets. During this festival, sprays of crocus flowers decorate textile shop windows, toy shop entrances and the Gelaterie which features ice-creams and yogurts made with saffron. In the Piazza Matteotti, a young chef teaches a cooking class with saffron starring in every dish: yellow risotto, saffron bread and a dessert. Just around the corner in the Palazzo della Corgna, you’ll find the embroidery work of the local women, including textiles of yellow hues, dyed with saffron. In the covered market area, you’ll see saffron-dyed candles and even creams and soaps made with saffron.

Citta’ Della Pieve in Umbria – http://www.annesitaly.com/

Saffron, the red-orange stigmas from the center of the fall flowering crocus plant (Crocus sativus), is the world’s most expensive spice. That’s because each flower provides only three stigmas. One ounce of saffron = approximately 14,000 of these tiny saffron threads. The tiny threads of saffron must be handpicked from the flower. The yellow stamens which have no taste are left behind. This spice comes either powdered or in threads.

The ancient Greeks and Romans prized saffron for its use as a perfume. They scattered it about public spaces such as royal halls, courts and amphitheaters. When Emperor Nero entered Rome, they spread saffron along the streets and wealthy Romans made daily use of saffron baths. They also used saffron as mascara, stirred saffron threads into their wines, strewn it in the halls and streets as a potpourri and offered it to their deities. Roman colonists took saffron with them when they settled in southern Gaul, where it was extensively cultivated until the AD 271. Saffron cultivation in Europe declined following the fall of the Roman Empire. For several centuries thereafter, saffron cultivation was rare or non-existent throughout Europe. This was reversed when the Moors came from North Africa to settle most of Spain, as well as parts of France and southern Italy. Two centuries after their conquest of Spain, the Moors planted saffron throughout the southern provinces of Andalucia, Castile, La Mancha and Valencia.

During the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold and, even today, it is still the most expensive spice in the world. Unfortunately, its high price led to its adulteration which, in those times, was severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, condemned adulterers to death.

Saffron grows on the Navelli Plain in the Province of L’Aquila and is considered by many to be a major product of the Italian Abruzzo region. How a flower of Middle Eastern origin found a home in Italy can be attributed to a priest by the name of Santucci, who introduced it to his native home over 450 years ago. Following his return from Spain at the height of the Inquisition, Santucci was convinced that the cultivation of saffron was possible in the plains of Abruzzo. Nevertheless, even today, the harvesting of saffron is difficult work and great skill is needed to handle the stems without damaging the product or allowing contamination from other parts of the plant.

Italian saffron is also produced on family owned farms in Sardara, a town located in the center of Sardinia, Italy. The production of saffron on the island of Sardinia and especially in Sardara has been a tradition for centuries with more than 60% of Italian saffron being produced in this region

An essential ingredient in Risotto Milanese, saffron is also used in many other dishes across Italy. For example, the fish soup found in Marche region, uses saffron for its red coloring in place of the more traditional tomato in the recipe. This coloring property is also widely appreciated in the production of cakes and liqueurs and, for centuries, by painters in the preparation of dyes. Its additional curative powers have long been believed to help digestion, rheumatism and colds.

Copycats

American saffron or Mexican saffron is actually safflower, a member of the Daisy family and the same plant from which we get safflower oil. Although its dried, edible flowers do yield the characteristic yellow color, it has no flavor and is not suitable as a saffron substitute. Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is an honest substitute for saffron, but it is a member of the ginger family. Use turmeric sparingly as a saffron substitute, since its acrid flavor can easily overwhelm the food. Turmeric is also used to stretch powdered saffron by unscrupulous retailers. Unfortunately, there is no truly acceptable substitute for saffron. Its distinctive flavor is a must for classic dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse and risotto. If your recipe calls for saffron, do yourself a favor and use the real thing to fully appreciate the intended result.

Beyond Risotto

Eggs Stuffed with Saffron

A classic Italian appetizer that is often served with olives.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup bechamel sauce
  • 18 strands of saffron
  • ground saffron for garnish

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden color, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate saucepan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside until ready to use.

To make the stuffed eggs:

Peel the eggs, cut them in half and remove the yolks. Set the white halves aside on a serving platter.

Mash the yolks in a small bowl.

Add the saffron to the bechamel sauce and mix well. Add the mashed yolk and stir until the egg yolks are completely dissolved.

Fill eggs halves with a little of the sauce and garnish with ground saffron.

Italian Seafood Stew

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces bay scallops or sea scallops quartered, tough muscle removed
  • 6 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seed, salt, pepper and saffron; cook for 20 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, clam broth and green beans. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Homemade Saffron-Flavored Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions

Put the crushed saffron threads in a cup. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water and let stand 30 minutes.

Place the saffron water in a food processor with the 3 eggs and puree.

Add remaining ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball.

Cover kneaded dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour.

Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine: Divide dough into 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough lightly with flour on both sides. Start with the first thickness on the machine and gradually crank in steps to the desired thinness.

After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of the pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides. Place rolled pasta sheets on floured kitchen towels.

After all the pasta sheets are formed, cut the pasta into spaghetti or fettuccine on the pasta machine.

As soon as you cut the pasta, either place on a floured flat surface or hang on a pasta drying rack. Homemade pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container. Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta unrefrigerated because it contains eggs in the mixture.

Cooking Hand Made Pasta: Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not over-cook the pasta. Drain well and serve with your favorite sauce. Saffron flavored pasta is especially good with butter and parmesan cheese. It also makes a delicious side dish to Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Breasts with Saffron Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, (flattened with a meat pounder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Chives, chopped for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt, pepper and dredge in flour.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Then transfer to another plate; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add butter to the same skillet and heat until its starts to sizzle. Add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes..

Add the wine to the pan. After a minute, slowly whisk in the cream, blending completely. Add the saffron and simmer for a minute.

Add the chicken back into the pan, lower heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is done. Plate chicken, pour sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives.

Gluten Free Orange Saffron Cake

Ingrdients

  • 2 whole sweet oranges with thin peels
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large pinch saffron strands
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied orange peel

Directions

Place the oranges in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours over medium heat. Check occasionally to make sure they stay covered with water. Allow the oranges to cool, then cut them open and remove as much white pith as possible and the seeds. Process in a blender or food processor into a coarse pulp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (190 degrees C) Thoroughly grease a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, at least 10 minutes. Mix in baking powder and saffron. Stir in the pureed oranges.

Gently fold in almond meal and candied orange peel; pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a small knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Tap out onto a serving plate when cool.


Achieving widespread US popularity, the ‘panino’ or Italian sandwich is known, more commonly, in English by its plural form ‘panini’. The difference between a panini and a regular sandwich is that it’s grilled, has ridges and the sandwich ingredients melt or fuse together, giving delicious flavor and texture to the filling. Panini sandwiches do not need additional butter or oil for grilling and a panini does not need to be turned over, the press does the work.

Panini are easy to make and can be made with any variety of food desired. Served with a salad or soup, a panini can make a complete, fast and healthy meal, eaten any time of the day.

The Panini Grill

A panini grill is very much like a waffle iron, where heat is applied from the top and bottom to cook both sides evenly. Unlike a waffle iron, the panini grill has a larger hinge to accommodate thick bread or flat buns. A panini grill usually has ridges on the top and bottom grilling surface and this creates the signature grilling lines.

If you do not have a panini maker, a George Foreman Grill will make a great panini, but make sure the grill is heated prior to using.

On the stove: Preheat a skillet with butter or oil to medium low. Add your sandwich, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Here is how to make your own panini:

There is no one traditional type of bread used for panini, but generally the most popular are ciabatta, focaccia and sourdough. The most important requirement is that your bread be sliced thick enough so that the sandwich can be grilled.

You can use whatever filling you’d like, but here are some suggestions:

  • Italian cold cuts, peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies
  • Chicken, cheese, spinach
  • Cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese
  • Leftover turkey or chicken, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, Monterey-jack cheese
  • Sliced ham, provolone cheese, tomatoes, Dijon mustard
  • Sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese
  • Grilled vegetables (red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, onions) cheese
  • Brush one side of the bread with fig jam or jam of choice. Fill with sliced apple and manchego cheese.
  • Dijon mustard, shredded gruyere cheese, sliced roast beef, caramelized onions

Basic Directions:

Slice or use pre-sliced cheese.

Spread bread with condiments, if using.

Lay cheese on one bread slice.

Slice any other ingredients and place on top of the cheese.

Cover with another slice of bread spread with coniment of choice.

Place onto a preheated panini grill. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes.

Open the panini maker and check to see if the ridges are well-formed, the cheese is melted properly and the bread is toasted.

Remove the sandwich from the panini machine and cut in half.

Here are some panini for you to make. After that – use your ceativity.

Turkey Breast with Roasted Peppers and Mozzarella 

Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless turkey breast
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted peppers
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, sliced

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a gentle simmer. Generously salt water. Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and black pepper. Add turkey and simmer until breast registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and let turkey cool in liquid. Store turkey in liquid, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use.

Preheat a panini press according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove turkey breast from poaching liquid and thinly slice; divide evenly among 4 slices of bread. Top with peppers, basil leaves and mozzarella.

Sandwich with remaining 4 slices of bread and place on the panini press. Close the lid and apply slight pressure; cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes. If bread is sticking to the press, continue to cook and bread will unstick itself. If press is generating more heat from the bottom, flip the sandwich halfway through cooking.

Remove sandwich from press and cut in half before serving.

Steak and Cheese Panini

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large vidalia onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 focaccia rolls or bread
  • 12 slices white cheddar cheese

Directions:

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in a sealable plastic bag. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Seal bag. Shake until ingredients are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour.

Preheat a panini grill.

In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade from the bag with the steak. Add steak to the pan and saute until medium rare, 5-7 minutes per side. Remove steak from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.

Add onions to the pan with any remaining marinade. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.

Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain. Put 5 to 7 thin slices of steak on each roll. Top each sandwich with onions and cheddar cheese.

Place the sandwich in the panini press and cook until the cheese melts.

Serves 6

Everything or Anything Panini

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 8 garlic-flavored sandwich pickle slices
  • 8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)

Directions:

In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Layer the cheese, ham, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions on four bread slices; top with remaining bread.

Cook on a panini maker for 3-4 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.

Chicken Pesto Panini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 focaccia bread, quartered
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1 cup sliced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions::

Preheat a panini grill.

Slice each quarter of focaccia bread in half horizontally. Spread each half with pesto. Layer bottom halves with equal amounts chicken, bell pepper, onion and cheese. Top with remaining focaccia halves, forming four sandwiches.

Grill paninis 5 minues in the preheated grill,or until focaccia bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Tuna Melt Panini

4 Servings

 Ingredients:

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard for spreading
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickles

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a panini press.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with two slices of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on top of the cheese and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches.

Add the sandwiches to the press and grill until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Red Pepper, Egg and Provolone Panini

2 servings

In the south of Italy, egg and bell pepper sandwiches are a classic. For variety, add some sautéed or grilled red onion slices.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (1/2-inch thick) Sicilian-style sesame semolina bread or Italian bread of choice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 ounces sharp Provolone cheese, sliced
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, sliced

Directions:

Preheat panini grill or stovetop griddle pan.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, oregano, salt and pepper with a fork. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add egg mixture. Cook, lifting the edges with a fork, 2 to 3 minutes or until set.

Divide eggs, peppers and cheeses between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread slices

Place on panini grill and cover. Grill 5 minutes until golden and cheese starts to melt.

And For Dessert

Chocolate Panini

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices challah or whole wheat bread or bread of choice
  • 2 ounces Nutella

Directions:

Form 2 sandwiches with the bread and Nutella

Transfer to a hot panini press and cook until the bread is golden and the chocolate has melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

(Alternatively, cook the sandwiches in a hot grill pan, turning once and pressing down frequently.)


Historically, eggs have been considered unhealthy because they contain cholesterol. A large egg contains 212 mg of cholesterol, which is a lot compared to most other foods.

However, it has been proven that eggs and dietary cholesterol do NOT adversely affect cholesterol levels in the blood.

Research published early in 2013 looked at 17 prospective studies on egg consumption and health. They discovered that eggs had no association with either heart disease or stroke in otherwise healthy people.

Eggs are particularly rich in two antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthine. These antioxidants gather in the retina of the eye and protect against eye diseases, such as, Macular Degeneration and Cataracts.

Eggs contain high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.

A large egg contains:

Only 77 calories, with 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein with all 9 essential amino acids.

Rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5.

One egg contains 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things. A study revealed that 90% of Americans may not get enough choline in their diet.

If you decide to include eggs in your diet then make sure to eat Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs. They are much more nutritious than eggs from factory-raised chickens.

Eggs score high on a scale called the Satiety Index, which means that eggs are particularly capable of making you feel full, so you eat less calories.

Eggs only contain trace amounts of carbohydrates, which means that they will not raise blood glucose levels.

perfect fried egg

In a study of 30 overweight or obese women that ate either a bagel or eggs for breakfast, the egg group ended up eating less during lunch, the rest of the day and for the next 36 hours.

In another study, overweight men and women were calorie-restricted (340 calorie breakfast) and given either a breakfast of 2 eggs or a bagel.  After 8 weeks, the egg eating group had:

61% greater reduction in BMI.

65% more weight loss.

34% greater reduction in waist circumference.

16% greater reduction in body fat.

…even though both breakfasts contained the same number of calories.

It is also essential to keep in mind that while eggs themselves can be considered healthy, they are often prepared in unhealthy forms and mixed with ingredients high in saturated fat and calories, for example scrambled eggs made with cream and butter.

For best results, use low fat cooking methods such as poaching, sauteeing or boiling to get maximum nutrition without adding extra unhealthy fat or calories.

Here are low-fat healthy ways to cook eggs.

Boiled Eggs

Fill a saucepan with water, add some salt and boil your eggs depending on how you like them. For soft-boiled cook for approximately five to six minutes. For hard-boiled eggs cook eggs for about ten minutes.

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs can be cooked in several different ways.

You can cook them in a greased skillet.  Break two eggs in a bowl and add 2-3 tablespoons milk; whisk the eggs until the mixture turns yellow.

Place skillet on  medium heat, add egg mixture and stir until the mixture starts to bubble slightly, after a while the mixture will start to thicken and look like scrambled eggs.

To do this in the microwave is a similar process but use a microwaveable container. Microwave on full power for about four to five minutes, stirring half way through.

Omelet

Break two eggs into a large measuring cup and use a fork to whisk them together, until you have a yellow mixture.

Put a skillet on medium heat, add 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the mixture and cook it until it looks like a pancake. Turn once during cooking.

Poached Eggs

Boil some water in a saucepan or deep skillet and add salt and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Slowly lower the heat in order to simmer the water and carefully break an egg into the pan and simmer until the egg has turned white. With a slotted spoon take out the egg and serve on toast.

Pesto, Mozzarella & Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon prepared pesto
  • 1 thin slice fresh mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Toast English muffin.

Combine egg and roasted red pepper in a small (about 8-ounce) microwave-safe ramekin or bowl.

Cover and microwave until the egg is set, about 1 minute.

Spread pesto on 1 English muffin half, then top with cheese.

Place the egg on the cheese. Top with the remaining English muffin half.

Breakfast Pita Pocket

Serves 2

Try substituting broccoli or asparagus for the spinach and add mushrooms, sausage or veggie sausage, if you like.

Use warm whole wheat tortillas or naan in place of the pitas.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach (or 1 cup frozen, then thawed and squeezed)
  • 3 organic eggs, beaten
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese or Sargento Italian
  • 2 whole wheat pitas, warm

Directions

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat oil, add spinach and cook, tossing often, until just wilted, about 1 minute.

Add eggs, salt and pepper and cook, tossing gently, until fluffy and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from heat, add mozzarella and toss again.

Spoon egg mixture onto pitas, fold in half and serve right away or wrap in foil to eat on the go.

Frittata

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 Eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Directions:

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

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

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

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until eggs are completely set and frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!) Loosen edges and bottom of frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully invert onto a large plate.

Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

Individual Egg & Cheese Casseroles

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces raw turkey breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Fat Free Milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 tablespoons shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray

Directions:

Cook and stir sausage in a skillet until browned and crumbled. Add onion and cook until onion is softened. Set aside.

Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in milk.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix dry ingredients gradually into egg mixture by sprinkling a spoonful at a time into the egg mixture and whisking until smooth before adding another spoonful.

Divide egg mixture among five (5-ounce) ramekins that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Divide sausage among casseroles. Top each casserole with 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Use a fork to lightly submerge cheese into egg mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the individual casseroles comes out clean.

Healthy Eggs Benedict

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole-grain English muffin, split
  • 2 large, whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp powdered mustard
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 6 asparagus stalks, cooked
  • Parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Fill a medium skillet with 1-inch of water, bring to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, toast muffin halves and set aside.

When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, crack one egg at a time into a small dish and gently pour into the simmering water and cook until desired doneness, three to five minutes.

While the eggs cook, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, mustard, salt and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan over low heat; heat until warm – do not boil.

To serve, place a toasted muffin half on each serving plate and top with three pieces of asparagus. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove eggs from the water and place one on each muffin; drizzle half the yogurt sauce on top and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

 



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