Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese


Most Italian Americans, I know, grew up on spaghetti and meatballs. However, meatballs can sometimes be difficult to make because it is tough to get the texture and the seasonings just  right. Often, they come out spongy or dry or dense.

Here are some of my tips for making good meatballs.

Some recipes call for beef and others call for pork. Some call for a mixture of beef and pork. Others call for beef, pork and veal. Then, there are the decisions about how much cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs to add or whether the meatballs should be cooked in the sauce or separately.

Meatballs need seasoning.  As a rule, about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound will make for perfectly seasoned meat. Herbs are also important. Without them, your meatballs will end up tasting like a burger. Change the flavor a bit with herbs like mint, oregano and marjoram.

When using all beef to make meatballs, the meat should not be too lean. You need some fat for flavor, so buy ground beef that is labeled 75% lean. Another way to add flavor is to use part ground beef and part ground pork in the meatball mixture.

Eggs are not used for moisture. They are in the meatball mix to bind the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs together. For one to two pounds of meat, you won’t need more than one egg.

Be sure not to add too many bread crumbs–about a half cup per pound of meat will be enough.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl at once and use your hands to mix them. The light touch of your hands incorporates all of the ingredients without crushing the meat.

Depending on how you’ll serve the meatballs, you should roll them to the size appropriate for the dish. In soup, for instance, you’ll want small, bite-sized meatballs. If they’re on top of spaghetti, make them medium. If they are the main course, make them 2 inches in diameter.

If you roll meatballs with dry hands, the meat mixture will stick to your skin. To remedy this, wet your hands with water.

I never fry meatballs to keep them healthy. Baking or broiling work just fine.


Here is my basic formula for meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Preheat the broiler or heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and broil 5 minutes each side or until completely brown. Or bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

If I am making the meatballs to go with spaghetti, then I simmer them in the sauce for the last hour of cooking.


Meatball Soup



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 8 cups chicken broth


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


To make the soup:

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until very soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and wine, stir to combine and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the barley and the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, the 2 tablespoons parsley and tomato paste.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands. The mixture will be very sticky.

To form the meatballs:

Use two small spoons or a small ice cream/melon scoop to form small (1 inch) meatballs. Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in gently. Serve the soup garnished with the 1/2 cup parsley.


Italian Meatball Stew

My mother made this often when I was growing up and I made it for my children when they were young. This dish is popular with kids if you find the right combination of vegetables that appeal to them.


  • Basic Meatball recipe above, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces or the equivalent frozen
  • 26-28 oz. container crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic until softened. Add the potato, green beans, tomatoes and seasonings.

Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and cook mixture until the potatoes and beans are tender.

Gently stir in meatballs and heat until the meatballs are hot and the mixture has thickened slightly.


Meatballs Stuffed With Mozzarella Cheese

This makes a great entrée with a salad and Italian bread. If you make them smaller, they are very good as an appetizer.


  • Double batch of the Basic Meatball recipe, above
  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes or mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls called pearls
  • 3 cups store-bought marinara sauce or homemade spaghetti sauce


Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Form meatball mixture into 2″ balls.

Press a cheese cube or ball in the middle and seal the meat around it.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown all over. Place in a large serving bowl.

Heat marinara sauce and pour over the meatballs in the serving bowl.


Italian-American Meatball Lasagna

This is another favorite from my childhood days that my children and husband are also crazy about.


  • One recipe of basic meatballs from above
  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Two 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb  mozzarella cheese, sliced thin


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the meatball mixture. With wet hands, shape into mini meatballs, using 2 teaspoons of mixture for each. Place the meatballs on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until brown all over, about 15 minutes.

To make the lasagna:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles to the boiling water one at a time and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels.

Stir the chopped basil into the marinara sauce. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, egg, parsley and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles, followed by half the ricotta cheese. Spread the ricotta with a spatula. Scatter half the meatballs over the noodles. Pour half 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the meatballs.

Top with 4 more noodles and layer with the remaining mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Scatter remaining meatballs over the cheese. Pour 1 cup marinara sauce over meatballs.

Top with the final 4 lasagna noodles. Spread with the reserved 1 cup of sauce. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


Pumpkins haven’t always been popular. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Now, we have pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, muffins and more. While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins are native to Mexico, but are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Americans love pumpkin, but so do the people on the other 6 continents who choose to grow them. America’s love is usually concentrated around Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Today, more pumpkins are grown in Italy than in America. In all of Italy’s diverse 20 regions, it is the people of Veneto, who give the pumpkin its highest esteem. The pumpkin — marina di Chioggia, also known as sea pumpkin, after its native town in the lagoon, is the most popular. The pumpkin’s bland and compact flesh make them an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet creations of Italians cooking, such as pumpkin risotto, pumpkin tortelli, cappelletti and gnocchi.

Italian Pumpkin

Italian Pumpkin

Smaller is Better

Choose sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties. Small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh, they’re perfect for pies, soups, muffins, and breads.

A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking.

Choose A Cooking Method

There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:

Baking Method

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.

Boiling Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
Let the chunks cool, then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.

Microwave Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, so you can enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.


Pumpkin and Leek Risotto


  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving


Cook the pumpkin:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Toss the pumpkin with a tablespoon of olive oil and one, small minced garlic clove  in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Roast until tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Wash the leek well and dice the white and light green parts.

In a saucepan, bring 6 cups stock to a simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the diced eek. Stir for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter.

Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until all liquid is absorbed.

When rice is almost cooked, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking,.until the pumpkin is hot and the rice is tender.

Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve topped with extra Parmesan cheese.


Pumpkin Gnocchi

3-4 servings


  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Ground white pepper
  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts,toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour; set aside.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. (Do not heat the water if you plan to freeze the gnocchi.)

Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl for a few minutes. Place in a mixing bowl and add the pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and a few pinches of white pepper. Stir to combine. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. (It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but don’t overwork the dough or it will become tough and heavy.)

Generously flour the work surface and turn out the dough. Pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll 1 piece into an even rope about 3/4 inch in diameter, flouring the surface as needed.

Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then roll it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression in the gnocchi that’s handy for holding sauce.

Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining 3 dough pieces.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.

Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Add a third of the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float, about 2 to 3 minutes, then let them cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more so they’re just cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat cooking the remaining gnocchi in 2 more batches.

Set aside a large serving bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add 1 teaspoon of the sage. a pinch of black pepper and half of the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan often, until the gnocchi are browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the reserved large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, sage, gnocchi and more black pepper..

Gently toss the gnocchi with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with the hazelnuts, if using. Serve immediately.


Penne Pasta with Pumpkin & Italian Sausage


  • 1 lb hot or sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound penne pasta or any short pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and sage leaves for garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the sausages until well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Slice into ¼-inch slices and set aside.

Add the garlic and onion to the skillet and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the bay leaf and wine. Cook until the wine reduces by half; about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin; cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles. Add sliced sausage and reduce heat and stir in cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Remove the bay leaf from sauce and add the cooked pasta. Toss together over low heat 1 minute. Garnish with grated cheese and sage leaves.


Italian Pumpkin Strata

A strata is a  brunch dish, similar to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture of bread, eggs and cheese. It may also include meat or vegetables. The bread is layered with the filling in order to produce layers (strata) and baked.

Servings: 10


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 cups half & half (fat-free works fine)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, peppers and garlic in oil until the sausage is no longer pink; drain.

Combine bread, cheese and sausage mixture in a large bowl.

Mix together the half & half, pumpkin, eggs, salt, pepper and seasonings.

Pour over the bread mixture and stir gently until bread is moistened.

Pour into a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set.

Serve warm.

pumpkin 5

Pumpkin Tiramisu

Serves 9


  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 25 Savoiardi Ladyfingers
  • 6 ounces Amaretti cookies, crumbled


In an electric mixer beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese, pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.

Pour the Amaretto liqueur into a shallow bowl. Dip each ladyfinger in the liqueur before arranging them along the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, overlapping to fit.

Spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers, sprinkle evenly with one-third of the Amaretti cookie crumbs and repeat with two more layers.

Smooth the top of dessert and wrap tightly in plastic and foil. Refrigerate. Best when chilled overnight.


Yesterday we roasted chicken and today we have leftovers. So what can you do with the leftovers?

It makes sense for us to get smarter about fully using the food that we purchase. And that means getting smarter about leftovers.

Even a small amount of  leftover roast chicken can easily become another meal and there are numerous ways to do this without being boring. With leftover chicken in the refrigerator you can make convenient and versatile weeknight dinners,

Leftover chicken can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for three to four days, and in the freezer for about four months.  Just remember to plan your leftover meals ahead so that when you’re at the market, you can pick up the ingredients you’ll need.

How much meat from a 6-lb. roasting chicken?

Leftover Amount Yield
1 whole chicken 7 cups
1/2 chicken 3-1/2 cups
1 breast 1 cup
1 leg (thigh and drumstick) 1 cup

Make A Salad


Roasted Chicken and Romaine Salad

For 4 servings


  • 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Leftover roast chicken (about 6 ounces per serving), sliced thin
  • 3 hearts of romaine, trimmed and torn into pieces
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices country-style white bread, each about ¾ inch thick
  • Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper for garnish


Whisk the dressing ingredients until smooth.

Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast on both sides in the broiler until lightly brown. Cut the bread into small cubes to make croutons.

Cut the chicken into thin slices and cut the bread into croutons. Place the romaine on serving plates and top with chicken and croutons. Serve right away with the dressing on the side.

Mix the romaine, chicken and croutons in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and gently toss.

Divide the salad onto 4 serving plates and garnish with black pepper and cheese.


Make Chicken Soup


To make the broth:

After you cut all the meat off the chicken, use the bones to make broth. Place the bones in a large soup pot and add 4 quarts of water.Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour.

Place a colander or strainer over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into it. Let the mixture cool. Pick through the bones and remove any meat; discard skin and bones. Add the meat to the broth; cover and set aside.

To make the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Additional cooked chicken and noodles, optional


Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot. Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked noodles and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Make A Pasta Dish


Chicken Lasagna Rolls

6 servings


  • 6 dried lasagna noodles
  • One 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 1 ½ cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup marinara pasta sauce


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a  3-quart rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and cut each noodle in half crosswise; set aside.

For the cheese sauce:

In a medium mixing bowl beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Slowly add milk, beating until smooth. Stir in Romano cheese and chives.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl stir together 1/2 cup of the white sauce, the chicken, broccoli, roasted red peppers and black pepper. Place about 1/4 cup of the filling at an end of each cooked noodle and roll. Arrange rolls, seam sides down, in the prepared baking dish.

Spoon the remaining white sauce over the rolls. Top each roll with some marinara sauce. Cover with foil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through.

Make A Sandwich


This sandwich can also be grilled in a panini press. You can also add a slice of your favorite cheese to each sandwich.

Chicken Focaccia Sandwich

6 servings


  • One round 8 inch tomato flavored focaccia bread or sourdough bread
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups sliced roasted chicken
  • ½ cup roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into strips


Using a long serrated knife, cut bread in half horizontally. Spread cut sides of the bread halves with mayonnaise..

Layer basil leaves, chicken and roasted sweet peppers between bread halves. Cut into wedges.

Dinner Entrée


Roasted Chicken Stuffed Zucchini

Yield: 2 halves


  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small minced garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or parsley
  • ½ cup leftover roast chicken, chopped
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded  mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut both ends off the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out most of the inner flesh, taking care to leave the shells (zucchini skin) intact. Chop the zucchini flesh.

Season the shells with sea salt and cracked black pepper and place on a foil lined baking sheet or in a glass baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Add the oil to a skillet and heat on medium. Add the onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chopped zucchini flesh, tomatoes and basil. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the tomato starts to soften. Mix in the cooked chicken pieces to reheat and season everything to taste with sea salt, cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper and lemon juice.

Scoop the filling equally into each zucchini shell and sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the zucchini is fork tender.


falldinnerscoverCrisp autumn days have us looking forward to soups, pot pies, roasts and casseroles. Pick from any number of fall ingredients to add flavor and color to your main dishes, sides and desserts.

This is also the perfect time of year to roast vegetables. Fall root vegetables and squash take to roasting and taste so much better for it.

How to Roast Any Vegetable

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Roast vegetables either whole or chopped. The larger the piece, the longer it will take to cook. Whole beets can take an hour or more, while asparagus will be cooked in about 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables in an oven-safe pan.

Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, just enough to very lightly coat the vegetables when tossed.

To see if the vegetables are cooked, prick with the tip of a paring knife. The knife should pull out easily.

Serve with a light sprinkle of sea salt and chopped or whole toasted nuts, breadcrumbs or grated cheese on top.


Squash Carbonara

Serve with a green salad.

6 Servings


  • 1 ½ pounds fall squash, such as butternut, delicata, acorn, etc
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta, unsliced; about a 1 inch thick piece
  • 12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Pecorino (for serving)


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and slice crosswise into ¼”-thick half-moons. Toss with oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash slices on a large rimmed baking sheet; place pancetta next to the squash. Roast until the squash is tender but hasn’t changed color and the pancetta is brown, about 30–35 minutes. Transfer the squash to a plate and set aside.

Let pancetta cool slightly, then cut into ¼” pieces. Pour any rendered fat on the baking sheet into a large skillet. Add the pancetta and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a small bowl. Reserve skillet with the drippings in the pan.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Add pasta to the reserved skillet along with a ½ cup pasta cooking water and toss to coat, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.

Lightly beat egg yolks and lemon zest in a large bowl just to combine. Working quickly, add the egg mixture to the hot pasta in the skillet and toss vigorously with tongs until a thick, glossy sauce forms, about 4 minutes. (If sauce still looks watery, keep tossing.)

Add pancetta and reserved squash to the pasta, season with salt and pepper and toss everything together in a large serving bowl. Shave Pecorino over pasta and top with more pepper just before serving.


Italian Bean Soup

Serve with crusty bread.

4 servings


  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • One 32 ounce box reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • One 5 ounce package fresh baby spinach
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook and stir carrots and onion in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add beans, broth and seasoning. Bring to boiling and slightly mash some of the beans. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add spinach; toss with tongs 1 to 2 minutes, just until wilted. Remove from the heat. Ladle soup into serving bowls; top with spinach, grated cheese and sprinkle with pepper.


Sea Scallops with Peppers and Corn

6 servings


  • 3 ears corn (about 2 1/2 lb. total), husked, silks removed
  • 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves


Holding each ear of corn upright in a deep bowl, cut kernels from the cobs.

Rinse scallops, remove side muscle and pat dry; sprinkle lightly all over with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the corn, bell peppers, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste; cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove to a wide, shallow serving bowl.

Add remaining oil, butter and scallops to the skillet. Cook until the scallops are browned on the outside and barely opaque in the center (cut to test), about 5 minutes.

Top the vegetables with scallops and any pan juices. Sprinkle with basil and serve.


Broiled Turkey Breast with Orange Spinach

4 servings


  • Two 8 ounce boneless turkey breast tenderloins, halved horizontally
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 oz. pancetta, cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Two 9 ounce packages fresh spinach
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges


Lightly sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper. Place on an unheated broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 5 minutes. Turn turkey pieces over; broil for 4 minutes more.

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, the Parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs. Spread over turkey. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes more or until topping is golden and turkey is no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Heat butter in a large skillet and cook pancetta until crisp. Add spinach, half at a time and cook 1 minute or just until wilted. Add orange wedges and orange juice with the second batch of spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using tongs, remove the spinach to a serving platter. Top with turkey and orange wedges. Drizzle with remaining juices from the skillet and serve.


Pork with Squash Barley Risotto

4 servings


  • ½ cup regular barley
  • One 32 ounce container vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 12 ounces pork tenderloin
  • Snipped fresh basil, oregano and thyme for garnish


Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add barley; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted. Stir in broth and squash; bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; boil 15 minutes more or until the squash and barley are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed (mixture should still appear creamy). Remove from heat. Stir in basil and oregano.

Place garlic, salt and pepper on a cutting board. Using the flat side of a large knife, smash the garlic. Drag the flat side of the knife across the garlic in one direction then the opposite direction until a smooth paste forms. Place paste in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of the oil; set aside.

Slice pork into 1/2-inch thick slices and flatten the slices with the palm of your hand. Rub garlic mixture over the pork slices.

In a 12-inch skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through. Serve pork with barley mixture and sprinkle with additional fresh herbs.


Flatbreads are breads made with flour, water and salt that are rolled into a flattened dough and baked. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast—although some are slightly leavened, such as pita bread. Flatbread became known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), when the Sumerians discovered that edible grains could be mashed into a paste and then baked/hardened into a flatbread. Unleavened breads (such as matzoh which is not prepared with leavening) are usually flatbreads that hold special religious significance in Judaism and Christianity.


Flatbreads may contain such ingredients as curry powder, diced jalapenos, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added, as well, and flatbreads are usually thin. Cheese and  tomato sauce are not usually added to flatbread.


Pizza, on the other hand, is usually made from dough containing yeast that is topped with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and vegetables. The crust is usually thin and most of the surface is covered with the toppings.


Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs and may at times be topped with onion, Focaccia can be used as the bread to accompany a meal. The primary difference between conventional pizza and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil.

Easy Flatbread


Makes two 12-inch breads

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed


Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

To shape the dough:

Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths. Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Cut the dough into 2 pieces.

Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each piece of dough with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes for the gluten  to relax.

Turn the dough over and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Turn again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with the remaining salt.

Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes and carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with salami,  cheese, peppery extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes.

Neapolitan Pizza

For 1 pizza


  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Dough, recipe below
  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 cup sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive Oil


Prepare pizza dough as directed in the recipe below. About 2 hours before baking, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to proof.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan.

Place one ball of dough in the pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Top the dough with All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and several basil leaves brushed with olive oil.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, cheese is turning golden, and edges of pizza are golden brown.

All-Purpose Pizza Dough


  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt or 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil cooking spray


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except olive oil cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead.

Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough in three portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand to come to room temperature.

All-Purpose Pizza Sauce


  • One 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.

Onion Focaccia

onion foccacia bread bites


  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt , divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds sweet yellow onions , cut into eighths and thickly sliced


In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil and 1 cup warm water, then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly oiled 15-inch x 11-inch jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out to the edges of the pan. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over the dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.


Look for apples that are firm, brightly colored and free of bruises. The skin should be clean and shiny; a dull finish indicates the fruit may be past its prime. Refrigerate apples up to two weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy. Apples are also good baked in pies, roasted or sautéed to accompany meat dishes.

Look for grapes that are plump, unblemished and firmly attached to a flexible stem. Ripe white and green grapes should have a yellowish cast; red and purple ones should have no green. Refrigerate grapes in a ventilated plastic bag up to one week.

Pears ripen off the tree, so most of the fruit you’ll find at the market will need a few days to soften at home. Common varieties include: Anjou, which is egg-shaped with a green, rose-tinged green, or red skin; Bosc, which has a slender neck and a brown skin (Boscs are flavorful even before fully ripe so they are good for cooking); and Bartlett, which has a red skin or a green skin that yellows as it ripens. Let pears ripen at room temperature. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck of the fruit will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to five days. Cooking can really bring out their flavor, so try them baked or poached.

This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades and the seeds can be mixed into salads to give them flavor.

This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, stuffed with cream cheese or almonds or baked into quick breads.

Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad or combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney.



Apple-Date Cake

12 servings


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine milk, dates and salt; heat until steaming but do not boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in apple and vanilla; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in egg and oil and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter, the 1 teaspoon flour and the cinnamon; set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the 1-1/2 cups flour, the baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm.


Italian Grape Cake


  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh, seedless purple grapes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350°F

Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Cut the cake into thin wedges.


Pear Quick Bread


  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pears (not too ripe – more hard than soft)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Mix together molasses, honey, egg white, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.

Mix flour, bran, sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and add the wet mixture all at once.

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

Pour into a 9 x 5-inch lightly greased baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread tests done (cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean). Makes 1 large loaf.


Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled


In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and melted butter. Pour mixture all at once into the well in the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2 1/2-in.-wide) or 24 (1 3/4-in.-wide) buttered mini muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with granulated sugar.

Bake in a 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for the large muffin pan or 13 minutes for the small muffin pan. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.


Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake


  • 2/3 cup (about 3 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs or biscotti crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 15 oz. (1 2/3 cups) ricotta cheese
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 kiwi fruit (about 1/4 lb. each)


Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger and melted butter. Pat crumb mixture evenly the over bottom of a removable-rim 8-inch cheesecake pan.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the crust is lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, egg whites and lemon juice until very smooth.

In a mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Add ricotta mixture and stir until well blended (the mixture is thin). Pour into the (hot or cool) crust.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 50 to 55 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim.

Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until cool, at least 2 1/2 hours. (If making ahead, wrap airtight when cool and chill up to 2 days.)

Remove pan rim. Peel kiwi fruit and slice crosswise. Arrange fruit in a ring in overlapping slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining ginger. Cut cake into wedges.


It just doesn’t feel like football season without chicken wings, nachos, burgers and high-calorie favorites. Sure, these fatty foods might taste good at the time, but they put you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight gain. Plus, greasy, fatty foods mindlessly munched (with beer) while you watch the game, can leave you bloated.

The best seat in the house is not in front of a table filled with food. Stake out a seat near the game but away from the food. When you want something to eat, get up and put a portion on your plate.

Watch the game. Talk to your friends. Cheer for your team. The more involved you are in the real action, the less likely you’ll be to absentmindedly eat too much.

Beer will be flowing. Slow it down and ward off a hangover by drinking a tall glass of water between each beer.

Enjoy watching the games with healthier finger foods and savory snacks and they will be just as tasty and enjoyable as the not-so-healthy versions.


Blue Cheese Walnut Balls

This easy-to-make appetizer will be a big hit at your next get-together. Use a cookie scoop to shape the cheese balls.

Makes: 8 servings


  • 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (1 ounce)
  • 12 dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely snipped fresh rosemary
  • Triscuit crackers (whole wheat crackers)


In a small bowl combine cream cheese and blue cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in apricots, 3 tablespoons of the walnuts and salt.

Shape mixture into 16 balls. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the walnuts and the rosemary. Roll balls to lightly cover with nut mixture. Serve with crackers.


Pizza Lettuce Wraps

8 servings


  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cups shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced, cooked turkey pepperoni, cut into thin strips (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 16 large Bibb lettuce leaves


In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, beans, cheese, pepperoni, basil and oregano.

Divide tomato mixture among lettuce leaves. Roll up or leave open as cups.


Spiced Nuts

6-8 servings


  • 3 cups peanuts
  • 3 cups almonds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine nuts and oil; stir to coat nuts evenly.

In a small bowl, stir together chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, celery salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle over nut mixture; toss to coat nuts evenly.

Spread nuts in a single layer in a 15 x 10 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring twice; cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


Spinach-Parmesan Dip

8 servings


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • One 14 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Toasted Pita Chips
  • Sliced red bell peppers


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a an 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Squeeze spinach dry and mix with the artichokes, onion, mustard, garlic, oregano and pepper in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with pita chips and sliced red bell peppers.


Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard Sauce

8 servings



  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Chicken Fingers

Olive oil cooking spray

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast tenders, skinless
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup finely chopped sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Combine honey, mustard and vinegar in a serving bowl; mix well. Chill.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line several baking sheets with foil; lightly coat with spray.

Combine eggs and water in a large bowl; whisk to blend.

Soak chicken in the egg mixture for 30 minutes, turning once; set aside.

Combine bread crumbs, almonds, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag; shake to combine.

Working with a few pieces at a time, lift chicken from the egg mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl, and drop into bag containing the bread crumb mixture. Seal bag and shake to coat; repeat with remaining chicken.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle and golden brown.

Serve with the honey mustard sauce.


Oatmeal-Toffee Cookies

Makes 4 dozen


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (10-ounce) package toffee bits


Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add sugar, beating well. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine oats and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in chopped pecans and toffee bits.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

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