Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

 

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The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline considered to be Italy’s most scenic on the southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno in Southern Italy. The Amalfi Coast is a popular tourist destination for the region and Italy as a whole, attracting thousands of tourists annually. The Amalfi Coast has a Mediterranean climate, featuring warm summers and mild winters.

The roads along the Amalfi Coast are famously winding, narrow and challenging to drive. All the towns of the Amalfi coast are connected by the scenic SS163 road built in the first half of the 19th century. Following the natural course of the coastline, the route is full of curves, nestled between the rock and the sea cliffs, giving spectacular views at the exit of every tunnel or hairpin bend. Before the construction of the coastal road, locals reached the region’s 13 towns via mules on footpaths that still exist.

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Caprese salad made with the area’s mozzarella di bufala.

Caprese salad made with the area’s mozzarella di bufala.

The cuisine, abundant in fish, seafood, fruit and vegetables ripened to perfection in the Mediterranean sun; will also appeal to meat eaters and cheese lovers, thanks to the protein-packed delicacies produced in the Lattari mountains. Not only is the world’s undisputed best pizza made in Naples but the region is also home to gelato, paccheri pasta, eggplant and sfogliatelle pastries and each village in the region has its traditional cuisine and specialized recipes.

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The Amalfi Coast is known for its production of Limoncello liqueur, as the area is a major producer of lemons, known as sfusato amalfitano in Italian, which are grown in terraced gardens along the entire coast between February and October. Amalfi is also known for making a hand-made thick paper which is called bambagina. Other local products are a particular kind of anchovies (alici) from Cetara and colorful handmade ceramics from Vietri sul Mare

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An Amalfi Inspired Dinner For Four

Appetizer: Stuffed Calamari

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small squid with tentacles
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 balls fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 15 green olives

Directions

Rinse the squid inside and out and set aside.

Heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini. Season with salt and black pepper and remove the pan from the heat. Cool slightly. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, making sure it doesn’t melt.

Gently stuff the vegetable cheese mixture into each calamari. Don’t overstuff the calamari because when they cook, they will shrink, and the stuffing will pop out. Seal the opening by threading the tentacles through the body with a toothpick a few times.

Heat the remaining olive oil with the garlic in the frying pan. Add the stuffed calamari, cook about 1 minute and then add in the capers, tomatoes and olives.

Remove the garlic and add a pinch of salt. Cook about 3 minutes longer and serve immediately.

First Course: Spaghetti Mare e Monte

Spaghetti from the Sea and the Mountains

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4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 16 small fresh shrimp, cut in half
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet placed over medium-high heat and add the chili pepper flakes. Heat and add the garlic and zucchini. Saute 1 minute and do not let the zucchini get brown.

Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook until the zucchini and tomatoes soften. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cooked spaghetti and toss with the ingredients in the pan. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

Second Course: Lamb in Tomato and Red Wine Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (56 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • One whole bulb of garlic, cut in half
  • 3 lbs (1.35 kg) lamb rib chops
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 lb (450 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (450 ml) red wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Season the lamb chops generously on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot and put the garlic halves face down, so that the cut sides are in the oil.

Add the lamb and rosemary sprigs and sear the lamb on all sides.

Add in the wine and let that cook until the wine has evaporated. Add the cherry tomatoes, lower the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for half an hour.

Transfer the chops to dinner plates and serve with the sauce.

Green Bean Salad

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic; The Neelys

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (900 g) green beans, cleaned and trimmed
  • 5 tablespoons (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (28 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Directions

Boil the green beans for three to five minutes until tender crisp — slightly soft but still with a bit of crunch.

Drain them well, pat dry with a clean towel and put them in a mixing bowl with a cover.

Add the olive oil, mint, red pepper, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.

Gently toss the beans in the dressing. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Bring the salad to room temperature, sprinkle on the lemon zest and serve.

Dessert: Lemon Granita

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 6 large lemons, plus the zest of 2 of the lemon, minced
  • Mint garnish, optional

Directions

Heat 2 cups water in a saucepan and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool, and then add in the lemon juice and zest.

Freeze the lemon mixture in a metal bowl, stirring every 20 minutes, until the liquid has become granular but is still slightly slushy, 3 to 4 hours.

Serve the granita in dessert bowls with a sprig of mint.


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Take advantage of fresh, in-season produce to make healthy dessert recipes for your next barbecue, block party or casual summer dinner. These summer desserts are so satisfying that no one will notice that they’re lower in fat and calories.

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Berry-Lemon Shortcake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Berry-Lemon Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh  raspberries, strawberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 4 cups fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries

Directions

Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Line pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the waxed paper; set pan aside.

In a small saucepan heat milk and butter until the butter melts.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder and lemon peel; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 4 minutes or until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture; beat on low to medium speed just until combined.

Add the heated milk/butter to the batter and beat until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack lined with waxed paper; carefully peel off top waxed paper and cool completely.

Make sauce: Place the 3 cups of berries in a medium bowl and mash the berries with a potato masher.

In a small saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Add mashed berries. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cool about 10 minutes. Stir in the 4 cups of berries. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.

Cut cake into 12 pieces. Split each cake piece in half horizontally. Place a cake bottom on an individual dessert plate. Spoon some sauce over the cake bottom. Cover with a cake top. Spoon sauce over the cake.

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Chocolate Sauce with Fruit Kabobs

Be sure to use good quality chocolate for the sauce.

16 servings

Ingredients

  • Strawberry halves, pineapple, apple, kiwi fruit chunks and raspberries
  • 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate baking bar, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla and butter. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and coffee until completely melted and smooth. Keep warm or reheat just before serving.

Thread assorted fruit onto sixteen 6-inch wooden (bamboo) skewers.

To serve:

Place a few tablespoons of sauce on a serving plate and place a fruit skewer on top.

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Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • One 8 ounce package low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan; set pan aside.

For the blueberry sauce:

In a small saucepan stir together the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Stir in the blueberries and the orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the crust:

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form and mixture starts to cling together (mixture will still be crumbly). Pat mixture firmly into prepared pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes.

For the cake:

n a medium bowl beat cream cheese, the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 1 tablespoon flour until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.

Pour over the hot baked crust, spreading evenly. Drop blueberry sauce in small mounds over the cheese layer. Use a thin metal spatula or table knife to marble the mixtures together.

Bake for 20 minutes more or until the center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Remove uncut bars from the pan by lifting the foil out of the pan. Cut into bars.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Sift powdered sugar over bars just before serving.

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

28 cookies

Ingredients

  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa and salt; stir with a whisk.

Place butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Add the egg yolks, espresso and vanilla to the butter; beat well. Add flour mixture and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in nuts.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead several times or until smooth and shiny. Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls.

Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb deeply into the center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

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Peach Custard Pie

10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt (6 ounces)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups sliced fresh peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

To prepare the crust:

Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times. Turn into a mixing bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add oil and stir with a fork to blend.

Mix 1/4 cup water, egg yolk and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add enough of the wet ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (Add a little more water if it seems too dry.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. Form into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Position rack the in lower third of the oven; preheat to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling & assemble pie:

Combine sugar, milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla (or almond) extract and salt in a medium bowl; whisk until smooth.

Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough into the prepared pie pan. Peel off the remaining paper.

Trim the dough so it overhangs evenly by about 1 inch. Fold the edges under to make a plump edge; flute or crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork. Place on a baking sheet.

Arrange peaches on the crust and pour the filling on top (some peaches will float but this won’t affect the final results). Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle chopped pecans over the top. Cover the edges with heavy-duty foil (or a double layer of regular foil) to help prevent over browning.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Return the pie to the oven and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 minutes to 1 hour more.

Let cool for 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.


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Many families go out to dinner on Mother’s Day. However, a home cooked dinner is a better way of honoring the greatest mother in the land-yours!. Let spring produce and warmer weather influence your menu decisions.

A Mother’s Day Menu

Appetizers

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Fruit Kabobs

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 16 each Red and Green Grapes
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar cheese  
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 8 each Strawberries
  • 8 each Wooden Skewers

Directions

Cut strawberries in half. If they are extra large you may want to cut them in quarters.

Cut cheese into 1 inch cubes

Thread each skewer with the grapes, cheeses and strawberries alternating between the ingredients.

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Pear and Cranberry Bellini

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 bottle Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine

Directions

In a small pitcher or large liquid measuring cup, combine pear nectar and cranberry juice cocktail.

Pour 1/4 cup juice mixture into each of eight champagne glasses. Dividing evenly, top with Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine.

First Course

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Spring Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) bunch asparagus, woody stems snapped off and discarded; spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Heat 1/2 cup of broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add remaining broth, salt, pepper and potatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in asparagus and broccoli and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to let cool slightly.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches until smooth. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chives.

Second Course

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Roasted Chicken with Warm Tuscan Bread Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Two 3 1/2-pound chickens—cut in half, backbones discarded
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 4 small rosemary sprigs
  • 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 4 oz crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves
  • Romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces, about 6 cups
  • 4 anchovy fillets, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

On a work surface, cut the wings off of the chickens at the second joint, leaving the rest of the wing attached to the breasts.

Season the chickens liberally with salt and pepper and arrange skin side up on two rimmed baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the chickens and top each half with 2 cubes of the butter.

Scatter the thyme, rosemary and garlic over the chickens; let them return to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden but still slightly chewy.

Increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Fit the fennel, scallions and sage around the chicken on the baking pans. Roast in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 165°F; switch the pans halfway through roasting. Let rest for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the bread with the roasted vegetables, romaine, anchovies, capers, vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fold in 1/4 cup of the cheese shavings and season the bread salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the bread salad to a platter and scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese shavings on top. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on top of the salad.

Dessert

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Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 16 oz lower fat cream cheese (2 packages, room temperature)
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 lemon (juiced and zested), reserve 1/4 teaspoon of zest for sauce

Blueberry Sauce

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

Cook blueberry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan on medium heat about 4 minutes stirring occasionally; cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the crust:

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together.

Press the mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 8 or 9-inch springform pan and chill.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, cream together the cream cheese and sugar.

Add the eggs, yogurt, lemon juice and zest and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the crust.

Place the cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven.

Add a pan of water on the lower rack.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes being careful not to open the oven while the cheesecake is baking.

Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool for 30 minutes in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

Remove the cheesecake and continue to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Serve slices of cheesecake with the blueberry sauce.

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A Mother’s Love…

How precious is the love
of a mother’s heart!
Even as a child… It’s there from the start.

A mother’s love knows
no boundary or limit.
It’s often shown by how
much the mother gives it!

Whether her children are
young or growing old…
And whatever circumstances
in life may unfold…

Her love is continually
a solid foundation…
That can’t be removed, torn or shaken.

Her love is what is
a “guiding force…”
Even if her children’s lives
stray “off course.”

I’m thankful for the love
my mother’s given…
It’s surely influenced
the way I’ve been livin’!

To all of our mothers across
our great nation…
May we show them our love
and appreciation!

Their love has stood and
endured the test of time…
I’m so glad that one of them is MINE!

By Jim Pemberton


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Hosting a spring party soon for the mother-to-be//bride-to-be or the graduate or for a special birthday/anniversary? Spring celebrations are a great time of year for gathering with family and friends.

The first flowers of the season make perfect centerpieces. Grocery stores and home improvement stores have bulbs, like crocus, tulips and daffodils, in pots and blooming and these can add a feeling of spring to your party area.

Take advantage of the spring produce in the market. Make dishes ahead of time, if you can. Set up the drinks/cocktails in a special area. Small bites are the easiest and most functional way to serve party foods. Even if you are going to serve a main course, keep the appetizers and desserts simple finger foods. Here are some easy recipes to get you started.

Appetizers

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Antipasto Skewers

24 skewers

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Italian salami, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • One 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces 
  • One 14 -ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • Small wood or bamboo skewers

Directions

Thread 1 small or 1/2 of a large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and salami, arranging them in that order on the skewer so that it can stand up on the salami end. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.The skewers can be assembled ahead and refrigerated until serving time.

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Crab Salad Rolls

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat, picked over and lightly broken up
  • Salt
  • 16 mini brioche or mini hamburger rolls, split
  • 16 small Boston lettuce leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the celery and lemon juice and season with cayenne. Gently fold in the crab meat and season with salt. Fill the buns with the lettuce and the crab salad and arrange on a decorative tray. The crab salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fill the rolls just before serving.

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Eggplant Compote

Serve with crostini, flatbread or pita chips.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce, (marinara)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Place the diced eggplant in a steamer basket. Set the basket over 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and steam the eggplant until tender, about 12 minutes; drain well.

In a large skillet, combine the tomatoes with the garlic, oregano and paprika and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and the eggplant and simmer, gently stirring a few times, until the eggplant is flavored with the sauce, no more than 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper; add the lemon zest and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The compote can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Desserts

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Chocolate-Zucchini Bites

Makes 24

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 24 walnut or pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup finely grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt and egg until combined. Add vanilla, zucchini and sour cream and stir until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into another bowl and stir until combined. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Spray two mini muffin pans or one 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup with 2 tablespoons batter and top with a walnut.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes.

Let muffins cool slightly in pans on wire racks before removing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Strawberry Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • One 4-serving-size package (Jello) instant pudding mix (vanilla or cheesecake flavored)
  • 1 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves
  • Sliced strawberries and toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Directions

For the tart shells:

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and ground almonds. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until pieces are pea-size.

In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined.

Gently knead just until smooth and form the dough into a ball. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the dough into 24 pieces.

Shape pieces into balls. Press dough evenly into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 ungreased 1-3/4-inch muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix, evaporated milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling into each tart shell. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, top each tart with a 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves and a strawberry slice and a few sliced almonds. Makes 24.

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Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and gradually beat into the sugar mixture until blended. Stir in carrots.

Fill 20 paper-lined muffin cups half full.

Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients and beat until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until serving time.


sardiniacover

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.

Sardinia

The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.

Traditional Dress

Traditional Dress

During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.

The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.

Cork

Cork Trees

Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.

Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.

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Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.

The Cuisine of Sardinia

Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.

Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.

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Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.

A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.

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Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.

For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.

Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata.  Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.

Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled.  Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion.  Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.

Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else.  Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.

sardiniabread

Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf.  Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”,  a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.

Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese.  Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.

sardiniamyrtle

Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.

Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.

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Sardinian Minestrone

Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
  • 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)

Directions

Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.

Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.

Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.

Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.

Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.

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Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce

Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large pinches saffron
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.

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Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.

In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.

Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.

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“Torta de arrosu”  Saffron rice cake

Ingredients

  • 200 gr / 7 oz rice
  • 150 gr/ 5 oz  sugar
  • 750 ml /  1 ½ pints of milk
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
  • Grated rind of a lemon
  • A pinch of saffron
  • A pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C).  Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.

Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.

Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for one hour.  Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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Festival Days

 


heartcoverDesserts aren’t off-limits if you’re aiming for a heart-healthy diet. You just have to choose carefully. The high fat content of some desserts, particularly if made with saturated fat—can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body. Over time, elevated cholesterol can lead to heart attacks, strokes, sluggish circulation and kidney problems. If you stick with healthier recipes, have dessert only a few times a week and keep it to reasonable portions—you can have dessert.

Some tips in making good tasting, healthy desserts:

Paying a little extra for high-quality products, like premium chocolate and pure vanilla extract, can pay off. More-flavorful ingredients make lower calorie desserts taste better.

Use two egg whites or a quarter cup of refrigerated egg substitute in place of one egg and you’ll trim about 60 calories and six grams of fat from your treats. In my experience, baked goods turn out really well when using egg substitutes.

Most chocolate chip cookies are much larger than what is considered a healthy portion. Use a tablespoon to measure out the dough. For brownies and sheet cakes, cut them into two-inch squares before serving. Pie slices should be about one and a half inches across at the widest part.

Replacing one cup of white flour with white whole wheat flour adds 10 grams of heart-healthy fiber to your baked goods. Because whole grains are coarser than refined ones, it is better to use no more than a fifty-fifty mix in your recipe.

You can also make graham cracker crusts that will hold together without melted butter. Pulse 10 honey graham cracker sheets (six ounces) into fine crumbs in a food processor. Add two tablespoons of low-fat milk and process for another 30 seconds, or until the crumbs stick when pressed together. Press the mixture into a nine-inch pie dish and bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Sugar substitutes have a different chemical consistency and are often sweeter than sugar, meaning you’ll need less. For best results, use sweetener-sugar hybrids developed specifically for baking, like Domino Light or Truvia Baking Blend and follow the directions on the package.

You can use less fat and sugar in a recipe by substituting a portion of the fat and sugar with fruit or vegetable purees. They make desserts denser, so try a 25 to 50 percent trade to find the right combination.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Applesauce

The mild flavor of unsweetened applesauce works particularly well in muffins and cakes. Use an equal amount to replace butter, oil or shortening in your recipe.

2. Canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree

Substitute either one for fat in a one-to-one ratio in spice breads, spice cakes or chocolate desserts. You can also add a can of pumpkin to a box of brownie mix in place of the eggs and oil.

3. Prunes or dates

These add richness and deepen the color of gingerbread and brownies. Blend a half cup with six tablespoons of water until smooth, then use the puree to replace an equal amount of fat.

4. Bananas

Try substituting half the amount of the oil called for with the same amount of mashed banana.

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Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Raspberries or shaved chocolate for garnishing

Directions

Place chopped chocolate in a 2-cup glass measure or small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on 70% power (medium-high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave on 70% power for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until chocolate is melted, stirring every 15 seconds.

In a food processor bowl combine ricotta cheese, half-and-half and vanilla. Cover and process until combined. Add melted chocolate while food processor is running. Process until well combined.

Spoon into small bowls or glasses. Serve immediately or cover and chill for up to 24 hours. If desired, garnish with fresh berries or chocolate shavings. Makes 4 servings.

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Fresh Orange Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 10 medium oranges
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium)
  • Grated orange rind
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Carefully remove the rind from 2 oranges using a vegetable peeler; discard the white pith. Cut rind into 1 x ¼-inch-thick strips. Set aside.

Cut peeled oranges in half and using a citrus press squeeze juice from the orange halves into a large measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from the remaining 8 oranges until juice measures 2 2/3 cups.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and the sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add reserved rind strips to the pan. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Strain sugar mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving the liquid; discard solids. Cool completely.

Add orange juice and lemon juice to the sugar mixture; stir well. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice-cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Garnish with grated rind and mint sprigs, if desired.

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Dark Chocolate Mint Bars

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup good quality dark or semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely crushed chocolate wafers (about 19 wafers)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon trans-free, fat-free shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons kale or parsley juice for a natural green color, optional

Directions

Line an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Coat foil with cooking spray. Set aside.

For the crust:

In a food processor pulse oats until fine.

In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup of the chocolate pieces and the butter; heat and stir until melted.

Stir in the processed oats, finely crushed chocolate wafers, cocoa powder and salt. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill for 15 minutes.

In the same saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate pieces and the shortening. Heat and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl beat together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, peppermint extract, vanilla and kale juice, if using for a green color, until smooth.

Spread over the crust and drizzle with the melted chocolate mixture.

Chill about 1 hour or until set. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into 24 bars.

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Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk (2%)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Amaretto or almond extract
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the Panna Cotta:

In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 3 minutes to soften. Cook and stir over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Cook and stir just until the milk is heated through and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in Amaretto or almond extract. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups. Cover and chill about 8 hours or until firm.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, orange juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and the cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

To serve:

Run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold onto individual plates. Top with sauce. Makes 4 (1 panna cotta with 2-tablespoons sauce) servings.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting: Paula Deen

Red Velvet Cupcakes

For a red color without the artificial dye, use either sliced or whole canned beets, whichever costs less. An 8 1/4-ounce can yields slightly more than 1 cup. Look to be sure there is no sugar added or that they are pickled beets. You will not taste the flavor of the beets in the cupcakes. It is best to make these cupcakes the day before you plan on serving them.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned beets, drained
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon. baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon. baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil, chilled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners into a 12-cup regular size muffin pan.

Coarsely chop beets and place in the blender with 1/4 cup buttermilk. Process until beets are finely chopped. Add remaining buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla and process until pureed, making sure no lumps remain.

In a small bowl, combine flour, 6 tablespoons of cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In medium bowl, combine cold oil and sugar. With hand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed, mix until the sugar is evenly moistened. Add cold egg and beat at high-speed until mixture resembles mayonnaise and sugar is almost completely dissolved, takes about 90 seconds.

Add  the pureed beet mixture and mix until combined. Sift dry ingredients into the bowl and mix, either on low-speed or by hand until combined with the wet ingredients.

Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full.

Bake cupcakes for 28-30 minutes, or until tops feel springy. Immediately transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Cupcakes taste the best when stored overnight at room temperature in a covered container.Make the frosting as directed below and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, frost cupcakes, using about 1 tablespoon of the frosting for each. The frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In small bowl, work sugar and cream cheese together with wooden spoon or hand mixer until combined. Mix in vanilla.

This frosting is best when refrigerated 8 hours or overnight, loosely covered, before using. It keeps in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Makes a generous 2/3 cup.


Our Newly Planted Lemon Tree

Our Newly Planted Lemon Tree

Caring about our communities, the environment and our planet shouldn’t be a one day thing. Working to decrease our impact on the planet should be a continuous process. However, Earth Day is also the perfect time to make a personal pledge to start a new good habit.

Here are a few ways to make a difference:

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Turn out the lights when you leave a room. It does make a difference.

Taking a shower uses less water than filling a bathtub and a water-conserving shower head is even better.

To decrease waste, purchase durable, long-lasting products that can be reused, refilled or recharged. If you do use disposables, choose those made with recycled/recyclable materials.

Adjusting your thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer could save energy consumption.

Buy groceries such as grains, beans, cereals, pasta and snacks from bulk bins when available to avoid excess trash. Plus, being able to buy just the amount you need means no wasted food.

Use reusable cloth bags when shopping to avoid using paper or plastic bags.

Compost your food waste to reduce trash that goes to a landfill. Add  the compost to your garden for nutrient-rich soil.

Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

These are just a few suggestions to incorporate an Earth Day mentality into your daily routine.

The more unprocessed foods you eat — especially plant-based foods — the healthier you and our planet are going to be.  While a meat-centered diet deepens our ecological footprint and contributes to pollution, a plant-centered diet requires fewer resources and supports long-term health. But you don’t have to go completely veggie to reap the benefits; try gradually adding a few meatless dishes to your weekly menu. Try some of these delicious, earth friendly recipes.

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Broccoli Calzones

Spinach can be used in place of broccoli.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Flour, for rolling dough
  • 2 (1 pound each) fresh or frozen pizza dough balls, thawed if frozen
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded (6 ounces) mozzarella cheese
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Homemade marinara sauce, recipe below

Directions

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broccoli, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the calzones:

Divide each ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, stretch each piece out, first to a 3-by-4-inch oval, then stretch again, this time to a 6-by-8-inch oval. (Let dough rest a few minutes if too elastic to work with.)

Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper.

To assemble the calzones:

Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.

Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment; reshape if needed.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with heated marinara sauce.

To freeze: Prepare recipe through step 3. Tightly wrap each calzone in plastic; freeze until firm. Transfer calzones to resealable plastic bags; label and date. Freeze up to 2 months.

To serve: unwrap calzones, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; bake without thawing until golden, 35 to 40 minute

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Makes about 3 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1  28-oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

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Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, (about 12), cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 large eggplant, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for serving
  • Toasted Italian bread, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with racks on the top and the bottom.

On one rimmed baking sheet, toss together tomatoes, carrots, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer, with tomatoes cut sides down.

On another rimmed baking sheet, toss together eggplant, chickpeas, Italian seasoning, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer.

Place both sheets in the oven (tomato mixture on top rack). Roast until tender, tossing mixtures halfway through, about 45 minutes.

Using tongs, peel off and discard tomato skins. Puree tomato mixture (including juices) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large pot.

Stir in eggplant mixture; thin with 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Serve, sprinkled with basil and garnished with toasted bread, if desired.

earth7

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, divided
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds wild mushrooms, (chanterelles, oyster and shiitake), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 4 1/2 cups milk at room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 one-pound package lasagna noodles, parboiled

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon oil in large pan over medium heat. Add half the garlic; saute until light golden, about 1 minute. Add half the spinach leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain spinach in a colander. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil, remaining garlic and spinach.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze to rid it of liquid. Roughly chop spinach; place in a medium bowl with ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute until mushrooms are softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/4 cup Madeira into the hot skillet with the mushrooms and using a wooden spoon to loosen bits cooked onto skillet. Cook mushrooms until liquid has almost evaporated. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a second bowl. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon of butter, the remaining mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1/4 cup Madeira. Add to the first batch of cooked mushrooms.

Set aside in a small bowl one-third of the cooked mushrooms to use for the topping. Add ¼ cup of chopped parsley to the remaining cooked mushrooms; stir.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly add 4 cups of milk; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the nutmeg and 1/2 cup grated cheese. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce in another small bowl.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles in the pan; spread 1 cup spinach mixture, 1 cup mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup of sauce on top of the lasagna. Repeat layers several times.

For the last layer, place a layer of lasagna noodles on top; spread 1/2 cup sauce over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese. Bake lasagna until the top is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, heat the remaining reserved one-third mushrooms, reserved ½ cup sauce, remaining half cup of milk and ¼ cup parsley in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon some of the mushroom sauce over each serving of lasagna.

earth5

Green Bean, Orange and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (6 ounces)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved and roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or nuts of choice

Directions

In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain green beans and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Cut off the peel following the curve of the fruit. Halve fruit from top to bottom, and thinly slice each half crosswise.

In a bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add feta, oranges, lettuce, onion, nuts and green beans. Toss to combine.

earth6

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 48

Ingredients

  • 3  egg whites
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts or other nuts, chopped and toasted
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat together egg whites, oil, coffee and vanilla.

In a large bowl, stir together flour and remaining ingredients until well mixed.

Pour egg mixture onto dry ingredients and stir until combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half.

Shape mixture into two 12″ by 1″ logs; place both on the prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 10 minutes.

Transfer one log to a cutting board. Slice diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick biscotti.

Arrange biscotti, cut side up, on cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining log, using a second cookie sheet, if necessary.

Bake 20 minutes; turning cookies over after 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight jar up to 1 month.

earth



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