Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: chocolate



Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.


The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.


The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.


The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.

Bagna Cauda


Serves 6

Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.

It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.


  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
  • Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
  • Italian bread – sliced


Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.

To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.

Brasato Al Barolo


“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.

Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.

Serves 4-6


  • 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 to 5 juniper berries
  • 1 bottle Barolo red wine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup dry Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons flour


Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.

Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.

Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.

Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.

Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.

To make the sauce:

Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.

In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.

Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.

Cardoon Gratin


Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.

4-6 servings


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lb. cardoons
  • 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese


Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.

Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart



  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.

Toasted Hazelnuts

  • ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda

Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.

When the  nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.


  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella

Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.

Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.



The Province of Perugia is the larger of the two provinces in the Umbria region of Italy. The eastern part of the province is a hilly region while the rest is covered by forests. Perugia is home to the largest lake in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno. The southern regions are less hilly. Silk, corn and grass are some of the most important agricultural products of the province.


Over the centuries, Perugia has been ruled by numerous different peoples, evidence of which can be found in the many archaeological remains. Artifacts from the Roman period include paved roads, the forum, the cisterns, a Roman amphitheatre and the thermal baths.


The Province of Perugia hosts events, such as Eurochocolate where chocolate in all its varied forms is on display and Umbria Jazz, a music festival that every year gathers together important artists of the jazz world.


The cuisine consists of rustic cooking traditions with many recipes still influenced by ancient rituals and rules. Black truffles, a local product, are used in many dishes. Easter Pizza and a salted panettone (Christmas cake) flavored with pecorino (made from sheep’s milk cheese) are regional classics. The lentils from Castelluccio are known for their tiny size and their soft hull. Salami and cold cuts from Norcia are well-known throughout the world.


Strangozzi, or Strozzapreti pasta made with water and flour is served with meat sauce. The types of meat that are used for second courses are pork made from nut-fed black pigs, boar and lamb.

Fish from Lake Trasimeno are the basis for many dishes, such as Tegamaccio, a seafood soup, made with different types of lake fish such as perch, trout, carp and pike.

Another local favorite is Parmigiana di Gobbi, a dish that dates back to ancient times made with cardoons (the gobbi), served with sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano.

Popular desserts include pinacate, a pine nut-based sweet, torciglione made with raisins, walnuts and dried figs and torcolo, essentially a large donut with raisins and candied fruit.


And of course, Italy’s version of the chocolate kiss, Baci Perugina, chocolate and hazelnut truffles in their famous silver and blue wrapping, with a romantic message tucked inside, were invented here. Also Stacchetti (a mix of almond, cacao and sugar covered with meringue) and Struffoli (small balls of dough fried and sweetened with honey) are additional well-known desserts.


Torta Umbra al Formaggio

(Easter Cheese Bread from Umbria)


In the past, Torta Umbra al Formaggio, a savory cheese bread from the Umbrian region, was traditionally enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts. Today, it can usually be found as an accompaniment to any meal.


  • 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 ounces Pecorino Romano, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into ½ inch dice


Grease a 9-inch cake pan with olive oil. Using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the pan to add an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes). Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs, butter and oil. With the paddle attachment mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes). Add the pepper and cheeses and knead the dough until thoroughly combined. Let it rest in an oiled bowl, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).

Punch down the dough. Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Crostini with Garlic and Black Truffles


Ingredients for each serving

  • 2 slices bread (Torta Umbra al Formaggio would be excellent for this appetizer)
  • 1 winter black truffle
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 ¼ tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt – to taste
  • Pepper – to taste


Shave half the truffle and set aside. Pound the remaining truffle in a mortar together with the garlic, adding the lemon juice and olive oil until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Tear the bread slices into smaller pieces, toast and spread the truffle and garlic paste on top. Garnish with the shaved truffle slices and serve.

Minestra Di Ceci (Umbrian Chickpea Soup)



  • 1 lb (500g) dry chickpeas
  • 1 twig fresh rosemary
  • 10 leaves fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil


Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of cold water. Drain.

Place chickpeas in large soup pot. Cover with water to 1 inch above the chickpeas. Add rosemary and half the sage leaves. Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

In a skillet placed over medium heat, heat  2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender. Set aside.

Remove and discard the sage leaves and rosemary from the cooked chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid.

In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, purée half the chickpeas, along with 2  cups of the chickpea cooking liquid.

Return puréed chickpeas and sautéed vegetables to the soup pot.

Cover and cook 60 minutes.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls with a drizzle of oil, remaining sage leaves, black pepper and grated cheese.

Pasta alla Norcina


Ingredients for 4 people

  • 14 oz (400g) Penne pasta
  • 4 sausages of Norcia
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup heavy (cooking) cream
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese of Norcia.


Finely chop the onion and saute in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Remove the casings from the sausages and add it to the onion and cook until brown and crumbled. Lower the heat and add the white wine. Cook until it evaporates. Add the cream and as soon as it’s hot remove the pan from the heat.

Cook the penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and mix the pasta with the sauce. Add black pepper and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Porchetta (Roast Pork Loin)



by CHEF BIKESKI (Culinary Director and Owner of Italia Outdoors Food and Wine)

This is best started the day before you wish to serve it.


  • One 2 1/2 – 3 pound piece fresh pork belly, skin on
  • One 2 1/2 – 3 pound boneless pork loin roast
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bulb fresh fennel, tough outer layer and inner core removed, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 500°F.

Place the pork belly skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on the diagonal making a diamond-shaped pattern. Try to cut only the skin itself.

Turn the belly so the skin side is down. Score the belly flesh in the same diagonal diamond-shaped pattern.

Salt both sides of the belly, as well as the pork loin roast. Set aside while you make the seasoning mixture.

Place the fennel seeds in a hot sauté pan and toast just until they start to brown. Add the olive oil, chopped fresh fennel, garlic and rosemary and saute until the fennel is soft, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped fennel fronds and remove from the heat.

Cover the entire loin and the flesh side of the pork belly with the seasoning mixture. Roll the belly around the loin so the short ends of the belly meet or come as close to meeting as possible. If there is a bit of loin still exposed along the bottom, put this side down in the pan. If the loin is longer than the pork belly or the belly longer than the loin and one sticks out, trim the longer piece so the ends are flush.

Tie the roast with kitchen twine at about 1/2” intervals. Place the roast on a wire rack set in a sheet pan, with any gap where the pork belly may not cover the loin at the bottom. Place the roast, uncovered, in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to allow the seasonings to penetrate the roast and the skin to air-dry.

When ready to cook, remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Roast for 45 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and continue to roast until the porchetta reaches an internal temperature of 140°F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. If the skin is not as brown and crispy as you’d like, turn on the broiler and finish browning the skin, keeping a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Slice into 1/2 inch rounds for serving as a roast or into very thin slices for porchetta sandwiches.

Chocolate Tart


by Baci Perugina


10” tart pan

For the crust:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 pound (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish

For the filling:

  • 1 bar Perugina Dark (51%) chocolate
  • 8 Baci candies
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs


Combine the sugar, salt, butter,egg  yolk and vanilla in the mixer bowl and start on medium.

Sift the flour and cocoa together. Pour the flour and cocoa into the mixer bowl. Turn up the speed until the mixture comes together into crumbs. Press into a ball, wrap tightly and let rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Roughly chop the chocolate bar and the Baci and melt them in a double boiler. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling and pour over the melted chocolate.

Stir until the color is uniform and mix in the sugar until it dissolves completely. Let cool slightly.

Lightly beat the eggs and set aside.

Line the bottom of the tart mold with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Roll out the crust to about 1/2” thick and place in the mold. Press it down gently and eliminate any overhanging pieces.

Quickly whisk the beaten eggs into the chocolate cream and pour the filling into the tart shell. The filling will appear quite liquid.

Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until soft but set and not jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly damp but otherwise clean.

Let cool and dust lightly with cocoa powder before serving.



Packing lunches can be a rushed chore for parents and unhealthy items might get mixed in. Children have particular tastes and often balk at new, healthy foods, so the key is to keep the foods interesting and not too different from what they usually get. If your child returns home with half of their lunch uneaten because they don’t like something then use a few ”tricks” in creating their lunches.

Chips are crunchy and a fun snack, but lack nutritional value. The beginning of the school year is also the start of apple season, so substitute apple chips.

Use Greek yogurt that is full of protein and sweeten it lightly with honey to make a parfait. Layer fruit and granola with the yogurt to make something delicious that your children will love.

Unless your child is training for the Olympics, chances are they don’t need a sports drink every day. Curb their cravings for this sugary beverage with colorful flavored water.

Chocolate treats are very tempting for lunches. They’re individually wrapped and easy to throw in a backpack. Instead of the high sugar option, try healthy chocolate cookies. They pack the same great chocolate taste, but also have fiber and fewer calories.

Stop older kids from wanting to eat out by packing them a delicious wrap. They hold up well without refrigeration and you can tuck in some vegetables without them knowing. Drizzle Caesar dressing (or your child’s favorite dressing) over chicken inside a wrap for a tasty lunch that won’t have your children heading off for fast food.

If kids help pack their lunch, they’re more likely to eat it! On nights you have a bit more time, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of bread they want and let them assemble their lunch.

Here are some ideas for healthy lunchbox snacks that most children like:

  • Single portion-sized cups of unsweetened applesauce or fruit without added sugar.
  • Trail mix made with cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins, and a few chocolate chips.
  • Reduced-fat cream cheese spread on whole wheat crackers.
  • Individual serving-sized packages of low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese or yogurt smoothies.
  • Carrots and celery sticks with dips made from yogurt or low-fat sour cream.
  • Whole grain bagels topped with cream cheese-vegetable spread.
  • Air-popped popcorn flavored with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
  • Cheese cubes or sticks and seedless grapes make a delicious side dish for sandwiches or wraps.
  • Cold strips of grilled chicken with a honey mustard dip.
  • Dried cranberries or cherries are a sweet alternative for kids bored with raisins.


Baked Apple Chips

Makes about 50 chips


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large apples or 3 small ones (such as gala, braeburn or fuji)
  • Cinnamon, optional

You will also need:

baking sheets lined with parchment paper

a saucepan to make the simple syrup in

a mandoline or a sharp knife and a cutting board


the oven set to 250 degrees F


Make the simple syrup:

Pour the two cups of water and sugar into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Stir it once it comes to a boil to make sure there’s no sugar stuck to the bottom of the pan and it’s all dissolved.

Once the liquid is clear, turn off the heat and let it sit.

Set the oven to 250 degrees F.

Use a mandoline or a sharp knife. Start from the side of the apple and slice off the rounded side of the apple. Then cut the apples into 1/16 inch slices.

Keep going right through the center of the apple. At this stage don’t worry about coring them or the seeds.


Use a paring knife or your fingernails to remove any seed fragments, stems or fuzzy bits from the apple. The core will soften in the warm syrup.

Place the apples in the simple syrup and soak for 10 minutes. Stir a few times during the soaking period.

Using tongs, lift the apples, one by one from the syrup, shake off the excess and place them on the parchment lined baking sheets.

Don’t overlap them, but try to get as many on the baking sheets as you can. Flatten them as you go  Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon is using.

Place one baking sheet in the middle of the oven and the other right below that.

Cook them for a half hour and then rotate the trays so the top one is on bottom. Cook for another half hour and check. Depending on your oven, both sheets might be done. If they’re done, they should be golden brown and crisp.

If they’re not, give them 10 or 15 more minutes and check again, continuing to do so until they’re done. Keep in mind that they will harden up a bit once you take them out of the oven.

Apple chips will last a few months, it they are around that long.


Italian Focaccia Sandwiches

4-6 servings


  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 (8-ounce) round loaf of focaccia bread (6-8-inches in diameter)
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced turkey
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
  • Thinly sliced tomato


Cook the bacon in a heavy large frying pan until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.

Cut the focaccia bread in half and spread the pesto over both sides of the bread.

Cover the bottom halves of the focaccia with turkey, provolone, tomatoes and bacon, spreading equally.

Cover with the top half of the focaccia, pesto side down.

Cut the sandwich into 3-4 inch squares. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.


Chicken-Broccoli Cups

4 servings


  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light ranch salad dressing
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


In a small bowl combine yogurt and salad dressing.

In a medium bowl combine chicken, broccoli, carrot and, if desired, nuts. Pour yogurt mixture over the chicken mixture; toss to coat.

For individual lunches, divide chicken mixture among four plastic cups. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.


Caprese Salad Pita Pockets

4 servings


  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup mixed tender salad greens
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved crosswise


In a medium bowl toss together tomatoes, cheese cubes, cucumber, salad greens, basil, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.

Spoon tomato mixture into pitas. Wrap each pita half in plastic wrap and chill.


Chocolate Cookie Thins

Makes about 48 cookies.


  • 1 1/4 cups chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (about 6 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, American-style or Dutch-process
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped slivered almonds


Line 3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Grind chocolate in a food processor using on/off pulses until coarsely ground. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and add cocoa, ½ cup granulated sugar, baking powder and salt; stir until blended on a low setting.

Add eggs, honey, oil and vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined.

Beat in all-purpose and whole-wheat flours; then fold in cranberries and nuts until thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be stiff.

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter into a 9-inch-long “log.” Divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.

Place on prepared cookie sheets and refrigerate until very cold, about 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Place remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar on a small plate. One at a time, dip the top of each ball of dough into the sugar; place, sugar-side up, about 2 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Coat the bottom of a wide glass with cooking spray, then dip it into the sugar. Flatten the balls with the glass to make cookies about 2 1/4 inches in diameter, dipping the glass into the sugar between each cookie and spraying it as needed.

Bake the cookies on the center rack, one pan at a time, until just firm to the touch, 8 to 13 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining pans.

These cookies store well in the freezer.


In my area of the world, it is often too hot at this time of year to spend a great deal of time baking when guests are coming for dinner. So during the cooler months, I like to make a few simple sponge cakes to keep in the freezer. That way I can make a refreshing dessert for company in the summer without a lot of fuss.

During the summer months, ice cream desserts can really “hit the spot”. It is easy to pull together a really great tasting dessert when it is hot with just a few simple ingredients. Here are a few ideas.


Simple Sponge Cake


  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cake flour


Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9″ round cake pans.

Separate eggs, putting whites in large mixer bowl and yolks in small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed.

Do not over-mix.

Divide the cake batter and pour into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper.

Cool completely.


Tiramisu Ice Cream Parfaits

Serves 4


  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee, cooled
  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed sponge cake (you could also use angel food cake or pound cake)
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 (3-ounce) dark chocolate bar, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half


In a bowl mix the cake cubes with 2/3 of the coffee until well soaked.

Stir ice cream in a second bowl until spoonable, then layer cake cubes and ice cream in parfait glasses. Top each with a drizzle of coffee, a generous amount of chocolate shavings and a few cherries. Serve immediately.


Pineapple Ice Cream Sandwiches

2 servings


  • 2 (1/4-inch thick) fresh pineapple slices, cut in circles
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Toasted flaked sweetened coconut


Grill pineapple slices over low to medium heat for 90 seconds on each side. Allow to cool briefly.

Sandwich the softened ice cream between the 2 grilled slices of pineapple. Coat sides in toasted coconut. Slice in half and serve immediately.


Vanilla Affogato

Affogato is an Italian drink that makes a wonderful alternative to iced coffee on a hot summer day.  Affogato literally means “drowned”.  It generally consists of  gelato (Italian ice cream) that is topped with hot espresso or a liqueur. You can use freshly brewed espresso or instant or decaffeinated espresso, if you prefer. You may also top your drink with a liqueur such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier or Frangelico.  You can also add a little powdered chocolate milk mix to the coffee for a mocha flavor. Traditionally, affogato is served with a biscotti on the side.

Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 pint vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • Shaved chocolate


Beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

Cover and refrigerate.

Stir the espresso powder into the boiling water until dissolved.

Place one scoop of gelato into 4 tall glasses or large coffee mugs.

Pour 2 to 4 tablespoons hot espresso over each.

Top each with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately.


Sicilian Granita

Tip: If you don’t have an espresso maker, use instant espresso powder and water; store the powder in your freezer after opening. Instant coffee will also work in a pinch, it just won’t be as full-flavored.

8 servings


  • 3 cups freshly brewed espresso
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar


Stir hot espresso and sugar in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Place on a level surface in your freezer and freeze for 2 hours, stirring and scraping with a fork every 20 minutes to break up the ice crystals. Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour more.

Beat cream and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until medium peaks form, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Scrape the frozen granita into ice crystals using a sturdy fork.

To serve, layer the granita in dessert goblets and top each with a tablespoon of whipped cream.


Italian Coconut-Coffee Bites

24 bites


  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder or 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 ½ tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups finely crushed biscotti crumbs
  • 5 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Line twenty-four mini muffin cups with paper baking cups; set aside.

Dissolve espresso powder in the boiling water; set aside.

For the crust:

In a medium nonstick skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter is bubbling, add coconut. Cook and stir until coconut is toasted and golden brown. Stir in finely crushed biscotti crumbs. Remove pan from heat.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of the crumb mixture into each prepared muffin cup; press firmly to pack down. Place the muffin cup pan in the freezer. Keep remaining crumb mixture at room temperature to use for topping.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat mascarpone cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy, Beat in the sugar, cinnamon and salt until smooth and well mixed. Beat in vanilla and espresso.

Divide filling among the crumb-lined muffin cups. Top each cup with the reserved crumb mixture. With a fingertip, gently press topping into filling.

Freeze until firm, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


In Italian, the word “biscotto” means “biscuit” or “cookie.” More specifically, biscotti are named according to their original method of baking. The root words “bis” and “cotto” literally mean “twice” and “baked.” When Italians first created biscotti in the region of Tuscany many centuries ago, they were careful to bake the cookies twice, in order to allow the cookies to develop their signature crisp texture. Over the years, these methods became standard practice. Bakers shape the dough into a log, bake it, evenly slice it into cookies and then bake the cookies again.

The first biscotti were made as a portable and durable food for Roman soldiers and travelers. They were made with traditional almond flavoring during the Renaissance and, at the time, it was also popular to dip them in an Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo, a practice that remains common in Italy today. Many people outside of Italy prefer to dip biscotti in coffee or hot chocolate to soften them before eating them. The range of flavors that these cookies come in has also expanded hugely since their creation and can include walnuts, orange zest and anise. Some types are coated with icing or glazed with chocolate, but the most traditional ones do not have a frosting or coating.

It’s relatively easy to bake these cookies. The basic recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs and sometimes butter or olive oil, along with nuts, spices or fruits. There is no one perfect way to make biscotti. Some recipes call for eggs only, which is the traditional method, while others include butter or oil. The choice is yours; just keep in mind that those made with butter or oil will have both a softer texture and a shorter shelf life.

Here are my two favorite recipes.

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti


  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.

Toast the Nuts

Lightly Toast the Nuts


Form the Batter

Shape into Loaves

Shape into Logs

Brush with Egg

Brush with Egg

Bake the Logs

Bake the Logs

Cool and Slice Logs

Cool and Slice Logs


Bake Slices

Bake Slices

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Cool Twice Baked Slices and Store

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)


  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur


Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

If you desire, you can turn off the oven and let the biscotti stay for up to an hour. The longer they stay in the oven, the harder they will become. Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container, preferably a tin, which helps keep them crisp. Stored properly, biscotti will last up to a month.



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.


Berry-Lemon Shortcake

12 servings


  • 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


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.


Chocolate Sauce with Fruit Kabobs

Be sure to use good quality chocolate for the sauce.

16 servings


  • 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


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.


Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes 24 bars


  • 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


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.


Chocolate-Hazelnut Cookies

28 cookies


  • 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)


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.


Peach Custard Pie

10 servings



  • 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


  • 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.


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.



Antipasto Skewers

24 skewers


  • 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


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.


Crab Salad Rolls

Makes 16


  • 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


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.


Eggplant Compote

Serve with crostini, flatbread or pita chips.

Makes 3 1/2 cups


  • 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


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.



Chocolate-Zucchini Bites

Makes 24


  • 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


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.


Strawberry Tartlets


  • 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


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.


Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes.


  • 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


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


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.

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