Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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icecream

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

icecream1

Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

FW0508FWB01

Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

icecream3

Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

icecream4

Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

icecream5

 

Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

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party time 6

This is the season for graduations, showers and a host of other occasions – all reasons to have a spring get together with friends and family.  To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent. A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as an after dinner event. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Keep the setting simple: Let single-flower arrangements and the beautiful desserts displayed at interesting levels in plain sight put the focus on what the guests really came for – a good time. Set up the buffet table―minus the desserts and beverages―the night before.

Before setting out your dessert spread, keep these table tips in mind.

  • If you have a cake stand, use it. The height will add visual impact to the table and will offer a bit of extra space on the crowded buffet table.
  • Set out dishes of your favorite chocolates or chocolate-covered nuts.
  • Place the plates at the far end of the table, the desserts in the middle and the beverages, cutlery and napkins at the other end of the buffet table.
  • Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match
  • You can never have too many cocktail napkins, both on the buffet and on end tables.

Beverages and Desserts 

There’s no need to offer a full bar – regular and decaffeinated coffee, several kinds of tea and a sparkling wine and a fruity white wine are more than enough.

Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, add a pleasing spice or highlight a big, bold taste — like dark chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It’s smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones — for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit — especially if children are present.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. All of the desserts below can be made well in advance of your party.

Preslice cakes, pies and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates or unique decorative containers.

party time 1

Honey Cheesecake

To keep the cheesecake from cracking, run a knife between the crust and pan a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The cheesecake will cool and condense without sticking to the pan’s sides.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup regular evaporated milk (not low-fat) (you may also use heavy cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Brush the inside of 8 or 9 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Mix walnuts and cookie crumbs in small bowl; spread evenly in the pan, coating the bottom and sides.

Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup honey with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, scraping down bowl’s sides occasionally, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in milk and vanilla. Beat in flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour into the crumb covered pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly browned and a little puffed. Cheesecake will jiggle in the center but will set as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and garnish with fresh berries.

party time 2

Hazelnut Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 (2-ounce) chocolate candy coating squares

Directions

Bake hazelnuts in a shallow pan at 350°F, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until chips melt, stirring twice. Stir in liqueur.

Pour into a wax paper-lined 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan; freeze 2 hours or until firm to touch.

Shape 1/2 teaspoon chocolate mixture around each hazelnut, coating completely and place on wax paper.

Microwave white chocolate baking squares in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice.

spring party 1

Truffle Mold

 

Coat plastic candy molds with a thin layer of white chocolate using a small paintbrush; let stand 1 hour or until firm. Place coated hazelnuts in molds; brush with remaining white chocolate, sealing to edges of molds. Let stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours or until firm.

Invert molds; tap firmly on cutting board to remove candy.

Microwave coating in a 1-cup glass measuring cup 1 minute or until melted, stirring once. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle over truffles. Let stand until firm.

spring party 2

 

Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make glaze:

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and fresh lemon juice, adding an additional 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, for desired consistency

Spoon Lemon Glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

Watermelon Salad. Moreton's House 712 Greenwood, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5923. W: 919 967 2185 C: 919 260 7465 www.nealsdeli.com A100527_F&W_NealsDeli_Sept_2010

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime

Lightly salting the watermelon brings out its flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 inch), from a 6-pound melon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon chunks with the lime juice and cayenne. Fold in the mint leaves. Season lightly with salt and chill until serving time.

MAKE AHEAD The watermelon salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fold in the torn mint leaves just before serving.

party time 5

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Milk Chocolate Frosting/Semisweet Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • One 5 3/4 ounce package milk chocolate chips
  • 16 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt and stir butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together bourbon and coffee granules; set aside.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in vanilla and bourbon mixture.

In a small bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut off the edges of brownie and save for another use.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

For Milk Chocolate Frosting:

Transfer 1/2 cup of the hot cream to a small bowl. Add milk chocolate chips (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze:

Add semisweet chocolate chips to the remaining hot cream in the saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

When ready to glaze petits fours, reheat Semisweet Chocolate Glaze over medium-low heat to reach pouring consistency, stirring constantly.

For petits fours:

Cut brownies into 1- to 1-1/2-inch squares. Coat petits fours with Semisweet Chocolate Glaze.

For Milk Chocolate Rosettes:

Beat the reserved cooled milk chocolate mixture with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes in the center of each petit four.

spring party 7

Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies

Yield: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup snipped dried red cherries (6 ounces)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour. Stir in oats and dried cherries.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Enhanced by Zemanta

You can find berries and melons in the supermarket in the winter, but these fruits do not have much taste. So instead, spend your money on fruit that actually tastes good now. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for cranberries and yams, but have you considered persimmons, kiwi, citrus or pears? Winter is when most citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. Winter fruits are also excellent for baking. Here’s how to choose the best fruit, why it’s good for you and how to save money.

Oranges

How to buy:

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season wears on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Try them! Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Why it’s good:

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value of vitamin C), which may help smooth your skin. If you bite into a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks. If you stumble across a few fruits with a grainy texture, use them for juicing or cooking.

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still far from ripe. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Why it’s good:

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

How to save:

Though bananas are relatively economical—ripening bananas cost about 70 to 90 cents per pound—overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet, ripe and unblemished. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before sticking them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread, pancakes and smoothies.

Pineapples

How to buy:

Avoid green pineapples—they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present—starting at the base—and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Why it’s good:

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation.

How to save:

Cutting into a pineapple for the first time may be intimidating. But where your wallet is concerned, it may be worth learning how to do. Prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section cost more per pound—about 50 cents an ounce more—than a whole pineapple. Check your market for whole, peeled and decored pineapples. My market sells these pineapples at the same price as an unpeeled pineapple.

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Why it’s good:

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful compounds that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get a bit of fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

How to save:

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

How to buy:

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying ripe grapefruit can be tricky—the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness.

Why it’s good:

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories. One exception: if you take statins to lower cholesterol levels, consuming grapefruit juice or the fruit may prevent the statins from breaking down in your system, causing the drug to accumulate in high amounts in the body.

How to save:

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

Tangerines

How to buy:

Choose tangerines with a deep orange color that are firm to semi-soft and heavy for their size. Avoid tangerines that have dull or brown coloring or soft spots.

Why it’s good:

One tangerine contains 2.3 grams fiber, 13% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. They are great for eating and you can also juice tangerines. Tangerines are less acidic than most citrus fruits. Use them as you would oranges in salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese or as a topping for dessert.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pudding cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest from 2 oranges, cut into very thin strips

Filling: 1 cup frozen yogurt (vanilla or flavor of choice)

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon oil and water in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

To make orange syrup:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add orange zest, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened and the zest is tender. Several times during the cooking, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep sugar crystals from forming on the sides. Remove from heat and let cool.

To cook and assemble crepes:

Heat a small nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when sprinkled on the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush pan with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil as needed to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Cook 30 to 40 seconds until the top of the crepe has a dull surface and the edges begin to curl. Flip and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the crepe is firm. Remove to a plate and cover with a dry cloth. Repeat with remaining crepes. (The crepes may be stacked between wax paper sheets until serving time.)

Place a crepe on a dessert plate. Spread 2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt across the middle. Fold in half and spoon 1 tablespoon Chocolate Sauce over the top or beside it. Spoon 2 teaspoons orange syrup and zest over the folded crepe. Repeat with remaining crepes.

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 1/2 tablespoons agave necter
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Sift together cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in honey. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in oil and vanilla.

Garcia Studio, Inc. 933 Fielder Avenue NW Atlanta, GA 30318 404-892-2334

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pecans and dried cranberries.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, applesauce, oil, orange zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll the dough with floured hands (it will be very moist) into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until barely golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

apple-cake-ck-222502-l

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

The cream cheese in the batter makes the cake quite moist. Because it’s so tender, use a serrated knife for cutting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces block style low fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled baking apples (about 2-3 apples)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons or the cinnamon mixture to the apples and mix. Fold apple mixture into the batter.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 8 fresh pears (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Frozen yogurt, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

Grate enough lemon peel to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in large bowl. Add pears, lemon zest and juice; toss until pears are evenly coated.

Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Mix brown sugar and remaining flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until topping is golden brown and pears are hot and bubbly. Serve warm topped frozen yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: You can also bake this dessert in 9-inch square baking dish or shallow 2-qt. casserole instead of the 8-inch square baking dish.

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The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in reds and pinks, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love are sometimes said to be “struck by Cupid’s arrow”. Other symbols of Valentine’s Day are couples in loving embraces and the gifts of flowers, chocolate, red roses and lingerie that couples often give each other.

To celebrate this lovers’ holiday Italians give each other flowers, plan romantic dinners and present each other with chocolates, much like in the United States. The renowned Italian chocolate maker, Perugina celebrates this day by making a special edition of the Baci chocolate candies with a shiny red wrapper and a sweet red cherry and liquid center rather than the traditional hazelnut one. These chocolates are always a favorite and inside the foil wrapper there is a “love note” with a romantic phrase.

In some countries like Vietnam, there is a different way to celebrate it. Couples wear the same style and/or color of clothes.

Japan has its own interesting way, too. For them, there are two Valentine’s Days. On February 14th, girls give dark chocolate to the boys they like. On March 14th, boys give cookies or white chocolate to the girls they like.

In some parts of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador friends and family play games.

In Spain only people in love get and give presents. Friends or family don’t exchange notes or presents.

All over the world people celebrate Valentine’s Day by expressing love to sweethearts, spouses and special ones. However, customs and traditions of celebrating the festival vary in different countries due to social and cultural differences.

So where did the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day come from? From the moment chocolate was discovered it was considered valuable, divine and decadent, so what better gift to give a woman? The first chocolate candies (as we know them today) were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, who was also the first to market them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day.

The brilliance of marketers have certainly helped sales and popularity, but its aphrodisiac effect is surely one of the dominating factors underlying its status as a gift of choice. In addition to the aphrodisiac effects, research suggests that there are many more health related benefits. A healthy component of chocolate is its high level of antioxidant polyphenols. These are the same compounds found in red wine, fruits and vegetables that are touted for their heart-healthy and disease preventing qualities.

A chocolate’s taste, its smoothness and its aroma takes over one’s senses. As a matter of fact, there are few foods that people feel as passionate about as chocolate, a passion that goes beyond a plain old sweet tooth. For the true chocoholic, just thinking about chocolate can evoke a sensation of pleasure. Chocolate is mood-enhancing and, when eaten in moderate amounts, it is harmless to your health.

tiramisu

Chocolate Tiramisu

Ingredients

Serves 10.

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies (from a 7-ounce package)

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with 1 1/2 cups very hot water until dissolved; set cocoa mixture aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, place 1/4 cup cream and chocolate; microwave in 1-minute increments and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl; add cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended. Add remaining cream; beat filling until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread 1 cup of chocolate filling in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. One at a time, dip 6 ladyfingers in cocoa mixture, then arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish; spread with 1 cup of chocolate filling. Repeat with three more layers, ending with filling.

Cover tiramisu and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Dust with cocoa powder or shaved chocolate before serving.

warm cakes

Chocolate Cakes with Apricot-Amaretto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate chips with the butter, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly. Whisk in the whole eggs and the egg yolks.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, until set around the edges and soft in the center. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the apricot jam with the Amaretto until smooth.

Invert the cakes onto plates and remove the paper liners. Spoon the apricot sauce around the cakes and serve.

Chocolate bark w/nuts & seeds. A101201 Food & Wine Chef's Diet March 2011

Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao)
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, finely chop the chocolate. In a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, heat the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it is about two-thirds melted; do not let the bowl touch the water.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and the temperature registers 90° on a candy thermometer. If the chocolate has not melted completely and is still too cool, set it back over the saucepa of simmering water for 1 or 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly; do not overheat.

Stir the almonds and seeds into the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a 1/2-inch-thick layer, making sure the nuts and seeds are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate the bark for about 10 minutes, until hardened. Invert the bark onto a work surface. Remove the parchment paper, break into 25 pieces.

MAKE AHEAD The broken bark can be stored in an airtight bag or container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.

68565-cocoa-cookies-h-2

Chocolate Oat Cookies

Yield: 2 dozens

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup ground almonds (or nuts of choice)
  • 1 1/4 cups ground oats (grind in a blender)
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ground almonds, ground oats, flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.

Combine maple syrup and oil and mix with the dried ingredients until well combined and forms a dough.

Scoop out heaping teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes; cookies should be just set. Remove to a cooling rack.

sherbet

Chocolate Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces 60-percent-cacao chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together chopped chocolate, sugar, water and cream. Bring to boiling, whisking constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and chill overnight.

Freeze mixture in a 1-quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturers directions. Store in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

To serve, scoop into small glasses or dishes and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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Wine has a long, rich history as a cooking liquid. One of the early “cookbooks,” compiled in the first century, “De re Coquinaria” (“On Cooking”), included dozens of recipes that used wine. Since the beginning of recorded history, wine has been considered one of the essential ingredients in cooking. The ancient Greeks used wine and there are numerous references to its use in their meal preparation. When the Romans came along, they spread the practice of cooking with wine throughout Europe and developed special varietals, such as Marsala. The Romans also prepared a concentrate of grape must (unfermented grape juice) called defrutum, which was kept around the hearth and used both to color and sweeten foods. In the East, centuries of Japanese and Chinese cooks have made wine from fruits or rice and used these liquids in cooking.

Italians take wine very seriously and, just as they eat regionally, Italians drink regionally. Go to Tuscany where you will find Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Brunello di Montalcino. Head to Abruzzo and you will find Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo on the table. The characteristics of a given wine are reflective of the culture in which it is made. Each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions proudly claim their own sub-cultures and cuisines, leading to many variations of wine. Piedmont and Tuscany are the Italian leaders in quality wines. Italy is respected as a wine-producing country and no other country can boast as many varieties. They use their 350+ varieties of domestic grapes, along with international varieties to produce wines in a class of their own. Approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine comes directly from Italy’s vineyards and there are over one million throughout the entire country.

The Major Types of Italian Red Wines

Amarone is made from air-dried Corvina grapes and is produced in the northern Veneto region near Venice, using the “recioto” method. This technique involves picking the grapes that grow on the outside of a cluster and have the most exposure to the sun. The result is a full-bodied wine in a style more common to warm growing areas. Amarones are aged for five years or more before bottling. Some, but not all, are aged in oak barrels. Amarone (the name means big, bitter one) has a powerful, concentrated, almost Port-like texture with hints of mocha. Amarone is ideal with roasted beef or pork and also with cheese.

Barolo is a powerful and full-bodied wine with a complex mixture of tastes and textures – wild strawberry, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla. Barolo gets better with age and is frequently referred to as “the king of wines”. Barolo requires many years (three years minimum by law) of aging to soften it and it is improved by decanting. Barolo is made in the Langhe Hills region of Piedmont, entirely of Nebbiolo grapes. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow well. It thrives in the region’s clay, limestone and sandy soil, preferring to be planted on sunny, south-facing hillsides. Barolo is a perfect accompaniment to meat, rich pastas and creamy risottos.

Chianti has come a long way from its image of wicker-wrapped bottles with candle drippings alongside a plate of spaghetti. Today’s Chiantis are produced in Tuscany, in central Italy near Florence and Chianti has a government-controlled wine designation. That means all of the wine called Chianti has to be made within the Chianti area. Chianti is produced from primarily Sangiovese grapes, sometimes combined with Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It has high acidity with hints of plum and wild cherry. Chianti and any tomato-based sauce are a classic wine and food pairing, but Chianti also goes well with steak or other grilled meat.

Barbaresco is also produced from Nebbiolo grapes, but tends to be a more softer wine than Barolo. There are just three, small growing regions for Barbaresco compared to Barolo’s eleven regions, so there is less Barbaresco available each year. Barbaresco, too, requires aging – a minimum of two years and up to twenty years – to meet its full potential. It also pairs well with red meat and the rich food of Piedmont.

Bardolino is a light, fruit-filled wine made in the Veneto region of Italy. Named after the town of Bardolino on Lake Garda, this wine has faint cherry flavors with a hint of spiciness. Like Amarone, Bardolino is crafted, primarily from Corvina grapes. Sometimes made into a dry, rose or sparkling wine called “chiaretto,” Bardolino is best served chilled and goes nicely with fish, seafood, light meat entrees, pasta and pizza.

Montalcino is Tuscany’s second most famous wine zone, after Chianti. Montalcino is a small, medieval town just outside of Siena. The wine district there is a warm, sunny, hilly area with few extremes in temperature. The cool evenings  insure high acidity. Brunello di Montalcino is created entirely from Sangiovese grapes. By Italian wine law, Brunello must be aged longer than any other wine – a minimum of four years. Brunello is subtle with overtones of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate and sweet vanilla. Drink it with the hearty dishes of Tuscany.

Cooking with Wine

Using wine in cooking is so natural, it probably would have occurred anywhere grapes could be grown and turned into wine. Wine can accent, enhance and intensify the flavors and aromas of food. The ways of using wine in cooking are numerous: marinate, saute, poach, boil, braise, stew or deglaze. Some cooks use wine for stir-fries, steaming or blanching. A splash of it straight out of the bottle is an added flavor in vinaigrettes or sauces.

Cooks use wine instead of water because wine adds flavor. But just as the four vinegars made from cider, sherry, red wine or white wine differ from each other, so do wines differ in what they add to a recipe. “Wine adds acidity to sauces,” says Jeff Mosher, chef for the Robert Mondavi Winery. “Food that has a level of acidity goes better with wine than food that is flat.” A careful cook, however, needs to consider the cooking preparation when utilizing wine. For example, wine could concentrate and become too tart after boiling down a marinade into a sauce. So, likewise, would any sweetness in wine; too much can be cloying. “It’s best to use red wines that don’t have huge tannins,” says Mosher. “When reduced, they leave a bitter flavor. I usually cook with merlot or pinot noir … never all cabernet sauvignon. Avoid wines labeled “cooking wine.” Not only are such wines often oxidized, but they are also packed with salt.

Finally, it isn’t necessary, as the old adage has it, to cook with the same wine that you will serve. According to Mosher, the flavor compounds and nuances of a very fine wine simply don’t survive the heat of most cooking. For example, preparing boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin doesn’t require an expensive red Burgundy. For these dishes, any of well-made, balanced, medium- to full-bodied red wine will do.

Red Wine Bagna Cauda

Ingredients

  • One 750-milliliter bottle Italian dry red wine, such as Nebbiolo
  • 1/4 cup marinated anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Assorted crudités, such as carrots, radishes, fennel and bell peppers, for serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, boil the wine over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

In a blender, combine the reduced wine with the anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the bagna cauda to a medium saucepan and rewarm over low heat. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with the crudités.

Red Wine Glazed Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • Chopped basil for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a medium oval baking dish with oil.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the milk and mash to a paste. Add the egg, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and dry bread crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl with the bread mixture. Add the meat and knead in until evenly combined.

Transfer the meat loaf mixture to the prepared baking dish and pat it into a 4-by-12-inch oval loaf. Bake for about 50 minutes or until firm but not quite cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the red wine with the honey, chopped tomato and molasses and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the all the ingredients. Boil until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes.

Brush half of the glaze over the parially cooked meat loaf. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°F; brush once more with the remaining glaze. Let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes, garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice (6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Amarone
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • One 2-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mixed herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, etc.

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm over low heat.

In the skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated.

Pour in 1 cup of the hot stock, or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat, adding 1 cup of stock at a time and stirring until all of the stock has been absorbed.

The risotto is done when the rice is cooked al dente, about 25 minutes. Stir in the butter and mushrooms and heat until the butter is melted and the mushrooms are heated. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the risotto into serving bowls and shred Parmigiano-Reggiano over the risotto, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Chicken Parmesan with Red-Wine Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Large pich of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought pasta sauce
  • 4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped Basil, optional

Directions

Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the salt. Combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add wine to the pan and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute. Add pasta sauce; cook 1 minute or until bubbly.

Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Arrange chicken over sauce; top each breast with a portion of the cheese and a spoonful of sauce.

Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked and cheese has melted.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Chocolate-Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or butter alternative, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar or the equivalent of a sugar alternative
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian dry red wine
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer.

Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, just until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve.


 

The exact history of quick bread is not known, but most quick breads were not developed until the 18th century, after the discovery of the first leavening agent, ‘pearlash’. The first published recipe to call for pearlash — a type of gingerbread — was published in 1796 by Amelia Simmons. It was the beginning of a chemical leavening revolution that would spread around the world.

The early colonists had hardwood forests as a resource. Aside from being a logical building material and fuel, hardwoods provided another important resource, ashes. Ashes were a major export two hundred years ago, both to Canada and Britain. They were valuable for sweetening gardens and for providing lye for making soap. They were also a source of potash and its derivative, pearlash, which proved to be a leavening agent.

To make pearlash, you first have to make potash and to make potash, you first have to make lye. To make lye, you pass water through a barrel of hardwood ashes over and over. To make potash, you evaporate the lye water until you have a solid. Pearlash is a purified version of potash. It is an alkaline compound and when paired with an acidic ingredient, such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses, will produce carbon dioxide bubbles, the very same thing that yeast produces. Pearlash was used primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but because of its bitter aftertaste, it not did not replace yeast and was eventually replaced by saleratus (baking soda).

Baking soda comes from several sources, but the bulk of it is derived from an ore called “trona” which is mined in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. (Technology is being developed now to produce baking soda from sea water.)

When baking soda is heated, it slowly breaks down into sodium carbonate, water and carbon dioxide. When mixed with something acidic and wet, it starts producing carbon dioxide right away without waiting to be heated.

The next step after developing baking soda (which only worked when there was something acidic in a batter) was to create a “combination” powder which just needed to get wet to become active. To do this, baking soda was combined with a powdered acid, along with a little cornstarch, to keep the two dry and inactive. Scientists next added a second powder, cream of tartar, (a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as a wine matures) to the combination.  When baking soda and cream of tartar are moistened in a batter or dough, they begin to react to each other right away producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

This combination powder is still a very effective leavening agent, although it has a couple of drawbacks. It is “single acting, meaning that when it’s mixed into a batter or dough, it starts and finishes its reaction then and there. When you bake with it, you must get whatever you’re making into a preheated oven as quickly as possible before the bubbles begin to disappear. The second drawback is, that no matter how dry these combination powders are kept, they lose their potency after a short time.

Double acting baking powder is single acting baking powder taken one step further. The baking soda is still there, but the cream of tartar has been replaced by two acids, one like cream of tartar that reacts to the baking soda as soon as it’s wet and the other agent that doesn’t begin to react until it’s heated. This means you can be more leisurely about getting a dough or batter into the oven.

Like single acting baking powder, double acting baking powder contains a little cornstarch to prevent the baking soda and acids from reacting. However, it too will lose its leavening ability after about six months. Baking powder should be stored at room temperature in a dry place. A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source is a perfect place. Do not store baking powder in the refrigerator, as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

Make Your Own Baking Powder

If you have run out of baking powder you may be able to make a substitution by using the following:  for one teaspoon baking powder = mix 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. If you are not using the mixture immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.

When baking powder was fairly new, bakers felt that it was going to replace yeast for all bread baking. It produced the same gas that yeast did (carbon dioxide) and its action was indeed “quick” compared to that of yeast. It has, in fact, replaced yeast as a leavening agent for cakes almost entirely, but not in bread dough. Quick breads cover a wide range of baked goods from biscuits and scones that are made from a dough,to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.

Quick breads can be made from many kinds of ingredients. Banana bread and pumpkin bread are popular, but for the gardener with too much zucchini, a good zucchini bread recipe is a great way to use up some of that surplus squash. Zucchini, a green striped squash with a sweet flavor, is excellent to use in a quick bread. Modern squash, like zucchini, are descendants of plants that were first cultivated around 10,000 years ago, in what is today Mexico and Guatemala. Evidence suggests these ancient squash were originally grown for their seeds before eventually being bred as a vegetable. Shortly after Europeans arrived in the Americas, they began bringing squash back to Europe. The Italians are credited with breeding today’s modern zucchini from the original American squash.

How to keep your Zucchini Bread healthy:

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white flour adds fiber and you’ll get about 3 grams of fiber in each serving.
  • Applesauce is a naturally fat-free ingredient that can be substituted for oil in many recipes.
  • Yogurt, an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iodine, is another ingredient that can be substituted for some of the oil in recipes.
  • Use sugar (Truvia or Domino Light) and whole egg substitutes (Egg Beaters) to reduce fat and calories in baked goods.
  • Zucchini is the low-calorie, naturally fat-free secret ingredient and hidden vegetable in the recipes below. A cup of zucchini used in a recipe contributes essential nutrients and keeps the bread moist.
  • Add nuts. They are lower in saturated fats, higher in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Zucchini Chip Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute blend equivalent to 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a small bowl combine egg substitute, applesauce, oil, orange peel and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. Fold in zucchini, walnuts and chocolate pieces.

Divide mixture evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool completely on wire racks. For easier slicing, wrap and store overnight before serving. Makes 2 loaves (24 servings).

Vegan Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup organic applesauce
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sorghum flour
  • 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, applesauce, sugar, oil, vanilla and apple cider vinegar.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and sprinkle over the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into a lightly greased (9×5) loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Coat the wells of a standard-sized (12)  muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, oil and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Stir in shredded zucchini and carrot.

Stir egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in sunflower seeds. Divide batter equally among muffin cups, a slightly heaping 1/4 cup in each.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to wire racks to cool.

Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream with chives (optional)

Directions:

Combine the zucchini and salt in a large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Place zucchini in a strainer and press firmly with a rubber spatula to force out water.

Combine zucchini, 1/2 cup red onion, the Parmesan cheese, flour, egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl. If the batter is not thick enough to hold together, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the right consistency.

Lightly coat a large skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup zucchini mixture per pancake, drop zucchini mixture onto hot skillet, leaving 2 to 3 inches between mounds. Flatten mounds to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook pancakes about 4 minutes or until golden brown, carefully turning once halfway through cooking.

Keep pancakes warm in a 300 degree F oven while cooking the remaining pancakes. If desired, top pancakes with sour cream .

Zucchini Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl,  stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg and buttermilk; stir in zucchini and chocolate pieces or pecans. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut dough circle into 12 wedges.

Place dough wedges, 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove scones from the baking pans and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 scones. Scones freeze and reheat well.

Zucchini Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat or in the microwave. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in (applesauce if using) eggs and buttermilk.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice five 1/8″ rounds from 1 end of the zucchini and reserve for garnish. Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Add to the bowl with the butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices on top of the batter down the center in a single layer.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Combine egg whites, applesauce, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well mixed.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a large measuring cup and add to the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

To make the frosting:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread on the top of the cake. Chill before serving.


Gelato is that dense, super-rich, intensely-flavored Italian version of ice cream. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

Gelato is a delicacy that dates back thousands of years. The earliest beginnings of frozen desserts are recorded in 3000 B.C. when Asian cultures discovered they could consume crushed ice with flavorings. Five hundred years later, it became a custom for Egyptian pharaohs to offer their guests a cup of ice sweetened with fruit juice. Italians joined in as the Romans began the ritual of eating the ice of the volcanoes, Etna and Vesuvius, and covering it with honey.

It was during the Italian Renaissance, when the great tradition of Italian gelato began. The famous Medici family in Florence sponsored a contest, searching for the greatest frozen dessert. A man named Ruggeri, a chicken farmer and cook in his spare time, took part in the competition. Ruggeri’s tasty frozen dessert of sweet fruit juice and ice (similar to today’s sorbet) won the coveted award. The news of Ruggeri’s talent traveled quickly and Caterina de Medici took Ruggeri with her to France. Caterina was convinced that only he could rival the fine desserts of French chefs – and had him make his specialty at her wedding to the future King of France.

Caterina de Medici

In the late 1500’s, the Medici family commissioned famous artist and architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, who was also known for his culinary skills, to prepare a beautiful feast for the visiting King of Spain. Buontalenti presented the King of Spain with a visually pleasing, creamy frozen dessert that we now call gelato. Buontalenti is considered the inventor of gelato.

But it was Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a famous restaurateur, who made gelato famous all over Europe. Procopio moved from Palermo to Paris and opened a café that soon became the hub for every novelty, from exotic coffee, to chocolate, to a refined gelato served in small glasses that resembled egg cups. The Procope, as the café was known, soon became hugely successful and gelato spread throughout France and into other parts of Europe.

Gelato made its way to the Americas for the first time in 1770, when Giovanni Basiolo brought it to New York City. At this point, there were two types of gelato – one made by mixing water with fruits such as lemon and strawberries (also known as Sorbetto), and another made by mixing milk with cinnamon, pistachio, coffee or chocolate. By 1846, the hand-crank freezer was refined and changed the way Americans made this frozen dessert. The freezer kept the liquid mixture constantly in motion and kept it cool throughout, making a product that was no longer granular, but creamy. This is where the history of industrial ice cream began, as the product contained more air and was less dense. Gelato did not make a name for itself in the U.S. until the late 1900’s – although its popularity still had a long way to go.

The process of making gelato has evolved over thousands of years. In the beginning, gelato was made with a few simple ingredients. Egg yolks were used as the main stabilizer and were added to other raw ingredients, such as sugar and milk (sometimes water for sorbetto), heated in a large pan/bowl and then chilled. Flavor ingredients (fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.) were then added and the gelato was batched. Batching gelato is also known as the process in which the gelato is frozen and air is incorporated into it to give it its dense, smooth texture. This tedious old fashioned process only allowed gelato makers to be able to make a maximum of 4 or 5 traditional flavors and the shelf life was not long. Few gelato makers still use this process, as technology has redefined the traditional gelato making process without compromising taste and flavor.

1906 Gelato Makers

At the turn of the 21st century, a new way to make gelato, known as the Hot Process, was introduced. Widely used today, the Hot Process involves the use of a pasteurizer, which heats the gelato ingredients up to 85°C/185 F for 5 seconds and then drops the temperature to 5°C/41 F. This controlling of the process allows for stabilizers and emulsifiers to perform properly and creates a microbiologically safe mixture.

After the going through the pasteurizer process, the gelato is placed in a batch freezer. Here, the mixture is quickly frozen, while being stirred, to incorporate air that produces small ice crystals necessary to give gelato a smooth, creamy texture with a satisfactory percentage of air. There are some gelato machines that contain both a pasteurizer and a batch freezer, which can simplify the process. The Hot Process is generally used for gelato because it can allow for more flexibility in the customization of a recipe and offers a slightly longer shelf life than all of the other processes.

In the 1980’s, the Cold Process was developed to provide a simpler gelato making process. The ingredients used in the Cold Process are already microbiologically safe which eliminates the need for a pasteurizer – not only saving gelato shops costs, but also space, as it is one less piece of equipment. In the Cold Process, the raw ingredients are mixed with a Cold Process base and flavor, and placed directly in the batch freezer, where the gelato is batched and prepared for serving. While the shelf life is slightly less than the Hot Process, the Cold Process is the answer to the gelato makers’ need for a process that achieves a greater amount of gelato in a quicker timeframe without compromising taste. 

While the gelato market continues to develop, the needs of the gelato maker have continued to grow and/or change. The Sprint Process is the newest process to make its way into the industry, offering an even easier and quicker way to produce gelato without the intervention of a skilled gelato master. The Sprint Process is simple; add a liquid ingredient (water or milk) to a prepackaged mixture containing all of the raw ingredients including, flavors, stabilizers and emulsifiers. Then, the mixture is poured into the batch freezer. The Sprint Process allows little room for error and provides complete consistency in flavor every time. For gelato shop owners producing large varieties of flavors in a short period of time, the Sprint Process works best. On the downside, the Sprint Process doesn’t leave much room for flavor experimentation and creativity.

polvere crema pasticcera

The Sprint Process using a prepackaged mix.

Regardless of the process used, when the gelato has completed its cycle in the batch freezer, the next step is extraction into the gelato pan. Here’s where the difference in presentation between gelato and American ice cream reveals itself. Gelato is extracted using a spatula, rather than an ice cream scooper. The spatula helps to create creamy waves of gelato that are visually appealing in the display case and truly give gelato its artisanal feel.

In some instances, gelato makers do not immediately serve their gelato, but utilize a blast freezer. The blast freezer contributes to the life of the gelato by freezing it at a lower temperature than a standard freezer. This also helps it maintain its artisanal presentation.

The final step in all gelato processes is decoration. Here the gelato maker can add to the gelato texture, flavor and appearance by adding toppings and fillers (also known as Arabeschi®).

Home Gelato Maker

Making Gelato At Home

Thankfully, we don’t have to travel all the way to Italy every time we crave a scoop. Mario Batali shared a few tips on how to make gelato successfully at home.

• Use Whole Milk – Batali points out that cream tends to coat the tongue and mute the taste of other ingredients. Whole milk delivers cleaner and more vibrant flavors.

• Look for Overripe Fruit – Overripe fruit might not be great for eating, but they’re fantastic for delivering intense fruit flavor in gelatos. Here’s where to use those last few bruised peaches or the slightly-shriveled cherries.

• Under-Churn the Base – Gelato is supposed to be less airy than American ice cream and should actually end up fairly dense. Batali recommends stopping the ice cream machine when the mix looks like a thick custard and then freezing.

Italian Pistachio Gelato

Yields: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Pistachio Cream (see recipe below)

Directions:

In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Prepare the Pistachio Cream (see below).

Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.

Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, remembering Batali’s recommendation to under churn.

When the gelato is done, either serve immediately or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firm.

Pistachio Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 7 to 8 ounces raw unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Directions:

In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.

Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that blends freely in the blender (You may not need all of the hot water).

NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process.

When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approximately 1 cup.

Chocolate Gelato

Chocolate Gelato

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Directions:

Bring 2 1/4 cups milk just to a boil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. While milk is heating, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and 1/4 cup (cold) milk in a bowl until smooth, then whisk into boiling milk and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Boil, whisking frequently, 3 minutes (mixture will be very thick). Remove from heat.

Place choclate in a bowl. Bring remaining 1/2 cup cold milk to almost a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and then pour over the chocolate in the bowl. Let stand until chocolate is melted, about 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir into the cornstarch-milk mixture and force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool slightly, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming, then cover with wax paper directly on the surface of the mixture and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours (overnight is even better).

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, about 3 hours. Let soften 5 minutes before serving.

Note:  Gelato keeps 1 week.


Whoever said fruit doesn’t count as dessert clearly needs to revisit this idea. Berry desserts can be just as satisfying as a piece of chocolate cake, if not better! Using fresh summer berries and healthful swaps, the dessert recipes below will satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your waistline. None of the recipes below are over 160 calories, providing you stick to serving sizes.

Summer berries are bursting with flavor and are packed with antioxidants that have been linked to stalling the aging process, protecting the heart and circulatory system and preventing mental decline. Mix berries into your morning yogurt, bake some into a pie or tart, experiment with savory recipes or eat them as a snack. There are so many ways to enjoy berries.

Health Benefits of Berries

When you read about all the health benefits from berries, you will want to add them to your menu everyday.

Loaded with vitamin C, blackberries also contain ellagic acid—an important phytonutrient that protects skin cells from damaging UV rays. Ellagic acid also prevents the breakdown of collagen in the skin that occurs as we age and is linked to wrinkling.

Blueberries are phytonutrient powerhouses. They contain: anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechins and salicylic acid. If the latter sounds familiar, you may recognize it as the drug we’ve come to know as Aspirin. That’s right—blueberries contain natural aspirin, but it comes in a delicious package by Mother Nature where there’s no worry about harmful side effects. What’s more, blueberries are proven to reduce proteins that are linked with some forms of brain disease, making them weapons in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as other neurological disorders.

Raspberries, like other berries, contain an important compound that is more effective at alleviating inflammation than aspirin. Containing the phytonutrient ellagic acid, raspberries can help protect against pollutants found in cigarette smoke and may neutralize some cancer-causing substances before they can damage healthy cells. They’re delicious on their own, in a fruit salad, in a smoothie or on top of a salad.

Not only do eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange, they are antioxidant powerhouses. Whether you want to evade heart disease, arthritis, memory loss, wrinkling or cancer, these berries have proven their ability to help. Plus, they’re just so easy to get into your diet on a regular basis.

A cross between blackberries and raspberries, Loganberries strengthen blood vessels, making them an excellent addition to help fight heart disease and developing varicose veins. They contain rutin, which research shows strengthens capillaries and improves circulation. They look like long raspberries.

Gooseberries—the berries that resemble green grapes—help you to feel happier. In recent research in the Journal of Experimental Neurobiology, scientists found that gooseberries contain a flavonoid called kaempferol that prevents the breakdown of the brain hormones, serotonin and dopamine. These brain chemicals naturally help us fight stress and keep our spirits up.

Caring For Berries

By nature, summer berries are small, soft and delicate, so cleaning and storing them is much more of a challenge than, say, a hearty melon or stone fruits.

Only rinse berries right before you use them. Water increases the likelihood they’ll start to mold.

Don’t soak: Place them in a colander and rinse water, grntly, over them instead of fully submerging them.

Give them a quick chill: You know how sun-ripened, warm berries have that delightful softness to them? Well, that is what makes them taste so good, but it’s also what makes them incredibly delicate and difficult to wash. So a good tip is to refrigerate them for an hour or so, when you bring them home from the market. They’re easier to rinse when they’ve had a chance to firm up just a bit.

After washing berries, let them rest in a colander in the refrigerator or another container that allows some air circulation. This will help them dry more quickly than if just placed in a bowl.

Avoid the crisper: Berries won’t last long, if kept in the crisper because the air has a higher humidity and doesn’t circulate as much as throughout the rest of the refrigerator.

Blackberry Sauce

This rich blackberry sauce can be a topper for almost anything — ice cream or frozen yogurt, waffles or pancakes or angel food cake are just some of the options.

This sauce is easily doubled or tripled for company.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries or raspberries
  • 4 tablespoons cranberry juice or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine berries, juice, sugar and Worcestershire. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 8 minutes or until desired consistency, stirring often and mashing berries slightly with a fork. Serve warm or cool. Makes 8 -2-tablespoon servings.

Berry Pudding Cake

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups assorted fresh berries (such as raspberries, blueberries and/or sliced strawberries)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Lightly coat six 6-ounce individual quiche dishes with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until light and frothy. Whisk in milk until combined. Add flour and baking powder; whisk until smooth.

Divide berries among prepared quiche dishes. Pour batter over berries. (Batter will not cover berries completely.)

Bake about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm. If desired, sift a little powdered sugar over each serving.

Raspberry-Oatmeal Wedges

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh red raspberries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat tub-style vegetable oil spread, such as Smart Balance
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed (optional)
  • Fresh raspberries , optional

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cornstarch. Add the 2 cups raspberries; toss to coat. Using a potato masher or fork, lightly mash berries; set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or a 9-inch springform pan or line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil and lightly grease the foil.

In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, vegetable oil spread, baking soda and cinnamon; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg white. Beat in all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour until combined. Stir in oats.

Set aside 1/2 cup of the oat mixture. Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until crust is starting to brown on the edges.

Spread raspberry mixture over partially baked crust. Crumble the reserved 1/2 cup oat mixture over the top of raspberry mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

If using the tart pan, remove side of the pan. If using the springform pan, run a thin metal spatula around the edge of the pan; remove ring. Cut into wedges to serve.

If using 8x8x2-inch baking pan, use foil to lift uncut bars from the pan; cut into bars. If desired, top individual servings with whipped topping and garnish with additional fresh raspberries.

Glazed Strawberry Pie

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie, recipe below
  • 6 cups strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Few drops vegetable red food coloring
  • Fat-free frozen whipped dessert topping, thawed

Directions:

Prepare Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie; prick bottom and sides of pastry generously with the tines of a fork.

Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Place 1 cup of the strawberries and the water in a food processor bowl. Cover; process until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to boiling; simmer 2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan stir together sugar and cornstarch; stir in berry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in enough red food coloring to tint to a rich red color. Cool to room temperature.

Fold remaining strawberries into cooled mixture; pour into pastry shell, arranging berries so the point faces up. Cover; chill for 3 to 4 hours. Serve with whipped topping.

Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil (or oil of choice)

Directions:

In a bowl stir together flour and salt. Combine milk and oil in a large measuring cup. Add milk mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until dough forms; form into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface slightly flatten dough. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold under extra pastry; crimp edge as desired.

Berry Ginger Shortcakes

10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons healthy butter substitute, such as Smart Balance
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 1 egg
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 – 28 ounce container frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1/4 cup lowfat dairy sour cream

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the berries and the crystallized ginger. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

To prepare shortcakes: 

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk and egg substitute or egg. Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

On a lightly floured surface pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness and pat the sides into an even 10 inch square. With a sharp knife cut the dough into 10 equal sized rectangles. (You can also cut them out with a biscuit cutter, reroll the dough and cut out more biscuits. I prefer my method because it is quicker and doesn’t waste anything.)

Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.

To serve:

In a small bowl combine the whipped topping and sour cream. Split shortcakes in half. Place bottoms on dessert plates. Divide the berry mixture among bottoms. Top each with some of the whipped topping mixture. Replace the shortcake tops.

Gluten Free Strawberry Cheese Tart

10 Servings

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups Gluten Free almond meal or flour (or grind an equal amount of almonds)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons healthy butter substitute, such as Smart Balance, melted.

Combine almond flour, sugar and melted butter. Press into bottom and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F and bake tart shell for 15 minutes or until evenly brown. Cool before filling.

Filling

  • 1 package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Beat all the ingredients together until smooth with a hand held electric beater. Set aside.

Topping

Wash and dry 4 cups of fresh strawberries. Cut in half. You may need a little more depending on their size.

1/4 cup clear jelly, such as apple, warmed in the microwave.

Assembly

Spread filling in cooled tart shell.

Arrange berries on top of filling in a circular pattern, end to end (with the rounded side of each strawberry facing the pointed end). You will have three circles and then fill in the center. Or you can make an arrangement that you like. With a pastry brush, spread a little warm jelly over each strawberry.

Chill before serving.

Mocha Cake with Berries

12 servings

Serving 1 slice cake, 2 tablespoons topping, and 2 tablespoons berries

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder or 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 egg whites
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries and/or blueberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, the water and espresso powder. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Stir in the chopped chocolate until melted. Remove from heat.

Place egg yolks in a small bowl. Gradually stir the chocolate mixture into egg yolks; stir in vanilla (mixture may appear slightly grainy). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup cocoa powder, the flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate-egg yolk mixture until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Stir a small amount of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites. Spread in the prepared pan.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen and remove side of the pan. Cool completely. (Cake may fall slightly but evenly during cooling.)

To serve, cut cake into wedges. If desired, sprinkle dessert plates with additional cocoa powder. Transfer wedges of cake to dessert plates. Top with whipped topping and berries.

 


Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older.

In the book, The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe make a case that the earliest linguistic evidence of chocolate consumption stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania recently announced the discovery of cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.E. It appears that the sweet pulp of the cacao fruit, which surrounds the beans, was fermented into an alcoholic beverage of the time.

It’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was born, but it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency. One bean could be traded for a tamale, while 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen, according to a 16th-century Aztec document. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical or even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.

Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas. Legend has it that the Aztec king, Montezuma, welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate.  Chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first –one described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.

By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties. But it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700’s.

In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. His product became known as “Dutch cocoa” and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa. By 1868, a little company called Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that will sound familiar– Nestle.

In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. Chocolate manufacturing is more than a 4-billion-dollar industry in the United States and the average American eats at least half a pound per month.

 

The main types of chocolate are milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate. These types of chocolate may be produced with ordinary cacao beans (mass-produced and cheap) or specialty cacao beans (aromatic and expensive) or a mixture of these two types. The composition of the mixture, origin of cacao beans, the treatment and roasting of beans and the types and amounts of additives used will significantly affect the flavor and the price of the final chocolate.

One ounce of chocolate

The higher the cacao (kuh-KOW) content number, the less sugar. Vanilla and lecithin usually make up less than 1 percent.

Dark Chocolate

Sweetened chocolate with high content of cocoa solids and no or very little milk may contain up to 12% milk solids. Dark chocolate can either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. If a recipe specifies ‘dark chocolate’ you should use semi-sweet dark chocolate.

Sweet Dark Chocolate

Similar to semi-sweet chocolate, it is not always possible to distinguish between the flavor of sweet and semi-sweet chocolate. If a recipe asks for sweet dark chocolate you may also use semi-sweet chocolate. Contains 35-45% cocoa solids.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

This is the classic baking chocolate which can be purchased in most grocery stores. It is frequently used for cakes, cookies and brownies and can be used instead of sweet dark chocolate. It has a good, sweet flavor. Contains 40-62% cocoa solids.

Bittersweet Chocolate

A dark sweetened chocolate which must contain at least 35% cocoa solids. However, good quality bittersweet chocolate usually contains 60% to 85% cocoa solids depending on the brand. If the content of cocoa solids is high and the content of sugar is low, the chocolate will have a rich, intense flavor. Bittersweet chocolate is often used for baking/cooking. If a recipe specifies bittersweet chocolate do not substitute with semi-sweet or sweet chocolate. European types of bittersweet chocolate usually contain very large amounts of cocoa solids and some of them have quite a bitter taste.

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Unsweetened Chocolate

A bitter chocolate which is only used for baking. The flavor is not suitable for eating. Use it only if a recipe specifies “unsweetened chocolate”. It contains almost 100% cocoa solids and about half of it may be fat (cocoa butter).

Milk Chocolate

Sweet chocolate which normally contains 10-20% cocoa solids (which includes cocoa and cocoa butter) and more than 12% milk solids. It is seldom used for baking, except for cookies. An ounce of milk chocolate can contain 75 percent less cacao and twice as much sugar as the darkest chocolate.

White Chocolate

Chocolate made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and sometimes other flavorings. It does not contain any ingredients from the cacao bean and, therefore, has an off-white color. In some countries white chocolate cannot be called ‘chocolate’ because of the low content of cocoa solids. It has a mild and pleasant flavor and can be used to make Mousse, Panna Cotta and other desserts.

Here are some healthy recipes without too many calories to indulge your chocolate sweet tooth:

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.                                                                                           

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups regular rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or chunks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment.

In a small bowl combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine peanut butter and butter; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar or sugar substitute, egg product, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined. Add the flour; beat until smooth. Stir in the oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate pieces into oat mixture.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned, reversing pans in the oven after six minutes.

Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 28 ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 18 ounces of fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 18 ounces lowfat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Chocolate curls (optional)

Directions:

In a medium bowl stir together finely crushed graham crackers and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Cover and chill while preparing filling.

In a small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheeses until smooth. Beat in sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well mixed; gradually beat in gelatin mixture. Divide mixture in half. Gradually stir melted chocolate into half of the mixture.

Spoon half of the chocolate mixture over chilled crust in pan; spread evenly. Carefully spoon half of the white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl chocolate and white mixtures. Top with remaining chocolate mixture, spreading evenly; spoon remaining white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds and swirl again. Cover and chill about 6 hours or until set.

To serve, using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Cut cheesecake into wedges. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare as directed, except cover and chill for up to 24 hours.

Chocolate-Amaretto Pots de Creme

Yield: 6 individual pots de creme

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces sweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten, or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (see tip)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 recipe Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping (below)
  • Shaved chocolate (optional)

Directions:

In a heavy small saucepan combine milk, sugar, whipped topping, chocolate, margarine, cocoa powder and coffee powder. Cook and stir over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir about 1/3 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return the yolk mixture to the remaining hot chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla, amaretto and almond extract. Pour chocolate mixture into six small heatproof cups or pots de creme cups. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight or until set.

Spoon the Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping  on top of individual servings. If desired, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Makes 6 individual pots de creme.

Tip: If you use egg substitute, the mixture will be softer set.

Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping

  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • Several drops of almond extract
  • 1/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping

In a small bowl stir together amaretto, vanilla, instant espresso coffee powder and several drops of almond extract, stirring until coffee dissolves. Fold in frozen light whipped dessert topping.

 

Hazelnut-Mocha Torte

Yield: 16 slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cups refrigerated egg product or 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Chocolate curls (optional)

White Mocha Filling:

  • 18 ounce container frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces white baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon instant sugar-free, fat-free Suisse mocha or French vanilla-style coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans. Set pans aside. In a medium bowl combine nuts, flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine eggs and sugar; cover and blend or process until combined. Add nut mixture. Cover and blend or process until nearly smooth, scraping side of container occasionally. Divide batter between the prepared pans; spread evenly.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread top with half of the White Mocha Filling. Top with remaining cake layer and remaining filling. Loosely cover. Chill frosted cake for 2 to 24 hours. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

White Mocha Filling:

In a small saucepan combine white baking chocolate, instant coffee powder and milk. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the whipped topping (whipped topping will melt). Cool mixture about 5 minutes. Fold melted mixture into remaining whipped topping.

Tip: To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan. Bake about 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool nuts slightly. If using hazelnuts, place warm nuts on a clean kitchen towel. Rub nuts with towel to remove loose skins.

 

Mocha Cream Puffs

Makes 20 cream puffs

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 recipe Mocha Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an extra large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the water, butter, coffee crystals and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until a ball forms that doesn’t separate. Cool for 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth. Drop into 20 small mounds onto prepared baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes or until brown.

Cool on wire rack. Split puffs; remove soft dough from insides.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or a spoon, pipe or spoon Mocha filling into cream puff bottoms. Add cream puff tops. 

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare and bake cream puffs; cover and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Prepare Mocha Filling as directed; cover and chill for up to 2 hours. Fill cream puffs just before serving.

Mocha Filling

  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce carton lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container thawed light whipped dessert topping

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, cocoa powder and instant coffee crystals. Fold in thawed light whipped dessert topping. Cover and chill until serving time.

 

Fudgy Almond Cookies

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 ounces white chocolate baking squares (with cocoa butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon shortening
  • 36 whole almonds, toasted

Directions:

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar, espresso powder and baking soda; beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.

Add egg whites, yogurt and almond extract; beat until combined. Beat in cocoa powder.

Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or just until edges are firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

In a small saucepan combine white chocolate and shortening; heat and stir over low heat until melted and smooth.

Spoon a little melted white chocolate on top of each cookie. Press an almond on top of the white chocolate on each cookie. Let cookies stand until white chocolate is set.


The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it, contains evidence of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailer’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed, “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

As part of the festival, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. 

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th. century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14, St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of the birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day became popular around the 17th. century. By the middle of the 18th. century, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes and, by 1900, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700’s. In the 1840’s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Esther A. Howland’s  Original Valentine

Esther A. Howland’s  Original Valentine

                                   Dinner Menu

Pear-Walnut Salad

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons pear nectar
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 medium pear, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions

For vinaigrette::

In a small bowl, whisk together pear nectar, vinegar, oil and pepper. Set aside.

Arrange the lettuce on two salad plates. Top with pear, red onion and walnuts. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Makes 2 servings.

Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons snipped dried figs
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8-10 ounces pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt-free herb seasoning, such as Mrs. Dash
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Hot cooked brown rice or brown/wild rice mix

Directions

For chutney::

In a heavy small saucepan, stir together cranberries, apple juice, figs, sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes or until chutney reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Meanwhile, trim fat from pork. Cut pork crosswise into six pieces, each about 1 inch thick. Press each piece with the palm of your hand to an even thickness. Sprinkle herb seasoning evenly over pork. Coat an unheated large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat over medium-high heat. Cook pork in hot skillet for 2 to 3 minutes or until pork is slightly pink in center and juices run clear, turning once halfway through cooking time.

Cook rice according to package directions.

To serve, divide pork medallions between two dinner plates and place on top of the hot cooked rice. Spoon some of the warm chutney over pork. Pass remaining chutney.

 

 

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 8 oz green beans (4 oz per serving)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Trim off the tough end of the beans and arrange the beans on a nonstick cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the beans and bake until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the beans, about 10 minutes. Let the beans sit a few minutes for the cheese to cool slightly. Lift the beans out onto a platter and serve.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

8 servings, about 1/2 cup each

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar or 3 tablespoons Sugar Substitute Blend for Baking
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish. Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but don’t worry. During baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)

Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve hot or warm

 



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News Anchor to Homemaker

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Sharing my passion for cooking and baking ♡

The kitchen is my playground.

A blog about my experiments in the kitchen, successful or otherwise.

Andrews' Family Cookery & Household Management

Households that create happiness, and Foods that celebrate life

Back Road Journal

Little treasures discovered while exploring the back roads of life

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Eating My Feelings

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LauraLovingLife

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Il mondo di Macdelice

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Good Food Everyday

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Culinary Adventures of The Twisted Chef T

Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours!

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no, not just bread: crafting edible creations as a way to feed the spirit, body, friends and family <3

healthy.yogi.mama

Fitness, recipes and babies in NYC

The Good, the Bad and the Italian

food/films/families and more

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SUSTAINABLE. ORGANIC. LOCAL. ETHICAL. THAT'S HOW WE ROLL.

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Fine dining my way

Like to cook? Like to eat? Be a part of the conversation.

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A clumsy newbie in the kitchen. Una principiante ai fornelli.

An eye for food

Food is to be admired as well as desired. It should speak to you visually and make you want to taste it!

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Our Growing Paynes

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musings of a baking fiend

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pet transport through Europe and beyond

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recipes worth sharing

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delicious nourishing energizing spice

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site for Patricia Mitchell, author

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