Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: apples


What flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, maple, cinnamon, caramel and pumpkin. Here are a few recipes to peak your fall taste buds.



Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake


16 servings


  • 1 ½ cups walnut pieces, plus extra for the topping
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Two 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan; set aside. In a food processor or blender combine the 1 1/2 cups walnut pieces and the 1/4 cup granulated sugar; cover and pulse or blend with several on/off turns until fine crumbs form. Add the 1/4 cup melted butter; pulse or blend to mix. Press crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until crust is firm and lightly browned on the edges. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed about 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl; beat for 1 minute more. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the 1 teaspoon vanilla, the maple flavoring, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt; mix well.

Pour cheese mixture into cooled crust. Bake in the 350 degrees F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheesecake is puffy around the edges but wiggles slightly when gently shaken. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl combine yogurt, maple syrup, the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and the 1/8 teaspoon salt. Spread yogurt mixture evenly over cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges. Bake in the 350 degrees F oven for 10 minutes more. Remove cheesecake from oven; while hot, run a thin knife around the edges. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Chill for at least 8 hours or up to 5 days before serving.

To serve, loosen cheesecake from sides of pan; remove sides of pan. If desired, garnish cheesecake with candied walnuts.

Apple Cider


Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes


Serves 4-6


  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish


Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes) Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter has melted. Garnish with parsley.



Apple-Cinnamon Custard Pie


8 servings


  • Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie, recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for the topping
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten pastry. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling-pin. Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate without stretching it. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry even with the edge of pie plate. Crimp edge high. Generously prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Line pastry with a double thickness of foil. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes more or until golden. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Cook and stir until sugar starts to melt and turn golden. Stir in apples. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until apples are tender and liquid is mostly evaporated, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

In a small heavy saucepan heat whipping cream and milk over medium-low heat just until bubbly. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Gradually stir in hot cream mixture until combined.

Place pastry shell on oven rack. Spoon apple mixture into pastry shell. Carefully pour egg mixture over apple mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover edge of pie loosely with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake about 20 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack about 1 hour to serve warm, or cool completely. Cover and chill within 2 hours.

Pastry for a Single-Crust Pie


  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up, or shortening
  • 1/4 cup cold water


In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until pieces are pea size.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until flour mixture is moistened. Gather flour mixture into a ball, kneading gently until it holds together.



Caramel Pots de Creme


8 servings


  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place eight 4-ounce pots de creme pots, ramekins, or 6-ounce custard cups in a large roasting pan; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, the water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Using a soft pastry brush dipped in water, brush down any sugar crystals on sides of pan. Bring mixture to boiling over medium-high heat. Boil gently, without stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture turns an amber color. Remove from heat.

Whisking constantly, carefully add whipping cream and milk to sugar mixture in a slow stream (mixture will steam and sugar will harden). Return to heat. Cook and whisk about 2 minutes more or until sugar is dissolved.

In a large bowl whisk egg yolks until light and foamy. Slowly whisk cream mixture into beaten egg yolks. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a 4-cup glass measuring cup with a pouring spout. Divide mixture among pots de creme pots.

Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of pots de creme pots. Carefully place pan on oven rack. Bake about 40 minutes or until edges of custards are set but centers jiggle slightly when shaken. Transfer pots de creme pots to wire racks; cool for 30 minutes. Cover and chill for 4 hours.


Large pumpkin on a white back ground

Pumpkin Butter



  • 4 cups Pumpkin Puree, recipe below
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 25 minutes or until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.

Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Pumpkin Puree


  • 2 ½ pounds sugar pie pumpkins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5 x 5 inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan. Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer puree to airtight storage containers. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.


Just because summer is over and the season for berries, peaches and melons has passed, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fruit desserts. Fall brings us apples, plums, pears, figs, grapes and pumpkins. No matter which fruit you pick up at the market, there are so many delicious desserts that you can make. A warm apple pie, a sweet plum tart or a delicious pear crisp are all terrific to enjoy on a cool fall night.

Apple Bars


Makes 20 bars


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips
  • Whipped cream or frozen yogurt (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in apples and nuts. Add egg mixture in the well in flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick). Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely. If desired, top each serving with whipped cream or frozen yogurt

Plum Galettes


8 servings


  • 2 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 recipe Galette Pastry, recipe below
  • 4 medium plums, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or walnuts, chopped
  • Milk, for brushing the pastry
  • 4 teaspoons honey


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed. Beat in egg yolk, orange marmalade and ginger.

Prepare pastry:

Divide the pastry dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a 7-inch circle. Spread each portion with one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with plum slices and almonds. Fold border up over the filling, pleating pastry as necessary to fit.

Place galettes on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops and sides of the crust with milk.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm. Cut each in half and drizzle with honey.

Galette Pastry


  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water


In a small saucepan heat and stir 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until light brown; set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl stir together all-purpose flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and the browned butter until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over part of the mixture; toss gently with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened (2 to 3 tablespoons total). Form dough into a ball.

Pumpkin  Cream Cheese Cupcakes


24 cupcakes


Cake Batter

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 package (8 oz.) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg


Preheat oven to 350° F. Place paper liners in 24 muffin cups.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg and beat on low just until combined.

For the cupcakes:

In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil and the 4 eggs until well blended.

In small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into the pumpkin mixture until blended.

Fill the muffin cups one-third full with batter.

Drop a tablespoonful of filling into the center of each cupcake and then cover with the remaining batter.

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the pumpkin portion comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Pear Crisp


6 servings


  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Grape Cake with Wine Sauce



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine grind, yellow cornmeal, plus extra for dusting the pan
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 cups red and green seedless grapes

Wine Sauce

  • 4 cups fruity white wine, such as Riesling


Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray and dust with the extra cornmeal. Shake the pan to evenly coat all sides and the bottom and tap out the excess.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn mixer to low-speed and slowly add in the olive oil.

Beat in the milk, vanilla extract and orange zest until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the wet mixture, a half cup at a time, while mixing on low-speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Using a spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Disperse the grapes evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.

Remove the pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5–10 minutes. Turn pan over and remove the cake. Let the cake cool completely, grape side up, on the wire rack.

Place the wine in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and allow the wine to simmer until it has reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, slice the cake and drizzle the wine reduction over the cake.


Fall is the time when we feel we can get back to spending some time cooking. Luckily, the cooler weather also brings a whole new group of seasonal produce to cook with, from apples and pears to hearty greens, root vegetables and squash. Make the most of what you find at the markets this autumn and try some new recipes to get you excited again about cooking.


Nothing says autumn more than a sweet tart apple. Apples can be used in dishes that are both sweet and savory. From stuffed turkey and pork to salads to applesauce and apple pie.


Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

Serve with a spinach salad.

4 servings


Spice Mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups thinly sliced, peeled or unpeeled apples
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


Cut pork tenderloin into 8 slices and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.

Combine the spice ingredients and sprinkle the mixture evenly over all sides of the pork slices. Let rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the  pork slices to the pan; cook 4 minutes on each side. Remove pork from the pan to a platter and keep warm. If all the pork does not fit in the pan at one time, you will need to brown the pork in two batches.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan; swirl to coat. Add the apple slices, shallots, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 4 minutes or until the apples start to brown. Add apple cider or wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the apples are crisp-tender. Stir in thyme leaves. Serve.


Pears are great for adding a touch of sweetness to savory dishes. Try serving a roasted pork roast or leg of lamb with caramelized pears. Not only does it add flavor, but the enzymes in the pears actually tenderize the meat.


Roasted Pears and Red Onions

Excellent as a side dish for roasted pork or turkey.

6 servings


  • 4 semi-ripe medium pears, quartered and cored
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, plus extra leaves for garnish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss pears and onion with butter and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange pears and onion in a single layer (they should fit snugly in the dish) and top with rosemary.

Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until the pears begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the pears are golden brown on the bottom and tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes more. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves before serving.


Hard-skinned squash varieties are usually yellow to deep-orange, with a flesh that turns creamy and sweet when cooked. Out of the hundreds of varieties, each has its own unique flavor and ideal uses. Dark green and orange-skinned acorn squash has a tender golden interior that makes a sweet, creamy purée; butternut squash makes a great filling for pasta;  delicata, with its thin, edible skin, is delicious sliced and sautéed in a little butter and roasted spaghetti squash has a light flavor and texture that’s perfect topped with pesto.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

4 servings


  • 2 medium acorn squashes (about 2 pounds), halved and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Heat oil in a 4-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl using a slotted spoon, keeping as much cooking liquid in the pot as possible.

Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining salt and the bulgur and stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and stir in the reserved beef, the raisins, parsley and pine nuts.

Scrape out the baked squashes, forming 1/4-inch-thick bowls and fold flesh into the bulgur mixture. Divide mixture among squash halves and return to the oven. Bake until warmed through and tops are browned, 12 to 14 minutes.

Parsnips and Carrots

Carrots and parsnips are earthy root vegetables. They’re especially good for roasting, but they also have a place in salads and soups. While similar in taste parsnips are sweeter than carrots, especially when roasted. Heirloom carrots come in a rainbow of colors, from white to yellow to purple. They are delicious grated raw with a honey dressing, roasted with orange zest and maple syrup or shredded and baked into cakes and breads.


Root Vegetable Gratin

6-8 servings


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound red potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick half moons
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and cayenne.

In another bowl, combine cheese and garlic.

Layer half the butternut squash in the baking dish; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Layer parsnips and carrots over the squash and season with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese, followed by the onion and 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mix and 1/2 cup cheese. Top with potatoes, remaining butternut squash and seasoning mix.

Pour chicken broth over top. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 60 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Combine panko and olive oil. Sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 45 seconds or until lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Fennel seed is perhaps best known for its licorice-scented seeds, used to flavor Italian sausage. But the crunchy vegetable bulb itself has a delicious, delicate anise flavor and the feathery fronds add flavor to salads and soups. It is delicious roasted and blends well with root vegetables and potatoes.


Italian Crab and Fennel Stew

6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups fish or chicken stock
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand
  • 2 lbs. pre-cooked king or snow crab legs, defrosted if frozen and cut into 3″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
  • 2 bunches roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Italian Country bread, for serving


Heat oil in an 8 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, celery, shallots, fennel, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 1–2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, paprika and bay leaves; cook, stirring, until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes.

Add stock and tomatoes; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 15–20 minutes.

Stir in crab; cook until shells are bright red and the crab meat is tender, 2–3 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Stir in basil and parsley and serve with the bread.


FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov

FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov (

There is plenty of cool weather produce available in the fall that you can make into delicious, seasonal salads.


Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.


It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities, such as Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice or serve them immediately after slicing.


Fresh cranberries are very tart and are usually sweetened before they go into a salad. Dried cranberries add beautiful color and sweet chewiness to salads.


Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and mix them into your favorite salad.


Fall beets come in red, pink, orange, yellow and white varieties, as well as a range of sizes. Both the bulbous root and the leafy stalk are edible. For salads, select small to medium beets with firm, smooth skin and no soft spots or punctures. Those with stems and leaves still attached are best. The foliage should be green and fresh-looking. Store beets, greens and all, in a produce bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Use disposable latex gloves from the drugstore when peeling beets. They’re thin enough to allow dexterity while protecting your hands from stains.


Fennel is available in the fall and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic plant is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The greenery can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even milder and softer than in its raw state.


The cabbage family is wide and varied: broccoli and cauliflower are members. Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

These vegetables are available year-round, but they are especially plentiful in the spring and fall. When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.


Fall Spinach Salad

Serves 1



  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste


  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped  pecans
  • 1/2 of an apple, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons grated carrot
  • 1/4 of an avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing, or to taste


Stir the balsamic vinegar and honey together in a bowl; slowly stream the olive oil into the mixture while whisking continuously. Season with salt and pepper.

Place spinach, cranberries, pecans, apple, onion, carrot and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately.


Wild Rice, Kiwi and Grape Salad

4 servings


  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans


Place broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain excess liquid, cover and let cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, oil and honey in a small bowl until the honey is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper.

Place cooled rice in a salad bowl, along with kiwi, grapes and pecans. Add dressing, gently toss and serve.


Cabbage Salad – Waldorf Style

4 servings


  • 1/4 head savoy cabbage
  • 4 unpeeled apples, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Slice cabbage into thin pieces 1 to 2 inches long. Do not use the large ribs of the cabbage, as they are too strongly flavored for this salad.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the cabbage, apples, walnuts and celery.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, honey and salt. Mix with the cabbage salad  until evenly coated. Serve immediately.


Beet, Fennel and Apple Salad

4 servings



  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 medium cooked red beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 medium crisp tart apple such as Granny Smith, cored and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss together the beets, fennel, apple and parsley. Add the dressing and mix gently to coat all of the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. (If refrigerating, remove from the refrigerator and let stand 30 minutes before serving.


Fall Fruit & Nut Salad

6 servings


  • 3/4 cup cashew halves
  • 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • 1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium Bosc pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes


In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, cook bacon strips until crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Coarsely chop bacon.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the bacon, rosemary, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and toasted cashews.

In a small bowl, stir together white wine vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large salad bowl, toss half the dressing with the greens, pear slices, grapes and sprinkle with nut/bacon mixture.

Serve with the remaining dressing in case anyone wants additional dressing on their salad.


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

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

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

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

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

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



Apple-Date Cake

12 servings


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


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

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

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

For the topping:

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

For the cake:

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

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


Italian Grape Cake


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


Preheat oven to 350°F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pear Quick Bread


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


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

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

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

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

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


Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins


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


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

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

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

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


Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The lazy days of summer have disappeared. Those days have gone by so quickly and here we are back into the busy after school activities routine!  Soccer, tee ball, baseball, dance, gymnastics, violin…no matter what we or our children are involved in, the usual time for these activities seems to fall right in the middle of dinner time.

Dinner doesn’t have to be eaten between 5-6 p.m., though. An early dinner, right after school, can work better on busy nights. Instead of eating an after school snack, serve dinner.  Or make smoothies which are quick to drink and easy to digest and have dinner after the activity. Bottom line, eat when it makes sense and don’t be ruled by tradition.

Many recipes can be doubled and freeze well. Making dinner for one night with a spare to freeze will save you time not only because you won’t have to cook on a busy night, but you also won’t have many dishes to wash late in the evening.

Slow Cookers can not only be used for cooking but also for keeping foods warm, so when you walk in the door, dinner is ready.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for quick and healthy meals for busy evenings.


Shrimp and Tomato Piccata

4 servings


  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen medium shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh thin string beans, trimmed
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 4 oz. dried linguine


Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel shrimp if they have shells and devein, leaving tails intact, if desired. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and green beans to the skillet; cook and stir for 3 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook and stir about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute more.

For the sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon peel, lemon juice and capers. Pour shrimp mixture over the hot cooked pasta. Drizzle sauce over the shrimp and vegetables. Serve.


Beef Sirloin Tips with Pepper Sauce

4 servings


  • 1 ½ pounds beef sirloin tip steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • One 12 ounce jar red and yellow sweet peppers and onions
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Quick cooking polenta or couscous


Trim meat and cut into 1- to 1-1/2-inch chunks; sprinkle with paprika.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Add the jar of peppers and onions with the liquid and the tomato sauce to the skillet. Cook, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until sauce is slightly thickened.

Return meat to the skillet; heat through. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with quick cooking polenta or couscous or mashed potatoes.


Greens, Cannellini Beans and Italian Sausage

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage links, cut lengthwise into long slices
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges (1/2 cup)
  • One 15 ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 cups chopped kale or your favorite greens
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


In a very large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and  cook and until browned. Add onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until the onions are tender.

Remove mixture from the skillet to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add beans, thyme and garlic to the skillet. Stir and heat through. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes.

Gradually add kale, stirring until wilted before adding more. Cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes or until all of the greens are slightly wilted and tender.

Add sausage mixture and vinegar to the skillet; heat through. Serve with crusty Italian bread.


Crispy Fish Fillets with Apple-Celery Slaw

4 servings


  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 pound of your favorite fish fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Cut one lemon half into 4 wedges; set aside. Juice the remaining lemon half into a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise and honey and mix well. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside.

For the slaw:

Stir celery, apple and cabbage into the remaining mayonnaise mixture in the bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the fish.

For the fish:

Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and brush with the reserved 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise mixture. In a shallow dish combine cornmeal and chili powder; coat fish in the cornmeal mixture.

In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium heat. Cook fish in hot oil 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Serve fish with slaw and the lemon wedges.


Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Simple Wine Sauce

4 servings


  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, (about 1 lb total)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables


Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish; dip chicken in flour, turning and pressing to coat all sides of the chicken.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the skillet; swirl to lightly coat the skillet. Add chicken breasts, smooth sides down and cook about 5 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown.

Turn chicken over; cook for 4 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (165 degrees F). Transfer chicken to a warm serving platter; set aside.

For the sauce:

Add the shallots to the hot skillet; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add wine; cook about 1 minute stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of skillet.

Add chicken broth to the skillet; bring to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in chives. Return chicken to the skillet; heat through.

Serve the chicken and wine sauce with the veggies on the side.

For the veggies:

In a second skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove. Add about 2 cups of sliced seasonal vegetables (zucchini, peppers, asparagus, etc.). Saute just until barely tender and sprinkle with your favorite herb, salt and pepper to taste.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Baked Apple Chips

Makes about 50 chips


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

You will also need:

baking sheets lined with parchment paper

a saucepan to make the simple syrup in

a mandoline or a sharp knife and a cutting board


the oven set to 250 degrees F


Make the simple syrup:

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

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

Set the oven to 250 degrees F.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Italian Focaccia Sandwiches

4-6 servings


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


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

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

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

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

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


Chicken-Broccoli Cups

4 servings


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


In a small bowl combine yogurt and salad dressing.

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

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


Caprese Salad Pita Pockets

4 servings


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


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

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


Chocolate Cookie Thins

Makes about 48 cookies.


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


Line 3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These cookies store well in the freezer.

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