Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: apples

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Sometimes, only a sandwich will do. Pasta seems too complicated and meat too fussy. A sandwich is simple and easy — bread, fillings – done. However, have you ever had a burger with a too-crusty bun or a multi-layered hero on bread that falls apart? Then you know what it means to choose the wrong bread for a sandwich. The basic rule of sandwich-making is that textures need to work together. You just need some basic knowledge and a bit of creativity.

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Some breads work with almost everything, and challah — like its sweeter French cousin, brioche — is one of them. If you’re looking for fluff or sweetness as a balance to salty flavors, these breads are perfect: Both will also stand up to savory, salty prosciutto, condiments and even mayonnaise-based salads.

Heartier sandwiches, like pulled pork or meatballs, require more support, so go with a bun or roll. If you’re set on slices, remember that soggy fillings — like marinated steak or tomatoes for — benefit from thick-cut slices of bread.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum are those sandwiches that require a lighter touch, especially if you’re thinking about making an open-faced sandwich. While baguettes are versatile, they also allow for thinner slicing. Baguettes are a wonderful base for a variety of toppings, especially if you’re feeding a crowd and they toast well.

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Though some would argue that a wap is not a sandwich, they are popular for typical sandwich fillings, like salads, cold cuts and scrambled eggs. Just be sure the fillings are soft enough to be rolled up.

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Are you thinking about making a Mediterranean type sandwich? You might want to choose an olive oil bread like focaccia or ciabatta. An olive oil bread  is ideal to support, tomatoes, olives hummus, feta, pickles and capers. These breads also make the best paninis.

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Want a healthy midday sandwich to get you through the day?  Earthy, multi-textured loaves are a perfect match for good-for-you fillings like leafy greens, spreads, and tofu. They are also perfect for PB&J.

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Maybe you are in the mood for a BLT or grilled cheese? Stick to the classics for these sandwiches, like a loaf of crusty sourdough. These types of sandwiches are all about what’s in the middle (cheese, bacon, tomatoes) and you want bread that will compliment them. The balance of soft chew, crusty crust and a slight tang make sourdough a good choice.

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Chicken Panini with Tapenade, Roasted Peppers and Onions

Makes about 4 large sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread thinly sliced or focaccia sliced in half
  • Artichoke and olive tapenade (recipe below)
  • 6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, sliced
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers from a jar
  • 3/4 cup sautéed onions
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breasts, sliced thin
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Spread 1 slice of bread with tapenade, and layer the cheese and peppers on top. Spread cooked onions on another slice and top with basil and chicken.

Put the two halves together, brush the outsides of the bread with olive oil, and grill on a Panini maker or on a cast iron pan with another cast iron pan pressed on top. Repeat with all remaining sandwiches.

Olive and Artichoke Tapenade

  • 4 ounces (113 g) of pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces (113 g) marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

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Open-Faced Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 medium eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • One small baguette cut in half and then in half again to make 4 pieces or use 4 – ½ inch thick slices of challah bread
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices Muenster cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toast bread.

In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, salt, oregano and basil. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Transfer to two 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pans.

Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Combine mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard; spread over toasted bread. Place on a baking sheet. Top with vegetable mixture, tomato and cheese.

Broil 6-8 in. from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

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Turkey Salad on Whole Wheat

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped cooked turkey or chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup chopped cored apple or chopped seeded cucumber or finely chopped celery
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • 4 lettuce leaves

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together turkey, apple and egg. Add yogurt and mayonnaise; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 4 hours.

Spread chicken mixture on half of the bread slices. Top with lettuce leaves and remaining bread slices. Cut each sandwich in half.

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Healthy Everything Hoagie

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 1 regular or whole wheat hoagie roll, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 fresh basil leaves , chopped
  • 1 large lettuce leaf
  • 1 slice deli oven roasted beef
  • 1 slice deli oven roasted turkey breast
  • 1 slice deli lean ham
  • 2 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices ripe tomato
  • 1 thin slice red onion
  • 2 thin slices green bell pepper
  • Sliced pickles, optional

Directions

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and basil.

Drizzle mixture on the inside top half of the roll.

On the bottom half of the roll, layer ingredients in the following order: lettuce, beef, turkey, ham, cheese, tomato, onion, peppers and pickles, if using.

Cover with the top of the roll.

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Crispy Fish Fillet Sandwiches

This sandwich is oven fried and the sauce is made with yogurt to keep it healthy. Coleslaw goes well with this sandwich.

2 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Two 6-ounce fish fillets (tilapia, halibut, cod, snapper, grouper, etc.
  • Two 6-inch soft rolls or baguette, split and toasted
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Lettuce, shredded

Sandwich Spread

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a heavy-duty baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray in the oven to heat.

Combine the sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to make the sandwiches.

Mix together the melted butter, Dijon mustard and dill in a pie plate. In another pie plate, combine the panko, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Dredge the fish through the melted butter mixture and then through the panko. Place on the hot baking pan in the oven and bake until cooked through and lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Assemble the sandwich by slathering the toasted split roll with the Sandwich Sauce, topping with the breaded fish fillet and adding  tomato slices and shredded lettuce.


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“Quick bread” refers to any bread that uses leaveners, like baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast, and requires no kneading or rising time. Quick breads are always popular; blueberry muffins and zucchini bread in summer, pumpkin muffins in the fall or coffee cakes and banana bread, any time of the year! More versatile than most other baked goods, quick breads give you greater freedom to add ingredients (like nuts and dried fruit) and make healthy substitutions. To lower the fat, for example, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum, pumpkin, bananas).

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If you’re adding dried fruit, try soaking it first. This will moisten the fruit, make it tender and juicy and also preserve the bread’s moisture. To soak dried fruit, place it in a heatproof bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover. Let it soak about 15 minutes, then drain and add to the finished batter. For added flavor, soak fruit in hot apple or orange juice–or soak it overnight in rum or brandy. Don’t sprinkle dried fruit on top of quick breads before baking, as it will burn before the loaf is done.

The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: use a gentle touch. Combine in a bowl the dry ingredients–flour, leavening, salt, and spices; sift them together or mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. In another bowl, beat together the fat, sugar and eggs in the order the recipe advises. Stir any other ingredients (fruit puree, flavorings or extracts) into the wet ingredients. Only when each bowl of ingredients is mixed thoroughly should they be combined. When you are ready, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and fold them together gently. Do this part by hand rather than with a mixer. Add nuts and fruits; stir just until incorporated. Over-mixing will cause “tunnels”–holes where the air bubbles escaped–and will make the bread tough.

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Unless you’re using high-quality non stick metal or silicone baking pans, you should always grease the pans before you pour in the batter. The best thing to use for greasing the pan is shortening, because its melting point is higher than any other kind of fat, which helps maintain a “shield” between the pan and the batter while the bread is baking. A high-quality cooking spray–one that won’t bake on to your pans and discolor them–is also a fast, easy fix. Let the bread cool for at least twenty minutes before inverting the pan and removing the bread.

The crack on top of the bread happens when the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. Drizzle the loaf with icing or dust with confectioners’ sugar to cover the crack.

The bread looks done on the outside but it’s still raw in the middle. This is one of the most common quick bread problems and it can be caused by a few different factors:

  • The oven temperature could be too high. (Use an oven thermometer to check.)
  • Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won’t burn before the middle has time to catch up.
  • Another cause of a “raw center” could be using a different pan size than the recipe calls for. One of the advantages of baking quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves or large loaves. Each size, however, requires different baking times–and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it’s going to take to bake. If you’re using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.

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Pear and White Cheddar Bread

Makes 16 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal or toasted wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded pears
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or two 7 x 3 1/2×2-inch loaf pans; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine pears, sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, honey and vanilla. Add pear mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in cheese. Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes (45 to 50 minutes for the smaller pans) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan.

Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Variations: 

Cinnamon, Chocolate, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except stir 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon into the flour mixture and substitute 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces for the cheese.

Fig, Ginger, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except stir 1-1/2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel and 1 teaspoon ground ginger into the flour mixture and substitute 1/2 cup finely snipped dried figs for the cheese.

Blue Cheese, Pecan, and Pear Quick Bread:

Prepare as directed, except substitute 1/4 cup finely crumbled blue cheese and 1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans for the white cheddar cheese.

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Healthy Banana Bread

One 9 x 5-inch loaf (about 15 slices)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (2 very ripe bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle.

Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with pan spray, and line the bottom with parchment. Spray the parchment.

Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick; five to eight minutes. Beat in the oil, the yogurt or buttermilk, bananas and vanilla.

At low-speed, beat in the flour in three separate additions. Fold in the nuts.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, until the bread is firm and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

This bread will keep for several days, but put it in the refrigerator after three days and the bread freezes well if wrapped air-tight.

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Apricot Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Soak apricots for 20 minutes in hot water to cover. Drain and chop apricots into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Beat sugar, oil and egg together in a mixing bowl. Stir in water and orange juice. Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until thoroughly combined. Stir in walnuts and apricots.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

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Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats, plus extra for the top of the bread.
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease bottom only a 9-inch loaf pan.

In large bowl, mix brown sugar, milk, oil, vanilla and eggs with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients except blueberries; mix thoroughly. Fold in blueberries. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with additional oats if desired.

Bake 45  minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan with a thin spatula; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

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Whole Wheat Fruit-Nut Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 6 ounce carton plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 1-1/2-quart ovenproof casserole; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, applesauce, yogurt, brown sugar and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Fold in nuts and dried fruit. Spoon batter into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with wheat germ.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning.

Cool in the casserole dish on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from the casserole. Cool completely on wire rack. If desired, wrap and store overnight before slicing (bread will be slightly moister the second day). Makes 12 servings


AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

AN ITALIAN MAJOLICA PASSOVER PLATE
The center with the Kiddush and the order of the Seder, surrounded by wide molded rim with scenes of Joseph Greeting his Brothers and the Passover Meal in Egypt, four heroes (Moses, Aaron, Solomon, David), and two floral plaques in molded borders, late 19th century.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spoil and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith. Following the pre-meal chants, the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzo, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast. Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno's Antica Sinagoga, 1850

S.A.Hart, Festa della Legge in Livorno’s Antica Sinagoga, 1850

People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Telemaco Signorini, Il Ghetto di Firenze, 1882

Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully in Italy almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of southern Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.

Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.

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Italian Charoset

(adapted from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden)

In Italy there are various regional versions of haroset. The haroset of Padua has prunes, raisins, dates, walnuts, apples and chestnuts. In Milan they make it with apples, pears, dates, almonds, bananas and orange juice. Other possible additions include: chopped lemon or candied orange peel, walnuts, pistachios, dried figs, orange or lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Ingredients

  • 3 apples, sweet or tart
  • 2 pears
  • 2 cups sweet wine
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cups ground almonds
  • 1/2 lb. dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup yellow raisins or sultanas
  • 4 oz. prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup honey or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apple and pears and cut them in small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pan together and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the fruits are very soft, adding a little water, if it becomes too thick.

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Sweet-And-Sour Celery (Sephardic Passover Apio)

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mild honey
  • 4 lbs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, reserving about 1 cup of celery leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a wide heavy 6-to 8-quart pan, then set the paper round aside.

Simmer water, lemon juice, oil, honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in the pan, stirring, until the honey has dissolved.

Stir in celery (but not leaves) and cover with the parchment round. Simmer until tender and liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup, 35 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop reserved leaves. Serve celery sprinkled with celery leaves and parsley.

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Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin removed
  • 4 thighs (about 1 pound), skin removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup pitted whole green olives
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add browned chicken, broth, olives, cinnamon, ginger and coriander; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Turn chicken over; cook, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon; place 1 chicken piece on each of 4 plates. Add lemon zest, juice, and parsley to the pan; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon sauce over chicken.

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Vegetable Farfel Kugel

Farfel is small pellet or flake shaped pasta used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It is made from an egg noodle dough and is frequently toasted before being cooked. It can be served in soups or as a side dish. In the United States, it can also be found pre-packaged as egg barley. During the Jewish holiday of Passover, when dietary laws pertaining to grains are observed, “matzah farfel” takes the place of the egg noodle version. Matzah farfel is simply matzah broken into small pieces

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 6 ounces matzah farfel
  • 7 large eggs, whites only
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Dash paprika

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 inch oven proof dish.

In a large, nonstick skillet, sauté the fresh vegetables in oil 3-5 minutes. Add drained spinach. Pour boiling water over farfel (in a strainer) to moisten. Add farfel, vegetables, salt, pepper and nuts. Cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the farfel mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake 45 minutes or longer until browned.

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Passover Honey Nut Cake

(adapted from A TREASURY OF JEWISH HOLIDAY BAKING By Marcy Goldman)

Cake

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Soaking Syrup

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan. (If you do not have one that size, you can use a round foil pan of the same or similar size available in the supermarket baking aisle).

Cake:

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Soaking Syrup.

Soaking Syrup:

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.

Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Allow it to stand for 2 to 4 hours to absorb the syrup.

Refrigerating this cake while it is absorbing the liquid helps the cake to firm up, which makes it easier to cut.


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Trentino-Alto Adige is situated in the very north of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland and is best known for the beauty of its peaks. Trentino-Alto Adige is a relatively young region, having only been fully annexed by Italy in 1919, and because of its proximity to neighboring countries, a large portion of the population speak German as well as Italian. Slavic culture and cooking traditions are still very much a part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region.

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The region is mainly mountainous, rich in rivers and lakes. To the west one finds the glaciers, Adamello-Presanella-Care Alto and Brenta and to the east are the Lagorai, Latemar, the Dolomites of Fassa and the Pale di S. Martino. Extensive coniferous forests cover the slopes and three natural parks, Adamello-Brenta, Paneveggio-Pale of S. Martino and Stelvio, are in the region. The city of Trento is the administrative headquarters of the province and of the region.

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The most striking natural feature has to be the Dolomites and they are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers an unforgettable experience for ski and winter sports lovers. This year the region is host to the European Cup Alpine Skiing.

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The traditional food of Trentino Alto Adige is based on local agriculture and farming. The region’s most celebrated specialty is the Tyrol smoked ham known as Speck. Local salami, kaminwur, is very tasty along with regional cheeses represented by trentingrana, toma di montagna and casolet cheeses.

Polenta, served as a first course, is prepared with a meat, cheese or mushroom sauce. Other first courses include barley soup, pasta and beans, mushroom soup and the popular, brò brusà, a simple local soup.

As for main courses, the specialties of the region are: rabbit with grappa, goulash, roe deer with polenta, trout and lucanica, a pork sausage.

A famous local food is the Val di Non apple, used to prepare strudel and fruit tarts.

Trentino-Alto Adige is also known for the production of wines, that include Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot, Chardonnay and Spumante. In an unusual divergence from southern Italian tastes, beer is a favorite drink with midday and evening meals. Beer making can be traced back for centuries in the area and is another testament to the strong Germanic influence the Trentino-Alto Adige region enjoys.

Take A Tour The Trentino-Alto Adige Region

Brò Brusà and Porcini Mushrooms

trentino5

Ingredients for 4

For the soup:

  • 3 ½ oz (100g) ’00’ ( Italian) flour
  • 4 ¼ cups (1 litre) warm meat stock
  • 3/8 cup (100ml) lukewarm water

For the porcini mushrooms:

  • 10 ½ oz (300g) fresh porcini mushrooms
  • 7/8 cup (200ml) white wine
  • Salt
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Oil

For the garnishes

  • 1 ¾ oz (50g) Butter/Botiro di malga (high quality homemade butter)
  • Bread cut into croutons
  • Grated trentingrana cheese, to taste

Directions

Sieve the flour into a warm pan and keep it on low heat. Keep mixing the flour until it starts to brown. Set aside, let it cool and then add the warm stock.

Place the pan back on the stove and bring to a boil on low heat, adding the lukewarm water slowly.

In a separate skillet clean the mushrooms, chop them into small pieces and saute them in olive oil, then drizzle them with the wine. Add salt and fresh chopped parsley to taste.

Prepare the croutons by frying them in the butter.

Serve in individual soup bowls. Ladle the soup first and the croutons on top. Sprinkle with the grated trentingrana cheese and finally add the mushrooms.

Trentino Goulash

trentino7

Serve over polenta or boiled potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb beef chuck, cut into small cubes
  • 5 onions, sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon sweet red paprika
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
  • Lemon zest
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cups water

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the thinly sliced onion and the diced meat. Cook until browned.

Dissolve the flour and the paprika in the ½ cup of water.

Pour over the meat. Add the red wine to the saucepan and let it evaporate.

Add the herbs, the grated lemon zest, salt, pepper and tomato paste; stir.

Add the remaining water, cover the pan with a lid and cook for at least 2 hours, adding extra water, if the goulash should thicken too much.

Spinach Canederli (Spinach Dumplings)

trentino8

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 day-old Italian bread rolls (about 2 ounces each)
  • 3 ½ ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 onion
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mince  the onion.

Cut the bread rolls into 1/2-inch cubes.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onion and bread cubes and sauté until golden.

Wash spinach and boil in salted water for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water in a towel.

Chop with a knife or food processor.

In a bowl, mix the chopped spinach with the eggs, flour, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Add sautéed onion and bread and combine with a spoon.

Shape into egg-sized balls with floured hands and boil in salted water for about 8 minutes.

Drain and serve with grated Parmigiano and melted butter.

Apple Strudel

trentino6

Ingredients

Pastry

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted and at room temperature.

Filling

  • 1 1/3 lbs (600g) apples
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) breadcrumbs toasted in butter
  • 2 oz (60g) golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into thin slices and mix them with the sugar, bread crumbs, golden raisins, rum, cinnamon and lemon peel.

Unroll the pastry and place on a floured surface. Usually ready-made puff pastry is too thick for the purpose of making strudel, so you need to enlarge the sheet and make it thinner (about 1/8th of an inch or 2 mm thick).

Roll out the dough and put it on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough and roll the strudel from the long side.

Brush the strudel with egg and bake it for 45 minutes, until golden brown.Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle the strudel with confectioner’s sugar before serving.


homemadegifts

When it comes to giving this holiday season, be creative and make a truly personal gift for your friends and family. Homemade mixes are also one of the best Christmas gifts. There’s nothing like a homemade food gift, beautifully packaged along with recipe cards, to add warmth to the holidays.

homemadegifts1

Almond Granola

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 cups raw almonds, sliced

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to an upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet, spread across sheet into a thin, even layer (about 3/8-inch thick). Using a stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

Bake until lightly browned, 50 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break into pieces of desired size and package in decorative containers for gifts.

homemadegifts2

Apple Tea Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • 2 tablespoons snipped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 dried apple slices
  • 6 3-inch cinnamon sticks

Directions
In a small bowl combine tea, crystallized ginger, allspice and cloves. Divide tea mixture and dried apple slices among six paper tea filters. Tie the tops of the filters with kitchen string, tying a cinnamon stick at the top of each. Place filled tea filters inside six decorative heat-proof mugs.

Attach the following directions for serving:

To Make Spiced Apple Tea: Add 6 to 8 ounces of hot water to one mug. Add a tea bag and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bag. Place cinnamon stick in the mug and serve.

homemadegifts3

Hazelnut Brownie Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces milk or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup mini marshmallows

Directions

In a 1-quart decorative  jar layer sugar, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Spoon over chocolate in the jar. Top with hazelnuts and marshmallows; fasten lid.

Attach the following directions for making brownies.

To Make Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Grease the foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl whisk together 2/3 cup melted butter and 3 eggs until well combined. Add the contents of the jar to the butter mixture; stir until well combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes. (Moist crumbs will remain attached to wooden toothpick inserted near center of brownies). Cool brownies in the pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of the pan. Place on a cutting board. Cut into bars.

homemadegifts4

Coconut-Pecan Muffin Mix

Makes: 1 gift (4½ cups)

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • One 7-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut (2 2/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 12 muffin paper cup liners

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugars and salt. Mix in the coconut and pecans.
Transfer the mix to a resealable decorative paper bag.  Wrap with ribbon and affix with a label and a gift tag with the baking instructions.

Copy the following instructions on a gift tag or label to include with your gift:

“Heat oven to 350º F. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs and ¾ cup canola oil. Add the muffin mix and stir just until combined. Divide among the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin lined with the paper liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.”

homemadegifts6

Chocolate Truffles

4 dozen truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Coarsely chop both chocolates and set aside.

Heat the cream and instant coffee in a saucepan, stirring to blend. When bubbles start to form along the edge of the pan, remove from the heat. Scatter the chocolate over the cream, stirring gently until melted. Set aside for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the liqueur and vanilla. Stir gently, just until evenly blended. Scrape the chocolate into a shallow bowl. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, scoop up enough chocolate to make balls 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Thoroughly combine the cocoa and powdered sugar in a bowl, making sure all the lumps are removed. Roll the balls in the cocoa mixture, shaking off the excess, then transfer to wax paper. Place each truffle in a candy paper cup and package in a decorative gift boxes.


Thanksgiving-pies

They’re simple, they’re American and, come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. The recipes below for apple, pumpkin and pecan pie have been a tradition in my family for many, many years. It would not be Thanksgiving without them. I share these recipes with you and you can make them even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving in your country.

Pie Crust for Apple and Pecan Pies

You will need three pie crusts for the Apple and Pecan Pies. You can double the recipe below and freeze the extra crust for another day or make one double and half of a double for the apple and pecan pies. I use a different crust for the Pumpkin Pie because my recipe needs a larger, deeper crust.

Classic Double Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup trans-free vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum
  • 10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 10 tablespoons ice water

Directions

Whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is crumbly.

Cut the butter into small (about ½”) cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work it in with your fingers, a pastry cutter or a mixer. Don’t be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.

Add 4 tablespoons of water and toss to combine. Add enough additional water to make a chunky, fairly cohesive mixture. It should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand.

Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk. Smooth the disks and the edges with floured hands. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes, or even overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator, leaving it wrapped. Allow it to warm a bit until it’s softened enough to roll, but still feels cold to the touch.

Next, measure the bottom diameter and up the sides of your pie pan. For example, if your pan is 7 inches across the bottom and 1 ½ inches up each side, that’s a total of 10 inches. This means you should roll your bottom crust to a diameter between 11 and 12 inches, which gives you enough extra pastry for crimping the edges.

Place the crust on a floured work surface and roll it to the desired width.

Place the crust in the pan by folding in quarters and placing it in the pan. Unfold the pastry and center it in the pan.

For a single-crust pie:

Fold the edges of the crust under and gently squeeze them together. Crimp, as desired. It’s good to make a tall crimped edge for a single-crust pie that is fairly liquid, such as pumpkin or custard.

For a double-crust pie:

Leave the edges of the bottom crust as is (no crimping). Once you’ve added the pie filling, roll out the top crust to the outside diameter of your pan and place it on top of the filling. Trim the excess crust with a pair of scissors; then press the two edges together.

Crimp, as desired. A simple fork crimp is fast and easy. At this point, it helps to return the pie to the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes; this chills the fat, which ultimately increases the crust’s flakiness. Cut a hole in the center of the crust for steam to escape or slash the pie’s top surface several times. Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.

pies
Pecan Pie

Single Crust, recipe above. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Mix in 3/4 cup pecans.

Pour into the prepared crust. Sprinkle with remaining 1 ¼ cups of pecans. Bake the pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

pies2

Apple Pie

Double Crust, recipe above.

For the Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled McIntosh apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

To prepare filling:

Combine apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, flour and salt in a large bowl.

To assemble & bake the pie:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.

Roll out half of the dough as directed in the recipe above and invert the dough into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding it higher in the center than on the sides of the pan.

Roll out the second crust and invert the dough onto the top of fruit. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a rolled edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.

Combine the coarse sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours before serving.

pies3

Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust Ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust.

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water

Directions

You will need a 9 inch pie pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep.

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like.

Whisk together the oil and water in a measuring cup; then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even.

Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers and flute the top. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin
  • 1 cup half & half

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt and spices.

In a large measuring cup, beat together the eggs, pumpkin and half & half. Whisk into the dry ingredients.

For best flavor, cover and refrigerate the filling overnight before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the oven is hot, place the pie pan with the chilled crust on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and place the baking sheet in the oven on the center rack.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is set 2 inches in from the edge. The center should still be wobbly. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a rack; the center will finish cooking through as the pie sits.

Tips

  • This recipe makes enough filling to generously fill a 9 inch pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep. If your pan isn’t quite that big, you can bake any leftover filling in custard cups; they will take 25 to 30 minutes to cook.
  • Pumpkin pie filling is basically a custard; the eggs in the filling will continue cooking as the heat from the edge of the pie moves toward the center, which is why it’s important to remove the pie from the oven before the center is completely set. Leaving it in the oven too long will cause the eggs to overcook, tightening the proteins and causing the pie to crack in the center.
  • Mixing the filling a day in advance (refrigerate until using) will improve the flavor of this pie by giving the spices’ flavors a chance to blend.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.


appetizer cover

What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.

For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.

This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.

Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.

Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:

Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.

Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.

Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.

Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.

For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.

Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.

Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.

Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.

Green-Olive-Tapenade-Resized-006

Artichoke Tapenade

Good on a vegetable tray.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 large pitted green olives
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

appetizer crab

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.

appetizertomatoes.jpg.rend.snigalleryslide

Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken broth
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.

Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)

Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.

Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.

Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.

appetizerGrilledPrawn

Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce

This recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Shrimp

  • 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.

To make the shrimp:  Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.

Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.

appetizer falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients

  • One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment

Directions
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.

Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..



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Let's talk recipes, great food and FITNESS!

on the road with Animalcouriers

pet transport through Europe and beyond

jittery cook

recipes worth sharing

charuyoga

vibrant inspiring nourishing yoga

pattytmitchell

site for Patricia Mitchell, author

Something Sweet Something Savoury

Family friendly recipes from a chaotic kitchen

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