Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cranberry

fall fruits

Most people think of summer as the time for the best produce, but autumn is the season that gives us great fruit for baking. First of all, fall is apple picking season, and that means lots of muffins, pies, cakes and tarts all filled with sweet and tart apples. Then Bartlett pears arrive, followed by Bosc and Comice pears and Anjou pears in winter. Other fall fruits would be figs and cranberries, which are healthy and delicious.

This time of year the whole world seems to go pumpkin-crazy. Pumpkin ends up in almost every recipe, whether it’s drinks, breakfast, pasta or pastries. Besides pumpkin, other winter squash such as butternut and acorn are available for sweet as well as savory recipes.

There are some spices that are associated with fall recipes. Those spices are warm, nutty, slightly spicy and slightly sweet. They include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, chai, allspice, mace, star anise, cardamom, coriander, fennel and peppercorns.

Make your own Spice Blends

To make pumpkin pie spice blend, combine 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix thoroughly. Keep the mixture in a tightly sealed jar in your pantry.

To make apple pie spice blend, combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

All these delicious, healthy fruits are in season now.

  • Apple
  • Bananas
  • Dried Fruit
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate

apple crisp

Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 8 cups thinly sliced, peeled baking apples (8 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 2-quart rectangular baking dish combine apples, cranberries and apple juice.

In a small bowl stir together granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Sprinkle over fruit mixture; toss gently to coat.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle topping over fruit mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

Bread Dough

Use this recipe for the fig rolls.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2  cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions

In a 2-quart mixing bowl stir together the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved. Stir in flours, sugar, oil, and salt until combined. Cover with lid or plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Stir down. Cover and chill overnight. Before baking, let dough stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

fig rolls

Italian Fig Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pound bread dough, recipe above and made the day before
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil. Grease foil; set aside.

For the filling:

In a small bowl combine figs, snipped sage and honey; set aside.

Cut dough into 12 equal portions. Shape dough portions into balls.

Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten it to a 3-inch circle. Top with a rounded teaspoon of the filling and a few pieces of the cheese. Fold dough over filling; pinch edges to seal.

Place rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise until double in size (1 to 1-1/4 hours).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together egg white and the water; brush lightly over rolls. Gently press small sage leaves onto the tops of the rolls; brush again with the egg white mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

fall desserts

Mini Cheesecakes with Pear Topping

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 cups sliced fresh pears (4 medium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup broken walnuts,toasted
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line eight 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with foil or paper baking cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the crust:

In a small bowl stir together oats, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons of oat mixture into each prepared muffin cup. Using the bottom of a narrow glass, press down lightly. Bake about 8 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat just until combined. Stir in the 1/2 cup blue cheese and the sour cream.

Spoon 1 well-rounded tablespoon of filling into each muffin cup. Bake about 20 minutes or until slightly puffed and set. Cool about 30 minutes.

Remove from muffin cups. Place on a tray, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

For the pear topping:

In a large skillet melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cream. Cook and stir until bubbly; add pears. Cook about 5 minutes or until pears are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool slightly.

To serve:

Remove foil or paper liners from cheesecakes. Place cheesecakes in eight deep dessert dishes. Spoon pear mixture around cheesecakes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts and additional blue cheese, if desired.

donuts

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

12 doughnuts

Doughnuts

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, optional
  • 2 tablespoons REAL maple syrup, optional

donut pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans (see photo). If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

If you’re making muffins, fill each cup about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar.

If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with the cinnamon-sugar.

Optional: combine the powdered sugar with the maple syrup and drizzle the cinnamon coated donuts with the glaze.

Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

french toast

Apple French Toast Bake

Make ahead breakfast.

French Toast

  • 1 day old Italian bread, about 18″ to 20″ long (12 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 5 to 6 apples (1 3/4 to 2 pounds fresh apples), peeled and thinly sliced; such as Macoun, Empire, Cortland or Granny Smith
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Optional Garnish

  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or similar-sized casserole dish.

Slice the bread into 1 inch slices; you’ll need about 20 slices to fill the pan. Place the slices of bread into the pan. Be sure the entire bottom of the dish is covered with bread. You may have to cut some slices to fit.

In a medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.

Pour this mixture over the bread and let it soak in while you prepare the topping.

Peel and slice the apples thinly. Mix them with the remaining topping ingredients and spread them over the bread in the pan.

To bake immediately, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To bake up to 48 hours later, cover the pan, and refrigerate.

Bake the French toast in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the eggs set.

If it’s been refrigerated, remove the cover, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

Makes about 10 servings.

About these ads

lowcost

10 Piece Chicken Nuggets with Large French Fries

$6 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $24

lowcost1

Cheeseburger with Large Curly Fries

$4 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $16

Eating healthy should not be a privilege or reserved for people who can “afford” it. Fresh fruits and vegetables actually don’t cost more than burgers, fries and sodas. In fact, they’re often less expensive, so shopping for good, fresh produce shouldn’t be an impossible achievement. The family friendly, healthy dinner recipes below are full of nutrition, but they don’t skimp on taste. Plus, at less than $1 per serving, the recipes are easy on the wallet and the waistline. They are also easy to prepare.

Luckily, many of these pantry staple foods cost less than $2 per package. A 1-pound bag of brown rice, for example, sells for about $1.75 and cooks up into about 10 side dish servings — that’s just 18 cents a serving. Prices may vary slightly based on the store, location and time of year. If you have the items below stocked in your pantry and refigerator, you will be able to make delicious meals and save money.

Brown Rice

Great for side dishes, rice salads, casseroles, soups and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dry, uncooked rice. Price per serving: 18 cents. A 1-pound bag costs about $1.75 and contains 10 servings.

Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta

Great for hot and cold pasta dishes.

What’s a serving? 2 ounces of dried pasta which means you get about 8 servings in a one pound box or bag of dried pasta. Price per serving? About 24 cents. You can get a 16-ounce box or bag of store-brand dried pasta for about $1.69.

100% Whole-Wheat Bread

Great for hot and cold sandwiches, bread stuffing, bread pudding and breakfast.

What’s a serving? 2 slices, the amount you’d use to make a sandwich. Price per serving: About 18 cents. You can get a 22-ounce loaf of store-brand 100 % whole-wheat bread for about $1.99. (My store often has buy one, get one free.) Each loaf has about 22 slices or 11 servings of 2 slices each.

Old-Fashioned Oats

Great for hot or cold cereal, granola, crumb toppings for desserts and muffins.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup dry oats. Price per serving: 13 cents. A 42-ounce container of store brand oats costs around $3.99 and each container has about 30 servings of dry oats.

Quinoa

Great for salads, side dishes, breakfast or in any recipe for rice.

$0.60 per ¼ cup serving, about $4 per box. It may be hard to pronounce (that’s keen-wah), but it’s easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. Filled with protein and fiber, this superfood also contains nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own.

Canned Tuna and Salmon

Great for sandwiches, fish cakes, casseroles, several types of salads and appetizers.

What’s a serving? A 6-ounce can is about 2 servings. Price per serving: About 70 cents for chunk white albacore in water. You can buy a 6-ounce can of solid white albacore in water for about $1.99 or a 6-ounce can of chunk white albacore in water for about $1.39. The best deal is usually with chunk light in water for 85 cents per 6-ounce can. For salmon $0.75 per serving or about $1.50 per can.

Jarred Marinara Sauce

Great for pasta dishes, pizza, casseroles, appetizers, Italian sandwiches and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup. Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 24 or 28-ounce jar or can of marinara or pasta sauce for $1.67. Watch for store sales.

Dried Lentils and Beans

Great for casseroles, salads, soups and stews and more. Lentils are the most user-friendly of the beans because they cook quickly without pre-soaking. Generally you just need to cover 1 cup of lentils with 3 cups of water or broth and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dried lentils. Price per serving: 10 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag for $1.29. Each 16-ounce bag makes about 13 servings of lentils. That small bag of lentils is deceiving because the lentils are dried, but once cooked, you will see the value.

lowcost0

Below is a list of fresh, nutritious foods that cost less than $1 per serving.

Chicken Breasts

$0.75 per 4 oz serving, about $2.99 per pound.  Forgo fast food on a budget — a small fresh chicken breast is cheaper and filled with healthy, lean protein. Grill, bake, use in salads or slice for a whole-wheat wrap with veggies.

Eggs and Store-Brand Egg Substitute

Great for: Making quick omelets or breakfast. You can also blend half egg substitute and half eggs to make scrambled eggs, quiches, frittatas or egg casseroles.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup. Price per serving: 25 to 37 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce carton of refrigerated egg substitute for $1.99 to $2.99 and supermarkets eggs, ($0.19 per egg) for about $2 per dozen. Eggs are a quick, delicious and inexpensive protein.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Great for: A quick snack, parfaits made with fruit and granola, salad dressings and smoothies.

What’s a serving? Most individual servings come in 6 ounce or 8 ounce containers. You can save money by buying a larger container of Greek yogurt and then making your 6 or 8 ounce portion from it. Price per serving: individual servings can cost about 89 cents each and sometimes less when found on sale.

Low-Fat Milk

$0.25 cents per cup, about $4 per gallon. One calcium-filled glass can help keep teeth strong. Add a splash to a fruit smoothie or enjoy in a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.

Cottage Cheese

$0.88 per 1/2 cup serving, about $3.50 per 16 oz container. This mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes.Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries for a sweet protein-packed treat.

Apples

$0.50 to $0.75 per apple (depending on variety) Full of vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Snack with peanut butter or add thin slices to a sandwich.

Bananas

$0.20 to $0.50 per banana, about $0.60 per pound or $2 per bunch. Filled with fiber and potassium. Add to your cereal or vanilla ice cream!

Cantaloupe

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $2.50 to $3 per melon. Filled with antioxidants, cantaloupe is inexpensive and contains many servings.

Watermelon

$0.30 per 1 cup serving, $ 4 to $5 per melon and filled with vitamin C — a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health.

Pears

$0.85 each, about $1.75 per pound (depending on variety). White fleshy pears may help prevent strokes. They’re also full of fiber. Try the Bartlett, Bosc and Anjou varieties.

Oranges

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound (in family sized packages). Oranges aren’t just about their vitamin C. This citrus fruit is also filled with fiber, folate and potassium.

Garlic

$0.30 per bulb. It’s also full of antioxidants to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Add to a pan of veggies or tomato sauce to spice up the flavor or roast it in the oven for a sweeter flavor.

Onions

$0.18 each, about $0.59 per pound. Onions pack a surprising nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants. Sautée and add to an omelet or add a sandwich for extra flavor.

Sweet Potatoes

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound  High levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene (which may help prevent cancer and protect us from the sun) and also helps keep skin silky smooth.

Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.50 a pound. Squash is a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Delicious roasted.

Kale

$0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), about $2 per bunch. Kale contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.

Broccoli

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, $2 per bunch. Broccoli has high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Beets

$0.35 each, about $1 per pound. Beets are packed with folate, fiber and vitamins, making them one of the best health bargains around. Roast or add to a salad.

Spinach

$0.50 per cup (raw), about $2 per bunch. These greens are nutrient dense with vitamin A, K, and calcium. Try sautéing them with mushrooms or use to replace lettuce in your next salad.

Carrots

$0.50 each, about $2 per pound. Carrots provide a nutritious crunch along with vitamin A. They’re perfect for dipping into hummus and taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.

Frozen Vegetables

Great for: Side dishes, casseroles and stews.

What’s a serving? 1 cup. Price per serving: around 25 cents. Frozen vegetables come in 12-ounce to 24-ounce bags that cost anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 and contain 6-8 cups, depending on the vegetable and the size of the bag. A bag of petite peas or a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach will cost about $1.19. You will do even better when they are on sale, so stock up.

Dinner #1

lowcost2

Kielbasa Apple Kabobs

Serves 4-6

Kielbasa are fully cooked smoked sausages traditionally made of pork, but also available made with beef, turkey or chicken. The cooking time is short for these as the sausage is already cooked. I like to serve this dish with sauerkraut, an inexpensive side dish, but you can also serve brown rice.

Ingredients

  • 10 wooden or metal skewers
  • 1 pound fully cooked kielbasa sausage
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red apple, such as Braeburn or Gala, cored
  • 1 tart green apple, such as Granny Smith, cored
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling.

Cut kielbasa, onion and apples into 2-inch pieces. Combine in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt. Toss to coat.

Preheat grill to medium high. Thread sausage, onion and apple pieces on skewers, alternating them. Grill 3 to 5 minutes each side, until apples and onions are slightly blackened on the edges, yet still crisp inside, and the sausage is very hot.

Dinner #2

lowcost3

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

You can use leftover chicken or turkey in place of the ground meat. Serve this meal with a cucumber salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Topping

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Filling

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, optional
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen or canned green peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Scrub potatoes and pierce several times with a fork. Place in a baking pan and bake until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool while you make the filling.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, wash and slice mushrooms, if using. Peel onion and garlic. Dice onion. Mince garlic.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, in a large skillet over medium-high, cook beef or turkey, mushrooms and onion, crumbling the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks, until the meat is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.

In a colander, drain off liquid and the mixture return to the skillet. Add thyme and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in peas, salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and place in a medium bowl. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth. Spread over the filling. Bake until hot and bubbling at the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving

Tips:

  • Substitute another green vegetable for the peas, if you prefer—spinach, green beans or lima beans are all good options.
  • This dish reheats well, so consider making it over the weekend and reheating it on a busy weeknight. Prepare through Step 4, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, at 350 degrees F until hot throughout.

Dinner #3

Food Styling by Catrine Kelty

Spinach Salad with Eggs

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (any type)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Wash and dry spinach. Remove stems. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat right away. Let sit 12 minutes. Remove eggs and place in a bowl of ice cold water until cool. This will make it easier to peel the shells. Peel and chop eggs.

In a large bowl add spinach, eggs and dried cranberries. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

In a jar, add oil, vinegar, honey and salt. Cover tightly with lid. Shake well.

Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to coat spinach leaves.

Tips:

  • Make double the dressing. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week. Use on other salads or to flavor sandwiches.
  • To save time, cook eggs in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Make extra eggs, if you like. Use them for breakfast or to make egg salad.

lowcost5

Squash and Orzo

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large winter squash (such as butternut or acorn)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half. Remove seeds. Chop rosemary.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the cut sides of each squash half. Sprinkle each with rosemary and red pepper flakes.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place squash halves on the baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 30–35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Keep squash loosely covered with foil.

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Drain in a fine mesh colander. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat well.

Cut each squash half into thirds. Remove skin from the squash and cut squash into cubes. Place over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  • Orzo and squash reheat well without losing flavor or quality. Cook the entire meal the night before. Refrigerate until ready to serve the next day.
  • For faster cooking, cook squash halves in the microwave. Heat for 7 minutes on high or until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork.

Dinner #4

lowcost6

Chicken Burger and Fries

Serve with a salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small bell pepper
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 whole wheat burger buns
  • Lettuce and tomato slices

Directions

Finely chop bell pepper and onion.

In a medium bowl, combine bell pepper, onion, ground meat, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Divide mixture into 4 pieces. Form pieces into patties about 4 inches across.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add burgers. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add water to the pan. Cover and cook until the burgers reach 165ºF, about 10 minutes more.

Serve on whole wheat buns with lettuce, tomato, onion and condiments of choice.

lowcost7

Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil. Coat with non-stick cooking spray before placing the sweet potatoes on the pan.

Scrub sweet potatoes. Pat dry with a paper or kitchen towel.

Leaving the skin on, cut sweet potatoes into thick French fry strips, about ½-inch wide.

In a large bowl, mix paprika, salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add oil. Blend with a fork until there are no lumps.

Add sweet potato strips to the bowl. Toss until they are coated on all sides.

Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking pan. For the crispest fries, be sure sweet potatoes do not lie on top of each other.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn fries over and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until fries are crispy and tender.

Dinner #5

lowcost8

Crunchy Oven Fried Fish Fillets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 egg whites or 1/3 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 1 pound tilapia, catfish or pollock fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Stir flour, seafood seasoning, salt and pepper together in a shallow dish and set aside. In a bowl, beat egg whites until white and frothy. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs with cornmeal and basil.

To bread the fillets, dip first into flour, shaking off any excess, then into egg whites, then into bread crumb mixture.

Spray a shallow baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Lay fillets flat in the dish, tucking under any thinner ends or edges for more even cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is crispy and flakes easily with a folk.

lowcost9

Bow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Prepare zucchini sauce while pasta is cooking.

Peel and mince garlic and grate zucchini.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Cook until mixture softens and zucchini yields some liquid, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid. Add 2 teaspoons cooking liquid to the zucchini mixture. Add drained pasta. Stir, coating pasta evenly with the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed.

Transfer pasta to large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and toss to combine.


coffeecake
Much of the American appetite for sweet rolls and cakes comes from the German and Dutch settlements in New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Colonial cooks made fruity, buttery breakfast or coffee cakes from recipes that vary only slightly from methods used in the twentieth century. They also share some of the responsibility for the national zest for doughnuts.

Scandinavians were even more responsible than anyone else for making America as coffee-break-conscious as it is, and for perfecting the kind of food that goes well with coffee. German women had already brought the Kaffeeklatsch to their frontier communities, but it was in the Scandinavian kitchens where there was always a pot brewing on the back of the stove and where hospitality and coffee became synonymous.The term “coffee klatch” became part of the language and its original meaning–a moment that combined gossip with coffee drinking–was changed to define the American version of English tea, a mid-afternoon gathering. Like the cooks from Central Europe, most Scandinavian cooks prided themselves on simple forms of pastry making that included coffee breads, coffee cakes, coffee rings, sweet rolls and buns.

According to the book, Listening to America, by Stuart Berg Flexner, it wasn’t until 1879 that the term “coffee cake” became a common term. Historic American cook books and newspapers support this claim.

Coffee Cake – Recipe from 1875

5 cups flour, dried and sifted.

1 cup of butter.

2 cups of sugar.

1 cup of molasses.

1 cup made black coffee–the very best quality.

1/2 pound raisins, seeded and minced.

1/2 pound currants, washed and dried.

1/4 pound citron, chopped fine.

3 eggs, beaten very light.

1/2 teaspoonful cinnamon.

1/2 teaspoonful mace.

1 teaspoonful-a full one-of saleratus.

Cream the butter and sugar, warm the molasses slightly, and berate these,with the spices hard, five minutes, until the mixture is very light. Next, put in the yolks, the coffee, and when these are well mixed, the flour, in turn with the whipped whites. Next, the saleratus, dissolved in hot water, and the fruit, all mixed together and dredged well with flour. Beat up very thoroughly, and bake in two loaves, or in small round tins. The flavor of this cake is peculiar, but to most palates very pleasant. Wrap in a thick cloth as soon as it is cold enough to put away without danger of ‘sweating,’ and shut within your cake box, as it soon loses the aroma of the coffee if exposed to the air.” —Breakfast, Luncheon and Tea, Marion Harland [Scribner, Armstrong & Co.: New York] 1875 (p. 332)

Although once very popular, coffee cakes have often been forgotten over the past few years in favor of bagels, extra-large muffins and egg and sausage breakfast sandwiches.

When the occasional coffee cake does still pop up in coffee shops, it bears little resemblance to the coffee cakes of old. These newer versions are often sweet enough for dessert and topped with icing or even frosting. I still make old-fashioned coffee cakes but with healthy, fresh ingredients. To make coffee cakes healthier reduce the sugar, add fruit and use whole grains to lower the glycemic index and increase the fiber content. Don’t worry though – these cakes still taste delicious.

coffeecake1

 

Summer Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Topping:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla and milk and beat to combine. Add flours and baking powder. Stir to mix well. Gently fold in berries.

Spoon into a greased 9 x 9 inch baking dish. Combine cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool before serving.

coffeecake3

Whole Wheat Cranberry Coffee Cake

Filling

1 can (15 oz) whole-berry cranberry sauce, stirred to break up any clumps

Cake Batter

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup yogurt; low-fat is fine, avoid nonfat
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour

Streusel Topping

  • 2 tablespoons of white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 5 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan.

To make the streusel: In the large bowl of the electric mixer, beat together all of the streusel ingredients until even crumbs form. Scoop the mixture into a smaller bowl, and set it aside.

To make the batter: In the same bowl in which you’ve just made the streusel and beat together the butter and brown sugar until smooth.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and again beating until smooth.

Beat in the yogurt, extracts, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. The batter will be fairly stiff.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to the edges.

Spread the cranberry on top of the cake.

Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cranberry sauce.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before serving.

coffeecake6

 

Buttermilk Coffee Cake with Plums

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 pound Italian or regular plums (4 to 5 medium), sliced
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon  

Directions

Cream the butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat in the sugar and eggs. Sift together the dry ingredients and add them to the butter-sugar-egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

Mix the batter, then pour it into a greased 9 inch round cake pan. Smooth the top of the batter and arrange plum slices over it in slightly overlapping concentric circles

Sprinkle the top of the cake with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or longer, until the surface is firm.

coffeecake4

 

Cherry Coffee Cake

This easy coffee cake can be made even faster in a food processor.

Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon very cold hard butter chopped into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oats

Cake:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, halved (sweet or tart cherries)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a food processor mix the topping ingredients (except the oats) until small crumbs form. Briefly mix in the oats. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

In the processor or using an electric mixer, mix together the wet ingredients (oil to buttermilk).

In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Briefly mix into the wet mixture. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the cherries evenly over the batter. Spoon the rest of the batter over the cherries. (Some will show through.)

Sprinkle on the topping. Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes before slicing into wedges.

coffeecake5

Blueberry or Blackberry Coffee Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, divided
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients in a large glass measuring cup.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Toss 1 ¼ cups blueberries with the whole wheat pastry flour and fold into batter.

Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup blueberries.

Stir together the  2 tablespoons coarse sugar, sliced almonds and cinnamon. Sprinkle the over batter.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove sides of pan and serve.

Looking for Some New Coffeecake Recipes? (jovinacooksitalian.com)

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/09/18/make-your-quick-breads-healthy/

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/24/healthy-breakfast-breads-to-bake/


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

Oranges

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Pineapples

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Grapefruit

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

tangerine

Tangerines

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

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

Orange Syrup

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

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

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

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

To make orange syrup:

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

To cook and assemble crepes:

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

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

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

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

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

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

apple-cake-ck-222502-l

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

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

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Renaissance Italians dined on mixtures of beef, raisins and spices baked in a crust. Sixteenth-century Brits created the first fruit “pasties,” that found their way to America when settlers brought their recipes to the colonies. By the time the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected the art in the early 18th century, pies had become an American tradition.

A homemade pie has become the mark of a great baker and a popular dessert for the end of a meal. Yet, pie baking does not need to be intimidating. The secret is in fresh, seasonal ingredients and in following a few simple tips:

First, start with a reduced-fat crust to trim calories and fat.

Fill the crust with an assortment of healthy fruits: apples, pears, figs and cranberries and heart-healthy nuts.

Sweeten the mix with honey, date sugar, maple syrup or unrefined cane sugar instead of empty-calorie white sugar.

Top off your creation with low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Easy, You-Can-Do-It Pie Crust

This easy crust with only four ingredients stirs together in minutes and it rolls out perfectly every time. That’s because it’s made with oil instead of butter—also reducing the saturated fat content. This recipe makes one pie shell; double the recipe, if you need both a bottom and a top crust.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons ice water. Whisk them together until creamy. Immediately pour all at once into the flour and toss with a fork. Form into a ball. Dough will be moist.

3. Wipe your counter with a wet cloth and place a 12-inch square of waxed paper on top. (The wetness keeps the paper from sliding around.) Place the dough ball on top and cover with a second 12-inch piece of waxed paper. Roll out the dough between the waxed papers into a circle slightly bigger than your pie plate.

4. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and invert dough over the pie pan; peel off the bottom paper. If you’re pre-baking the crust, prick the entire surface with a fork.

If you’ve doubled the recipe and are rolling out a second crust for the top of the pie, use new sheets of waxed paper.

Proceed with the rest of your pie recipe.

Gluten Free All Nut Crumb Crust

Makes one 9-inch pie shell

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground blanched almonds or walnuts or pecans or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or sweetener of choice
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or butter alternative

Directions

Thoroughly mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Using fingers, press dough into a 9-inch pie plate, evenly pressing up the sides. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet (helps to keep the bottom from burning)

For pies that call for a pre-baked shell, bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and then fill with desired pie filling.

For baking pies directly in this crust, keep oven temperatures down to 325 to 350°F to prevent burning and adjust cooking times as needed.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

1 pre-baked nut pie crust, recipe above

Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons gluten-free pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Follow instructions above for making the gluten free prebaked nut crust.

Mix together all the filling ingredients.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Keep the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes. The center of the pie should be fairly firm and only jiggle a tiny bit if you shake the pan.

Let the pie cool completely before cutting it.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds peeled baking apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl combine apple slices, brown sugar, cranberries and lemon juice. Toss to blend. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Let rest while you prepare the pastry.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 12-inch round. Fit into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll the second pastry into a thin, 10-inch round and, with a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Carefully weave dough strips in a lattice pattern over the pie.

Bring dough overhang from bottom pastry up over the lattice edges and crimp decoratively. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake pie in the middle of the oven on a cookie sheet for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack and serve warm.

Pear Pie with Crumb Topping

Ingredients

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 6 peeled Anjou pears, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Crumb Topping

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Position oven rack in the lowest third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

To prepare pie filling:

Combine 1 cup water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Add cranberries, fresh ginger slices and orange zest; return to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat; discard ginger slices. Cool.

Combine orange juice and pears in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Combine flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to pear mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cooled cranberry mixture.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make an 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Spoon pear mixture into prepared crust.

To prepare topping:

Combine butter and orange juice in a bowl, stirring well. Add flour, oats and remaining ingredients; toss. Sprinkle oat mixture over pear mixture. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until browned. Cool on a wire rack 1 hour.

Buttermilk Pie

Ingredients

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

To make filling:

Whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs in another bowl until frothy. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Gradually whisk the liquids into the dry ingredients. Pour into the crust and grate nutmeg over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then in the refrigerator until completely cool, about 2 hours. Serve with fresh seasonal fruit.

Apple-Pear Pie

Ingredients

2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)

Fruit Filling

  • 4 large baking apples , peeled, cored and sliced
  • 4 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut up

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the filling:

In a large bowl, toss together apples, pears, brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and cinnamon until evenly coated. Let filling sit for at least 5 minutes before assembling pie.

For the pastry:

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Roll out one pastry disk into an 11-inch round on wax paper, as directed above. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll second pastry into a thin, 9-inch round and invert over the filling. Seal and flute the pie edges.

Cover edges of the pie loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 30-35 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America, who thought the cranberry flower resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.

In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. The Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, who recognized the natural preservative power in the berries and often mixed them into pemmican (dried meat mixture) to extend its shelf life. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe where they became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the battle of Petersburg in 1864. Cranberry sauce was first commercially canned in 1912 by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company which marketed the product as “Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce.” A merger with other growers evolved into the well-known Ocean Spray corporation now famous for their cranberry products. Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.

Cranberry bog in NJ

Cranberries grow on vines in boggy areas. Fresh whole berries are hand-picked and are more expensive. The remainder is harvested by machine. Damage to the berries from the machines is unavoidable, making them suitable only for juices, sauces and drying. The bogs are kept dry until harvest time and then are flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Special machines run through the bog, shaking the vines to loosen the berries and they are skimmed off. The collected berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the old berries (which do not bounce) from the fresh berries.

Purchase cranberries that are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Dried berries are also available and are similar to raisins. Canned cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite and is available in a smooth or a whole-berry sauce. Frozen cranberries are also available year-round. One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries will yield about 3 cups of whole berries or 2-1/2 cups chopped.

Cranberry Storage

Store fresh cranberries for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft or show signs of decaying, it will quickly spread to the rest. Be sure to sort them out, if you plan on storing them for any length of time.

Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. If a liquor or liqueur is added to the cooked mixture, it can last up to a year in the refrigerator.

Fresh whole berries may be washed, dried and frozen in airtight bags up to one year at 0 degrees.

Cranberry Cooking Tips

• Cranberries are not only good in desserts, but also in savory dishes.

• To help neutralize their acidity, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries. You’ll find you will need less sugar.

• Try substituting sweetened, dried cranberries in place of raisins in recipes for a tangy change.

• Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and letting them stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

• Cranberries should be cooked only until they pop. Otherwise, they will become mushy and bitter.

• Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.

• Cranberries are easily chopped by pulsing in a food processor.

Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries
  • 12 cups Italian bread, cubed, baked until slightly dry
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Clean out the pan.

Into the same pan heat the oil. Add the onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and cooked sausage.

Mix the sausage mixture with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken stock.

Pour stuffing into a large covered greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.

Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat.

Brush chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan or outdoor grill, cook until both sides are browned and the center is no longer pink, about 7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degees F (depending on thickness).

In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and balsamic vinegar and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 more minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve warm over grilled chicken breasts.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup dried or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts or almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts; then beat in the eggs and orange zest.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts.

Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky so wet your hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven or until logs are light brown. Remove baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay slices on their sides back on the parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry.

Cool before storing.

Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 2 3/4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/3 cup dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

Blackberry Sauce

  • 1 16-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)

Directions

Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending the wrap over the sides by 3 inches. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and white wine in a metal bowl to blend. ( I use the electric mixer bowl.) Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in orange peel.

Beat chilled whipping cream in a separate bowl until peaks form. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Fold in chopped figs, chopped cranberries and minced ginger. Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang; freeze overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

To make Blackberry Sauce: Puree all ingredients in processor. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and cover and refrigerate liquid until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

To serve:

Turn semifreddo out onto platter. Peel off plastic wrap. Let stand 5 minutes to soften slightly. Slice semifreddo. Place slices on serving plates and drizzle Blackberry Sauce over each slice and serve.

Cranberry Almond Crostata

ingredients

For pastry dough:

  • 1/4 pound whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling and assembly:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Make dough:

Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour just until finely ground.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to a small bowl and refrigerate the for egg wash. Beat the remaining egg into the butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well.

At low speed, mix in almond mixture, lemon zest, salt and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture forms a dough consistency.

Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:

Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking dish and chilling in the refrigerator until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Bake crostata:

Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on the middle rack. Generously butter a 9 inch springform pan.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into the springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up the side of pan. Chill crust lined pan in the refrigerator.

Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in the same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel while still on the parchment paper and slide the paper onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart diagonally across the first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with the edge of the pan. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place the crostata pan on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry gets too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).

Cranberry Granita

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Let sugar syrup cool completely.

Combine cranberries and juices in a food processor and process until pureed. Combine pureed mixture and cooled sugar syrup in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; stir well.

Cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm.

Remove mixture from the freezer; scrape entire mixture with the tines of a fork until fluffy.  Place in serving dishes and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther A. Howland’s  Original Valentine

Esther A. Howland’s  Original Valentine

                                   Dinner Menu

Pear-Walnut Salad

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

For vinaigrette::

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

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

Pork Medallions with Cranberry and Fig Chutney

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

For chutney::

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

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

Cook rice according to package directions.

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

 

 

Parmesan Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients

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

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

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

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

8 servings, about 1/2 cup each

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

 



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