Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cranberry

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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


candy

Treat family and friends to homemade candy this holiday season with these recipes adapted from King Arthur Christmas Candy recipes.

Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup toasted diced pecans
  • 2 2/3 cups chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 2/3 cups chopped white chocolate

Directions

Mix the cranberries and pecans together. Set them aside.

Melt the dark chocolate and spread it into an 8″ x 12″ oval on parchment paper placed on a baking sheet.

Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely.

Melt the white chocolate and mix it with 3/4 cup of the cranberries and pecans.

Spread this over the dark chocolate.

Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and fruit on top, pressing them in gently.

Allow the candy to cool until hardened; then break it into chunks.

Dark Chocolate Buttercrunch

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter*
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or chocolate chips, (you’ll need about 2 2/3 cups)

*If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the mixture.

Directions

In a large, deep saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer).

The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for a while, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken and at that point you need to take the temperature and see if it’s ready. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you’ll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Do not leave the mixture unattended – too long on the heat and the syrup will burn.

While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts in a closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet (a half sheet pan works well here). Top with half the chocolate.

When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts. Wait several minutes, then using the back of a spatula, gently press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.

While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet and move to a piece of parchment paper on the counter top. When cool, break it into uneven chunks. Yield: about 24 big bite-sized pieces.

Salt Caramels

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Ingredients

  • 8 teaspoons (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (1 quart) half & half
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Coarse flake sea salt for topping, optional

Directions

Butter two 8″ x 8″ or 10 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ pans.

Measure the vanilla into a small container and set it aside for later.

Cut the butter into 1″ chunks, to help it melt faster.

Combine the cut-up butter, half & half, corn syrup, sugars and salt in a heavy-bottomed, 5- to 6-quart saucepan.
Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until everything has melted, stirring constantly. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.

Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 248°F, or until a small amount dropped in cold water forms a firm ball.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla; the mixture will bubble and boil.

Quickly pour the caramel into the prepared pans. Don’t scrape any of the residue from the bottom of the pot onto the pans.

Wait 30 minutes, then sprinkle with coarse-flake sea salt, if desired. Cover the candy securely, and refrigerate.

Allow the candy to warm up a bit or it’ll shatter when you bang the pan. Remove the candy from the pan by loosening its edges with a knife or offset spatula and banging the pan on a cutting board until the slab releases from the pan.

Cut the caramel into squares and wrap in waxed paper. Store in the refrigerator for the longest shelf life. Wrapped caramels can also be frozen. Yield: about 10 dozen 1″ caramels.

Panforte

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups skinned hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds
  • 3 cups candied mixed peel (or a mixture of candied orange peel and candied lemon peel)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8″ round cake pan with parchment (or foil) and grease the parchment. Set the pan aside.

Toast the hazelnuts and almonds for 20 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown on separate baking pans. It’s best to do this in separate pans as the nuts toast at slightly different rates and you may want to take one pan out of the oven before the other. Remove the nuts from the oven and set them aside to cool. When you can handle them, chop them coarsely.

Put the nuts, candied peel, spices, salt and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan and place an instant-read or candy thermometer on the side of the pan. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until it reaches a temperature of about 245°F. This happens very quickly, so don’t walk away; it should take about 2 minutes (or less) from the time the syrup starts to boil.

Immediately pour the boiling syrup over the fruit and nuts in the bowl. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You need to work fast, as the mixture will start to stiffen up. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes; it won’t seem firm, but will set as it cools. Remove the pan from the oven and after 45 minutes loosen the edges with a table knife or heat-proof spatula. Turn the warm panforte out of the pan onto a piece of parchment or foil. The bottom is now the top.

Sprinkle the top of the panforte heavily with confectioners’ sugar, gently rubbing it in, if desired. Let it cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Store the panforte, at room temperature, for up to 2 months. To serve this rich cake, cut it in thin wedges.
Yield: about 20 servings.

To make chocolate panforte:

Add 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa to the nuts/peel/flour mixture. Melt 1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips; stir them into the nuts/peel/flour mixture along with the honey syrup. Bake as directed in the  recipe above.

Cappuccino Blocks

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped white chocolate

Coating:

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Wooden sticks or stir sticks

Directions

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.

Place 1/2 cup cream in a medium saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.

Cover the pan and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and check the temperature; it should be 235°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If it is, remove from the heat; otherwise let it boil for a minute or two more.

Once the mixture reaches 235°F to 240°F, add the vanilla. Be careful; it will splash and splutter when it hits the hot liquid. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into another saucepan. Heat until it’s just beginning to steam.
Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.

Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine.

Combine the cocoa and ½ teaspoon espresso; sprinkle the chocolate with half the mixture. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, to set.

Turn the chocolate out of the pan and flip it over; sprinkle with the remaining cocoa/espresso powder blend.

Cut into 1 inch cubes. Stack two or three on a wooden stick and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to store.
Yield about 64 blocks, 21 servings.


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Sponsored Post: THE ART OF CHEESE WITH CASTELLO AGED HAVARTI

Castello Aged Havarti is a creamy, finely textured cheese made from traditional methods dating back over 130 years, when Hanne Nielsen first made Havarti cheese. Castello Aged Havarti is allowed to mature for at least 12 months to encourage a unique and rich flavor. Castello Aged Havarti is the perfect cheese for your cheese board. The taste and flavor standout. As a snack, it is delicious with nuts, fruit and wine.

We are in the midst of the holiday season and I love this time of year with all the fun things there are to do. You only need a few really good ingredients to create festive and delicious holiday food. Go for a mix of shapes and colors and your guests will love how beautiful everything looks.

While overindulgence is often the hallmark of holiday celebrations, your guests will appreciate party food that is nourishing and healthful as well as appealing. I like to arrange an appetizer tray with a mix of foods that can meet different dietary choices: vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, etc.

Whether you want to host a few friends or have a big, open-to-all affair, the best way to make sure your guests enjoy themselves is to enjoy the party yourself—a relaxed, unruffled host makes guests feel welcome and at ease. With this in mind, do a little preparation ahead of time.

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At a recent get-together at my home, I arranged appetizer trays filled with Castello Aged Havarti Cheese cubes at room temperature, homemade crackers, Prosciutto di Parma wrapped pears, mixed green olives, Mission figs/roasted red peppers/Castello cheese kabobs and homemade cranberry sauce for topping Castello cheese squares. What remained after the party were just a few crackers – everything else – gone. I had many compliments on the food and my friends loved the Castello cheese and asked where they could buy it.

Here are my recipes for you to recreate for your next party. I guarantee they will be a big hit.

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Visit the Castello® website by clicking the photo above.

Sweet Potato Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup of sweet potato puree (from 1 cooked sweet potato)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions

Roast the sweet potato in a 400 degree F oven for about 45-50 minutes; then let it cool, remove the skin and purée using a hand blender until smooth. You will need 1 cup of sweet potato purée for this recipe; use any leftover potato for another use. Set the purée aside.

Place the flour, baking powder, rosemary, paprika and salt in the bowl of a processor. Pulse a few times to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until is the size of small peas. Add the sweet potato puree and honey. Pulse until a dough forms.

Roll the dough into a ball and divide it into 4 pieces. For easier rolling, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for a 1/2 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.

Roll the dough 1/4″ thick and cut into 2″ squares, using a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.

Lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4″ between them, so they crisp evenly. If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to the baking sheet, leaving about 1/4″ between them.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. You will need to bake a second batch after the first finishes baking.

Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges are starting to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter. Repeat baking with the second batch of crackers.

Store cooled crackers in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic.

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Sweet Potato Crackers, Castello Aged Havarti Kabobs and Prosciutto Wrapped Pears

Castello Aged Havarti Cheese/Mission Figs/Roasted Red Pepper Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Mission figs, cut in half
  • Roasted Red Peppers, jarred, drained and cut into one inch cubes
  • Toothpicks

Directions

Drain the peppers on paper towels. On each toothpick skewer one piece of cheese, one fig half and one piece of red pepper. Repeat until all the cheese cubes are used.

Arrange the kabobs on an attractive serving platter.

Prosciutto di Parma Wrapped Pears

Ingredients

  • 2 pears, each cut into 8 wedges and cored
  • 8 thin slices (4 oz.) prosciutto di parma, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

Wrap each pear wedge with a half slice of prosciutto and set on a serving plate. Combine the oil, vinegar and salt. Drizzle over the pears.

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Mixed Green Olives, Gluten-Free Almond Crackers and Castello Aged Havarti Cheese

Gluten-Free Almond Poppy Seed Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Almond Meal Flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur are brands I use)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Cracked pepper
  • Dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets. Use the paper to roll out the dough.

Mix together the almond meal flour, olive oil and beaten egg whites. This will make a crumbly mix that shapes quickly into a ball.

Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a rough square.

Roll out one piece of dough at a time, keeping the piece you’re not working with covered to prevent drying.

Roll out on the parchment cut for the pan.

Roll the dough 1/4″ thick and cut into 2″ squares with a pizza, pastry wheel, a bench knife or a plain knife. Prick each cracker with a fork.

If you’ve rolled out the dough on parchment, simply lift the parchment onto the baking sheet. Separate the crackers a bit, leaving about 1/4″ between them, so they crisp evenly.

If you’re not using parchment, transfer the crackers to a baking sheet, leaving about 1/4″ between them.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

Bake the crackers for 12 to 16 minutes, until their edges begin to brown. Switch pans after 10 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, cool right on the pan and then move to an airtight container to keep crisp and fresh.

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Port Wine Cranberry Sauced Havarti

This appetizer is great with the Almond Crackers.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups port wine
  • 2 packages fresh cranberries
  • 4 long strips orange zest
  • 7 oz block of Castello Aged Havarti Cheese, room temperature

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and port wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.

Add the cranberries and the orange zest. Simmer until the cranberries soften and the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the zest.

Set aside to cool for a few several minutes. Place the cheese in an attractive serving dish and spoon the warm sauce over the cheese.

Find more pairing ideas and uses for Castello Aged Havarti by following the #CastelloArt hashtag and @CastelloUSA on twitter!


winterproduce
Just because the farmers’ markets are closed for winter doesn’t mean you have to do without fresh veggies at the dinner table. Unfortunately, in the winter months, we often retreat from fresh produce, thinking it’s not as available or as tasty. From hearty root vegetables to bright, sweet citrus, winter produce delivers a surprising range of flavorful fruits and vegetables for you to cook. You may be surprised by how many locally grown root vegetables and cabbages are available from cold storage and how many greens are coming out of local cold frames and greenhouses at this time of year. Here are some recipes from appetizers through dessert that use winter fruits and vegetables.

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Winter Vegetable Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the barley. Add the vegetable broth, water, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

Add the celery root and parsnips and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderately low heat until the barley and root vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and nutmeg and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve in deep bowls.

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Seafood with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

8 First Course Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small ruby red grapefruits (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons pickled cocktail onions
  • 2 tablespoons packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 24 sea scallops or medium shrimp (about 2 pounds) or a combination of both
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Directions

Using a very sharp paring knife to peel the grapefruits, carefully removing all of the bitter white pith. Over a mixing bowl, carefully cut in between the membranes of the  grapefruit sections and let them drop into the bowl. Stir in the pickled cocktail onions and parsley leaves and season with pepper.

Pat the sea scallops or shrimp dry and season them all over with salt. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmering. Cook the scallops over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Spoon the pickled onion and grapefruit salad onto small serving plates and arrange the scallops around the salad. Drizzle with additional olive oil and serve at once.

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Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 acorn squash (about 1 pound each), halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 10 ounces day-old rustic bread—crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 6 cups)
  • 7 ounces vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock or chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and season the cavities with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on two baking sheets covered with parchment paper and roast for about 25 minutes, until just tender.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the celery, leeks and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the apples and thyme and cook over moderately high heat until the apples just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Add the bread, chestnuts, parsley, cream and stock and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the squash cut side up. Spoon the stuffing into the cavities and bake until the squash are tender and the stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

winterproduce1

Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons browning and seasoning sauce, such as Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup butternut squash, fresh cooked or frozen and thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Trim fat from beef. Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch pieces.

In an ovenproof 4-quart Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Cook meat, half at a time, until browned, stirring frequently. Remove meat from the Dutch oven.

In the same Dutch oven cook celery, carrots, parsnips and onion in the remaining oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables start to brown. Stir in wine and rosemary.

Add the 1 1/2 cups water, beef broth and Kitchen Bouquet; cook and stir over medium heat until boiling, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Place pan, covered, in the oven and bake about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

For the polenta:

In a medium saucepan combine milk and 1/4 cup water; bring to boiling. In a medium bowl stir together the 1 cup cold water and polenta or cornmeal. Slowly add the polenta mixture to the boiling milk mixture. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in squash, salt and pepper.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture is very thick, stirring frequently, and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a slow boil.

To finish the stew:

Stir together the 1/4 cup cold water and flour. Add to the meat mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more.

Spoon soft polenta into shallow serving bowls. Top with braised meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley leaves.

winterproduce6

Upside-Down Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Ingredients

Topping:

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

For the topping:

Heat a 9-inch round cake pan over medium heat and coat the pan with cooking spray. Add brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons butter to pan, stirring until melted. Stir in ginger; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; arrange cranberries on top of the brown sugar mixture.

For the cake:

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine 1/4 cup butter and granulated sugar in an electric mixer bowl; beat at high speed until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form in another bowl. Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter over cranberries in the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 15 minutes; run a knife around outside edge. Place a plate upside down on top of the cake pan; invert cake onto plate.


leftovers

Today is Monday and you may be tired of heating up the turkey leftovers by now. There’s lots of ideas out there for using up the turkey but what about that leftover stuffing, veggies or cranberry sauce? Here are some easy ways to use them up.

Leftover cranberry sauce and turkey make a great lunchtime turnover

leftovers2

Turkey Cranberry Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced into small cubes
  • 1 box (15 oz/425 g) frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted
  • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) chopped onion
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Cranberry Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

Flour the surface you will be working on. Roll one of the pastry sheets lightly to make the sheet an even thickness. Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

Divide the turkey, cranberry sauce, onion and cheese equally among each pastry dough square.

Fold one corner of the square over to the opposite end (to make a triangle) and seal the edges with your fingers, pressing the pastry to merge the two edges. Use a fork and press the edges to further seal the turnovers.

Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and puffed.

Leftover mashed potatoes make delicious potato pancakes for breakfast or as a side dish.

leftovers3

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Combine potatoes, eggs, cornstarch and garlic powder in a bowl. Form into 4 patties (about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture patted into 3 inch circles that are 1/2″ thick).

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the patties over and cook the second side until brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with sour cream, if desired.

I make bread stuffing with Italian sausage and the leftovers are delicious in a frittata for a quick weeknight dinner.

Leftovers4

Stuffing Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups leftover sausage stuffing
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to  400°F (200°C)

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

Add the stuffing to the pan and warm through.

Sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the  eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon of parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Carefully transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.

Bake until the eggs are set and the sides have puffed up a little bit and the cheese is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Let rest before cutting.

Sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley.

Turn those leftover sweet potatoes into delicious waffles.

leftovers5

Sweet-Potato Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the waffle iron
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking pan and place in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through allspice).

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sweet potatoes, eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir sweet-potato mixture into flour mixture until combined. Stir in melted butter until just blended – some lumps will remain.

Heat a waffle iron to medium-high and lightly brush the grids with melted butter. Ladle about 1/2 cup batter into the center of the iron (grids should be full but not overflowing), close and cook until the iron stops steaming and waffles are golden brown, about 4 minutes (or make according to your manufacturer’s instructions).

Transfer waffles to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

Turn those leftover Thanksgiving vegetables into soup.

leftovers1

Turkey Leftover Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 stalk, minced
  • 1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, divided
  • 2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, diced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables ( Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Directions

Put the broth, turkey bones, carrot halves, celery stalk, onion halves and 1 bay leaf in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, about 1 1/2 hours.

Before straining the broth, remove the large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve covered with wet cheesecloth. Discard the solids and set broth aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced carrots, celery and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until softened, 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables. Add the sage to the soup pot along with the reserved turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add the diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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.


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.



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