Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cranberry

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

Oranges

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Pineapples

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Grapefruit

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Tangerines

How to buy:

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

Why it’s good:

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

How to save:

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

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

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

Orange Syrup

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

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

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

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

To make orange syrup:

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

To cook and assemble crepes:

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

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

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

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

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

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

apple-cake-ck-222502-l

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

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

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

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

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

 


Hit the market and it sure seems like everyone is cooking for a crowd. Everything seems to be in such large packages.

In reality, there are a lot more folks cooking for one or two than you might think. There are, of course, those seniors and empty nesters but there are also the newlyweds, the college kids, the single parent and child and other young professionals.

It does take a bit of organization to make cooking for two a pleasurable experience. With some organization, you won’t find yourself eating goulash leftovers for an entire week.

Here are some organizing ideas for cooking for just two.

  1. Purchase a supply of freezer bags, plastic wrap, foil, freezer dishes, freezer labels and a permanent marker. This way you can be prepared for those too-large-for-you portions.
  2. Sure you think you’ll remember but, once frozen, it is often hard to tell which dish is which. Use your marker to write on the foil or bag or use stick on labels. Adding the cooking temperature and time will save you from looking it up later.
  3. Perhaps your recipe needs only half of a can. Place the remaining half of the can in a small freezer bag or container, label and freeze for another day or use.
  4. Most recipes seem to serve four, six or eight. However, you don’t need to divide the recipe in two. This often results in less than satisfactory results. Instead, prepare the dish but divide it in two. Have half for dinner and place half in the freezer.
  5. Individual casserole dishes are a great gift for you. Dishes, such as lasagna, chicken tetrazzini and tuna casserole, can be prepared and divided among small casseroles. Freeze the extras and pull out one or two, as needed, on a busy night.
  6. Shop in smaller quantities. When cooking for two, the big box discount stores are probably not your friend. You’ll surely tire of the five pounds of anything before it is consumed. You might think you are saving money but, if you end up wasting some of what you bought, then you haven’t saved anything.
  7. Continue to buy the meat you enjoy but divide the package into smaller portions and place some in the freezer. When buying something larger, like a roast, you can ask at the meat counter for them to split into two pieces for you.
  8. Purchase frozen vegetables in plastic bags. This allows you to pour out just the right serving for two and reseal the bag to preserve the rest.
  9. For dry goods, such as pastas, beans and rice, use what you need and then reseal the container. Sometimes, you can just place the entire box in a quart or gallon plastic bag and zip it shut to keep it fresh.
  10. Desserts for two pose a special challenge. While you can make a whole cake or pie, you might not want to be tempted by having the entire cake on that kitchen counter.  Turn that cake recipe into cupcakes, freezing some of them. Turn the pie recipe into tarts. Look for dessert mixes that make an 8 x 8-inch size pan rather than a 9 x 13-inch pan. When making desserts, such as brownies or cookies, divide them into individual portions and wrap them separately. 
  11. When making a casserole that calls for half-cup of green pepper or a few ribs of celery, head to the salad bar. Instead of an entire head of celery going bad in the refrigerator drawer, you can scoop up just the portion you need.
  12. If you have trouble using fresh produce before it can go bad, try some of the fresh produce bags, sometimes marketed as “green” bags. These extend the life of produce.

Here are some menus to get you started and these recipes are designed for two.

Menu One

 

Seared Scallops with Mint Pesto

2 Servings

Serving Size: 3 scallops, 1/4 cup pesto, 1/2 cup spinach

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 sea scallops (8 to 10 ounces total)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach

Directions:

For pesto::

In a food processor, combine mint, parsley, almonds, Parmesan cheese, the water, lemon juice, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Cover and process until nearly smooth. Set aside.

Rinse scallops and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle scallops with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add scallops; cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until scallops are opaque, turning once halfway through cooking.

Serve scallops and pesto over spinach.

Roasted Beets and Shallots

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces trimmed red and/or yellow small beets, quartered
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or tarragon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange beets and shallots in a single layer in a 2-quart square baking dish. Drizzle with oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more or until beets are tender. Cool completely. Peel the beets. Drizzle beets and shallots with lemon juice; sprinkle with sage.

Apple-Cranberry Cobbler

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 small apples (such as Granny Smith, Braeburn, or Honeycrisp), cored, quartered, and thinly sliced (1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat granola without raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat two 6-ounce custard cups or other 6-ounce oven-safe dishes with nonstick spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together apple slices, cranberries, honey, the water, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Divide mixture between prepared custard cups. Cover cups with foil.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove foil and top with granola. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until granola is lightly browned.

Menu Two

Grilled Fish with Pepper Salsa

2 Servings

Serving Size: 1 fish steak and 2/3 cup salsa each

Ingredients:

  • 2-5 ounce fresh or frozen fish steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped, seeded tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

In a small bowl, combine crushed fennel seeds, the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over fish in bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

Meanwhile, for salsa:

In a small bowl, combine tomato, bell pepper, green onion, mint, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade. For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling.

For a gas grill, preheat grill . Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on greased grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.

You can also use a preheated stove top grill or grill pan; follow directions above.

Serve fish topped with salsa mixture and lemon wedges.

Quinoa

2 Servings

Serving Size 2/3 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup chopped seeded cucumber
  • 1 large green onion, thinly sliced, or 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil

Directions:

In a small nonstick saucepan, cook quinoa and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in cucumber, green onion, and snipped basil.

 

Berry Cheesecake Dessert

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup skim ricotta cheese
  • 4 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel 
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries, raspberries, and/or blueberries
  • 2 gingersnaps or chocolate wafers, broken

Directions:

In a blender container or food processor bowl combine cream cheese, ricotta cheese, sugar, orange peel and orange juice. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.

To serve, spoon the fruit into two dessert dishes. Top with the cream cheese mixture and sprinkle with the broken cookies

Menu Three

 

Wine-Glazed Steak

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (8 to 10 ounces total)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Trim fat from steak; cut steak into two equal portions. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steaks. Reduce heat to medium; cook for 10 to 13 minutes or until desired temperature (145 degrees F for medium-rare or 160 degrees F. for medium), turning steaks occasionally. If steaks brown too quickly, reduce heat to medium-low. Transfer steaks two dinner plates; keep warm.

Add mushrooms, garlic, and crushed red pepper to skillet; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Carefully add wine. Return to heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey; return to simmering. Cook and stir about 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon over steaks.

Roasted Carrots

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 slender carrots, trimmed, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange carrots in single layer in a small baking pan. Add olive oil and orange peel; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Pour orange juice over; cover tightly with foil. Roast until crisp-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove foil. Increase oven to 450°F. Drizzle honey over carrots. Roast uncovered until carrots are tender and browned in spots, about 10 minutes longer. Divide carrots and transfer them and any juices to the dinner plates with the steak.

 

Cucumber Radish Slaw

2 Servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Dash salt
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 1/4 of a medium English cucumber, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 of a medium red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Add cucumber, radishes, sweet pepper, and green onion. Toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and chill for up to 2 hours.

Roasted Mangoes with Brown Sugar Topping

2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe mango, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 teaspoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

Directions:

Place mango halves in a small baking dish. Combine brown sugar, coconut, orange peel, and crystallized ginger in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle over mango halves.

Bake in a 425 degree F. oven about 10 minutes or until mangoes are hot, and topping just begins to brown.

Vegetarian Entree Option

Substitute this entree for any of the entrees above.

 black bean burger - saveur.com

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tablespoons plus extra salsa, recipe below
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 2 whole wheat hamburger buns, optional

Directions:

Using a fork, mash half of the beans in medium bowl. Mix the remaining beans, onion, carrot, bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons salsa, oregano and hot pepper sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Using moistened hands, shape bean mixture into two 3- to 4-inch-diameter patties.

Preheat broiler. Brush broiler rack or pan with oil. Broil burgers until heated through, about 3 minutes per side.. Spoon 1/4 cup salsa over each. Serve in a hamburger bun, if desired.

Homemade Tomato Salsa

Makes 3 cups

 Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/4 lb), stems removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • 1 serano chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Chop 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the chilies. Be very careful while handling these hot peppers. If you can, avoid touching them with your hands. Use surgical gloves or a paper towel to protect your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for heat.

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies and the oregano

Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.


I still remember the first time I cooked Thanksgiving Day dinner. It was four years after my husband and I had married. Up until that year, my mother-in-law always made Thanksgiving Day dinner. It was her specialty and that was fine with me. I was never really a fan of turkey and all the trimmings and, since I spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I got to spend Christmas with my family. This arrangement was fine with my husband because my mother always made lasagna on Christmas.

How I came to make Thanksgiving Day dinner was not for a joyous reason. My father-in-law passed away at a young age about a month earlier and the family was devastated. I offered to make dinner in place of my mother-in-law, who wasn’t up to the job and didn’t even want to celebrate the holiday. We didn’t want her to be alone and convinced her to have dinner with us.The rest of my husband’s family was also invited.

This was a big deal for me because I had never cooked a turkey before, but I welcomed the creative challenge. It was fun planning the menu and I came up with recipes that reflected my Italian heritage. Unfortunately my creative endeavors were not met with rave reviews (other than my husband’s) because I did not make the traditional side dishes that my in-laws were used to having with their turkey dinner.

Nevertheless, I continued to try my hand at different side dishes through the next few years and as my children grew, their likes and dislikes played a great part in how these side dishes evolved. My mother-in-law continued to have dinner with us on Thanksgiving and actually looked forward to my new approach to developing our own traditional meal.

The following are the favorites my family have come to enjoy on Thanksgiving. I don’t make all these dishes at one time (with the exception of the cranberry sauce) but tend to rotate them each year to keep things interesting. All you need is a turkey or a turkey breast,  a stuffing of your choice (see post for recipes: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/11/09/choose-your-stuffing-or-is-it-dressing/) and 3 or 4 of the side dishes below and your feast menu is ready to go.

Cranberry Sauce

Fresh and frozen cranberries work equally well. If you are using frozen, add one to two minutes to the cooking time.

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup Truvia for Baking or Domino Light sugar or 1 cup regular sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag cranberries, picked through
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

 Directions:

Bring orange juice, sugar, and salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cranberries and simmer until slightly thickened and two-thirds of berries have burst, about 5 minutes. Stir in orange zest Transfer to serving bowl and cool completely, at least 1 hour. Serve. (Sauce can be refrigerated for 1 week.)

 

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.

Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.

Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15 minutes.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Sometimes I cook chopped kale with the potatoes and mix it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

 In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Bring to a boil; cook until potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat together the milk, garlic, rosemary, and thyme then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Strain the flavored milk through a fine sieve, add the olive oil and gently reheat. Using a potato masher or fork, mash potatoes with olive oil and milk until smooth. Add some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper.

Celery Bake

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole bunch celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons Wondra all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs

Directions:

Separate celery stalks and leaves. Reserve leaves and cut stalks into 1/2 inch pieces. Put celery in a medium saucepan and fill halfway with water. Add salt, bay leaves and place celery leaves on top.Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook 5 minutes uncovered. Discard celery and bay leaves. Drain and set aside; reserving a 1/2 cup of the celery cooking water.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the same saucepan add evaporated milk and flour; whisk. Add butter and turn heat to medium and cook sauce, whisking constantly, until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and whisk in celery cooking water.

Spray a medium baking dish with cooking spray and add half the celery, half the sauce and sprinkle with the almonds. Next, add remaining celery and sauce. Sprinkle top with breadcrumbs.

Bake casserole 30 minutes.

 

Italian Baked Macaroni with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half (fat free works just as well)
  • 2 cups Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta. 

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Number of servings-6

 

Balsamic-Glazed Cipollini Onions

Cipollini originated in Italy and the word means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and sugar; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

 

Creamed Spinach

Ingredients:

  • 2 pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil in small saucepan and add garlic; cook 1 minute

Add spinach and heat.

Make a well in center of spinach and add milk and cheese.

Heat and stir until cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.

Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/2-in. thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach; cook and stir 7 minutes. In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Set aside 1/4 cup for topping. Add spinach and cheese to remaining crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with garlic salt and pepper; stuff with spinach mixture. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Toss remaining oil with reserved crumbs. Sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned. Yield: 6 servings.

 

Cherry-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 3 medium acorn squash
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Cut squash in half; discard seeds. Place squash cut side up in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes coated with cooking spray.

Combine the cherries, brown sugar, lemon peel, nutmeg and salt; spoon into squash halves. Sprinkle with lemon juice; dot with butter.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until squash is tender. Yield: 6 servings.


As the beloved “Christmas Song” reminds us, the chestnut is a traditional holiday treat. Yet in Europe, Asia and Africa, chestnuts are often used as an everyday potato substitute. Although they are wonderful straight from the oven or fireplace, you can make use of the winter chestnut crop in many ways, both sweet and savory.

Probably one of the first foods eaten by man, the chestnut dates back to prehistoric times. The chestnut tree was first introduced to Europe via Greece. Legend has it that the Greek army survived on their stores of chestnuts during their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 B.C.

Chestnut Tree

American Chestnut Tree

In 1904, diseased Asian chestnut trees planted on Long Island, New York carried a fungus that nearly wiped out the American chestnut population, leaving only a few groves in California and the Pacific Northwest to escape the blight.

Chestnut timber resembles its cousin, the oak, in both color and texture and is highly-valued. The trees can live up to five hundred years and usually do not begin to produce fruit until they are forty years old.

Today, most of the chestnut food crop is imported from Japan, China, Spain, and Italy.

Italy and the Chestnut

Over 2000 years ago the Apennine woodlands, which stretch the entire length of Italy’s peninsula along the east coast, were once thick with chestnut trees and villagers survived long winters on the trees’ bounty. The fallen nuts were picked from the forest floor and dried in two-story stone drying shacks, the remains of which can still be found throughout the region.

The nut also played a role in the Roman Empire: On their lengthy campaigns, Roman legions planted chestnut trees to help provide food for their vast armies. Polenta was made with chestnut meal until corn arrived in the 16th century. Castagnaccio or flatbread of chestnut flour baked on an oiled stone, was a common staple. The gluten-free flour was used to bake heavy, dense loaves of bread, and was prized for its resistance to spoilage. The chestnut was a staple during hard times, as well as, nutritious—the starchy nut is high in carbohydrates and has nearly as much vitamin C as a lemon. Chestnuts contain twice as much starch as potatoes. It is no wonder that they are still an important food crop in Asia and southern Europe where they are often ground into chestnut flour for baking.

The chestnut was a part of many traditional recipes and even became a delicacy by the 16th century. A famous Italian chef of the 16th century, Bartolomeo Scappi, included chestnuts in a banquet menu. After roasting and peeling them, Scappi wrapped the hot chestnuts in towels with rose petals, sugar, salt and pepper so that they absorbed all the flavors before being plated.

Yet despite their prevalence in Italian recipes, by the 19th century the chestnut had become equated with cucina povera, peasant food, and was excluded from aristocratic tables. Combined with deforestation and the shift away from agrarian practices, the chestnut was nearly wiped out. Now,it has returned to favor both in Italy and here in the U.S. Its resurgence began with the hybridized Italian marron chestnut. Juicier and sweeter than its old world cousin, the marron is now the most common chestnut used in cuisine. Outwardly it resembles the original chestnut: heavily armored with prickly spines, a dark brown, hard outer shell and a bitter inner skin. Inside, however, where the original chestnut contained two small, flat nuts to a burr, the marron has a single, larger heart-shaped one.

The chestnut is again turning up in top Italian kitchens. They garnish ice cream and fill tarts. They accompany meats and are made into pastas. Chestnut flour is used in breads, cakes and pastries for its nutty taste and sweet smell.

While chestnut vendors line Manhattan city streets around the winter holidays and pedestrians fight the snowy chill with a paper cone of hot, roasted nuts, the chestnut in Italy is still associated with times of hardship. They are given to the poor every November on Saint Martin’s day as a symbol of the sustenance they provided throughout Italy’s history.

Using Chestnuts

Roasting is a particularly popular preparation of the chestnut. Boiled or puréed, they can be served with wild game and they are also a main ingredient in stuffing for poultry. The chestnut’s versatility extends to sweets, also. The flour is used for chocolate cake or cookies and they can be puréed with honey and cream for a rich dessert.

Although, they are harvested from October through March, December is the prime month for fresh chestnuts.  The freshest will have glossy, unwrinkled shells and feel heavy in the hand. Choose fresh nuts that are smooth and free of blemishes. Avoid any that are shriveled, cracked, or rattle in their shell. Shake the shell. If you hear movement, you know they are drying out.

Out of season, or for less work, you can find them already peeled, and dried or frozen. ( See buying options at the bottom of this post.) Soak dried nuts for an hour before use. They come candied, puréed or prepared like jam. You can also buy coffee beans roasted with chestnuts and honey made from chestnut pollen.

Fresh chestnuts will dry out easily, so keep them in a cool, dry place, free of drafts, and use within 1 week. Fresh nuts in the shell can be placed in a perforated plastic bag and stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator up to 1 month, depending on the freshness factor when you purchase them. Fresh chestnuts can be frozen whole in their shells up to 4 months.

Although we refer to them as nuts, the meat inside is soft and starchy, more akin to grains rather than crunchy like traditional nuts. It is the only nut primarily treated as a vegetable due to its starch content.

Raw Chestnuts

If you are tempted to eat chestnuts raw, think again. These nuts must be boiled or roasted before eating due to the high levels of tannic acid. The nuts are cured for about a week to permit their starch to develop into sugar, thus sweetening the meat. They must be cooked completely in order to avoid digestive discomfort.

The outer thin shell, as well as, the inner bitter brown skin is removed before eating. Removing the skin in its raw state is virtually impossible, but with patience, the outer shell can be removed from the raw nuts.

Chestnut Measurements

• 1 pound in the shell = about 35 to 40 chestnuts

• 1 pound shelled, peeled = about 2-1/2 cups

• 1 cup cooked dried = 1 cup cooked fresh

• 1-1/2 pounds in shell = 1 pound shelled

• 8.25 ounce canned puree = 1 cup

• 1 pound shelled, peeled, cooked = 1 cup puree

• 3 ounces dried = 1 cup fresh

Chestnut Cooking Tips

To facilitate removal of the shell, you’ll need to use a sharp pointed knife to slice either a horizontal slash or a large X along the flat side before roasting or boiling.

To roast chestnuts, make cuts as described above. They can potentially explode from internal pressure if not pierced. Place on a baking sheet in a 400 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

To boil, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat. Scoop out a few at a time and peel off the shell and skin with a sharp knife. As they cool, they become more difficult to peel, so keep them in hot water until you are ready to peel. Proceed with your recipe using the peeled nuts, making sure you finish cooking them completely within your recipe.

To boil and cook them completely in their skins, simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, then peel and use, but don’t be disappointed if they fall apart as you peel them. This boiling method for chestnuts is best used when you will be mashing the chestnuts for a puree.

To roast in a fire, take an aluminum pie plate and punch rows of holes. Make cuts in chestnuts or puncture them to release steam and place on a grill over white hot coals.

Chestnuts work well in savory dishes as well as sweet ones. Mashed or whole braised chestnuts are good partners with sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. However, most Americans use them in stuffing and desserts.

First Course

Chestnut Soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and quartered; rinsed well
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in thirds
  • 2 cups roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts (1 pound in shell or a 7½-ounce jar, whole peeled)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (½-inch-thick) slices rustic Italian bread, crusts discarded, cut into ¼-inch cubes

Directions:

Combine water, leek, onion, celery and carrot in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes. Add chestnuts and cook until chestnuts are tender, about 25 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Using tongs and/or skimmer, remove vegetables from broth and discard. (Be sure to remove all traces of the vegetables.) Remove 4 chestnuts and set aside for garnish.

Purée soup in 3 batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl or use an immersion blender and blend the soup in the cooking pot. Return soup to the pot if a blender was used. Bring to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden, about 4 minutes. You can also bake them in a 400 degree F oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Cut reserved chestnuts into small pieces. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with bread cubes and reserved chestnut pieces and serve.

Second Course

Glazed Turkey Breasts with Chestnut Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 4 turkey breast fillets, 6-8 ounces each
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups cranberry juice
  • 1/4 cup cranberries, defrosted, if frozen
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves removed
  • Chestnut & Apple Stuffing, recipe below

Directions:

Season the turkey fillets on both sides and then lightly brown in the oil. Add the sugar and cranberry juice to the pan, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook for  5 minutes, or until the turkey has cooked through and the berries have slightly softened. Sprinkle with thyme leaves. Slice turkey thinly, place over stuffing and pour cranberry sauce over all.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Chestnut & Apple Stuffing 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chestnuts
  • 12 cups day-old Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about one 16-ounce loaf)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance blend
  • 2 large celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 medium-size onion, diced
  • 3 large Rome Beauty or Crispin apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 (14-1/2-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth (1-3/4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In 3-quart saucepan over high heat, heat chestnuts and enough water to cover to boiling. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat. With slotted spoon, remove 3 or 4 chestnuts at a time from the water to a cutting board. Cut each chestnut in half. With a spoon or tip of small knife (a grapefruit spoon also works well), scrape out chestnut meat from its shell (skin will stay in shell). Chop any large pieces of chestnut meat and place in large bowl. Discard cooking water. Toss bread cubes with chestnuts.

In the same saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add celery and onion and cook until vegetables are golden brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add diced apples and poultry seasoning; cook 2 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken broth, salt, and 1 cup water; over high heat, heat to boiling.

Pour hot mixture over chestnut/bread mixture; toss to mix well. Use to stuff a 12- to 16-pound turkey or spoon stuffing into a greased 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish; cover with foil and bake in preheated 325 degree F. oven 45 minutes. Serve under Glazed Turkey (recipe above).

Yield: 12 cups or 24 1/2-cup servings

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts (½ pound in shell or 1 (7½-ounce) jar whole peeled) See directions for roasting below.
  • 1½ cups sugar or a sugar alternative
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend, softened at room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 11.25 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

Place chestnuts, ¾ cup sugar, vanilla bean (seeds and pod) and pinch salt in a large saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let chestnuts cool in syrup, then drain.

Put oven rack in center position and heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9½-inch springform pan with a removable bottom.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt chocolate with remaining 3/4 cup sugar, applesauce and butter, stirring, until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and whisk mixture until cooled to lukewarm, then whisk in egg yolks and flour.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter in 2 additions.

Pour batter into prepared pan; gently press chestnuts into top. Bake until top of cake has formed a thin crust, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then release from pan and let cool completely.

Roasted Chestnut Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. With sharp knife, slash shell of each chestnut. Place in jelly-roll pan and roast until shells burst open, about 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle,  peel chestnuts.

Jarred Chestnuts


Quick breads (chemically leavened, not yeast leavened) which most fruit and nut bread recipes are, were not developed until the end of the 18th century. This took place in America, where pearlash was discovered. Pearlash is a refined form of potash, and it produces carbon dioxide gas in dough. In American Cookery, ( 1796 – the first American cookbook), Amelia Simmons published recipes using pearlash, and the US exported some 8,000 tons to Europe in 1792. Baking powder was not developed commercially until 1857 (phosphate baking powder). So the quick bread, as we know it, was probably not made in America until the 18th century, when housewives discovered pearlash as a chemical leavening agent.

“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. The definition includes pancakes, waffles, scones, biscuits, coffee cakes and muffins. These breads keep well, they’re tasty for a quick breakfast, snack, sides, a healthy after school snack and they’re great as gifts, too!

More versatile than most other baked goods, quick breads give you greater freedom to add healthy ingredients and make substitutions that reduce the carbohydrates and calories. See healthy alternate baking ingredients at the bottom of this post.

Bake several loaves and freeze, pulling them out as needed. (Muffins and quick breads can be frozen for up to 3 months.)

Slice loaves and freeze servings individually (wrap each slice in plastic wrap and then in a resealable larger plastic freezer bag). Kids can grab one from the freezer in the morning for a snack if they are going straight from school to an after-school activity.

Tips on Baking Quick Breads:

To lower the fat in your own quick bread recipe, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum baby food, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas).

The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: use a gentle touch. Combine in a bowl the dry ingredients (flour, leaveners, salt, and spices) and mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. In another bowl, beat together the fat, sugar, and eggs. 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 with a large spatula. Do this part by hand rather than with a mixer and stir just until incorporated. Over-mixing will cause “tunnels”–holes where the air bubbles escaped–and will make the bread tough.

To keep the bread from sticking to pan, 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 pan and 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. Next, be sure to flour the bottom of the pan and shake out any excess.

The crack on top happens when top of the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if it is important to have an attractive loaf.

Bread that looks done on the outside but is still raw in the middle is a common quick bread problem. It can be caused by a few different factors. The oven temperature could be too high. (Use an oven thermometer to check: they’re cheap and available at most supermarkets.) 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 “raw center” could be using a different pan size than the recipe calls for. One of the nice things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves, jumbo loaves, or rounds, but each size 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.

Tips for using baking soda and baking powder:

Batters made with baking soda should be baked soon after mixing for best results because the leavening starts to work as soon as the wet and dry ingredients are combined.

Batters made with baking powder can be allowed to rest for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature, but no longer, before going in the oven.

An open can of baking powder should be used within 4 months and kept in the refrigerator. To test for freshness, place 1 teaspoon of baking powder in a small amount of hot water. If it is fresh, it will fizzle rapidly.

 

Lemon Bread

Ingredients

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute blend (Truvia for Baking) equivalent to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds (grind in a processor)

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; flour the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2 . In another medium bowl combine the egg, milk, oil, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. If desired, stir together the 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the 1 tablespoon sugar. While bread is still in the pan, brush lemon-sugar mixture over the top of the loaf.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before serving to improve flavor. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).

 

Orange Quick BreadOrange-Coconut Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute blend* (Truvia for Baking) equivalent to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 1 (8 oz.) carton vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flaked, sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and flour bottom. Combine sugar, oil and egg in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level with a knife (as opposed to scooping from container). Combine flour, ¼ cup coconut, orange rind, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Make a well in the centre and add milk mixture.

Stir until just moist. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coconut on top. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cut in slices and serve warm with a little low sugar orange marmalade.

 

Quick Apple Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced peeled apples
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup almond meal (flour)
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend for Baking, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for the top) or 1/4 cup Truvia for Baking (plus 1 tablespoon)

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. and spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Flour bottom of the pan.

Put the chopped apples in a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and let them sit while the other ingredients are prepared.

Whisk the eggs, butter, ricotta, vanilla and buttermilk together in one bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients together, including the cinnamon and salt in another bowl until combined. Gently mix in the buttermilk mixture.

Drain the apples in a colander and shake off excess water. Fold in the apples, do not over mix.

Fill the loaf pan and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon Truvia. Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch.

Test for doneness with a toothpick. Do not overcook, as the bread will continue to cook a bit more when you remove it. Remove and cool.

Honey Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend for Baking, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat bottom with flour. Mix 1/2 cup flour, the whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the honey and butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer or use a hand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the mashed bananas and the walnuts.

Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove to the wire rack to cool completely.

 

Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the cranberries and chopped nuts, stir to coat with flour.

Combine the egg, oil, orange juice and grated orange peel in another bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let bread sit for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

 Choose Healthier Baking Ingredients

 Picture of Ultragrain All Purpose Flour

LightKing Arthur Whole Wheat Pastry Flour / Graham Flour - 3 lb.



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