Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Herbs

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A few weeks ago I started receiving my weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery from a nearby farm. You can find more information on how a CSA works by visiting the Local Harvest site.

I look forward to this season every year because I now have available the freshest produce to cook with each week. The cover photo above shows what vegetables I received in my box last week. Jeta Farms is a family owned local farm, operated by Eddie Frank, and the farm sells their produce at local farmers’ markets, including the Palafox Market in Pensacola, FL on Saturday mornings.

Here are a few recipes I made with the vegetables in this week’s share.

Jeta Farms

Jeta Farms

Italian Frying Peppers

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Ingredients

  • 6 Italian frying peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove smashed and cut in half
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions

Heat oil and garlic in a small saute pan. Lower heat and add the whole peppers. Saute slowly until lightly brown on all sides. Serve at room temperature. These peppers are delicious as an appetizer or as a side dish.

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Homemade Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts. I use old mayonnaise jars with screw top lids.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 6 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 6-8 pickling cucumbers (Kirby)
  • A few sprigs of dill
  • 2 clean quart size jars

Directions

Combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, pepper, dill seed and garlic in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; stir.

Quarter pickling cucumbers lengthwise and divide evenly in the jars; add fresh dill.

Top with the hot vinegar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for several days before eating. The pickles keep for a few months in the refrigerator.

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Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 cups chopped leeks, light green and white parts
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ pounds peeled potatoes, cubed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup evaporated canned milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Directions

Heat butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the celery, leeks and onion and saute until tender. Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a processor.

Add the evaporated milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Serve in individual bowls and top each bowl with chives and bacon.

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Grilled Yellow Squash

This is a favorite in our family – well – anything I put basil pesto on becomes a favorite with them.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the grill
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick

Directions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Oil the grates.

Combine pesto and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the salt.

Grill the squash until browned and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pesto and the toasted nuts.

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Eggplant And Fresh Tomato Bake

Jeta Farms grows the most delicious eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an  Italian Heirloom eggplant. It is a medium size, round shaped eggplant with lavender-white skin and creamy white flesh with no taste of bitterness and very mild in flavor.

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This is my summer version of eggplant parmesan.

Ingredients

  • 2 Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplants (14-15 oz each)
  • Dried Italian bread crumbs
  • !/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 5-6 fresh plum tomatoes, sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Place the sliced tomatoes on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes drain while you prepare the eggplant.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the dried bread crumbs. Place the breaded eggplant on the prepared baking pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil an 8 inch square glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the sliced tomatoes and half of the cheese.

Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with dried Italian seasoning. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes more.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

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Brown Sugar Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups self-rising flour (King Arthur brand is what I use)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray two 8-inch loaf pans with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

In a smaller bowl combine eggs, oil and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and mix well.

Fold in the zucchini and walnuts.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking pans.

Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 60 minutes.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 30 minutes; then remove bread from the pans and continue cooling on wire racks.

This bread freezes well.


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Summer is a great time for tomatoes. This is when they are at their best – deep red, juicy and intense in flavor. There are Beefsteak, Roma, Vine-Ripened, Grape, Cherry, Heirloom and so many other types of tomatoes. Each has their own flavor and each can be used in multiple ways.

Perhaps you grow tomatoes, or you are the lucky recipient of someone who has too many to use or maybe you are indulging in the bounty at the farmers’ market. However, you come by your tomatoes, now is the perfect time to try new and exciting things with them. Of course, you know, you can use fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce, salsa or bruschetta and, you know, they taste great in salads and sandwiches. Below are a few different ways to use up some of your tomatoes.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Feta Appetizer

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes
  • 4 ounces whole feta cheese, cut into 18 cubes
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 (3-inch) wooden skewers
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, watermelon, lime juice, mint, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients, cover the bowl and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thread 1 tomato piece, 1 watermelon cube and 1 feta cube onto a skewer and place on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining skewers.

Drizzle with the remaining marinade in the bowl and a little olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Chilled Green Tomato Soup with Crab Meat

Have green tomatoes? Here is something to make instead of fried green tomatoes.

Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 14 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 small hot peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Lump crab meat

Directions

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; add onions and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Add celery and chopped green bell pepper; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in arugula, basil and parsley. Let cool 30 minutes.

Process soup with an immersion blender in the pot or, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and hot sauce and add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Ladle chilled soup into serving bowls and top each serving with some crab meat and a few slices of hot peppers.

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Fresh Mozzarella, Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn-on-the-cob, in the husk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, optional
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 5 cups baby arugula, spinach or romaine lettuce for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Soak corn in the sink or in a bowl filled with cold water for 15 minutes.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the corn has soaked, place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 minutes or until the corn kernels are tender.

Cool to room temperature; then discard husks and silks. Cut the kernels off the cobs and put them in a large serving bowl. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, avocado, if using, and basil.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve over a bed of greens.

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Fresh Tomato Cheese Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes (You will need enough to make 2 layers)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine bread crumbs, flour, butter and salt in a food processor until dough comes together.

Using your hands, press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan or pie plate. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and place on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with salt so they can release their juices and set aside.

In a food processor, combine ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and basil leaves just until blended.

Top the baked tart shell with a layer of tomatoes followed by the cheese filling.

Top with another layer of sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tart until golden brown and set in center, 45 to 55 minutes.

Let rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

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Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound(12 oz) farfalle (bowtie) pasta or your favorite short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet. Cut the casing off the sausage and add it to the pan, crumbling it into small pieces.

Add garlic and cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add cooked sausage to the pasta with the basil, tomatoes, cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


fathersdaycover It’s great that Father’s Day falls during the month of June – that’s grilling season. Most dads love it when dinner comes off the grill. What is even better for the person cooking the meal is that most of the dinner can be made on the grill. Easy clean-up. Give Dad the day off and let someone else tend the BBQ. Even though it is a special day that calls for special foods, I like to keep things somewhat on the healthy side and prepare foods with Mediterranean flavors. Don’t forget the wine. A Riesling or a fruity Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect for the appetizer. For the main course, a light red, such as Zinfandel or Syrah would be ideal for the BBQ chicken.

Appetizer

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Herbed Shrimp Kabobs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon white champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for the grill
  • 24 peeled and deveined medium shrimp (about 1 pound)
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 24 small wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes

Directions Preheat the grill to medium high. Combine basil, parsley, vinegar, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a blender and puree. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Thread one tomato and one shrimp on each skewer. Place skewers on a grill rack coated with oil and grill 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until the shrimp turn pink. Place the skewers on a large serving platter and brush the grilled shrimp on both sides with the herb sauce. Serve immediately.

Main Course

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Spicy Grilled Chicken Thighs

6 servings Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried crumbled sage
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered garlic
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs

Directions Coat the grill rack or grill pan with oil; heat for direct, medium-high cooking. Combine sage, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl; dredge chicken on all sides in the mixture. Grill until browned and well marked on the undersides, about 10 minutes. Turn and cook until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the center reads 165 degrees. Move to a serving platter, cover with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Serves 6-8 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 medium red cabbage (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 2 large carrots grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Directions In a large bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, carrots and chives. Toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 45 minutes before serving. fathersday4

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter

6 servings Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ears corn, husked

Directions Prepare grill for direct-heat grilling. Thoroughly combine the softened butter, basil, parsley, lime juice, zest and salt in a small bowl. Place each corn ear on a sheet of foil large enough to enclose the corn. Brush each ear with the herb butter on all sides. Roll the corn in the foil and secure the ends tightly. Grill over direct heat, turning occasionally, for about 12 minutes, or until corn kernels are just tender when pierced with a fork. fathersday1

Grilled Zucchini Salad

This dish can be cooked first and set aside while the remaining foods are grilled. Ingredients Serves 6 Ingredients

  • 2 pounds medium zucchini (about 6), halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil and grill until tender, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cut the zucchini into 1-inch pieces and toss in a large bowl with the scallions, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, oregano, the remaining tablespoon of oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Serve at room temperature.

Dessert

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Grilled Peaches with Cherry Wine Sauce

6 servings Ingredients For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons. Kirsch (cherry liqueur)

For the peaches:

  • 6 medium peaches
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons. brown sugar
  • Vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint garnish, optional

Directions To make the cherry sauce: In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine the pitted cherries, sugar, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until completely smooth. Return the mixture to the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the Kirsch. Simmer until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. To make the grilled peaches Cut the peaches in half and remove and discard the pits. Place the halves in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Coat the peaches with the butter mixture. Grill the peaches over direct medium heat on an oiled grill until grill marks are clearly visible and the peaches are soft, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once halfway through the grilling time. To serve: While the peaches are still warm, layer each serving dish with 2 peach halves, 1 scoop of frozen yogurt and 2 tablespoons of cherry sauce. Garnish with mint, if desired and serve immediately.


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Lots of mayo can easily turn a pasta salad into a 400 calorie or 500 calorie side dish. Here are some tips you can follow to make a healthy pasta salad.

A whole-wheat pasta salad is a great way to add whole grains and there are many brands on the market to choose from that actually taste good. Traditional pasta salads call for about two cups of pasta per person, without any dressing or add-ins. On its own, that’s 400 calories. And portions still matter, even when you’re using whole-grain pasta. Aim for about one-cup servings of cooked pasta.

Since pasta portions can quickly up the calories, it’s important add bulk to your dish by adding vegetables. Olives, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, scallions, cauliflower, grape tomatoes and cucumbers are great options, but there’s no limit to the amount of vegetables you can add.

Get flavor without adding calories by mixing in seasonal fresh herbs. Basil, mint and parsley all work well in a pasta salad. Herbs also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, which helps make your pasta salad even healthier.

Cheese, corn and beans are several high-calorie ingredients typically found in pasta salads. If you do add cheese, sprinkle about one tablespoon per serving to add flavor. For corn or beans, two tablespoons per serving should be enough.

Many dressings drown a pasta salad in calories. You want just enough dressing to cover the ingredients, without totally saturating them. This also allows the flavors of the vegetables and fresh herbs to come though. There are also many ways to make a healthier dressing: Combine light mayonnaise with nonfat Greek yogurt to cut overall calories or use a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. Whichever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to use two tablespoons of dressing per serving.

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Farfalle Salad with Fennel, Prosciutto and Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz farfalle pasta (bow ties)
  • 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), sliced as thin as possible
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound thin-sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/4-pound chunk Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 14 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, fennel, oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the prosciutto and toss again.

To serve:

Mound the salad on plates. Top with strips of Parmesan shaved from the chunk of cheese with a vegetable peeler.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over the cheese.

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Shrimp, Lemon and Gemelli Pasta Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb gemelli or cavatappi pasta
  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 peeled cucumber, sliced

Directions

Heat a large covered saucepan of salted water to boiling. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the label directs, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked. Drain well.

Grate 1 teaspoon peel from the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice into large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, dill, capers, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.

Stir in tomatoes and cucumber.

Add pasta and shrimp to the large bowl; toss until well-coated. Serve warm or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead.

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Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb thin spaghetti
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pints red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling. Add spaghetti and cook as label directs for al dente.

Reserve 12 small basil leaves for garnish.

From the remaining basil, remove enough leaves to equal 2 cups firmly packed.

In a food processor, process basil leaves, garlic, 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until pureed, stopping processor and scrape bowl occasionally.

Add Parmesan; pulse to combine. Set pesto aside.

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper the with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently stir in mozzarella.

Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup spaghetti of the cooking water. Return spaghetti and reserved cooking water to the saucepan; add pesto and toss well.

Spoon spaghetti mixture into the bowl with the tomato-mozzarella salad. Garnish with reserved basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.

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Chicken and Penne Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups penne (tube-shaped) pasta
  • 2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell pepper, drained and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes. Add green beans; cook 4 minutes. Drain well.

Combine pasta, green beans, chicken, onion, basil, parsley and roasted peppers in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine.

Combine oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill.

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped yellow summer squash(1 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped green sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
  • 1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta

Walnut Pesto

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a roasting pan combine zucchini, summer squash, onion, fennel, sweet peppers and eggplant. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons oil; toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring twice. Transfer to a very large bowl; cool.

Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and cool slightly.

Add the pasta to the roasted vegetables. Mix gently.

For the walnut pesto:

In a blender combine garlic, the 1 cup torn basil, the cheese and walnuts; cover and pulse with several on/off turns until chopped. With blender running, gradually add the 1/2 cup oil, the lemon juice and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add the pesto to the pasta-vegetable mixture, stirring gently to coat. Stir in cherry tomatoes. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with additional basil.


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Looking for a quick snack or an easy dish to make for a picnic, barbecue or party, fruit salad is a great option.

A few additions to a fruit salad can go a long way in adding color, flavor and uniqueness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice prevents browning in some fruits and adds a bright flavor that will help balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Similarly, a chiffonade of fresh herbs (like mint, basil or cilantro) elevates and enhances a dish of fruit.

When making a fruit salad think about flavors that will complement and balance the sweetness (or sourness) of the fruit you are using. Smoky, spicy and salty flavors work well with very sweet fruits like berries or melon. A homemade simple ginger syrup complements tart fruits like pineapple.

To make the ginger syrup:

Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 piece (about 4 ounces and 10 inches long or use several small pieces) of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

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Fruit and Herb Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 1 half-pint raspberries
  • 1 half-pint blueberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned, for garnish

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine all of the fruit in a large attractive serving bowl. Refrigerate.

For the syrup:

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and then the mint. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Let the syrup cool.

Gently combine the cooled syrup with the fruit just before serving.

Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

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Wine Soaked Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups rosé wine
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Mascarpone cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Grand Marnier and both wines. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, add in all of the fruit, making sure that all the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:

Use a slotted spoon to remove the wine soaked fruit to individual dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and serve.

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Basil Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 3 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

In a large bowl combine the watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey and drizzle over the fruit. Stir gently to coat.

Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

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Melon, Berry and Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel or lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 honeydew melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, parmigiano-reggiano or feta cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, preserved lemon, crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the melon slices and blackberries on a large serving platter.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit. Garnish the salad with cheese, snipped chives and serve.

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Red Fruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pound strawberries, cored and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Mint for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the fruit in a large bowl.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry skillet, then crush in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until finely ground. Work the sugar into the coriander one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the fruit along with the lemon zest and toss gently with your hands. Season with the lemon juice.

Set aside for at least ten minutes or even overnight before serving.

Add mint if you like it before serving.


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Grouper is a mild, sweet fish that belongs to the sea bass family. It is a salt water fish that can become quite large. It is a locally caught fish where I live and grouper sandwiches are very popular here.

Due to their preferred habitat around coral reefs, groupers are accessible primarily by hook-and-line fishing. In my local area, the harvesting of grouper is closely monitored and regulated to ensure healthy stocks as a naturally renewable and sustainable resource.

In many parts of the world, grouper fisheries are depleted. One reason for this is their unusual mating ritual, where mature fish come together to spawn in huge numbers and that makes them easy targets for destructive fishing practices. This situation removes many reproducing fish and challenges the recovery of their populations.

Red and black grouper from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico are no longer over fished. Management techniques supported by EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) show enormous promise for bringing our seas back from unhealthy environments. Under an innovative fishing model known as catch shares, fishermen have an economic incentive to help the fishery recover. They get a share of the allowed catch, which grows larger as the fishery recovers.

Grouper is also a healthy menu choice. Six ounces of uncooked grouper has only 165 calories and 3 grams of fat (none of which is saturated). It can be cooked in a variety of ways since it is a firm fish that holds up to various cooking methods, including cooking it on the grill. Since grouper is a lean fish, however, it benefits from basting with a flavorful sauce while grilling.

Herb Infused Fish Fillets

Since I cook for two most days, I made half the amount listed in the recipe below. You can also use any firm white fish fillets that are available in your area.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs grouper fillets (or other firm white fish) 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 8  bay leaves 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rinse the fish fillets and and pat dry with paper towels.

Lightly salt both sides of the fish and set aside until the grill is ready

Heat the grill to medium-high.

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Cut off a piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil large enough to accommodate the fish on the grill. Poke several holes through the foil, spray with olive oil cooking spray and make a base on the foil for the fish with the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves.

In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

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Place the fish on top of the herb branches, brush the fish with the lemon mixture.

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Place the foil with the fish on it on the grill over direct heat and close the cover. Grill for 6 minutes, brush the fish with the lemon mixture again and sprinkle with the minced oregano leaves.

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Close the grill cover and cook for about 6 more minutes more or until the fish flakes when poked with a fork in the thickest part.

Grind fresh black pepper over the fish before serving.

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Roasted Corn and Peppers

I served the grilled grouper for dinner with this side dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the olive oil with the peppers, corn, onion and the salt and pepper in a baking dish.

Roast the mixture in the oven until the corn and peppers start to brown, about 20 minutes, stirring twice.

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Grilled Grouper Sandwich

If you would like to turn this grilled grouper into one of Florida’s best dishes, here is how to do it.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 medium green onions, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

For the sandwich:

  • 4 grouper fillets, about 1 inch thick (5-6 oz each), cooked according to the recipe above.
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • 4 leaves green leaf lettuce

Directions

In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, onions, relish, capers, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

On each bun bottom, place lettuce and a grilled grouper fillet. Spoon some sauce evenly over the fish. Cover with a bun top and serve.

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Caesar Salad Topped with Grilled Grouper

You can also turn this grilled grouper into a great salad, another favorite in my region.

Ingredients

  • 4 grouper fillets, about 1 1/2 inches thick (6 oz each), cooked according to the recipe above.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 large garlic cloves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 cups of firm country bread, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Large head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the croutons:

Whisk 1/4 cup of the oil, 2 of the garlic cloves, minced and coarse salt in large bowl to blend. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Transfer croutons to a baking sheet.

Bake croutons until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.

For the dressing:

Combine the 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, anchovies, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, remaining 1/4 cup oil and 1 garlic clove in a blender and puree until smooth.

Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad:

Place lettuce and croutons in a large bowl and toss with the dressing. Place the lettuce and croutons onto 4 individual serving plates and place one grilled grouper fillet on top of each salad.

Sprinkle each with additional Parmesan cheese.


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No matter what the calendar says, Memorial Day kicks off the start of summer and the grilling season. Here are some tips on how to be a successful griller:

Treat your grill just like any other cooking surface — give it a good cleaning before and after you cook. Scrubbing and oiling the grill grates not only protects the grates but creates a nonstick surface for cooking.

A hot grill makes for easier cleaning (as any of the stuck-on food bits become brittle and easier to scrape off), but if your grill really needs a deep clean, preheat the grill then turn it off while you scrub and oil.

When preparing a charcoal grill, don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.

Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire. This will help to warm up the grate and stabilize the temperature of the grill environment.

Don’t grill anything too fatty or with too much marinade, as this can cause flare-ups. Most recipes will direct you to trim excess fat or shake off any excess marinade — this step is included for your safety.

Metal skewers get hot which helps meat to cook more evenly — just remember to use tongs or an oven mitt when turning them on the grill. Double-skewer items that might fall off, such as shrimp, chicken strips or slices of summer squash. In this case, skewers can help keep ingredients from twirling and also maintain the shape of the ingredient.

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Grill delicate of small foods in a perforated grill pan — it will keep the food from falling through the cooking grate.

For larger cuts, such as chickens, roasts or a rack of ribs, do most of your cooking away from any actual flames and keep the grill lid closed. This allows for slower cooking and more even temperatures. Unless you have a serious cookout in the making, most grills are big enough to prepare one side for lower heat cooking and one side for high heat. Move hot coals to one half of the grill or turn off one or more burners to create indirect heat.

Can’t decide whether to use a direct or indirect method? If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use direct heat; if it takes longer, use indirect heat.

If the grill gets too hot, turn it off or pull everything off the grill. If it’s not hot enough, close the lid, as this will help to build heat quickly.

GRILLING BEEF & PORK

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The appropriate heat levels and cooking times are crucial for grilling meat, so that it stays tender and juicy. Each type of cut has its own rules:

Use direct heat for chops, steaks and hamburgers.

Use indirect heat for Italian sausage, roasts and larger cuts of meat.

Cover the grill when cooking less tender cuts of meat.

Slash the edges of steaks and chops on the diagonal, about ¼ inch into the center to prevent the edges from curling.

Resist the urge to squeeze or press down on the grilling meat! This will result in a tougher, less juicy cut.

Steaks like filet mignon, ribeye, top sirloin and New York strip are naturally tender and need nothing more than a seasoning rub or a bit of salt and pepper before grilling.

Larger steaks like flank, skirt steak and London broil are best when soaked in a flavorful marinade before grilling.

Cuts like brisket, shank and chuck demand long, slow, indirect cooking.

Ribeye is excellent on the grill because of its marbling and its ability to hold up to strong flavors in spice rubs and marinades.

Lean, tender pork chops can be marinated or rubbed with spices and then cooked over the coals.

Pork spare ribs and baby back ribs can be prebaked and then grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.

Pork tenderloin grills quickly, is low in fat and can be sliced easily for an attractive presentation.

Treat larger cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, the way you would larger cuts of beef.

Italian Vinaigrette

Keep this homemade Italian Vinaigrette on hand to quickly give foods flavor before grilling.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients together and drizzle olive oil in a little at a time. Yields: ¾ cup

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Cooking Times

Always cook all types of meat thoroughly and use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the meat. Wait a couple of minutes before reading and follow these simple temperature guidelines:

Cooked meat Temperatures in degrees F
Medium Rare 145
Medium 160
Medium Well 165
Well Done 170
Ground Meats 160

Italian Flank Steak

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large (1 1/2-pound) grass-fed flank steak
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak 8 toothpicks in water for at least 20 minutes and prepare the grill for medium heat cooking. Don’t forget to oil the grill grates.

Butterfly steak by slicing it horizontally with a very sharp knife, stopping about 1 inch before you would slice all the way through. Open meat up, like opening a book, and sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.

Layer opened steak with spinach, basil and provolone slices. Starting on one long side, roll up tightly.

Secure the rolled steak at the seam and ends with the soaked toothpicks.

Brush the outside of the steak with oil and grill, turning frequently, until the steak is deeply browned all over, about 12-15  minutes for medium rare (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should register 125-130°F). Don’t overcook or the steak will be dry.

Transfer steak to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let stand 10 minutes. Remove toothpicks and thinly slice. Arrange on a serving platter.

Grilled Sausage and Pepper Salad

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh pork or turkey Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 large white onion, cut into 2 thick slices
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Prepared Italian salad dressing

Directions

Oil the grill grates and prepare the grill for medium-high heat cooking. Prepare one side of the grill for indirect heat

Brush the onion slices and sausages with oil.

Grill sausages on the indirect heat side of the grill for 30 minutes turning then after 15 minutes.

Grill onion on the direct heat side of the grill, turning occasionally, until the onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes

When cool enough to handle, slice sausages thickly on the bias and cut the grilled onion into chunks.

Toss romaine, feta and red peppers in a large salad bowl with a little Italian salad dressing.

Spoon romaine mixture onto serving plates and top with sausages and onion.

GRILLING POULTRY

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The mild flavor of poultry makes it ideal for grilling. Whether you choose chicken, duck, turkey or game hen, marinating or using a dry rub will maximize flavor. Once you’ve selected your specific  cut of poultry and seasoning method, follow these tips:

Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat.

Cook whole and butterflied poultry breast-side down.

Turning poultry pieces every 5 minutes and rotating pieces around the grill can help ensure even cooking.

Place a drip pan under a whole chicken or turkey breast to catch the juices.

Allow turkey to rest 20 minutes before carving. Remember, smoked turkey may appear a little pink even when thoroughly cooked.

Always cook poultry thoroughly. Test with an instant read thermometer (it should reach 165°F).

Insert the thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the meat, taking care not to touch any bone. Wait a couple of minutes before reading. For whole poultry, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.

Part of the Poultry Time
Whole Chicken 15-20 minutes per pound, about 1 3/4 hours
Butterflied Whole Chicken About 1 hour
Bone-in Breast, Leg & Thigh 12-15 minutes per side
Wing 2-3 minutes per side
Boneless Chicken Breast 4-6 minutes per side
Boneless Turkey Breast (up to 3 pounds) 1-1 1/2 hours
Boneless Turkey Breast (3-9 pounds) 2-3 hours

Grilled Chicken and Peppers Over Arugula

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 7 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing, divided
  • 2 bell peppers (red or green, or 1 of each), quartered
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 lightly packed cups arugula leaves

Directions

Split the chicken breasts by placing them on a cutting board and using a sharp knife to slice evenly through them, while applying slight pressure on top with the other hand.

Oil the grill grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.

Brush chicken breasts on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing.

In a small bowl, toss bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of the dressing.

Place chicken on one side of the grill and the peppers on the other side. Grill chicken and peppers, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and peppers are tender and browned, 6 to 7 minutes.

Toss onion and arugula with the remaining 2 tablespoons of salad dressing and arrange on a platter. Slice chicken and peppers; place them on top of the arugula salad.

Pesto Turkey Burgers with Grilled Onions

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
  • Olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled, but leave the root ends intact and cut into 4 thick slices
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • 4 hamburger buns

Directions

In a large bowl, combine turkey and pesto. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 3/4-inch thick.

Brush the onion slices and burgers with oil.

Oil the grill grates and heat the grill to medium. Grill burgers and onions until browned and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Place burgers on the buns and top each with a slice of mozzarella and a slice of grilled onion.

 

Part 2 Tomorrow



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