Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Lunch

Healthykids

Want your children to be healthy – start with healthier food.

Providing healthy food in school and at home and educating children, parents and school staff about the importance of good nutrition and exercise definitely leads to improved the health.

At home, try to serve healthy meals and have healthy snacks available, such as apples, yogurt, whole grain cereals and cut-up fresh veggies in the refrigerator.

If your child’s school does not offer physical activity and nutrition education programs, contact the principal or the school board to find out if changes can be made to these programs. Check the lunch program for healthy options for your child and if, you are not satisfied with what they offer, give your child a lunch to take to school. At the same time, try to get the school to offer healthy options for those who want them.

The good news is that as long as you provide a wide variety of nourishing foods, your child’s diet will balance out over time. Here are some healthy foods that are as good for you and your children as they taste.

Blueberries

A perfect finger food for tiny eaters, blueberries usually go on to become life-long favorites. They are packed with vitamin C for immune health and fiber that can help keep kids regular. Berries of all kinds may help combat allergies, as well

Fresh blueberries are always a favorite with children. Add them to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, desserts and even salads.

Black Beans

The darker the bean, the more nutritious it is, elevating black beans to the top of the superfood list. Their protein and fiber content help balance blood sugar and provide growing bodies with long-lasting energy. One cup of black beans also supplies about 20% of your child’s iron needs for the day.

Black beans can be added to chili, pureed into a dip with garlic, tomatoes and herbs or mixed with scrambled eggs.

Eggs

Eggs provide high-quality nutrition at an affordable price and are a great source of choline, an often overlooked but essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development. They’re also high in protein and are a good dietary source of vitamin D.

Since eggs can be added to virtually any baked good, chances are your kids are already enjoying them. Look for muffin and pancake recipes using several eggs, and experiment with omelets and frittatas. Popular combinations include: zucchini and basil, onions and potatoes, and tomato, mozzarella and ham.

Spinach

Spinach is another highly nutritious food and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K for optimal immunity and bone health. It’s also high in iron, several B vitamins and boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a winner for heart and eye health.

If your child likes the flavor of pesto, replace half of the basil in the recipe with fresh spinach. Use as a sandwich spread, pizza topping or pasta sauce. Frozen chopped spinach is perfect for adding to meatballs or meatloaf.

Keep on trying different foods Don’t assume that your kids will never like something, if they’ve tried it once and dismissed it. Tastes change over time.

After School Snacks

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Apple Snack Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2 medium apples
    1 cup Rice Chex (or other healthy crispy cereal), crushed
    1-1/2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Directions

Core apples; cut each into six wedges. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a small shallow bowl, combine the cereal and brown sugar. Spread cut sides of the apples with peanut butter; roll in cereal mixture. Serve immediately.

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Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup low fat milk
    1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
    1-1/2 cups halved fresh strawberries
    1 medium mango, peeled and chopped
    4 to 6 ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Stir if necessary. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

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Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    1/3 cup honey
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Combine the oats, brown sugar and salt; add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in the dried fruit and chips. (Batter will be sticky.)

Press into a 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.

Lunch Box Ideas

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Chicken Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hummus
    1 whole wheat tortilla (8 inches), at room temperature
    1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
    1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
    1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Directions

Spread hummus over the tortilla; top with spinach. Place chicken, carrot and red pepper strips in a row near the center of the tortilla; roll up tightly. If desired, cut crosswise into slices. Wrap securely or pack in an airtight container; and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 1 serving.

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Lunch on a Stick

Ingredients

  • Cheddar or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
    Grape tomatoes
    Whole wheat bread slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
    Leaf lettuce
    Sliced deli ham and/or turkey, cut into 1-inch strips
    Seedless red or green grapes
  • Wooden skewers (5 to 6 inches

Directions

Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices. Thread a skewer with 1 piece of cheese, bread, ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce and grape. Repeat the order again on the skewer. Make 3 more skewers.

Let children be creative and place their favorite healthy ingredients on a skewer. Yield: 4 servings.

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Bean Dip & Chips

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fat-free canned refried beans
    1 tablespoon salsa
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
    1 minced scallion
  • 1 ounceh ealthy tortilla chips, (about 10)

Directions

Combine refried beans, salsa, cilantro and scallion (if using) in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.

Healthy Dinner Options

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Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 cup Italian seasoned panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Marinara sauce

Directions

Place butter in a shallow bowl.

Combine the panko crumbs, cheese, garlic powder and salt in another shallow bowl.

Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.

Place in a single layer on two 15-inch x 10-inch x 1-inch baking pans.

Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.

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Pizza Meatloaf Cups

These are great to reheat for a quick dinner on soccer night.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup pizza sauce
    1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
    1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
    1-1/2 cups (6 ounces each) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Additional pizza sauce

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the egg, pizza sauce, bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.

Divide among 12 greased muffin cups; press onto the bottom and up the sides. Fill the center with cheese.

Bake at 375° F for 15-18 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink.

Serve with additional pizza sauce, if desired. Or cool, place in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen pizza cups: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Heat on a microwave-safe plate on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 1 dozen.

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Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots
    1 medium green bell pepper
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cups marinara sauce
    2 cups part skim milk ricotta cheese,
    2 cups (16 oz) shredded part skim milk mozzarella cheese, divided
    3 oz grated parmesan cheese
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz lasagna noodles, no boil

Directions

Chop carrots, green pepper and onion.
In a skillet, saute the vegetables in oil. Stir in the 2 cups of marinara sauce to heat it through.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread 1 cup sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Layer 1/2 each, uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, sauce,. Repeat layering, and top with remaining cheese.

Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F  for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.

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BalancedLunch

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.

But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.

For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.

Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.

Lunches at Home

Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs

Directions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.

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Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought) 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill 

Directions
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.

Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.

Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.

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Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.

Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat wraps
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions

Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

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Pesto Turkey Sandwich

If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 ounces sliced turkey
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.

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Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious foods. They are a very nutrient-dense food because they provide a significant amount of vitamins and minerals (14 in total), yet only contain 70 calories. Eggs make a valuable contribution to a healthy, balanced diet. They provide protein, vitamin A, riboflavin and other vitamins and minerals. The yolk contains all the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in an egg. Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein and are far less expensive than most other animal-protein foods.

Yet, though they’re incredibly easy to make and the ingredients are usually at hand, many of us hardly ever think of preparing eggs for lunch or dinner. Perhaps that’s because eggs have gotten such a bad rap. They do contain dietary cholesterol. However, scientific research has made it clear that saturated fat — mostly from full-fat dairy products and red meat — is really the villain behind rising blood cholesterol levels. Although eggs contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they need not be excluded from the diet. Including protein-rich eggs in your meals and snacks helps sustain your energy level and curb hunger, cravings and unhealthy snacking. Protein is the most filling nutrient. It helps control the rate at which food energy (calories) is absorbed by your body.

Try to find eggs that are not mass produced from caged chickens. Healthier cage-free chickens produce yellower, more flavorful eggs, and your recipes will taste better for using them. Eggs are sold in standard sizes: small, medium, extra-large and jumbo. Most recipes call for large eggs but, if a recipe doesn’t specify, assume it means large. In recipes that don’t call for a lot of eggs, substituting one size for another is usually not a problem. However, as the number of eggs increase, the difference in the amount will become pronounced.

Eggs sold in supermarkets in the US are packed in cartons with the USDA shield on them indicating that they came from a USDA-inspected plant. Though not required, most egg cartons contain a “sell by date” beyond which they should not be sold. This date cannot be 30 days beyond the packing date. The USDA does require that egg cartons display the ‘pack date’, which is the day that the eggs were washed, graded and placed into the carton. You can find this date embedded in code on the side of the carton. The first 3 numbers, usually preceded by the letter ‘P’ indicates the plant number where the eggs were packed. The last 3 numbers is a 3-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year, starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

Egg products you see at the store may include whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks in frozen or refrigerated liquid, and dried forms available in a number of different product formulations like cake and cookie mixes, as well as specialty egg products. Specialty egg products can include pre-peeled hard-cooked eggs, egg salad, pre-cooked omelets, egg patties, quiches, scrambled eggs, fried eggs and others. When purchasing egg products, look for containers that are tightly sealed and packages that are unopened. Although egg products have been processed, it is important to follow all cooking instructions on the packaging to ensure maximum safety. Buy refrigerated eggs and store them in your refrigerator as soon as you get home from the market.

After shell eggs reach home, it is very important to refrigerate them at a temperature of 45 °F or below. Keep the eggs in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door. Storing eggs in the refrigerator door could lead to temperature fluctuations that can lead to bacteria growth. Eggs may be refrigerated 3 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The sell-by date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use. Liquid egg products should be kept refrigerated at all times and consumed within two to six days from the date of purchase. Once liquid egg products are opened, they should be used immediately.

However, even under refrigeration, eggs slowly lose carbon dioxide, which causes the egg to lose moisture and enlarges the size of the air space between the egg and the shell. The combination of these changes makes an old egg a lot easier to peel than one that is fresh. So the best guarantee of easy peeling hard boiled eggs is to use older eggs.

It may be tempting to stop at a fast food drive in for lunch, but why do that when you can make a quick and delicious meal with eggs? If you’ve got eggs, you’ve got options.

Italian Egg Sandwich

For 1

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 slices Italian bread or 1 English muffin
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 slice fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lettuce, optional

Directions

Heat oil in a small saute pan with a lid. Crack egg into a small bowl and pour into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cook for 2 minutes, turn egg over and place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top. Place lid on the pan to melt the cheese and remove the pan from the heat.

Toast bread or muffin, if desired. Spread pesto on the bread.

Place egg on top of bread or muffin bottom and top with sliced tomato, lettuce and bread.

Potato Hash with Fried Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, divided plus extra for garnish
  • 2 Vidalia or sweet onions, chopped
  • 8 large eggs

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes and toss until coated in the butter, then add water and sage leaves. Bring water to a simmer and cook potatoes, uncovered, until the water has almost evaporated and the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. If there is any excess water in the pan, remove it with a large spoon and reserve.

Continue cooking potatoes, scraping pan frequently with a spoon, until crusty brown, about 10 more minutes. Add a tablespoon of the leftover cooking liquid or fresh water, if the potatoes stick or begin to scorch.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, adding water as necessary when the pan gets dry, until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer onions to the pan with the potatoes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the empty skillet and cook the eggs, 4 at a time, to your preference.

Place potato and onion mixture in the center of 4 plates and top each plate with 2 fried eggs. Garnish plates with sage leaves.

Baked Asparagus & Cheese Frittata

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound thin asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 10-inch pie pan or ceramic quiche dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, tapping out the excess.

Snap tough ends off asparagus. Slice off the top 2 inches of the tips and reserve. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch-long slices.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add water and the asparagus stalks to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes (the mixture should be very dry). Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add ricotta, parsley, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; whisk to blend. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, gently shaking the pan to distribute. Scatter the reserved asparagus tips over the top and sprinkle with cheese

Bake the frittata until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Winter Vegetables with Egg

You should figure about 8 ounces of roasted vegetables per serving.

For the vegetables:

  • Small carrots scrubbed and trimmed
  • Small parsnips, peeled and trimmed
  • Brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the mustard sauce:

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

One fried or poached egg per serving

Directions:

In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat oil, brown the vegetables and cook them until tender and caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl.

Add shallots to the skillet and saute until softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in olive oil and mustard; stir. Return vegetables to the skillet and mix thoroughly.

Top each serving of vegetables with a fried or poached egg.

Italian Eggs Over Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 12 slices (picture below)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Arrange polenta slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush tops of polenta with olive oil. Broil 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated and beginning to brown.

Bring sauce to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Stir in spinach; cover and cook for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Stir to combine.

Make 4 indentations in the top of the spinach mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with cheese.

Place 3 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 egg and one-fourth of spinach mixture.


Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its beauty, as well as its unique taste and texture. Eggplants belong to the plant family commonly known as nightshades and are kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

While the different varieties do vary slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and soft texture. In many recipes, eggplant fulfills the role of being a complementary ingredient that balances the surrounding flavors. Eggplant is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contains nutrients invaluable for good health.

eggplants range in all shapes and sizes/

Shahla Khan, a senior adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida, discusses myths and facts about this fruit.

Myth: Eggplant is a vegetable.

Fact: While it’s generally thought of as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit. The eggplant, aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash is a plant of the family Solanaceae. Eggplant is grown for its usually egg-shaped fleshy fruit and is eaten as a cooked vegetable. Some even consider it a berry.

Myth: Consuming eggplant causes insanity and can be poisonous.

Fact: Because eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, people thought the purple bulb variety was associated with the mandrake plant and was poisonous and, if you ate it, you would go insane. Some people also thought nightshade vegetables were harmful because they confused them with “deadly nightshade,” an inedible weed that’s also part of the Solanaceae family. Historically, deadly nightshade has been associated with witchcraft. When ingested in large amounts, it’s believed to cause convulsions or even death. But that has nothing to do with eggplant.

Myth: Eggplant always has to be salted before cooking to remove its bitter taste.

Fact: The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste. Salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit may soften and remove some of the bitterness. Some varieties of eggplant do not need this treatment, because they are far less bitter. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and the salting process may reduce the amount of oil absorbed.

Myth: Eggplant contains some unhealthful compounds.

Fact: The health benefits of this nightshade fruit far outweigh any risks. Eggplants contain many nutrients that are invaluable to health. Potassium, manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3 and B6, folate, magnesium and tryptophan, to mention just a few. In addition to those nutrients, eggplants are low in sodium, fat and cholesterol and one cup of cooked eggplant has about 30 calories. Eggplants also contain phytochemicals that enhance health.

Myth: When purchasing eggplant, the bigger the better.

Fact: Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Their seeds will be softer and they are less likely to be bitter. Eggplants are very perishable and get bitter with age. They should have firm, taut, smooth and shiny skins. Once the skin starts to wrinkle or you feel and see soft brown spots, the quality of the eggplant has lessened. Large, oversize eggplants may be tough, seedy and bitter.

Source: University of North Florida’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.

How to Select and Store

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. As you would with other fruits and vegetables, avoid purchasing eggplant that has been waxed. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Do not cut eggplant before you store it, as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf in the refrigerator.

If you purchase eggplant that is wrapped in plastic film, remove it as soon as possible, since it will inhibit the eggplant from breathing and degrade its freshness.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove the skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, grilled, roasted in the oven or steamed. If baking it whole, pierce the eggplant several times with a fork to make small holes for the steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 177 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 25 minutes, depending upon size. You can test it by gently inserting a knife or fork to see if it passes through easily.

Appetizer Course

Eggplant Picadillo

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped fine
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 – 16 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup sliced drained pimiento-stuffed green olives (5-ounce jar)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 small bunch parsley, stems discarded and leaves chopped

Directions:

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and bay leaves; saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant cubes; saute until cooked, about 4 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, except parsley. Simmer until picadillo thickens, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in parsley. Discard bay leaves. Serve with toasted pita or corn chips.

Lunch Course

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Servings: 4

This grilled-vegetable version of Eggplant Parmesan is much lighter than the fried kind.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick 
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing vegetables
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped oil packed Calabrian chiles or other hot chiles
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded basil, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. and heat a grill pan.

Brush the eggplant and tomato slices with olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Grill the eggplant in batches over moderately high heat, turning once, until softened and lightly charred, about 4 minutes.

Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until lightly charred but still intact, about 2 minutes. (This step can be done early in the day)

In a bowl, combine the olives, chilies and shredded basil.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the center, arrange half of the eggplant in a 9-inch square, overlapping the slices slightly. Top with half of the grilled tomatoes, olive mixture and cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, ending with the cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve with crusty bread.

Salad Course 

Pan-grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Salad

6 servings

Serve at room temperature to allow the flavors to merge.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggplants, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 4 small zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Mint leaves, to garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with 2 teaspoons salt and let stand in a colander for 30 minutes.

Mix together the oil, vinegar and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat a ridged grill pan over high heat.

Brush the zucchini with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the zucchini, turning once, about 3 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a large bowl.

Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the eggplants with olive oil and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini, add the dressing and mix.

Stir in the mint leaves. Let stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Side Dish

Broiled Eggplant with Pesto

 Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Large bunch of basil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 lemon, to serve

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in half, through the stalk. Using a small, sharp knife make a crisscross pattern across the cut surfaces to a depth of about 3/4 inch.

Brush with a little of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The flesh should be very soft.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, then remove from the skillet and cool.

Process the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste into a paste in a food processor. Add enough of the remaining olive oil to produce a loose-textured puree.

Mix in the cheese and spread the pesto over the scored surfaces of the eggplant. Broil until golden and bubbling. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Dinner Course

Stuffed Eggplant

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 ¼ cups grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, chopped

Directions:

Cut the eggplant in half and scoop out the center, leaving enough flesh inside the skin, so that it holds its shape when baked.

Chop the eggplant that has been scooped out of the inside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat and saute the eggplant until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and saute the onion, pepper and garlic until tender. Add to the eggplant in the mixing bowl.

Salt and pepper the beef. Add the beef to the pan and saute until all of its liquid is evaporated and the beef begins to brown slightly. Add to the vegetables in the mixing bowl.

Mix together the cooked eggplant, vegetables, beef, herbs, 1 cup of the cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the egg and season with salt and pepper.

Fill the scooped-out eggplant halves with this mixture, dividing it evenly between the two halves.

Top with the chopped tomatoes, the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs.  

Place in an oiled baking dish and bake for 50 minutes.

Let cool briefly; cut each half in two and serve.


Homemade Muffins are very easy to make. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and hand stir lightly. Usually, you only need to stir them about 12-15 times. The batter will be very lumpy but that is the way it should be. Homemade muffins are one thing you don’t want to over-mix. Pour them into greased muffin cups about 2/3 full. If you don’t have enough batter to fill all of the cups in the pan, you can fill the empty ones with water if you like. If you are adding nuts or fruit, mix them in with the dry ingredients before you add the liquids. This keeps them from all falling to the bottom of the muffin. Your muffins should come out with rounded tops and a light fluffy texture. 

You can achieve a different tasting muffin with the same batter by adding one of the ingredients below:

Bacon or Ham – add 1/2 cup chopped bacon or ham

Blueberries – 1 cup

Cherries or cranberries – 2/3 cup of cherries or cranberries, mixed with 2 tablespoons of sugar

Dried fruit – 1/2 cup apricots, currants, peaches, figs, prunes, raisins or dates

Nuts – 1/3 cup chopped

Cheese – 1/2 cup grated cheese and 1/8 teaspoon paprika

Cornmeal – 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup flour

Whole wheat – 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup flour. 

Tips for Making Healthy Muffins from Scratch

Decrease some (NOT ALL) of the fat. Usually just 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil or butter for each batch of 8 to to 12 muffins is enough to keep your muffins tender and moist.

Use whole wheat pastry flour. It’s much lighter than regular whole-wheat flour so it works better in muffins. Replace half the flour in your favorite muffin recipe for whole wheat pastry flour or another whole grain flour. Two favorites are oat flour, which you can make by grinding rolled oats in the blender or food processor and barley flour.

Replace 1/4 to 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable puree for the same amount of oil in your favorite muffin recipe. This will increase the nutrition, moisture, tenderness and natural sweetness of your muffins. Applesauce or pumpkin puree are good substitutes.

Add nuts that are high in omega-3 fats. Walnuts and almonds are good choices.

Mix together the dry ingredients well with a wire whisk or fork. Fluffing up the flour will help make your muffins more tender.

Mix the dry and wet ingredients together gently just until blended. Over mixing can make your muffins tough and/or heavy.

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of healthy additions. Berries, chopped fresh fruit, dried fruit pieces, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini and mini dark chocolate chips are all good sources of vitamins and minerals and extra fiber.

Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin cups. It’s much faster and neater.

Add water to any empty muffin cups in you muffin pan. To stop your muffin pan from buckling.

Don’t let the baked muffins sit in the pan too long. If you do, they will get soggy.

Muffins should be golden brown with slightly rounded bumpy tops. They are tender and light to fairly dense and moist inside and easy to remove from the pan. 

Turn your favorite quick bread recipe into muffins. Most any standard (9×5-inch) loaf of healthy quick bread can be made into 12 (2-1/2-inch) healthy muffins. Just evenly distribute the batter among the muffin cups and bake in a heated 375 degree F. oven until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean, somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes.

Basic Easy Healthy Muffin Recipe                    

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 20 to 30 minutes

Yield: 8-12 muffins

You can bake these muffins plain, add in a cup or so of your favorite fruit and adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste. If you like bigger muffins, distribute the batter among just 8 of the muffin cups instead of all 12 and pour 1/4 cup water into the empty cups to prevent them from buckling. These muffins call for a small amount of fat – just 3 tablespoons for the entire batch. Using any less can cause your muffins to have a rubbery texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1 cup milk, plus more if needed
  • optional additions below

Directions:

Adjust an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line the cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, milk and any optional ingredients (such as 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries).

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined and moistened. (The batter should still be lumpy and thick, but moist. If the batter seems too dry add a little more milk.)

Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes (30 minutes for larger muffins).

Remove from the oven and let the muffins rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely. Or enjoy them while they’re still warm.

Healthy Muffin Variations

Apple Cinnamon Muffins: Stir in one medium peeled and chopped apple with the milk and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the flour. Substitute packed brown sugar for the granulated sugar.

Banana-Nut Muffins: Decrease milk to 1/4 cup, stir in 1 cup mashed bananas (2 to 3 medium) and 1/3 cup chopped nuts with the milk. Substitute packed brown sugar for the sugar.

Blueberry Muffins: Stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries. 

Bran Muffins: Pour the milk on 1-1/2 cups whole bran cereal and let stand 10 minutes. Add this to the egg and oil along with 1/4 cup molasses. Decrease the flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 1/2 cup raisins if desired.

Buttermilk Muffins: Substitute buttermilk for the milk. Decrease baking powder to 1-1/2 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with the flour.

Chocolate Chip Muffins: Stir in 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips.

Corn Muffins: Do not use the whole wheat flour. Decrease flour to 1 cup and stir in 1 cup cornmeal with the flour.

Cranberry Muffins: Stir in 1 cup chopped cranberries and 1 tablespoon finely grated orange or lemon zest with the milk. Sprinkle the tops with sugar before baking.

Date Nut Muffins: Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates and 1/3 cup chopped nuts with the milk.

Oatmeal Muffins: Decrease flour to 1 cup (1/2 cup of each) and stir in 1 cup quick-cooking oats, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the flour.

Raspberry Muffins: Stir in 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest.

Spice Muffins: Stir in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and a pinch each of ground cloves and ground nutmeg with the flour.

Zucchini Muffins: Stir in 1 cup grated zucchini (squeezed dry to remove excess moisture) and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts with the milk.

Tips for Baking the Best Muffins

1) Most muffin recipes use the standard muffin method: mix your dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately, then combine them. It’s really important not to overmix the batter when you combine the wet and dry ingredients—mix only until just combined and all the flour just becomes moistened. The batter should remain lumpy! If you mix until the batter becomes smooth, your muffins will turn out tough. About twelve strokes with your mixing spoon or large spatula should be sufficient.

2) Be creative in your mix-ins! If you have a favorite blueberry muffin recipe, you can try adding blackberries, dried cranberries, or chopped apples in place of the usual blueberries. Experiment with adding different citrus zests or flavored extracts to muffin batter, or add chopped pecans, macadamia nuts or sunflower seeds. When you add mix-ins, toss them with a little bit of flour before quickly mixing them into the batter at the end (remember, not too many strokes when you do add them!). Tossing them with flour prevents everything from settling to the bottom of your muffins while they’re baking, so your ingredients will remain evenly distributed throughout the batter.

3) You can use any size of muffin pan with any muffin recipe. If you want to end up with mini or jumbo muffins instead of standard size muffins, note that mini muffin pans hold about 2 tablespoons of batter per cup, while jumbo muffin tins can hold up to one cup of batter. Remember to adjust baking time accordingly—the smaller the muffin, the faster it bakes. Expect to bake mini muffins for about 5-8 minutes less than regular muffins, or add 8-13 minutes to the standard muffin baking time when baking jumbo muffins.

4) Don’t fill the cups in your muffin tin more than 3/4 full of batter, or you’ll end up with very flat muffin tops. To get nice domed tops, fill them about 2/3 full. If you don’t have enough batter to fill up every muffin cup in your tin, put 2 to 3 tablespoons of water in the empty muffin cups to prevent the pan from warping.

5) To make cleanup a breeze, grease your muffin pan very well, and don’t forget to grease the top of your muffin tin, too—if any batter drips there or the baking muffins expand over the cups onto the top of the pan, it will make removing the muffins and cleaning the pan easier. Using paper muffin cups makes removing the muffins from the pan easy, and helps keep them fresh longer, too.

Sweet Potato Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Dry ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry or Kamut flour
  • 1/2 cup sweetener of choice
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried fruit, chopped or diced

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato (no peel), mashed and fluffed with a fork
  • 3 cups milk, non-dairy milk or other liquid, such as almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.

In another bowl, whisk wet ingredients together until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until mixed well. Let sit 5 minutes. Lightly stir the batter again.

With an ice cream scoop, divide the muffin batter into 12 muffin cups that have been greased or lined with paper cups.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until muffins test clean and done in the center. Let cool on a rack.

Ginger Pear Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup chopped, cored pear
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon oat bran
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking powder, the 1/2 teaspoon ginger and the salt. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and egg; add all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in pear and walnuts.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Combine oat bran and the 1/4 teaspoon ginger; sprinkle over muffins. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops are brown. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.

Buttermilk Corn Muffins

This savory muffin recipe is less sweet than most corn breads. The muffins are delicious as a side dish to soups or chili.

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon lower-fat stick margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, oil and margarine. Add buttermilk mixture and cheese all at once to flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Don’t over mix; batter should be slightly lumpy.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake about 15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.

Raisin-Carrot Muffins

Makes 16 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrot
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degree F. In a small bowl, combine raisins and boiling water; set aside. Coat sixteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray or line with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Make a well in the center.

In a small bowl, beat egg slightly; stir in buttermilk, brown sugar and oil. Add all at once to flour mixture; stir just until moistened (the batter should be lumpy). Drain raisins. Gently fold raisins and carrot into batter.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling each cup two-thirds full. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from cups. Serve warm.

Country-Style Blueberry Muffins

TOPPING:

  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter or margarine, cut into small pieces

MUFFINS:

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Directions:

To make the topping: In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

To make the muffins:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and stir until well mixed. Fold in the blueberries.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Top each muffin with 1 teaspoon of the topping. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.


 

From breakfast to dinner, squash can find a place on the menu.

Currently, the supermarket produce bins contain many types of squash: kabocha, butternut, hubbard, acorn, delicata, turban and spaghetti, to name just a few. How many of you walk right past the winter squash bin saying, “I don’t know what to do with that,” or “ Way too much work ! ” You are missing a great tasting vegetable and one that is extremely good for you. They are low in calories and high in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin and pantothenic acid.

The big winter squashes can be daunting if you don’t have a heavy-duty chef’s knife. The skin on a kabocha, while thick, is not particularly hard. Use a large knife to cut off big slices, which can be roasted without peeling for some recipes or peeled and cut into dice for others. If you need to dice the squash, cut off a big slice first, then cut that slice into manageable pieces. You can then cut it into thin slices, peel and dice.  

The following is a basic guideline on preparing all winter squash varieties. When choosing winter squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have a hard, deep-colored rind, free of blemishes. Another advantage to winter squash having such a thick skin is that they can be stored for longer than summer squash and do not require refrigeration.

How to Cook Winter Squash

(1 lb squash yields approximately 1 cup cooked)

1 or more whole winter squash

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Wash squash under running water and dry. Using a sharp knife or fork, pierce several holes in top of the squash near stem; you don’t have to worry about pricking it all over.

Place squash in a pan, not on a cookie sheet, because as it cooks, it may collapse and its natural water will seep out. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Smaller winter squash will be soft and visibly done, but depending on the size, it may take up to 2 hours for an 8 lb. squash.

After removing it from the oven, allow the squash to sit and cool completely. Then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy fibrous flesh that surrounds the hollow core. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.

Cooking Ideas

• Purée in food processor with light coconut milk, curry, and freshly minced and sautéed ginger and garlic.

• Add brown sugar, vanilla extract, and toasted walnuts.

• Add maple syrup and toasted almonds.

• Serve mashed with salt and pepper and a touch of real butter.

• Mix with prepared pesto and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

You can use either butternut or kabocha squash in the recipes below, although, the two are not identical in texture or flavor. Butternut is a denser, slightly sweeter squash, and kabocha has an earthier flavor. Kabocha squash absorbs flavors and is especially well suited for salads because of the way it absorbs tart dressings.

BreakfastButternut Squash Muffins, Diabetic. Photo by brokenburner

Winter Squash and Molasses Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, cut in large chunks
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly oil the foil. Brush the squash with a small amount of oil. Place on the baking sheet skin side down. Roast for 20 minutes and use tongs to turn the pieces of squash over. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes more, until the squash is soft enough that you can pierce the skin with the tip of a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then peel away the skin. Purée in a food processor or use an immersion hand blender. You should have about 1 cup of purée.

2. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.  Oil or butter muffin tins or use muffin cup liners, if desired.

3. Sift together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice and salt.

4. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Beat in the molasses, oil, buttermilk, puréed squash, and vanilla. Quickly beat in the flour and fold in the walnuts.

5. Spoon into the muffin tins and place in the oven. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until the muffins have risen and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 1 dozen large muffins.

AppetizerPicture of Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

Winter Squash Soup With Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 pounds peeled winter squash, like butternut or kabocha
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
  • 6 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 of a lime
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons plain yogurt

Directions:

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, garlic and minced ginger and cook, stirring, until the mixture smells fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Add the broth, the rice and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the squash is very tender.

3. Using a hand blender, or in batches in a regular blender, purée the soup. If using a regular blender, cover the top with a towel pulled down tight, rather than airtight with the lid. Return to the pot and heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If desired, thin out with a little more broth.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls and add a tablespoon of yogurt, then slowly swirl the yogurt into the soup with a spoon. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice onto each serving and sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Advance preparation: The soup will hold for several hours, in or out of the refrigerator. Proceed with Step 4 just before serving.

Lunch

Wild Rice with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Corn

Roasted Winter Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in small dice (about 3 cups peeled and diced, weighing 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil or substitute extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chives, tarragon
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 6-ounce bag baby arugula or spinach

Directions:

1. Rinse the wild rice. Bring the water or stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, add salt to taste and the rice. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, until the rice is tender and has begun to splay. Drain through a strainer, return to the pot and cover the pot with a clean dishtowel. Return the lid to the pot and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the squash in a bowl or directly on the baking sheet and toss with salt to taste, the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer and make sure to tip all of the liquid remaining in the bowl over the squash. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so that the squash browns evenly. The squash should be tender all the way through. Remove from the heat.

3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt to taste and mustard. Whisk in the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil.

4. Combine the wild rice, squash, herbs and celery in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Line a platter, individual plates or a wide salad bowl with the baby spinach or arugula. Top with the salad and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: This salad holds well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, without the arugula or spinach.

Side Dish

Roasted Beet and Winter Squash Salad

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds kabocha squash
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or put through a press
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, mint, tarragon, chives

Directions:

1.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the greens off of the beets and reserve for another use, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stems attached. Scrub the beets and place in a baking dish or ovenproof casserole. Add about 1/4 inch water to the dish. Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. If not using right away, refrigerate in a covered bowl.

2. Line another roasting pan with foil or parchment and brush with olive oil. Peel the squash and cut in 1/2-inch thick slices. Toss with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and salt to taste and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until lightly browned and tender. You can do this at the same time that you roast the beets, but watch carefully if you need to put the baking sheet on a lower shelf. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

3. Mix together the vinegars, garlic, salt, pepper, the remaining olive oil and the walnut oil. When the beets are cool enough to handle, trim the ends off, slip off their skins, cut in half, then slice into half-moon shapes. Toss with half the salad dressing. In a separate bowl, toss the roasted squash with the remaining dressing.

4. Arrange the beets and squash in alternating rows in the middle of the platter. Sprinkle on the fresh herbs and the walnuts. If desired, add crumbled feta. 

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: Roasted beets and squash will keep for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.

 

Dinner

Lasagna With Roasted Winter Squash

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds kabocha squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
  • 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (Use Wondra for instant mixing)
  • 3 cups low-fat milk 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles (or a little more, depending on the size of your lasagna pan)
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut the squash into big chunks, brush the exposed flesh with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender enough to be pierced through to the skin with a paring knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it, then cut away the skin and cut in thin slices. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

2. While the squash is in the oven, make the béchamel. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot or onion and cook, stirring, until it has softened, about 3 minutes. Whisk the Wondra flour and the milk together and slowly pour in to the pan with the shallot. Whisk and bring to a simmer. Cook,whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the sage.

3. Oil a rectangular baking dish. Spread a spoonful of béchamel over the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread a thin layer of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with half the squash. Season the squash with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with béchamel and Parmesan. Sprinkle the remaining sage over the top. Make sure the noodles are well coated with béchamel so they will soften during baking.

4. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until the top begins to brown. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Advance preparation: You can assemble this dish up to a day ahead and refrigerate, or freeze for a month. The lasagna can be baked several hours ahead and reheated in a medium oven.


Winter salads can’t rely on ripe tomatoes and delicate butter lettuce to make them shine. Instead hearty greens, salty cheese, dried fruit, and crunchy nuts are the flavorful ingredients that make winter salads delicious. Use the ideas below as a springboard to create your own winter salads.

Avoid the wilted lettuce mixes flown in from faraway places. Instead, select hearty greens, crunchy chicories, or crisp cabbage that flourish in winter. Many greens you may be used to cooking, chard and  kale in particular, are perfectly good for salads.

Hearty greens and chicories can handle a lot of flavor, Feta, goat, and blue cheeses are all great matches for winter salads—just crumble them on top. Olives—either whole pitted, or pitted and chopped—are also good additions.

 

Hearty greens and chicories have a lot of body and texture of their own, so feel free to add crunch to the dish. Nuts, croutons, slices of radish, pieces of fennel, slim coins of carrots—anything that will work your teeth and jaws just a little bit.

 

The slightly bitter taste of winter greens and chicories can be altered with a little bit of sweetness. Roasted beets are good to use, as are winter fruits like pears, oranges, kumquats or dates. Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or blueberries add texture and sweetness.

Like a Caprese Salad or Marinated Green Beans, summer salads don’t always involve leaves. Good winter salads don’t have to involve greens. Roasted beet salads, celery and red onion salads or lemony lentil salads are all examples of leafless salads.

Lunch or First Courses

Winter Citrus Salad with Honey Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 navel orange
  • Salt
  • 1/2 small red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • Lime or lemon juice to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried.
  • Arugula

Directions:

Peel citrus, removing as much pith as possible, and cut into segments. Remove any pits, layer fruit on a serving dish, sprinkle with salt and garnish with chopped onion.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasoning as needed and drizzle over salad.

Yield: 4 servings.

 

Apple-And-Zucchini Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (if not available substitute another vegetable)
  • Lettuce (whatever is in season)

Directions:

Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly, and shake vigorously.

Combine apple and next 3 ingredients; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Roasted Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds beets (gold beets are attractive if you can find them), stems removed and washed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeded and thinly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the beets with salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil, leaving a little hole in the top facing up, and set in a roasting pan. Cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes or until very tender.

Meanwhile, mix together the rest of the olive oil, red onion, Serrano, ginger, sugar, and red wine vinegar.

When beets are done and cool enough to handle, peel and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.

Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley.

Dinner Salads or Second Courses

Potato Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small uncooked red potatoes
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 pound green beans
  • 2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz seedless grapes, halved (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat; add salt and potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from water with a slotted spoon or strainer; set potatoes aside but maintain water’s boil.  Add green beans to boiling water and blanch until crisp-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, coat broiler rack with cooking spray; preheat broiler. Broil chicken five inches from heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 10 minutes; set aside. ( You can also use a stove top grill pan.

When chicken has cooled, slice into bite-size chunks; place in a large serving bowl. Slice potatoes into 1-inch chunks and cut green beans into 1-inch pieces; gently toss with chicken. Add celery and grapes.

To make dressing:

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice, broth and mustard; then, whisk in tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Drizzle in oil in a slow stream, whisking all the while, until dressing turns creamy, about 1 minute. Toss salad with dressing, taking care not to break up potatoes. If desired, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.

 

Tuscan-Styled Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and oil reserved
  • 15-oz can small white beans, (cannellini or great northern, rinsed)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons reserved tuna oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:

Combine tuna, beans, tomatoes, scallions, tuna oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir gently. Refrigerate before serving. Garnish with parsley.

What’s in the Refrigerator Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Rotini or Penne pasta
  • 4 cups mix-ins (see below)
  • Dressing: Herbed Vinaigrette (recipe follows) or
  • Homemade Buttermilk Dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Add desired mix-ins and half of dressing. Toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours; toss again before serving. Add additional dressing, as desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Suggested Mix-Ins:

Crisp-tender cooked vegetables: green beans, broccoli, asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, edamame, zucchini, yellow squash

Raw vegetables: shredded or sliced carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, avocado, spinach, radish, onions

Other: olives, cheese – shredded, crumbled or cubed, herbs

Meats: Salami strips, cooked chicken, cooked tuna and shrimp, crab, cooked salmon, grilled ham, leftover beef steak slices, prosciutto

Dressings:

Herbed Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley

Directions:

In small bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil. Whisk in mustard and garlic. Add herbs.

Makes 3/4 cup.

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt garlic and herb seasoning blend (Mrs. Dash)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Coarse-ground black pepper

Directions:

In small bowl, stir together buttermilk and mayonnaise. Add remaining ingredients; stir to mix well. Add additional buttermilk if needed for consistency. Let stand about 10 minutes to thicken or chill until needed.

Makes 1 cup.

 

 

 


You’re hungry, you just arrived home and you don’t have much food in the house. You can’t be bothered to cook and you want something that you can eat immediately. You need something more substantial than a yogurt or a mango, so what do you reach for? No, not the cereal, you need one of life’s most celebrated foodstuffs – the sandwich. But what makes a good sandwich?

Well, what is it?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard,  dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all and probably some additional factors.

But, the question I ask you is, ” what’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?”

Good ingredients (not necessarily specific ones either) which go together, moist spread(s) whether mayo or mustard or tomato based, a very good bread or roll but not as thick as the often illustrated sandwiches in food magazines. You must be able to get your mouth around it with ease and not make a mess in the process.

According to popular legend, the sandwich was invented by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, while gambling, told his butler to put some meat between two slices of bread so he could eat without interrupting the game and getting grease on the cards. Although the tale is almost certainly questionable because the first sandwich was probably made the day after bread was invented, but the earl did lend his name to this popular food.

At its simplest, a sandwich is two slices of bread enclosing a filling. It also is often a perfectly balanced meal, consisting of protein, vegetable, carbohydrate, often dairy and even fruit. My definition is somewhat broader: A sandwich is a filling enclosed in bread that can be eaten by hand. That definition leaves out such things as open-faced roast beef or turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy that must be eaten with a knife and fork.

My definition includes such things as wraps, tacos, Cornish pasties, empanadas and stuffed pitas — all of which can be held in one hand while playing cards.  So what makes a good sandwich for you?

Sandwich Ideas

Here is an international festival of quick-and-easy, absolutely delicious sandwich ideas that are a snap to make, travel well, and deliver satisfaction on outings of all kinds.

Recipes combine fresh seasonal vegetables and other unique ingredients—including leftovers—to make tasty and versatile treats great for lunchboxes, long hikes, or elegant romantic getaways for two!

Use these ideas as jumping-off places for your own creativity. And keep sandwiches in mind when you cook: Leftovers from the grill or the frying pan make great sandwiches the next day.

Peasant Loaf

Cut crusty bread or baguette in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil and fill with thin slices of Gruyere cheese, ham, a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves, mesclun salad greens, salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

Crunchy  Garden Rolls

Slice tender rolls in half, spread with light mayonnaise and fill with thinly-sliced radishes, thinly-sliced English cucumber, chopped scallions, watercress, and fresh or dried dill.

Hearty Tuscan Grill

Fill wholegrain bread or rolls with leftover grilled vegetables—bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, onions. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Mediterranean Bagels

Spread halved bagels with light cream cheese and hummus, thinly-sliced cucumbers, chopped lettuce and tomato, and toasted sesame seeds.

Red Pepper & Spinach Wrap

This makes a delicious, quick and easy lunch that can be made ahead of time.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese, plain
  • 1 10″ whole wheat tortilla
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 roasted red pepper, jarred
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, fresh
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/6 avocado, sliced

Directions:

Spread cream cheese evenly over tortilla. Layer spinach leaves over cream cheese.

Chop red pepper and fresh mushrooms. Layer on top of spinach.

Add scallion and avocado. Roll, and wrap in foil for easy packing.

Italian Tuna Melts

Servings: 4

The tuna melt is a decidedly American sandwich with an Italian twist.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 9 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls or 1 long ciabatta loaf, split lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 pound Robiola cheese or Mozzarella, sliced

Directions:

Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard until combined. Add the flaked tuna, chopped artichokes, chopped olives, sliced red onion and shredded basil and toss gently. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Using a pastry brush, brush the cut sides of the ciabatta lightly with olive oil and broil cut side up on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, until the ciabatta is golden and lightly toasted; rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Rub the garlic clove over the toasted ciabatta and mound the tuna salad on top. Cover with the sliced Robiola cheese and broil until the cheese is just melted, about 1 minute. Serve the tuna melts at once.

Tomatoes on Toast

If you don’t have Boursin cheese, you can use light cream cheese with some chopped fresh herbs mixed in. You will find the Boursin easiest to spread if it has been sitting at room temp for 10 minutes or so.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 slices of Italian loaf bread
  • Light Herbed Boursin cheese, about 2 tablespoons per slice of bread
  • 1 medium to large vine-ripened tomato
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1 Toast the bread.

2 While the bread is toasting, slice the tomato into 1/4-inch slices.

3 Once the bread is lightly toasted, spread one side with Boursin cheese. Top with a couple slices of tomato, overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a snack.

Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Pockets

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce package fully cooked chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound), cut into small florets
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces provolone, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds pizza dough, at room temperature
  • All-purpose flour, for the work surface
  • Cut-up vegetables and ranch dressing, for serving

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 425° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sausage, broccoli, bell pepper, and garlic with the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the broccoli is tender, 25 to 30 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the provolone, and toss to combine.

2. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch each piece into a 7-inch circle. Dividing evenly, spoon the broccoli mixture onto one side of each round (about ½ cup each), leaving a ½-inch border. Dot the border with water, fold the dough over to form a semicircle, and press firmly to seal.

3. Place the pockets on a parchment-lined large baking sheet and cut several slits in each. Bake the pockets until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the vegetables and ranch dressing.

4. The unbaked pockets can be frozen for up to 3 months. First freeze them on the baking sheet until firm, then transfer to freezer bags. To cook, bake the pockets from frozen on parchment-lined baking sheets at 425° F until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Tip

If freezing the pockets to cook at a later date, write the oven temperature and cooking time on the outside of the bag in permanent marker for easy reference.

Turkey & Tomato Panini

Some pickles and sweet potato oven fries can round out this meal. Thinly sliced roast beef can be substituted for the turkey in this Panini.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli turkey
  • 8 tomato slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, Parmesan, basil, lemon juice and pepper in a small bowl. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the mixture on each slice of bread. Divide turkey and tomato slices among 4 slices of bread; top with the remaining bread.

Heat a panini maker and cook sandwiches according to manufacturer’s directions.

If you do not have a panini maker then have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 panini in the pan. Place the medium skillet on top of the panini, then weigh it down with the cans.

 Cook the panini until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the panini, replace the top skillet and cans, and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with another 1 teaspoon oil and the remaining panini.


Grape Vineyard

The history of the grape is at least as old as the history of mankind. The earliest grape consumers were probably hunter/gatherers who included the wild fruit in their diet along with such savory delicacies as woolly mammoth and wild boar. Grapes didn’t remain wild for very long. Archaeologists tell us that grapes were, in fact, one of the earliest cultivated fruits on earth. The grape that became known as “vitis vinifera” originated in the Black Sea region and spread rapidly southward to the Middle East. According to the best estimates, grapes were being cultivated in Mesopotamia as early as 6,000 BC. From there, the vinifera grape spread eastward to Phoenicia and Egypt and by 2,000 BC, Phoenician sailors were ferrying grapevines across the Mediterranean Sea to Greece and many other countries in this region.

Wine making was a primary use for grapes from the beginning, but the ancient Greeks were the first civilization to make a serious practice of grape growing and winemaking. The Greeks even had a god of the vine – Dionysus (later Bacchus). Early efforts to make a drinkable beverage out of grapes were mixed. With no refrigeration, uncontrolled fermentation, and lack of proper sanitation, ancient Greek wines were, at best, an acquired taste. Because of spoilage, the thick, dark, and syrupy Greek wines were usually diluted with water and “flavored” with herbs, honey, white barley, and even grated goat’s milk cheese.

Roman wine-making

It was the Romans who refined the art of grape-growing and processing. They introduced pruning by knife and proper filtering and storage. The Romans also understood how much climate, soil, and pruning style could affect grape flavor. The art of grape-growing declined along with Roman civilization after 400 AD. Only the Catholic Church kept the practice alive through Medieval times, particularly the Benedictine and Cistercian abbeys of France and Germany. Their wines led to a gradual resurgence in wine cultivation.

As knowledge of plant biology, grafting, and hybridization expanded over time, so did the varieties of grapes and their uses. Soon there were “table” grapes grown especially for eating. Dessert grapes. Raisin grapes. And of course, the many varieties of wine grapes, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. However, it wasn’t until pasteurization and the pioneering work of Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch in 1869 that unfermented grape juice became a popular beverage.

The grapevine is a climbing arbor which requires a strong support for its growth. Grapes grow in clusters ranging from 6 to 300. They can be crimson, black, dark blue, pale yellow, purple, green or pink in color and contain natural sugar and dietary fiber along with potassium and iron. They taste sour when unripe because of the malic acid they contain. As the grapes ripen, the malic acid content reduces and they taste sweet. 

There are more than a thousand varieties, out of which only around 50 have commercial significance. Some of them are- Alicante, Barsana, Alphonse Lavallee, Calmeria, Cardinal, Catawba, Chasselas/Golden Chasselas, Concord, Delaware, Emperor, Hanepoot (Honeypot), Italia, Kishmish, Malaga, Niagara, Ribier and many more. Both red and green grapes are different species of grapes, which belong to the genus of fruits known as Vitus and are found in abundance, all over the world. Green grapes are also known as white grapes and wine made from either red or green grapes is extremely popular and consumed worldwide.

The question most frequently asked when comparing both these species of grapes – What is the difference between red and green grapes?

Red Grapes

The reddish black color of red grapes is due to the flavonoids, an antioxidant compound that it contains. Red grapes are known to have a number of health benefits due to the high content of nutrients, especially vitamins C and B, proteins, copper, anthocyanins, manganese and potassium, that it contains. It is also low in calories and high in the content of dietary fiber. A cup of red grapes will have just 61 calories which makes it an ideal snack, especially for those looking to lose or maintain their weight. Red grapes and red wine contain an important flavonoid, known as resveratrol, which imparts important health benefits, as explained further in the next section.

Green Grapes

They are the species of grapes that are available all year round and have a high nutritional value. They are rich in carbohydrates and vitamin C and vitamin K, low in calories, saturated fat and sodium and absolutely free of cholesterol. Flavonoid antioxidants known as Catechins are also present in the white or green grape species.

Difference between Red Grapes and Green Grapes

Most nutritionists and health experts would recommend consuming more red grapes than green grapes. The reason for this would be the high content of antioxidants red grapes contain, as compared to the green ones. Also, if we compare the calories, the latter contains a slightly higher amount of calories as compared to the former. Green grapes also lack anthocyanins, which red grapes contain in high amounts. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that have been shown in recent research studies to act as a “sunscreen”, protecting cells from high-light damage by absorbing blue-green and UV light.

As mentioned above, red grapes contain flavonoid antioxidants like Resveratrol, Catechins and Quercetin while green grapes contain just small amounts of catechins. Flavonoid antioxidants are what give red grapes their reddish-purple color and the darker the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoid antioxidants. Of these, Resveratrol and Quercetin are the most important antioxidant compounds and they have important health benefits which include lowering high blood pressure, prevention of heart related disorders and protecting good cholesterol. Resveratrol is known to aid the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and also has antifungal and anticancer properties.

However, since both are good for health and taste good too, why not enjoy the benefits of both rather than choosing one over the other.

Selection tips: Select grapes that are plump, full-colored, and firmly attached to their stems. Look for a slight pale-yellow hue on green grapes, while red grapes should be deeply colored with no sign of green.

Storage tips: Unwashed grapes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, although their quality diminishes the longer you keep them.

How to eat them: Remove grapes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to get them to their ideal temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Before eating, wash them thoroughly (most supermarket grapes have been sprayed with insecticide – you may want to buy organic grapes) and blot dry. Table grapes aren’t just meant for eating out of hand; you can use them fresh in salads, pies, or other desserts; or frozen, as a garnish or frosty snack.

Peak growing season: You can buy grapes year-round, although the North American versions (mostly from California) are only available from July to December.

Grapes Across The Menu

Breakfast

Grape Ricotta Breakfast Pizza

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. skim ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil on a 12-inch round pizza pan. Place dough on pan and turn to coat with the oil. Gently stretch dough to fit pan.

Scatter grapes on top of dough and sprinkle fennel over all. Bake in oven, rotating the pan halfway through, until dough is brown and grapes reduce in size, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper over all. Place tablespoons of ricotta evenly around the pizza.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Slice into eight wedges and serve warm.

Lunch

Arugula Salad with Shrimp and Grapes

4 servings (serving size: 2 cups)

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of white pepper

Salad:

  • 3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
  • 5 cups trimmed arugula
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

 Directions:

To prepare dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.

To prepare salad, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add shrimp; cook 1 minute. Add celery; cook 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; pat dry.

Place shrimp, celery, arugula, grapes, and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Top with cheese and walnuts.

Dinner

Cocktail

Italian Spritz Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • Ice Cubes (approximately 3 or 4 ice cubes)
  • 2 to 3 ounces Prosecco or any sparkling wine
  • 1 1/2 ounces Aperol*
  • Splash of soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, or Club Soda
  • Orange wedge or slice
  • Green Olive 

* Aperol is an Italian orange liqueur. It has become Italy’s most popular light spirit. Aperol Spritz is one of the lightest cocktails having only 7 to 8% alcohol by volume

Directions:

Fill a glass (white wine glass) 1/4 full with ice cubes (you want to chill the drink but not water it down). Pour in the Prosecco and then top with Aperol. Add the soda water. Stir gently until mixed.

Garnish with an orange slice a green olive.

Makes 1 serving.

Appetizer

Fresh Green Pea Soup with Grape Salsa

Ingredients:

 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups sweet onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cups fennel, chopped, fronds reserved
  • 3/4 cups leeks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 can (15 ounce) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 3/4 cups red seedless grapes, halved (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Make the soup: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the sweet onion, fennel, and leeks and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, lower heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for 5 more minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or you can use an immersion blender) and puree the soup until smooth. Add up to 1/2 cup water to thin. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill.

Make the Grape Salsa: Combine grapes, 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds, lemon zest, remaining salt, and pepper in a small bowl. To serve, whisk yogurt, 1/4 cup water, and lemon juice into the chilled soup. If necessary, thin with water to desired consistency. Serve soup cold, garnished with seasoned grapes.

Entree

Chicken Cutlets with Grape Shallot Sauce

Serve with brown basmati rice and Sauteed Greens

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian dried herbs
  • 4 chicken breast cutlets, trimmed of fat (about 1 1/4 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 cups halved seedless red grapes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Place flour in a shallow dish and add Italian dried herbs. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour (reserve excess flour). Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on the first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, turn the chicken and cook until the other side is golden, 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add grapes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 5 teaspoons of the reserved flour; stir to coat. Add wine and broth; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Return the chicken to the pan, turning to coat with sauce, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce on top.

 

Dessert

Roasted Red Grapes with Mascarpone and Rum

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. seedless red grapes, left on the stems and cut into small clusters
  • 4 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475°F.

In a large bowl, gently toss the grape clusters, 2 teaspoons of the honey, the oil, and the salt. Spread the grapes on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and roast, flipping halfway through, until collapsed, juicy, and somewhat caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the mascarpone, rum, zest, and remaining 2 teaspoons honey in a medium bowl.

Transfer the roasted grapes to serving dishes and serve warm, with a dollop of the sweetened mascarpone.


Parents start the year with the best intentions for lunchtime organization. This is going to be the year that we plan ahead, that lunches are healthy, that our mornings will be stress-free when it comes to getting out the door with well-rounded nutrition in hand. Then, about the third week in September, you find yourself stuck on a Thursday morning when your family has already eaten all of the week’s lunch supplies. You stuff Oreo cookies and Nacho chips in a plastic bag, make a jelly sandwich on the ends of the bread and throw a Hi-C juice box in the lunch box.

This is the year to turn it around. Get organized and skip the Lunchables and the pre-packaged chips and sugar-stuffed granola bars. Being organized can also mean saving money. By planning ahead, you can avoid resorting to expensive pre-packaged portions and instead fill reusable containers at the beginning of the week and have them at hand.

Organizing Tips

I recommend just planning one week at a time to keep things simple and lessen the chance of food spoiling or not getting eaten. Decide on what meals you want to have for the week, create a grocery list and go shopping.

Make lunches the night before. Please don’t save this task for the morning. You have way too much too much to do: dragging those sleepy-eyed kiddos out of bed, feeding them breakfast, brushing their teeth, gathering their backpacks and making sure you get them off to school on time!

Pick meals and snacks that are easy to prepare. Save the complicated meals for dinner time or for the weekends. The important thing is to make the lunches healthy.

Have designated containers that fit in the lunchbox, so you don’t have to dig around the Tupperware drawer at 6 AM trying to find a matching lid. After washing them, place them back in the lunchbox. Use BPA-free containers, to foster a more sustainable lifestyle for the whole family such as:

Organize your lunches

• Buy large packages of baked chips, baby carrots, low sugar canned fruit, cookies, etc., and create individual portions at home. Take time on Sunday to pack for the entire week.

• Use a shallow plastic storage container in the refrigerator to keep all your lunch supplies in one place — juice boxes, yogurt, cheese, fruit, cut vegetables, etc. These foods are off limits except for packing lunch.

• Try to cut down on sugar. Prepackaged foods like granola bars and some yogurts and drinks may seem like healthy choices, but you might as well be giving them cookies and ice cream. A healthy lunch sets the stage for a productive and successful afternoon. Plain yogurt has no added sugar, yet a 6-ounce container has about 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in the form of lactose. Fruit-flavored yogurt varies in the amount of sugar added, so it’s important that you read the Nutrition Facts panel. On average, the added fruit and sweeteners contribute about 14 grams of sugar, making the total sugars about 26 grams in a 6-ounce container.

• Let kids help! They are more likely to eat what they help prepare.

• Don’t worry about what anyone thinks. If your child loves the same lunch every day, give them the same lunch.

School Lunch Ideas                                                                                                                                                                                                   

As a former educator, I am well aware that nut allergies are a problem at most schools and nut products should not be sent to school. The majority of schools do not allow peanut butter, almond butter, nutella or any nut products or seeds. Here are some suggestions for school lunches that don’t include nuts or nut products:

  • Veggies – baby carrots, grape tomatoes and/or cucumber slices
  • Protein, such as, slices of lean ham, turkey or leftover meatloaf
  • Leftovers that taste good the next day, such as, pasta (especially if it has been prepared with pesto) or oven fried chicken from last night’s dinner
  • Fruit – apple slices + any seasonal or on-sale fruit, usually, grapes, kiwi, oranges, melon. Put some chopped fruit in a container with a lid and place it in the freezer the night before. It will be partially defrosted by lunchtime and will seem like a slushy.
  • Fruit combinations – mango and strawberries or watermelon with grapes
  • Bread -choose whole grain breads or crackers without nuts or seeds
  • Multigrain or whole-corn tortillas (for example, La Tortilla Factory) spread with reduced fat, flavored cream cheese and chopped peppers, or sliced turkey or chicken with thin slices of cantaloupe
  • Dessert – Homemade popcorn, pretzels, unsweetened applesauce or low fat chocolate pudding

Resource for more school lunch ideas: http://www.bentolunch.net/ which offers a collection of ideas from across the web, from simple embellishments on old standards — such as impressing pictures on sandwiches with cookie cutters — to elaborate lunch sculptures worthy of Food Network competitions.

Some Lunch Box Recipes

Alphabet Pasta Salad                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat alphabet pasta, stars, orzo or any shape your child likes
  • 1/2 cup vegetables (whatever your child likes, such as peas, broccoli, corn or green beans
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions (usually about 9- 10 minutes) and add vegetables during the last 5 minutes. Drain.

In a mixing bowl combine lemon juice, oil and seasonings with a whisk. Fold in pasta and vegetables carefully so as not to break up the letters.

Mix in cheese and tomatoes. Chill. Pour into individual lunch box containers.

Can be made up to two days ahead. Makes 2 cups.

Creamy Alouette Spread and Deli Turkey Wrap

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole wheat sandwich wraps or tortillas
  • 2 ounces light Alouette cheese spread
  • 2 ounces deli turkey slices
  • Cucumber, carrot and red bell pepper sticks

Directions:

Spread wraps with Alouette cheese. Place turkey on top of cheese. Place vegetable sticks on top of turkey. Roll up.

Pair mini muffins with yogurt or low fat cottage cheese, veggie sticks and cut up fruit. Store in the freezer and take one out for the lunch box when you pack the lunch.

Pumpkin Applesauce Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use all-purpose flour also)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degree. Spray a 24 cup mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, combine applesauce, canola oil, vanilla, and canned pumpkin. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are mixed through.

Using a small spoon or a melon ball scooper, scoop the muffin batter into the muffin tin. Only fill each cup 3/4 full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes rotating pan once halfway through cooking.

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mashed banana (2 small, ripe bananas)
  • 3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon. baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 24-cup miniature muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray.

Mix banana, yogurt, and vanilla in a small bowl.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat oil and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add egg substitute and beat until smooth.

Reduce speed to low and beat in one third of the dry ingredients, then half the yogurt mixture. Add another one third of the dry ingredients, then remaining yogurt, and remaining dry ingredients, beating until batter is just smooth. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Stir in chips.

Completely fill each muffin cup with batter. Bake on oven rack adjusted to middle of oven until golden brown, 12-14 minutes.

Set pan on a wire rack to cool slightly. Remove muffins to a cooling rack.

Easy Low Fat Chocolate Cookies

Make a batch of these cookies and freeze them so they will be handy and fresh for lunch boxes. They will defrost long before lunchtime in the lunch box.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce           
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light sugar alternative
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the applesauce, oil and egg substitute. Beat in sugars and vanilla.

Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add to applesauce mixture and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until slightly firm.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 in. apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle each cookie with a few chocolate chips.

Bake at 350° F for 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks.

Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen.



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