Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

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Away from the rolling hills, sweeping vineyards and expanses of the sunflower fields inland, on the Tuscany coast facing Elba Island where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his time in exile, perched high above the Baratti Gulf is the walled town of Populonia. The Populonia Bay is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy, a perfect fusion of nature and history. The Baratti Gulf and the Populonia cape have always attracted inhabitants. Today this area is the site of the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia (close to Piombino, in the Livorno Province). The town sits next to the archeological park which contains the remains of a huge Etruscan settlement. The park tells the story of the Etruscans, a group of people who had an important impact on this territory.

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Populonia is especially known for the wealth of Etruscan archaeology in the area and an impressive collection of artifacts unearthed from the surrounding area, from tools to helmets, weapons, casks and jewellery. Positioned on the summit of a hill for safety reasons, the Etruscans constructed a necropolis at the base to house their dead dating from the late Iron Age (600 BC). Populonia, the only Etruscan town built over the sea, was composed of two different parts: Populonia Akron, the acropolis, the upper part, where there were the temples and the public buildings. Populonia Polis, the lower part, situated close to the Baratti Gulf contained the port, where the main economic and artisanal activities took place.

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The Etruscans were very enterprising and traded with many people from the East. Iron-work was the main economic activity of the Etruscan and Roman civilizations. This region also contained other precious metals, like copper. The Etruscans would sail from the Baratti Gulf to Elba Island, where they would transform the hematite into iron. Because of the region’s economic prosperity immigration increased: people from Spain, Sardinia, Campania and Corsica came to Populonia hoping for a new life. The Etruscans also created a mint: they needed coin for their commercial exchanges and to pay the soldiers who were protecting the area. The coins were made in silver and bronze.

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Many archaeologists tried to discover the remnants of the Etruscan civilization, but they couldn’t succeed due to the terrain The first discoveries were objects found in fishermen nets and at grave sites The Archaeological Park stretches over almost 200 acres between the slopes of the Piombino Mountains and the Gulf of Baratti. The Park includes a significant part of the ancient town of Populonia and is spread over a vast area, which enables visitors to appreciate the transformation that has taken place over the centuries.

The wooded coast overlooks the archipelago and the silhouettes of the islands, including Elba and Corsica, create a picturesque scenes. This is the landscape of the 8th-9th Century B.C., when important houses were built on the Acropolis to accommodate the aristocracies of Populonia. These houses are the remains of the summit of the acropolis and from the beach area on the Gulf of Baratti, one can view the remains of Populonia.

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A network of roads join the houses and temples to the industrial city and the cemeteries which lie on the first hills surrounding the inlet. As in ancient times, the routes follow the original roads, crossing the woods and the scrub areas and opening up to unexpected views over the Gulf of Baratti and the open sea. The deep wooded areas contain the remains of the Benedictine monastery of San Quirico that tell of a lost city and the natural resources and minerals that were once part of the region.

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Inside the park one can walk along three paths: the “Iron Route”, the “Quarries Route” and a naturalistic path. The “Iron Route” goes through the areas where the Etruscan ovens used to be. Then, going up the hills, the ruins of the industrial district can be seen. The “Quarries Route” is a path where the Etruscans used to extract the “panchina stone”, that was used to build Populonia.

Inside the park is an experimental archeological laboratory and a museum that includes vases, precious jewels, bronzes, coins and graphic reconstructions of Etruscan landscapes and activities.

The Etruscans

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The Italians in Central Italy today are descendants of the Etruscans. Not only that, but the Italian language has its roots in the Etruscan language. The Etruscans revered women, so women and men were on an equal footing. The men were clean-shaven and were primarily sailors and merchants. They were also good sportsmen, warriors and skilled farmers.

The Etruscan hillsides were abundant with olive groves and modern potters continue the practice of decorating their ceramics with olives and olive leaves.

The Etruscans grew crops beside the grapes and olives and grew barley, millet, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas and spelt. They also grew beans, peas, garlic and onions, figs, melons, apples and berries.

They kept livestock, especially pigs, chickens, ducks and goats and hunted game from the surrounding forests, such as rabbits, deer and boar. Fish were taken from the rivers and the seas and they were making pasta with the use of a rolling pin.

The Etruscans ate two meals a day, enjoyed holding banquets and made good wine. Their culture and civilization was influenced by the Greek culture and they, in turn, influenced the Roman culture and, in turn, the Tuscan culture, as we know it today.

Etruscan food traced from archaeological findings and frescoes depicts food that is still eaten today. They used herbs like rosemary to flavor their meats, honey to sweeten desserts and they had utensils such as saucepans, pans, graters, pots, colanders, goblets and pitchers and beautiful dining plates. They baked and cooked over open fires and produced a variety of breads, one of which is still eaten today – flat grape bread. Wine was plentiful and stored in terracotta jars underground. It was strong and often drunk watered down. Today you will still Italians who drink wine diluted in this way.

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Grape Flat Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds seedless black grapes

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water. When the mixture foams, after 5 minutes, stir in a pinch of salt, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5-8 minutes until firm, smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it. Set the dough aside for about an hour to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9×13 baking pan. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Enough dough should hang over the edge of the pan to completely cover the top when folded.

Transfer the dough to the baking pan. Spread 3/4 of the grapes over it, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Fold the overhanging dough up over the grapes, covering them completely. Press lightly to seal. Scatter the remaining grapes over the dough, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake the bread until golden brown and the grapes are soft for about 45-60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

This Etruscans served this sauce over what is called bollito misto or mixed boiled meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoons capers (in vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed pickled vegetables (in italy you will find carrots-cauliflower in the jar)
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

Boil the egg and mash it together with the other ingredients – the mixture you will obtain should be smooth and fine. (Use a processor)

Place it in a bowl – add salt, pepper and start pouring in  olive oil until you obtain a creamy sauce.

Before using the sauce, let it rest for some time so that all flavors can blend in.

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Peasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb italian sweet sausage, links
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, cleaned, rough chopped
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil oregano and garlic, undrained
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in heavy 4 quart sauce pan.

Cut sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.

Brown sausage in pan until no longer pink.

Add onion and garlic and stir until softened.

Add spinach, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, beans and red pepper.

Heat to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Etruscan Pici

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Italian type 00
  • A generous 1 cup semolina  
  • Salt

For the sauce

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1⁄2 – 2/3 cup olive oil
  • Grated pecorino cheese, for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

To make the pasta, mix together the flour, semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gradually mix in enough water to make a firm, elastic dough. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in a clean dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Chop the hard-boiled egg with the garlic, parsley, basil and mint, then transfer the mixture to a bowl. Gradually drizzle in enough oil to make a fairly liquid sauce.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Unwrap the pasta.Taking a small piece at a time, rub it back and forth on the work surface (counter) with your fingertips until it resembles thick spaghetti.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil and cook and for 2–3 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, add to the sauce and toss well.

Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with grated pecorino and serve immediately.

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Guinea Fowl in Porcini

Ingredients

  • 1 guinea fowl, cut into 4 pieces
  • 8 small sprigs sage
  • 8 small sprigs mint
  • 4 slices pancetta
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 1⁄2 cups porcini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Stud the pieces of guinea fowl with the sage and mint sprigs and arrange a pancetta slice over each.

Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a casserole and add the guinea fowl. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a shallow pan with the garlic cloves.When the garlic begins to brown, remove with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the mushrooms, mint leaves and tomatoes to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Remove the guinea fowl from the oven, add the pieces to the pan with the mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the guinea fowl and mushrooms to a serving dish and serve immediately

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Piacenza is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza. Piacenza is located at a major crossroad between Bologna and Milan and between Brescia and Tortona. The city hosts two universities, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Politecnico di Milano.

Founded by the Romans, destroyed by the Goths and resurrected by medieval noble families, this elegant Emilia-Romagna city flourished due to its location on a natural commercial artery, the Po River. In this place, nature dominates among rocky spurs, hills strewn with vineyards and sceneries dominated by spires, towers and impressive fortresses. It is a land full of natural beauties, valleys and mountains, but also history and art. It is also an excellent example of Gothic-Lombardy architecture. This is also the main production area for Parma hams (almost all are produced here) as well as Parmigiano cheese and Colli di Parma wines.

The outermost roads and valleys have always been used as passageways and battlegrounds. This explains the presence of castles and strongholds here since ancient times. Some of them are open to the public but others are still occupied. The great number of medieval castles with their unmistakable shapes stand out all over the land: for example, the Fortress of Castell’Arquato and the castles of Gropparello, Paderna, Rivalta and Rocca d’Olgisio.

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The best preserved castle is Torrechiara. The castle is almost unchanged, since the 15th century when it was built by Pier Maria Rossi. Every room is filled with “grotesque” frescoes, where naked acrobats perform impossible feats of fantasy atop lions. In other rooms, fantasy scenes combining animals, plants and people are strung out over every surface.

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Rocca d’Olgisio is set in the rock and presides over the valley of the Tidone. It is one of the oldest and most striking strongholds in the Piacenza area, surrounded by 6 rows of walls. It was built in the eleventh century and, after several owners, it changed hands in 1378 from Gian Galeazzo Visconti to Jacopo Dal Verme, the valorous winner of the Battle of Alessandria against the Florentines.

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Castello di Corticelli is in the municipality of Nibbiano and the little fortress has belonged to the Arcelli Counts for centuries. It was first mentioned in 1028. Originally the fortress may have been made up of just two towers (now the layout is quadrangular) surrounded by a moat and walls that enclose an oratory and several rural houses within, which are built in stone and are still standing.

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The Castle and Fortress of Agazzano was first built in the 1200s for purely military purposes (round corner towers, drawbridges) with a loggia added by Luigi Gonzaga. Next to the fortress there is an eighteenth-century villa. The contrast between the two buildings that make up this architectural complex adds to its charm. The walls of the large rooms of the villa contain furnishings from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Particularly noteworthy are the ceramics and porcelain pieces. The French-style garden, with its statues and fountains, is from the end of the eighteenth century, when Luigi Villoresi, director of the park of the Royal Villa in Monza, assisted in its design.

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The Castle and Village of Rivalta is mentioned in documents as early as 1048 and in the fourteenth century it passed into the hands of the Landi family, who still own it today. It is an impressive residence surrounded by a magnificent park and among its frequent visitors there are members of the English Royal family. It stands out for the unmistakable and unique profile of its turret. The large reception room, dining room, kitchen, cellars, prisons, bedrooms, tower, armory, gallery, billiard room and museum of military costumes are all open to the public. The castle also has 12 luxury rooms in the village, if you want to stay the night.

Some of the folklore that exists around these structures are:

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One of the most famous in the region is the Bardi Castle and it was the setting of a romantic love story between lady Soleste and Morello, one of her young and more valiant knights, whose ghost apparently still visits the place.

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According to legend, the fairy, Berna, elected Montechiarugolo Castle as her home. People say she appears to young brides on the night before their wedding day to give them all the advice they need.

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Far more unsettling is the story of Lady Cenerina, who was brutally murdered in 1573 at Soragna Castle. Her ghost still haunts the place and her presence is felt by the family whenever something awful is about to happen.

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Another haunted place is Grapparolo Castle where Rosania was imprisoned by her jealous husband. Her laments and wails can still be heard on stormy nights.

Supposedly, the ghost of Count Pier Maria Scotti can be seen and heard at Agazzano Castle. The unlucky nobleman was stabbed to death by a group of traitors who wanted to get hold of his fortress.

The Cuisine of Piacenza

Piacenza and its province are known for the production of seasoned and salted pork products. The main specialities are pancetta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck, containing less fat than pancetta, matured at least for six months) and salami (chopped pork meat flavored with spices and wine that are made into sausages).

Bortellina (salted pancakes made with flour, salt and water or milk) and chisulén (a torta fritta made with flour, milk and animal fats mixed together and then fried in hot clarified pork fat) are then paired with pancetta, coppa or salami and Gorgonzola and Robiola cheeses.

Among the culinary specialties of the region are mostarda di frutta, consisting of preserved fruits in a sugary syrup strongly flavored with mustard and tortelli dolci or fruit dumplings, that are filled with mostarda di frutta, mashed chestnuts and other seasonings.

Turtéi, a similarly named Piacentine specialty, is a type of pasta filled with either squash or spinach and ricotta cheese. Pisarei e fasö is a mixture of handmade pasta and borlotti beans.

Piacentine staple foods include corn (generally cooked as polenta) and rice (usually cooked as risotto), both of which are very common across northern Italy. There are also locally produced cheeses, such as Grana Padano.

The hills surrounding Piacenza are known for their vineyards. The wine produced in this area is qualified with a D.O.C. (Denominazione di origine controllata) and is called “Colli piacentini” (“Hills of Piacenza”). Some of the other local wines are Gutturnio (red wine, both sparkling and still), Bonarda (a red wine, often sparkling and foamy), Ortrugo (a dry white wine) and Malvasia (a sweet white wine).

Recipes From Piacenza

piacenza01 Piacenza Cold Tomato Soup

Serves 4

  • 10 large tomatoes
  • A bunch of parsley, chopped
  • A bunch of chives, chopped
  • 6-7 basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, a few drops
  • Croutons for garnish

Directions

Blanch the tomatoes for one minute, peel, seed and purée them in a blender. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, the fresh garlic without its core, the oil, salt and pepper. Let it marinate for a few hours at room temperature. Remove the garlic and process the mixture in the blender, again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a few drops of Balsamic Vinegar. Place in a covered serving bowl, refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve garnished with croutons.

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Piacenza-Style Tortelli

For Pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 5/8 lb spinach (about 3 cups, packed)
  • 7 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Nutmeg
  • Butter
  • Salt

Directions

To prepare the filling:

Cook the spinach, drain, squeeze and chop. Mix together with the ricotta cheese, then add the one egg, cheese and a little nutmeg.

To prepare the pasta:

Sift the flour onto a pastry board, make a well in the center and add the eggs, 3 tablespoons water and the salt and mix well. Add the extra water, if the dough seems a bit dry. Roll out into a thin sheet, divide it into strips about 3.2 inches wide and make as many small squares measuring 1.6 inches that you can.

On each of these put a dollop of filling. Fold the pasta to make either a triangular shape  or a ravioli shape and seal the edges.

Cook the tortelli in boiling salted water.

Drain and serve dressed with melted butter and a generous helping of grated cheese.

piacenza0 Chisolini  (Fried Dough)

The chisolini can be served with various ingredients such as Parmigiano cheese, prosciutto, salami, etc. An easy way to eat Chisolini is to put the meat and cheese in the center of the rectangle and fold it in half. They can also be eaten for breakfast with coffee and milk.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce pork lard
  • 1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (5/8 cup) tepid water
  • Oil for deep frying

Directions

Put the flour onto a working surface and make a little well. Put the pork lard in the center of the well, then add the salt to the flour and finally dissolve the yeast in the water before adding to the flour. Mix everything together using your hands and knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Once the dough is ready, put it into a container and cover with a kitchen cloth. Let it rise for a couple of hours. After two hours the dough should have doubled its size. Spread a bit of flour onto the working surface, so that the dough will not stick to it when rolled out. Turn the tough out onto the floured surface.

Using a rolling-pin, make a large disk roughly 5 mm (3/16″) thick. Then, using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into rectangles, about 10 x 8 cm (4″ x 3 1/4″). Don’t be worried, if you get some with different sizes, like 10 x 6 cm (4″ x 2 1/2″) or 10 x 7 cm (4″ x 2 3/4″); it will work, with whatever shapes are cut.

Fill a Dutch oven halfway with oil and heat to 180-190°C (355-375°F). When you drop the rectangles, one at a time, into the hot oil, you will see that it will stay in the bottom of the pan for just few seconds, then it will float and after few seconds again, it will inflate. Then, fry each side until they are golden. Usually, it takes 30-40 seconds per side, if fried at 190°C (375°F), but it could be less, if the temperature of the oil goes up, so look for the golden color rather than going by the time.

Fry all the rectangles and put them into a large container with a tight-fitting lid.

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Chicken or Rabbit Piacenza-style

Ingredients

  • 1 Chicken or Rabbit, cut into 8 or 10 parts
  • 2 ounces lard or shortening without trans-fats or oil
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 onions (medium size – thinly sliced)
  • 1 celery stalk (thinly sliced)
  • 3 1/2 ounces crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Directions

Put the chicken or rabbit parts into a large bowl filled with cold water. Add the vinegar to the water, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. After about an hour, take the bowl out of the refrigerator, discard the water, rinse the chicken or rabbit parts and pat them dry.

In a large sauté pan with a cover, melt the lard together with the butter over medium-high heat. When the fats start sizzling, add the onion and the celery to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken or rabbit to the pan. Cook on each side for a few minutes until lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and stir until evenly distributed around the pan. Add the wine to the pan and stir. Then, add the chicken broth. Season with salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 1 hour, turning the chicken or rabbit every 20 minutes.

Finely chop the parsley and garlic together and add to the pan. Stir and continue cooking for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Uncover the pan and cook 10 minutes more to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency.

Plate the chicken or rabbit and serve with polenta in the Piacenza style.


lunchtime

The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

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Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

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Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

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Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

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Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

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Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.


piegaro

In 1292 the rulers of Venice decreed that all glass blowing was to move to the island of Murano, as this was a way to protect the city from burning from the glass workshops. The artists became virtual prisoners to their craft as the Venetians attempted to keep a monopoly on glass making and the blowers, under pain of death, were kept permanently on the island.

However, aided by local monks, two craftsmen did manage to escape and traveled south to Piegaro, near the shores of Lake Trasimeno.  The sturdy walled town was an ideal place to establish their own furnaces and glass making business. The wood from the local forests and sand from the bed of the River Nestore gave the men all the natural resources they needed. They soon gained a reputation for producing quality glass and in 1312 their services were called upon to make the glass tiles used in the glass mosaics of the facade for Orvieto’s new duomo. The glass workers were famous and creating mosaics and stained glass windows for many cathedrals.  Over time the glass industry in Piegaro grew and, by the 15th century, there were a number of small glass studios within the walls of the town. As the town’s fame and popularity increased they saw the creation of a large industrial sized factory, that today is the Museo del Vetro, Glass Museum. Here mechanised presses and automated annealing ovens were built to produce bottles, goblets and flasks on an industrial scale.

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There was also a profitable industry in producing the classic wicker based bottles, famously used for Chianti wines. Many women were employed within the town to weave the bases giving the bottles their distinctive raffia style.

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This glass works continued until the beginning of WWII when it was occupied by German soldiers.  This was a sad time in the history of Piegaro, for when Germans left, the beautiful Comune Palazzo building was mined and destroyed. Glass work continued through the efforts of the Marchesa, who lived in the Palazzo Pallavicini Piegaro, by making the remaining glass factories into worker owned cooperatives.

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Despite modernisation in the 20th century, by the 1960s the factory was proving to be inadequate for the levels of production necessary and a new premises built in the valley. Finally in 1968 the 750 year history of glass making with in the town center came to an end as the furnaces were shut down and left to cool.

The Annual Sagra della Castagna, The Chestnut Festival.  Chestnuts are roasting in every piazza, food booths offer Torta al Testo, chestnut pastries and the first wine, Mosto, barely fermented.  Full course feasts, pizza, music every night with dancing and theater performances fill the ten days of celebration.  Traditional crafts booths of straw weaving, jewelry making and glass blowing offer shopping opportunities.

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In August, travel back time to medieval days for the il Giorni del Vetro: Days of Glass Festival.  Don a medieval costume, join in the Royal Corteo and follow the drummers in a procession through the narrow cobblestone streets. This day honors Piegaro’s heritage and fame as a glass making capital of Italy, that is just as important as Murano.  Three days of festival with music, food, glass artisans working their craft and booths of glass art and jewelry.

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The Cuisine of Piegaro (Umbria) Italy

Having no access to the oceans has limited Umbria cooking to land based food, but the variety of dishes is no less plentiful for it.  Many of dishes rely on vegetables.  Locally grown lentils, cardoons, porcini mushrooms and chestnuts are important staple foods. The region’s olive trees are responsible for making some of the best olive oil in Italy.

Fresh produce and fruity, local olive oil, wild greens, mushrooms and truffles create luscious dishes without the need for additional ingredients.  White truffles are a delicacy eaten fresh in this cuisine.  Norcia provides most of Italy’s black truffles.  Recipes use truffles to elevate the plainest egg, pasta or meat dishes to a gourmet meal.  They are also made into a paste with garlic and anchovies.

Shepherding is important to the local economy, so sheep’s milk cheese is an important staple food.  Unlike most of Italy where Pecorino cheeses are aged in salt, Umbrian cheeses may be rubbed with tomato paste or buried in ashes in terracotta urns to age.  Some cheeses are aged in cool natural caves.  Each of these aging methods gives a unique texture and flavor.  Generally cheese is eaten plain or with preserved vegetables or meats, fresh fruits or simply out of hand with a glass of wine.

The local lentils are of especially high quality.  Fava beans are used to make a hearty soup seasoned with pork rinds and rosemary.  Onion soup is flavored with tomatoes, salt preserved pork, fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Freshwater fish are available and they are often made into a mixed stew called tegamaccio.   Anguille alle brace marinates freshwater eels in white wine seasoned with pepper and bay leaves before grilling.

Poultry, wild game and roasts are cooked over pans filled with herbs.  The drippings are collected and made into a sauce after the meat is finished cooking.  Chianina beef,  lamb, wood-pigeon and free range chickens are commonly eaten.  Boar and hare are especially enjoyed and Lepre alla cacciatora braises hare in red wine and is flavored with garlic, sage and bay leaves.

Norcia is well-known for the quality and variety of their cured pork products.  Over time, Norcia has come to be the general Italian term for butcher, due to the quality of the meats from this area.  In addition to the salame, they produce mazzafegati, a pungent sausage made from liver and flavored with pignolis, raisins and orange rind. Porchetta and Prosciutto di Norcia.from Umbria are very highly prized.

Dried pasta and many handmade kinds of egg pasta are eaten in Umbrian cuisine.  Tagliatelle with meat sauces are popular.  Hand rolled ciriole and stringozzi look somewhat like the more familiar spaghetti.  These are often enjoyed with a fresh sauce of black olives, tomatoes and garlic.  Spaghetti alla norcina is served with black truffle sauce.

Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio.  Tore, springy pecorino or pork rind flavored breads, are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough. Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.

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Fettuccine With Black Truffle Sauce

Ingredients

12 oz fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 anchovy fillet, mashed
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 medium Umbrian black truffles, (or any black truffle you can get), cleaned of soil, grated
6 quarts water

Directions

While pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over very low heat.
Sauté the crushed garlic for 2 minutes. Do not let it brown. Remove the garlic.
Add the anchovy, cooking gently, crushing it to a paste with a wooden spoon.
Add the truffles and heat through.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Immediately mix in the truffle sauce. If you prefer the sauce moister, or it seems too dry, add one tablespoon of the reserved liquid at a time till desired moistness is reached.

Serve on pre-heated plates.

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Pork Roast Braised with Milk

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied
3 juniper berries (see note, below), crushed
2 large rosemary sprigs
2 large sage sprigs
4 dried bay leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups whole milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack in the middle.

Heat oil in a wide 5 to 6 quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then lightly brown roast on all sides with juniper berries and herbs, 8 to 10 minutes total. Add garlic and sprinkle roast with sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then cook until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Pour wine over roast and briskly simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast and bring to a bare simmer.

Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk will form curds), 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer roast to a carving board and loosely cover. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (discard solids), reserving pot, and skim off fat. Return juices to pot and boil until flavorful and reduced to about 2 cups. Season with sea salt and pepper. Slice roast and serve moistened with juices.

Notes:

Juniper berries can be found in the spice aisle at supermarkets.
Pork can be braised 1 day ahead and chilled in liquid, uncovered, until cool, then covered. Bring to room temperature, then reheat and proceed with recipe.

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Asparagus, Peas and Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound shelled fresh peas (2 1/2 cups; 1 3/4 pound in pods) or 1 (10-ounce) package thawed frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Handful of torn basil leaves (about 3/4 cup)

Directions

Cook shallots in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes.

Stir in asparagus, peas, sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then seal skillet with foil. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender but still slightly al dente, about 8 minutes.

Stir in basil and sea salt to taste.

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Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

Ingredients

10 firm-ripe large apricots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons), crumbled (1/3 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts (if using). Serve warm or at room temperature.


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Research shows that not all fats are created equal in terms of their health effects. For heart health, you should get the majority of your fat from monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat (especially the omega-3 kind), consume less saturated fat and strictly limit trans fat because it tends to raise blood cholesterol levels. In fact, manufactured trans fat is the worst fat for your heart and, yet, it is still out there in some packaged foods.

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the richest sources of monounsaturated fat, which has long been known to help improve cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. But that’s not all. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help fight inflammation, high blood pressure and cancer.

Look for extra virgin olive oil, which, unlike other olive oils, has not undergone refinement that strips the oil of some flavor, phytonutrients and other beneficial compounds. Compare “best by” dates on oils and choose the furthest date, which suggests it’s fresher and more likely to contain higher levels of antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in low to moderate heat cooking; it’s generally stable up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also perfect for dipping, salad dressing and sauces.

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

Similar to olive oil, more than 70 percent of the fats in avocado oil are monounsaturated, plus it naturally contains beneficial antioxidants, including lutein, that is important for eye health. You’ll get the best flavor, aroma and nutrition in unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oil, which is mechanically rather than chemically extracted. Extra virgin avocado oil can take the heat a little better than olive oil, tolerating temperatures up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, although this may vary a bit with the variety of avocado used. Avocado oil’s buttery, nutty flavor is also perfect when drizzled on steamed vegetables or grilled asparagus. Fresh avocado slices are good on sandwiches in place of mayonnaise.

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

Most tree nuts—including macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios—contain more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than any other type of fat. Plus, studies suggest eating nuts regularly may help reduce the risk of major diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as boost longevity.

Try a variety of whole, raw, dry-roasted nuts, natural tree-nut butters and nut oils. Some nut oils and nut butters, such as almond, are easier to find and are less expensive than others, such as macadamia and pecan. Delicate nut oils are less heat-stable than other oils. Unrefined nut oils are best used in salad dressings and dips, drizzled over roasted vegetables or tossed with whole grain pasta and herbs.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory and heart-health benefits. Research is not clear, however, on whether supplements can provide all of the benefits of eating fish regularly. Buy oily seafood that is rich in omega-3s but low in mercury, such as salmon, Arctic char, Atlantic mackerel, sardines, Pacific oysters and halibut, herring, mussels and anchovies. In general, aim for at least two 4-ounce servings of oily fish per week (which equates to about 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily).

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Italian Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 small head of radicchio—halved, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tender celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably Sicilian
  • 8 peperoncini
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (1 cup)

Directions

In a large salad bowl, mash the garlic to a paste with a generous pinch of salt. Whisk in the vinegar and oregano, then whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve.

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Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe, fresh California or Florida (large) avocados, seeded and peeled*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coarsely mash (DO NOT PUREE) avocados.
Stir in vinegar.
Fold in remaining ingredients.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller size avocados, adjust the quantity accordingly.

Guacamole is best made as close to serving time as possible. For short-term storage, seal in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole.

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Fettuccine with Sardines

Serve with a salad of bitter greens tossed with Italian vinaigrette and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fettuccine (whole wheat works well in this recipe)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Two 4 ounce cans boneless, skinless sardines, flaked
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant and sizzling but not brown, about 20 seconds. Transfer the garlic and oil to a large serving bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until crispy and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and transfer to a plate.

Whisk lemon juice, tomato paste, pepper and salt into the garlic oil in the serving bowl. Add the pasta to the bowl along with sardines and parsley. Gently stir to combine.

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

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Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh salmon or any omega 3 fatty fish, about 1/2 inch thick
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or nuts of choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 small red and/or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 large zucchini, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, bias-sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 pieces; set aside.

Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil. Coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.

In a shallow dish, stir together cornmeal, nuts and salt.

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

Dip each piece of fish into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Dip fish into egg mixture, then into the nut mixture to coat. Place in the prepared pan.

In a large bowl, combine peppers, zucchini and squash. Add oil and seasoned salt; toss to coat. Arrange vegetables next to the fish, overlapping as needed to fit.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

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Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds, blanched
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds (about 4-5) red plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Grind almonds, garlic and herbs in the food processor. Add the oil, gradually. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the tomatoes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.


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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Gallipoli (beautiful town) is a village of 20,969 inhabitants in the province of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy, in the heel of the boot. It is located by the Ionian Sea and is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century. It’s a picturesque town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks coming from the sea. The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522, the eastern wall was added. Extending out into the sea, the impressive and majestic Castle remains a focal point of Gallipoli, as does the Cathedral in the town center. Started in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th, the Cathedral, with its decorative facade and Baroque interior, was built in honor of Saint Agata.

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Once an important fishing center; it feels more like a working Italian town, rather than what it is – a resort region. The attractive port is still used by fishing boats and one will see fishermen mending their nets and houses decorated with fishing baskets. Restaurants serve fresh seafood and sea urchins are a specialty of Gallipoli. Gallipoli has a mild climate and can be visited year-round but the main season is May through October, when the weather is almost always hot and clear. There are celebrations and festivals for Easter Week, Carnival (40 days before Easter), Sant’ Agata in February and Santa Cristina in July.

Gallipoli4

Gallipoli7With its labyrinth of narrow streets and churches, palazzi and structures, Gallipoli’s history and mix of different influences and cultures is apparent. Strolling through the old town, it’s impossible not to be facinated with the charming alleys and courtyards that greet one at every turn. There are many places of interest in the city, beginning with the Greek-Roman fountain (III Century BC) above photo, which one will see after crossing the bridge that divides the new city from the old.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

There was a time when oil was as valuable as gold and the subterranean cisterns of Gallipoli were full of it. We are talking about lamp oil, needed to light the chandeliers in palaces and aristocratic mansions or transformed into soap for the great ladies of Paris. Apparently from the by-products of Gallipoli’s oil mills the famous “Marseilles kitchen soap” was made.

The oil from Gallipoli was the best in the Mediterranean and the most popular. From the 17th to the 19th century ships crowded the port of Gallipoli,  loading precious liquid that reached the seaports of Northern Europe and Russia. That was because this oil, thanks to its purity, was the only one allowed to burn along with incense in front of the statues in the Moscow orthodox churches.

Even the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg was only lit with the lamp oil from Gallipoli, which made less smoke as compared to other oils and gave more sheen in the vast salons. The Czarina, Catherine, sent envoys to try and discover the secret. The secret, yes olive oil, had its origin in the ancient Gallipoli subterranean oil mills that did not depend just on the quality of the olives, but also, on the stone in the cisterns, in which the oil was often stored for long periods. The carparo (tuff) stone filtered the oil, giving it a special pureness. Many historians believe that the rough stone in these ancient subterranean oil mills blended the olive oil with the saltiness from the sea below to give it its uniqueness..

In the old town center there once were about thirty oil mills. It was not only the production of olive oil (which in the 19th century employed about 8,000 workers from October to May) that had developed, but also a number of satellite activities, such as the production and marketing of casks, whose wood was aged in salted water so as to make it more resistant and ideal for long voyages. A rich class of craftsmen and traders established themselves, which made possible investments in the restructuring and building of new churches. A donation of the “dockers” was the church of Santa Maria della Purità and the lamp oil trade gave the town of Gallipoli an international atmosphere. The ships that loaded oil brought to the town a variety of goods, which even came from America, England, France, Germany, Venice and Trieste, trays from Sheffield, Limoges porcelain, glasses from Murano, cheese from Bavaria and foreign wines.

All European languages were spoken on the quays of Gallipoli and merchants and consul authorities abounded, with the British playing a leading role. The trade of lamp oil was controlled from London and a number of families related to the industry moved to the area to oversee the oil trade. This can explain why in the region, even today, one can find the descendants of numerous families with English surnames and that the relations between the United Kingdom and this far corner of the boot have been close throughout the centuries.

Gallipoli

The Cuisine of Gallipoli

Gallipoli3

Friselle Bread and Tomato Salad

Friselle are ring-shaped rolls, similar to bagels. They’re partially baked, removed from the oven and divided into two halves, which are returned to the oven and allowed to bake until done, then dried completely.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wheat friselle
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 4 basil sprigs
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the Friselle for a couple of minutes in a bowl of cold water before using. Drain and break them into chunks. Place in a serving bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, basil and oregano and mix well. Season with a generous pinch of salt and dress with the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to eat.

Gallipoli5

Mussels au Gratin

Cozze al gratin is a classic dish from this region. It’s easy to make, especially if you buy pre-cleaned mussels.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds live mussels, washed and purged
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, add 1 clove of peeled garlic.

When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the mussels open, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When cool, remove the half-shells without mussels and discard.

Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil, the minced parsley, 1 minced garlic clove and the crushed red pepper. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spread the mixture over the mussels, put them in a low-sided oven-proof dish, drizzle the remaining oil over them and bake them until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.

Gallipoli0

Ciceri e tria (Tagliatelle with Chickpeas)

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, celery and garlic and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover the mixture with ample water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the chick peas soften.

Add the fresh pasta simmer until the pasta is cooked. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in pasta bowls.

Gallipoli6

Gallipoli-Style Swordfish

Ingredients

  • 4 swordfish fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions

Combine the herbs with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Rub some olive oil on both sides of the swordfish, then dredge in the breadcrumbs to coat them well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the fish, about ten minutes per side. Serve with the orange slices on the side.

Gallipoli11

Sesame Seed and Olive Oil Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Beat the egg with the sugar, honey, vanilla and olive oil. In another bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.

Use a rubber spatula to stir the liquid mix into the dry one, then use your hand to mix until you have a smooth ball of dough.

Roll it out roughly between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Then cover with sesame seeds.

Place the cookies onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and prick them with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool a couple of minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool further.



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