Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Quick meals

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Things that are fun in the summertime: going to outdoor concerts, attending fairs and festivals, walking in the park and relaxing at the pool. Something that’s not fun in the summertime: spending time cooking, especially in front of a hot stove. Here are a week’s worth of healthy recipes you can make for dinner pretty quickly.

Monday

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Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced firm, ripe fresh peaches (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Parmesan Vinaigrette, recipe below
  • 6-oz penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 10 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Toss together the first 6 ingredients and half of the dressing in a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add hot the cooked pasta, chicken and basil to the vegetable mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with parsley. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette.

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Process Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add basil and cilantro; pulse 5 or 6 times or just until blended.

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Carrot Spice Muffins

Make these when you have time and store them in the freezer for when you need them.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine.

Add the carrots and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday

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Salmon Cucumber Boats

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 6 oz canned pink salmon, drained or leftover cooked fresh salmon
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled

Directions

Combine the first six ingredients. Halve cucumbers lengthwise, remove seeds in each half and stuff with salmon mixture. Chill.

Salad with Tangerines

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh lettuce or spinach, torn into bite size pieces (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 seedless tangerine, peeled, pith removed and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tangerines and nuts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined. Toss with salad mixture and serve.

Wednesday

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Chilled Tomato Soup with Melon

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 of small melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew, plus a wedge of seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 cup chopped seedless cucumber, optional
  • Basil pesto, thinned with a little water for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes with the olive oil, basil, garlic, vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over low heat until hot but not boiling, about 10 minutes.

Pass the soup through the fine disk of a food mill into a medium bowl to remove the tomato seeds and skin.

Cover the bowl and chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight or quick-chill it by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water.

Cut the melons into 1/2-inch dice. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the melon, cucumber, if using and drizzle with the thinned basil pesto sauce and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The tomato soup can be refrigerated for 1 day without the garnishes.

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Grilled Shrimp Pita

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing grill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2 cucumbers (about 1 pound), peeled
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 small red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 4 whole-grain flat breads (pita)
  • 8 small romaine leaves

Directions

Preheat  an outdoor or indoor grill.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Stir together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon each dill and oregano in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to combine. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

To make cucumber sauce: Stir together 1/4 cup of the yogurt, half of the garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dill in a serving bowl. With a vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers into lengthwise ribbons, discarding the seeded core. Toss cucumber ribbons with yogurt mixture and pepper, to taste.

To make yogurt sauce: Combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon dill and remaining garlic in a small serving bowl. Season with pepper, to taste.

Toss tomatoes and onion with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl.

Grill shrimp, tomatoes and onion in a lightly oiled well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or grill pan or basket, turning once, 5 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, tomatoes are softened and onion is golden and tender. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Grill flat bread until golden brown and slightly crisp. Transfer to 4 serving plates; top evenly with cucumber salad, shrimp, onions tomatoes, and romaine, if desired. Top with yogurt sauce.

Thursday

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Rib-Eye Steak with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios*
  • 1/2 cup arugula, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 boneless rib-eye steak ( about 8 oz)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Process pistachios and arugula in a food processor until minced. Add butter and blend until smooth, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small container and chill.

Heat a charcoal or wood-fired grill to high (450°F to 550°F; you can hold your hand 5 inches the above cooking grate only 2 to 4 seconds).

Coat steaks and asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, turning once, until done the way you like it: medium rare or medium.

Grill asparagus in the last few minutes, turning once, until tender-crisp.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board, dollop steaks with butter and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with asparagus.

Make ahead: Chilled Pistachio butter will keepup to 1 week.

*If you can’t find unsalted pistachios, use unsalted butter to balance the salty nuts.

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Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Romaine leaves, optional

Directions

Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and garlic powder together in a bowl. Crumble oregano between your fingers to release the flavor and add to the tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt. Let flavors marinate before serving, 5 minutes or up to an hour. Serve over a romaine leaf, if desired.

Friday

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Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned and skinned halibut, cut into 2-in. chunks or firm white fish available in your area (such as grouper, swordfish, cod, etc.)
  • 4 cups 1 1/2-in. cubes crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced paper-thin
  • Four – 10 inch metal skewers

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill to medium (350°F to 450°F).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Add halibut and bread. Toss to coat, then set aside for 5 minutes.

Skewer an end of 1 pancetta strip, then alternate fish and bread cubes on a metal skewer weaving pancetta between them. Repeat 3 times.

Grill kebabs, turning frequently, until fish is cooked through and the bread is slightly charred in places, about 6 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and cover with foil.

Don’t turn off the grill - you will need it to grill some of the ingredients for the salad below.

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Grilled Peach-and-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and halved
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Dressing

Process 1 large peach, peeled and chopped; 6 tablespoons olive oil; vinegar and honey in a blender until smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Salad

Gently toss 2 large peaches, peeled and halved and avocado in 1 tablespoon olive  oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or until charred. Slice and serve over arugula. Top with peach vinaigrette and cheese.

About these ads

Enjoying a meal together on a weeknight is a goal for many families. But adults often find themselves pressed for time on weeknights and that time crunch can make it difficult to enjoy a home cooked meal.

Time is not the only thing getting in the way of family meals: school activities, long commutes or late hours at the office, etc., can make it difficult for a family to sit down together. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse notes that family dinners are one of the most effective ways for parents to engage in the lives of their children. Studies have also shown that families who eat together tend to eat healthier, as parents can effectively monitor their kids’ diets, including whether or not their youngsters are getting enough fruits and vegetables, when they are dining together.

While it may not be feasible for parents and kids to scale back their busy schedules, there are steps parents can take to make weeknight meal preparation quicker. By shortening the time it takes to make meals on weeknights, families might be able to sit down to dinner together more often.

* Plan ahead. The most effective way to make more time for family meals is to plan ahead. Planning meals on the fly encourages everyone to fend for themselves, making it difficult for families to enjoy nutritious meals they can eat together. Plan for the coming week’s meals on the weekend, when you can survey your pantry and make a trip to the grocery store, if needed. Planning ahead also allows you to prepare certain parts of a meal in advance, which will save you time on busy weeknights.

* Make cold meals. Dinner does not have be served hot and cold meals often take less time to prepare. Consider serving salad or sandwiches on those nights when you are especially pressed for time. When serving sandwiches, serve them on whole grain bread to add nutritional value to the meal.

* Turn breakfast into dinner. There are no laws regarding what qualifies as dinner and what does not, so families without much time on their hands on a weeknight can turn breakfast into dinner. Eggs are both quick and easy to prepare and they can be served alongside toast and grapefruit. When making omelets for dinner, add some spinach or another vegetable to make the meal more nutritious.

* Lean on seafood more often. Seafood can be healthy and delicious, but that’s not the only reason it’s an ally to time strapped families. Seafood doesn’t take much time to cook, even dishes that take more time than simpler dishes, like sauteed shrimp, will still take less than 30 minutes to complete. That’s significantly less time than meals where beef, pork or poultry is the main entree.

* Leftovers aren’t just for lunch. Leftovers are often relegated to lunch, but extras from a meal cooked over the weekend can be used as a quick go to meal on a hectic weeknight. If the family enjoyed the meal the first time around, there’s no reason they won’t enjoy it again.

*Have a collection of quick recipes you can fall back on. See recipes below for a place to start.

*To save on time, take a closer look at your family’s favorite recipes and consider what can be made ahead — whether in the stages of slicing and dicing, or cooking a step in advance, or making smart choices by stocking your freezer or pantry with useful ingredients. The combination of helpful hands and a few simple organizational shortcuts will shift your dinners from hectic to manageable.

*Many recipes can be prepared through certain stages and refrigerated. Dishes with multiple components like a sauce or topping, such as a stir-fry or pasta dish, can often be partially made, reserving the final stages of assembly and cooking for the last minute to ensure freshness. The majority of casseroles can be made completely in advance and refrigerated in their baking dishes.

*Keep a stock of canned beans, grains and dried pastas in your pantry and fill the freezer with boxes of pre-cut or partially cooked vegetables, like frozen spinach or chopped broccoli. Look for items with packages that have short lists of ingredients and ones that you recognize, keeping preservatives and additives low.

Even families with hectic schedules can employ a few tricks to make dining together more convenient.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes with Parmesan Crumbs

I like to grill Italian sausage, prior to putting the eggplant on the grill, to round out this delicious Italian meal.

Servings: 10

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 pounds eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tomatoes, sliced 1 inch thick

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread the bread crumbs on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil; toss well. Bake for 8 minutes, until the bread crumbs are crisp and golden brown.

Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl and toss with the basil and cheese.

Light a grill. Brush the eggplant slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the eggplant to a platter, fanning them out.

Brush the tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat until charred and hot, about 1 minute per side.

Arrange the tomato slices over the eggplant and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and serve right away.

Grilled Salmon with Preserved Lemon and Green Olives

Preserved lemons are a Middle Eastern ingredient made from lemons that have been cured in lemon juice and salt. Look for them at specialty-food shops. Serve the salmon with broccoli rabe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • One 2-pound, center-cut salmon fillet with skin
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 8 large green olives, such as Cerignola, halved and pitted

Directions:

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the shallot, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice. Using a knife, make 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin, 1 inch apart. Rub the preserved lemon mixture into the slits. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes. Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer the fish to a platter, skin side up. Scatter the olives over the fish. Cut the salmon crosswise into 6 pieces and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The seasoned salmon can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Quick Chickpea and Summer Vegetable Stew

This light, simple stew is a great way to use a bounty of fresh summer vegetables in an easy one-pan meal. Serve with good Italian bread.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into coins
  • 1 small yellow squash, cut into coins
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 bunch (6 oz.) thin asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-in. pieces
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add carrots and cook until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in broth, chickpeas, squashes, corn, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, then stir in tomatoes and asparagus and cook until squashes are tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and garnish with basil.

Hanger Steak with Garlic Onion Sauce

Serve slices of steak with a fresh green salad and your favorite summer vegetable.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 hanger steaks (1 1/2 lbs. total)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Directions:

Sprinkle steaks with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add steaks and cook, turning once, until medium-rare, 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; tent with foil.

Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Add green onions and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour in broth, wine and vinegar and cook, stirring to release browned bits, until reduced by two-thirds. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and serve with sliced steak.

Chicken Cheesesteaks

Cheesy sandwiches get a kick from a bit of cayenne. If you prefer an even more robust flavor, spread the rolls with a mixture of Dijon mustard and chili paste instead of butter. Serve with pickles and sliced fresh vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves ( total 1 lb.) sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced onion
  • 1 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 submarine or French bread rolls, split
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup shredded jack cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and seasonings and cook until chicken is browned and no longer pink inside, 6 minutes.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon butter inside each roll and toast rolls, opened up, in the oven on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes. Lay 1 lettuce leaf in each roll. Sprinkle cheese over lettuce, then divide chicken mixture among rolls.

 

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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.

 

 

 


Soup and sandwich pairings are a great go-to choice when you’re looking for warm, comforting meals in a hurry. You can make delicious soups and substantial sandwiches that are tastier, healthier, and cheaper than eating out or picking up fast food meals.

While you might think of sandwiches or soup as just for lunch, they are a good dinner choice when you get home after a hectic day. Sandwiches are endlessly versatile—you can pile lots of delicious, healthy toppings on whole-grain bread and many hearty soups can come together in 30 minutes or less with just a little advance planning.


How To Keep Sandwiches Healthy:

Better Choices:

Bread

Pick a bread with has three to five grams of fiber per serving

  • High-fiber whole wheat bread
  • High protein bread
  • Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories)
  • Reduced calorie bread
  • Multi-grain bread

Proteins

  • Lean deli meats preferably without nitrates : Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef or homemade meatloaf
  • Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini or vegetarian patties
  • Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad made with low-fat dressing

Cheese

  • Harder cheeses (such as Swiss and Cheddar) usually have less fat.
  • Softer cheeses (like light cream cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese

Condiments

  • Mustard, nonfat salad dressings, salsa, and nonfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
  • Avoid high-fat salad dressings, regular mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.

Vegetables.

A sandwich is a great way to slip vegetables into a meal. 

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cucumbers or pickles
  • Onions: Sweet, hot, or red
  • Peppers: sweet or hot
  • Lettuce
  • Apples or pears (especially good with ham and turkey)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Herbs (Basil with toasted cheese and tomato)

How To Keep Soups Healthy:

Fat

Most soups begin with a fat, such as oil, to saute vegetables and bring out their flavor. Fat isn’t always unhealthy; monounsaturated fats can help improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and can help improve your blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature: Peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil and olive oil are healthy choices. Always use the least amount of oil as possible in your cooking. I believe that you never need more than 1 tablespoon of oil in a recipe to saute ingredients.

Soup Base

In high-sodium soups, the base is often a salty stock. Keep the sodium low by using a salt-free stock. Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stock often are available in salt-free varieties. Canned low sodium tomatoes are readily available and make a fine base for soup on its own or mixed with stock, depending on how thick you want the broth. Milk or fat free half works for creamy soups. Do not add salt or use full-sodium broth. There are 860 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of full-sodium chicken stock and only 72 milligrams in low-sodium chicken stock. If you add 1 teaspoon of salt to the base, you increase the soup’s sodium content by 2,325 milligrams.

Protein and Fiber

Most soups include a source of protein, either meat or legumes. Legumes are also an excellent source of fiber. Lean beef, chicken, pork, turkey or fish are good choices. For legumes, don’t choose a sodium canned variety — they can have as much as 818 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. There are many no salt added canned beans in the markets today. Almost any legume works in soup. For additional fiber, add whole grains, such as barley, quinoa or brown rice, all of which are low-sodium. If your soup recipe has noodles, choose a whole grain variety. In addition, use only fresh — not canned — veggies to avoid excess sodium. Onions, carrots, garlic, celery, corn, spinach, kale and potatoes are good choices for soup.

Seasoning

The seasonings make lower sodium soup tasty. They complement the flavor of the other ingredients and finish your soup. Add seasonings to taste — stir, taste and then add more if necessary. Most spices and herbs do not contain sodium. Provided it does not have added salt, any seasoning works. Rosemary, thyme and marjoram make a tasty combination, so do chili powder and cumin. Parsley and basil complement almost any type of soup.

Quick Soups and Healthy Sandwiches  

Vegetable Beef Barley

Saute 1 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; drain fat.

Add 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Warm Prosciutto-Stuffed Focaccia

 

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-ounce) round loaf focaccia bread, whole grain if possible
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette

 Directions:

Cut bread in half horizontally, using a serrated knife. Top bottom bread half with prosciutto and next 3 ingredients.

Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette; cover with top bread half. Wrap in aluminum foil; place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until warm. Cut focaccia into six wedges. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Many markets sell butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes in the produce section of the market, usually next to the cut up fruit.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 and 1/2 pounds after trimming)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat free half half

Directions:

Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in awhile. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée the soup with a hand blender and add the half and half. Warm gently, and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
  • 2 cups arugula

Directions:

Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.

Crab Chowder                                                                                              

6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup cored fennel bulb, finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups diced red potatoes, unpeeled
  • 28 oz container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 pound pasteurized crabmeat

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crabmeat and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt

 Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 small)
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli turkey breast
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread one side of each of 4 bread slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.

Place one cheese slice on dressed side of bread slices; top each with 5 apple slices and 2 ounces turkey. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices.

Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan.

Cook 2 minutes on each side or until bread is browned and cheese melts.

Black Bean Soup 

Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add one 32 oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, 1- 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, two 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, and one 1.4-ounce can diced green chili peppers. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon light sour cream. Garnish with baked tortilla chips.

Avocado Tomato Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches), room temperature
  •  Lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced Avocado Tomato Wraps
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mash a fourth of the avocado with a fork; spread over tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato and remaining avocado.

Sprinkle with cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper; roll up. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.


What is the difference between a crock pot and a slow cooker?

One recipe may say to use a crock pot and another recipe may say to use the slow cooker. Are they interchangeable? Is one better for a certain type of meal than another?

A Crock-Pot is a slow cooker. But a slow cooker is not necessarily a Crock-Pot. Oh no!

A crock pot is a type of slow cooker with a stoneware pot that sits inside a surrounding heating element. A slow cooker is a pot, usually made of metal, which sits atop a heating surface. However, when you are shopping for such a cooking device, manufactures use the names interchangeably.

How The Slow Cooker Gets The Job Done.

The base of the slow cooker has a doubled-walled metal compartment that contains the heating elements. As the elements heat up, they warm the insulated air trapped between the two metal walls. Heat is then transferred to the air between the inner metal wall and the stoneware pot. The hot air heats and cooks the food slowly and evenly. As the heating elements do not make any direct contact with the stoneware pot; there are no hot spots and, therefore, no need for stirring.

Crock pots and slow cookers both have three parts–a pot, a lid, and a heating element. However, a crockpot has only two cook settings, “Low” and “High.” There may also be a “Keep Warm” setting to allow the pot to warm before serving. The temperature at these settings remains constant. A slow cooker has a number of different settings, usually numbered one to five. The heating element on a slow cooker usually cycles on and off. Some slow cookers have a timer that can be set to cook for a number of hours.

Crock pots and slow cookers come in various sizes to suit family size and specific purposes. However, crockpots are generally heavier than metal slow cookers, and may be more difficult to manipulate when washing. Since crock pots are made of stoneware, they also break more easily when dropped.

File:Crock pot parts.jpg

Advantages of Slow Cooking

1. There is only one dish to clean.

2. It is a great way to use extra vegetables and inexpensive meats. Less expensive or tough meats, such as chuck roasts or steaks and stew beef, are tenderized through the long cooking process. Put it in the crock pot, add some seasoning, and you end up with a tender, tasty meal.

3. Cooking in a crock pot makes your house smell really good.

4. Slow cooked food is more flavorful and tender. The extended cooking times allow better distribution of flavors in many recipes. The lower temperatures lessen the chance of scorching of foods which tend to stick to the bottom of a pan and burn easily in an oven.

5. It’s convenient to cook in a crockpot. You can put all the ingredients in and then do your thing: go to work, school, yoga, whatever. And when you come back, the meal is ready.

6.The slow cooker frees your oven and stove top for other uses, and should definitely be considered as an option for large gatherings or holiday meals. Many people swear by their slow cooker for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing)

Some Tips:

Whenever you purchase a new slow cooker, use it the first few times, on HIGH and on LOW, before leaving it unattended to make sure the vessel operates correctly.

Remember to place the cooker on a cookie sheet, granite counter top, the stove top, or a similar surface. The bottom can get quite hot.

Slow cooker recipes often say to brown meat before adding to the slow cooker, but this isn’t necessary, though it gives meat a nice color. If you add paprika to chicken before putting it in the slow cooker, a brown color is created while cooking.

Flouring meat before adding it to a slow cooker helps to keep it moist and thicken the sauce.

Don’t lift the lid while cooking, or the food will take longer to cook.

A few of the areas where a slow cooker does not perform as well:

- Large cuts of meat such as boneless prime rib or leg of lamb are still best when oven roasted.

- Except for stews and chowders, the slow cooker does not cook fish very well.

- The slow cooker collects a lot of the juices since the steam does not escape during cooking and these juices can become diluted and watery, which can affect the flavoring of the food.

- If not careful, a slow cooker can overcook food, especially some of the more tender meats and poultry.

Cooking For Two

Most slow cooker recipes are intended to serve four to six people, so cooking for two usually requires recipe adjustments. Generally, you can just cut a recipe in half, but be careful about quantities of spices and texture ingredients like baking powder and eggs. If the recipe already calls for a small amount of spices or herbs (like 1 tsp. oregano) you can probably leave the original amount, even for a smaller recipe. If you reduce spices too much, you’ll end up with bland food.

Remember that smaller portions also cook faster. It helps to be around the house the first time you try a new recipe so you can check its progress, but this isn’t always possible. For two-person meals, plan to reduce the heat or cooking time, or sometimes both. Cook your food for about three-quarters of the time the larger recipe suggests, and turn down the heat one or two notches to avoid scorching. If you’re going to be at work all day, put the crock pot on a low setting. You can always turn the heat up to finish the meal when you get home, but if your food is burnt or overcooked, there’s not much you can do.

Another option for two-person cooking is to make the larger serving recipe and freeze the leftovers. Extra food can be frozen in individual or two-person portions and thawed at your convenience, saving you even more time.

 Slow Cooking Recipes

The recipes below are designed to take advantage of what a slow cooker does best – long, low-heat cooking with lots of moisture. They do not require multistep preparations and can be assembled the night before, refrigerated in the cooking dish and placed on the cooking vessel just before you leave for work.

 

Slow Cooker Italian Pork Chops                                                                                                                       

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 pork rib chops (with bone), cut 1/2 inch thick (about 2-1/2 pounds), trimmed of fat
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 28 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 medium zucchini or 2 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 ounces dried orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions

Directions:

Place onion in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Place half of the pork chops on top of the onions. Sprinkle with half of the Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Repeat layering with remaining pork chops, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Top with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Add zucchini or pepper pieces to cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 4-1/2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon and tongs, transfer meat and vegetables to a serving platter; cover and keep warm. In a medium saucepan stir together cornstarch and the cold water; stir in cooking juices from cooker. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Serve over meat and vegetables. Serve with orzo.

 

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Pasta Soup                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup halved pitted ripe olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carton low sodium chicken broth (32 ounces)
  • 1 can low sodium Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained (14 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked small shell pasta

Directions:

Mix all ingredients except pasta in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.

About 30 minutes before serving, stir in pasta. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew with Polenta                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 28 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta or substitute 1 (18-ounce) tube of store bought polenta, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

Directions:

Layer lentils, onions, bell pepper and garlic in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in the tomatoes and sprinkle with oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Pour in broth and vinegar, cover and cook on low until lentils are very tender, about 7 hours.

Prepare the polenta according to package directions and serve with the stew. If you like firm polenta instead of soft, then follow these directions:

When polenta is thick and smooth, pour it into an 8 inch greased square pan. Spread the polenta evenly. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan. Cut into serving pieces.

Heat store bought polenta slices before serving

Slow Cooker Chicken in Wine Sauce                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red-skin potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks, skinned
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance blend
  • 3 tablespoons Wondra all-purpose flour
  • Snipped fresh thyme (optional)

Directions:

In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker place potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. Place chicken pieces on top of vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and garlic; add broth and wine.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

For gravy:

Strain juices into a large saucepan and whisk in flour and add butter. Turn on heat and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. If desired, sprinkle chicken and vegetables with snipped thyme. Pass gravy with the chicken and vegetables. Makes 6 servings –  (3 1/2 ounces cooked meat, 1/3 cup gravy, and 3/4 cup vegetables).

Slow Cooker Ratatouille                                                                                                                                                   

Ratatouille is versatile and can be used on pizza, pasta or as part of a casserole or a lasagna.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces (peel if you prefer)
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large green (or any color you like) bell peppers,seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Layer half the vegetables in a large crock pot in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.

Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.

Dot with half of the tomato paste.

Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.

Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

May freeze up to 6 weeks.

Slow Cooker Country Italian Beef                                                                                                                                    

6 to 8 servings

Serving Size: 1  2/3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 8 ounces tiny new potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2 medium carrots or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1-14 1/2 ounce can low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Trim fat from roast. Cut roast into 2-inch pieces; set aside. In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine potatoes, carrots, onion, and fennel. Add meat to cooker; sprinkle with rosemary.

In a medium bowl whisk together broth, wine, tomato paste, tapioca, pepper, and garlic. Pour over all meat and vegetables in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in basil just before serving.

 


Fall is about leaves changing and weather cooling. As fall comes around, you want to bring in all there is to love about the autumn season, including your food. Whether you are serving up a salad course before dinner or looking for a recipe for a potluck dinner, an autumn-inspired salad can be a nice touch.

Spring and summer means fresh crisp salads. Just because fall is here doesn’t mean you have to settle for limp lettuce, tired tomatoes or crunchless cucumbers. Make your salads with fall vegetables and fruits to reflect the bounty of autumn. Or look to your pantry for canned and dried staples that you can add to salads along with herbs, vinegars and oils.

Autumn Vegetables

Pumpkin, carrots, squash, beets, and Brussels sprouts are just a few vegetables that appear on the produce stands in autumn. With the exception of carrots, most have to be cooked. Roast the vegetables to bring out their sweetness. ( For how to oven roast vegetables, see post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/07/vegetables-on-the-side-no-butter-please/). Dress with an apple cider vinegar dressing and serve at room temperature. Sliced raw carrots, cooked beets and blanched parsnips make a colorful autumn vegetable salad. Blanch cauliflower in boiling water for a few minutes, then plunge into ice water. Break off florettes and toss with walnut oil, chopped walnuts and white wine vinegar.

Fall Fruits

Fall fruits are ideal for savory salads. Waldorf is a prime example, a combination of apples, raisins, celery and walnuts in a mayonnaise dressing. Consider a fruit slaw of bright red crisp apples, complemented by a citrus juice dressing with added cayenne pepper for a touch of spice instead of mayonnaise. Pears are mellow and at their peak in the fall. Combine sliced pears with bleu cheese, sliced almonds and baby spinach leaves. Try a red grapefruit, avocado, jicama and butter lettuce salad. The avocado melts into the grapefruit juice, so no dressing is required.

Pears

Pears are a traditional fruit of the autumn season. Since pears are plentiful during the fall, you can purchase them at reasonable cost. Create a sautéed pear salad with warm nuts and a cider-vinegar dressing. Use fresh pears paired with celery, white cheddar and a warm dressing for a crunchy pear salad. Pair green lettuce with warmed walnuts, fresh pears and a maple vinaigrette dressing for a more traditional salad.

Apples

Just like pears, apples are in abundance around the fall season. You can use apples fresh, sautéed or baked for autumn salads. A salad does not have to contain lettuce to be considered a “salad.” Pair sautéed apples with toasted pecans and apple cider vinaigrette for a warm, tangy and sweet salad. Pair cheddar and fresh apples together with walnuts for a crisp and refreshing salad. Another idea is to try fresh spinach, pomegranates, diced fresh apples and walnuts together with a pomegranate vinaigrette. See dressing recipe below:

Pomegranate Vinaigrette Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice*
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon good-quality aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

* Be sure you’re buying 100% pomegranate juice, as some juices advertised as pomegranate juice are a blend of apple or grape juices with a small percentage of the more expensive pomegranate juice. POM is an excellent brand, but there are also other brands that are pure pomegranate juice.

Directions:

In a small stainless steel or non-reactive saucepan over high heat, boil the pomegranate juice until reduced to 1/3 cup, approximately 9 or 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

While still warm, stir in the sugar, salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil; set aside to cool.

Yields 1 cup vinaigrette.

Nuts and Beans

With autumn comes the use of spiced nuts and legumes. Common nuts and legumes in the fall season are pecans, walnuts, pine nuts and lentils. Create a warm lentil salad with fresh spinach, pecans and sharp cheddar cheese. Use toasted nuts to top off a salad for a crunch. Toasted walnuts and pecans are suitable in both savory and sweet salads, and they work best when paired with fresh fruit or a fruity vinaigrette.

Dressings and Vinaigrettes

A salad is not a salad without a dressing or vinaigrette (an emulsion of oil and vinegar with herbs and spices). Fall vinaigrettes and dressings should be warm and rich in flavor. Use maple syrup to create a maple-balsamic dressing that has a bite of mustard and a sweet accent.  When in a hurry, create a quick vinaigrette using apple cider vinegar, mustard powder, extra-virgin olive oil and salt. Adjust portions according to taste and tartness.

Cider Vinaigrette Recipe

Yield: 3/4 cup

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions:

Boil cider in a small heavy saucepan until reduced to about 1/3 cup, 12 to 15 minutes.

Whisk together reduced cider, shallots, vinegar, and mustard with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined.


Broccoli Salad With Gouda

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onions
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds ( or pine nuts)
  • 6 -8 ounces Gouda cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes ( smoked or regular)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

Cook broccoli in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain well.

Combine the broccoli with onion, tomatoes, nuts and cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt; pour over salad mixture and toss to coat.

 

Parmesan Celery Salad

Ingredients:

  • 8 large celery stalks and celery leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini or garbanzo beans, heated
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • sea salt or celery salt
  • reserved celery leaves

Directions:

Slice the celery stalks quite thinly – 1/8-inch.

In a small bowl, make a paste with the olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Set aside.

In a large bowl toss the heated beans with the olive-Parmesan mixture. When well combined, add the celery, raisins, and most of the almonds. Toss once more. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed. Serve in a bowl or platter topped with celery leaves and remaining almonds.

Serves 4-6.

Apple Turkey Salad

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces cooked turkey breast, cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup Fruit and Nut dressing, recipe below ( or your favorite)
  • sliced or chopped nuts of choice

Directions:

In a medium bowl, gently stir together, turkey, apple, celery and shallot.

Pour dressing over chicken mixture.

Toss gently to coat.

Serve on lettuce leaves, sprinkle nuts of your choice over.

 

Dressing for Salads with Fruit and Nuts

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or any citrus juice
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 Directions:

Whisk together the vinegars, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the oils. Taste and adjust seasonings.

 


 

Tomato Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 (19 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed ( garbanzos)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 tomatoes, cut into large dice
  • 1 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed swiss cheese ( or feta, mozzarella, Cheddar or Monterey Jack)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Directions:

Salad: In large bowl, combine chickpeas, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, onions and cheese.

Dressing: Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and seasonings.

Toss dressing with salad ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

 

Chicken and Pear Salad over Arugula

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken breast, roasted and sliced
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese salad dressing, low-calorie, see recipe below
  • 3 pears, sliced
  • 2 bunches arugula
  • Walnuts

Directions:

Place pears in medium bowl; toss with salad dressing. Add arugula; toss again. Arrange arugula salad on 4 plates.

Divide chicken slices and place on top of salad. Sprinkle with walnuts.

 

Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

Adapted From EatingWell: March/April 2007, The EatingWell Diet (2007)

Makes 1 1/4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk, or nonfat milk
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, or white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, (1 ounce)

Directions:

Whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk (or milk), yogurt, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Add cheese and stir, mashing with a spoon until the cheese is incorporate

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Stir before using.

 

 

 


How to Make Healthy Food Choices In Your Busy Life

You already know how important it is to make healthy food choices for you and your family, but how can you fit the best choices into your busy life?

You’ll be pleased to discover that a hectic life doesn’t mean that every meal has to be fast food on the run! Sometimes it’s difficult to make healthy changes, but with a little planning and know-how, it can be done.

Here are some strategies to help you and your family make healthy choices:

1. Avoid temptation. It’s so easy to walk into the store with good intent, but walk out with bags full of unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, our wills are weak, especially if we’ve trained ourselves over the years to buy junk foods.

Never shop when you’re hungry. This way you won’t pick out unhealthy choices because they look good at the moment.

Get rid of the unhealthy foods in your home. If they aren’t around, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Think of healthier alternatives to your family’s favorite unhealthy foods. Rather than high calorie chips, try trail mixes or whole grain crackers. Low calorie puddings or frozen yogurts are better alternatives to higher fat ice creams.

2. Eat fast and healthy meals at home. When you’re tired at the end of the day and you realize you still have to feed the family, it’s easy to go to a fast food chain and bring home dinner. It may save some time, but it won’t save your health – or your pocket book!

The great thing is that there are many easy, fast, and healthy foods you can make at home. This takes some planning, but you’ll be more satisfied, save money, and be healthier as well.

Look online for quick and easy recipes made with all natural ingredients. Many recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less and only have 5 ingredients. Taking the time to do some recipe research will save your sanity in the long run. (Don’t forget; there are many such recipes on this blog.) Then once you find a “hit” with the family, store the recipe in a book or on your computer.

3. When you cook, make large batches and freeze the leftovers. This way, you’ll already have meals in the freezer that you can just thaw, heat, and serve. No muss, no fuss! This is the opportune way to enjoy “fast” food at home.

4. Eat Slower. Since the brain takes about 20 minutes to get the signal that the stomach is full, if you eat too fast you’ll pack in a lot more food than you need. When you’re still thinking you’re hungry, it’s easy to make the wrong choices about food. If you slow down while you’re eating, you’ll eat less and you’ll still feel full.

5. Make dinner time a social experience. Dinner should be about enjoying your company and taking pleasure in the foods you’re eating.

Set a calming mood before sitting down for a meal. Avoid having the television on or eating as you’re rushing the kids out the door to another activity. Sitting calmly at the table will allow everyone to relax and enjoy their meal.

When you begin to look at mealtime as a social experience, it becomes easier to make the right choices about healthy foods. Suddenly you aren’t so worried about rushing through and making it quick.

Dinner becomes a great experience when you’re able to enjoy healthy foods together. Take time to eat as a family and enjoy a real conversation with each other. Talking will naturally slow down your eating pace, while also reconnecting you with your family members.

Healthy food choices are a possibility in your busy life if you take the time to plan ahead and make dinner time a priority in your home.

Grilled Sirloin Steak With Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette Italian salad dressing
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup cubed Havarti or Swiss cheese or cheese of choice
  • Creamy Italian salad dressing, recipe below
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens

Directions:

Brush steak with vinaigrette salad dressing and let stand for 15 minutes. Heat grill.

In large bowl, combine corn, onions, pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese with creamy Italian salad dressing and toss to combine. Place greens on serving plate and top with corn salad.

Grill steak for 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Remove from grill and let stand for 5 minutes.

 Slice thinly across the grain and place on top of corn salad. 4-6 servings

Low Fat Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, process all ingredients except sour cream until completely mixed.

Add sour cream and process just until mixed.

Fruit and Chicken Pilaf

Serve with roasted broccoli florets, see recipe post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/07/vegetables-on-the-side-no-butter-please/

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 oz. package quick cooking long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large skillet; add ground chicken and onions and cook until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 14-19 minutes until rice is tender and mixture is hot. 4 servings

Italian Sausage Kale Soup

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds Italian turkey sausage links, casings remove
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Crumble sausage into a Dutch oven; add onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain and wipe out pan; set sausage aside.Add olive oil and saute kale until wilted. Add garlic and, if desired, pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute. Add wine; cook 2 minutes longer.

Stir in the broth, beans, diced tomatoes, dried tomatoes, pepper and sausage mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts).

Linguine With Spicy Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp, tails removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 2 bunches watercress(or baby spinach leaves), torn (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, stopping just short of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta. Wipe out the pot.

2. Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the pasta, watercress, lemon zest, and reserved cooking water and cook, tossing, until the sauce coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes.

Tip

You may see either bagged, larger-stemmed, or delicate hydroponically grown watercress in the grocery store. All work equally well in this recipe. Trim off any thick and woody stems before using.

Tuna Fish Cakes

Serve with Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, recipe below

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz.cooked tuna, (3-5 oz. cans or pouches) drained
  • 1 large sweet potato, mashed with a little milk and olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Plain Panko crumbs (enough to be able to shape the fish into cakes)

Directions:

Put sweet potato in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender. Mash adding just enough milk and olive oil to moisten. Drain tuna well and add to mashed sweet potato.

Add in the scallions and sweet chili sauce. Mix together well.

Add enough breadcrumbs to make patties. Season with salt and pepper. Mold the mixture into 4 patties.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in frying pan and cook the fish cakes for 5 -7 minutes, turning only once, until hot and golden.

Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

4 servings, 1 cup each

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put green beans in the basket and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Toss the green beans in a large bowl with oil, orange zest, salt, pepper and almonds.



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