Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces

colddinner

BEGINNING OF WINTER — By Leonid Afremov

The best winter recipes will warm you up inside and out, will warm your home and make your house smell fantastic.

Soups, stews, casseroles and chili are very versatile dishes. Not really in the mood to cook after a long day at work? Let your crock pot do the work for you. There are lots of crock pot recipes out there for stews, roasts, chicken, chili and more.

Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, it’s easy to add or substitute any veggie or lean meat that you have in the refrigerator. These types of recipes usually make a lot of servings. You can always freeze leftovers in individual containers, so you’ll have a quick, pre-portioned meal for another day.

Below are five dinners guaranteed to help you warm up.

colddinner1

Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Polenta

This dish is perfect for a cold winter night and is a complete meal all in one bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups polenta or coarse/ medium cornmeal
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a simmer. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, broth, thyme and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, parsley and pepper to the sauce; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very thick, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual pasta bowls and pour the sausage/broccoli sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

colddinner4

Winter Fish Chowder

Serve with some delicious crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over moderately high heat until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the clams to the saucepan, cover and cook. As the clams open, transfer them to the bowl. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels and clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the bacon to the pan and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the celery and the remaining onion and garlic. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually whisk in the potato cooking water. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook until thickened slightly.

Add the potatoes and the half and half and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and fish and simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the fish is just cooked, 3 minutes. Add the mussels and clams and pour in their reserved cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom; stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Serve the chowder in bowls.

colddinner2

Gnocchi-Meatball Bake

A salad is all that is needed to complete this meal.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 16 – ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned  bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in marinara sauce; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground beef, ¼ cup chopped onion, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and fennel seeds. Shape meat mixture into 24 equal balls, about 1 inch round.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the remaining onion; cook about 7 minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to the bowl with the gnocchi.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Cook meatballs, half at a time, about 6 minutes or until cooked through (160 degrees F), turning occasionally. Transfer meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour gnocchi mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

colddinner5

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Stew

A meatless option.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Stir, cover pan, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pan, add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Add beans, broth and 3/4 cup water. Cover, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Heat broiler to high. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over stew and broil 3 minutes, or until topping is golden.

colddinners3

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Serve with a vegetable side dish for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add spinach to the skillet and stir until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer wilted spinach to the bowl with the prosciutto. Add cream cheese, Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined..

Divide spinach mixture evenly among the chicken breasts and spread over the surface. Roll up chicken, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place chicken rolls seam side down in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken rolls 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese melts.


pastasauces

In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served over pasta. The Italian gastronomic society, l’Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, has documented 14 different ragùs. The commonalities among the recipes are that they are all meat-based and all are used as sauces for pasta. Typical Italian ragùs include ragù alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), ragù alla napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and ragù alla Barese (sometimes made with horse meat).

In the northern Italian regions, a ragù is typically a sauce of meat, chopped or ground, and cooked with sautéed vegetables in a liquid. The meats are varied and may include beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, mutton, veal or game, as well as offal from any of the same. The liquids can be broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream or tomatoes and often include a combination of these. If tomatoes are included, it is usually a small amount. Characteristically, a ragù is a sauce of braised or stewed meat that may be flavored with tomato, to distinguish it from a tomato sauce that is flavored with the addition of meat.

In southern Italian regions, especially Campania, ragùs are often prepared with whole cuts of beef, pork and regional sausages, cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. After a long braise (or simmer), the meats are then removed and may be served as a separate course. Examples of these styles of ragùs are the well-known ragù alla Napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and carne a ragù.

Sometimes a thick meatless, vegetable based sauce is referred to as a ragu, such as mushroom ragu.

pastasauce4

 

Pork Ragu

This sauce is excellent served over potato gnocchi.

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (about cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread out the pieces in the pan and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning to brown the pieces on all sides.

When the pork is brown, add the chopped garlic and chili flakes. Raise the heat and pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of water; grate the fresh nutmeg over all and stir.

Cover the pan and bring the sauce to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate until needed.

pastasauce2

Mushroom Shallot Sauce

This sauce is excellent for pasta, baked in a lasagna or poured over polenta, cooked into risotto or as a condiment for grilled steak or fish.

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot meat or vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside.

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine.

Put the oil and butter in the large skillet or saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook slowly for 6 minutes-stirring often-until they’re soft, wilted and shiny, without any brown color.

Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the herb bouquet, raise the heat a little and cover the pan. Cook, covered for about 3 minutes, so the mushrooms release their liquid.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot, add the tomato paste and stirring,cook for a minute or so, then stir it into the mushrooms.

Pour in the Marsala and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the porcini mushroom water and 2 cups of the hot stock. Bring to a boil, stirring up any caramelization in the pan. Lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms covered in liquid; expect to add at least a 1/2 cup, if not more.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, maintaining a simmer and adding stock as needed. Remove the herb bouquet and discard it. Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

pastasauce5

Neapolitan Ragu

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, in 1 piece
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided, more to taste
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1 pound onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled

Directions

Season the pork all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

In a food processor, chop together the parsley, onions, garlic, pancetta and prosciutto to make a very coarse paste.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the seasoning paste and another teaspoon of salt and cook until no more liquid appears when the paste is stirred, about 7 minutes.

Add the pork roast, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, turning every 15 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned and the onions have begun to color, about 1 hour.

Add the red wine, place the cover back but leave ajar and continue cooking until the wine reduces to a thick sauce, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

If, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the wine has not reduced sufficiently, remove the roast to a plate, increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce until it thickens.

Reduce to low heat, stir in the tomato paste, 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring in each addition until it mixes into the sauce and darkens to a brick color. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, return the roast to the pan if previously removed and cover. Continue to cook, turning the meat every 30 minutes and stirring the sauce until the meat is tender enough to be easily pierced with a meat fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. If the sauce dries out too much and the meat begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir in a tablespoon or two of water.

Remove the roast to refrigerate and reheat when dinner is served, if desired. Crumble the Italian sausage into the sauce and cook until the sauce is a deep red color and thickened, stirring occasionally, about another hour. (The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

pastasauce1

Winter Squash and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (about 5 cups) winter squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature, optional
  • 8 ounces ziti or penne cut pasta
  • Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions

Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute; add the white wine and cook for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and squash and season with salt and pepper.

When the squash is tender, about 20 minutes or so for small cubes. Remove the pot from the heat and mash the sauce with a potato masher.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, if using. Keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Mix the sauce and pasta together and serve garnished with parsley or Parmesan cheese.

pastasauce3

Sicilian Pesto

If fresh basil is not available in your market this time of year, substitute with fresh flat leafed parsley and 1 tablespoon dried basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, (see substitute above)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pepperoncini (Italian pickled pepper), stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Short pasta, such as corkscrew or penne

Directions

Place the cherry tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely chopped; pour tomatoes into a fine strainer and drain off excess juices. Return the pulp to the processor.

Process the tomato pulp along with the almonds, basil, Parmesan, olive oil, raisins, capers, chili flakes, anchovies, garlic and pepperoncini in a food processor until finely ground.

Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, add pasta and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and transfer pasta to a large bowl along with the pesto; toss to combine, adding a couple of spoonfuls of pasta cooking water, if needed, to create a smooth sauce.

Transfer to a large serving platter or individual bowls and serve with more Parmesan cheese.

 


appetizer cover

What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.

For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.

This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.

Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.

Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:

Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.

Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.

Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.

Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.

For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.

Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.

Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.

Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.

Green-Olive-Tapenade-Resized-006

Artichoke Tapenade

Good on a vegetable tray.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 large pitted green olives
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

appetizer crab

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.

appetizertomatoes.jpg.rend.snigalleryslide

Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken broth
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.

Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)

Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.

Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.

Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.

appetizerGrilledPrawn

Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce

This recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Shrimp

  • 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.

To make the shrimp:  Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.

Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.

appetizer falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients

  • One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment

Directions
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.

Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..


Northern italy

Northern italy

Central italy

Central italy

Southern Italy

Southern Italy

The diverse nature of Italy’s landscape accounts for its attractiveness which has made the country a popular place to visit. The country is a peninsula with a unique shape, extending into the waters of the Mediterranean, that is surrounded by seas on all three sides. On the south-western corner of the country is located the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the Adriatic Sea is on the north-eastern side. In the south-eastern area is the Ionian Sea and the Ligurian Sea is located in north-west Italy.

Italy has two major mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines. The natural position of both these mountain ranges is in the shape of an arc and this semicircular topography strengthens the northern boundaries of Italy against any possible foreign invasions. Mont Blanc, 4810 meters or 5,781 feet above sea levels, is the highest Italian mountain summit. The country also has two volcanoes, among which Mount Vesuvius, close to Naples, is presently in a dormant state. The other volcanic peak in Sicily, Mount Etna is still very active.

Next to the mountains and the seas, come the valleys and the plains . The Italian plains, known as the Padan Plain, contains one of the longest rivers in Italy – the Po (652 km) and its numerous tributaries, mostly flowing down from the Alps and Apennines to join it. Some of the tributaries of the Po River like Mincio, Dora Baltea, Trebbia and Secchia bring extensive alluvial deposits onto the plains, increasing its fertility and making it ideal for cultivation.

Po Valley

Po Valley

Lake Como

Lake Como

Italy is also a land of lakes. The largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda that covers an area of 142 sq. mi./370 km² and, another, is Lake Como, a major tourist attraction. All these fresh water lakes add to the scenic beauty of the land, making it more and more inviting to tourists.

Northern and southern Italy are very different in climate. The south has very warm weather while in the north the weather is cold for a good portion of the year. Dry pasta, like spaghetti and rigatoni, is found more in the southern areas because it is easier to dry pasta in warm weather. Since it is more difficult to dry pasta in the north, fresh pastas, like pappardelle and tagliatelle, are more popular. Other types of pasta popular in the north are stuffed pastas, such as ravioli. The climate also affects the types of food and plants that grow in Italy. Some plants, like olive trees grow better in warm weather. Olive trees do not grow well in the northern areas where it is cold. In the south olive oil is used while in the north butter and lard are used in place of olive oil. Because of the gradually sloping hills in Parma, the consistent dry breeze make it an ideal location for curing and aging pork products, such as Prosciutto di Parma. The weather in southern Italy is conducive to growing vegetables and chilis that like hot weather conditions.

Italian Olive Trees

Italian Olive Trees

Although Italians are known throughout the world for pizza and pasta, the national diet of Italy has traditionally differed greatly by region. Italy has 20 regions and I will be writing about them in the future. From the early Middle Ages, Italy consisted of separate republics, each with different culinary customs. These varying cooking practices, which were passed down from generation to generation, contributed to the diversity of Italian cuisine. Italy’s neighboring countries, including France, Austria and Yugoslavia, also contributed to differences in the country’s cuisine. Pride in the culture of one’s region, or campanilismo, extends to the food of the locality and regional cooking styles are celebrated throughout the country.

The mountainous regions of the north feature hearty, meaty fare. The Veneto’s coastal lowlands provide mussels and clams and the lakes and waterways inland provide a tremendous variety of fresh water fish, in addition to ducks and other wild birds. You’ll find a southern meal isn’t complete without a pasta course, while the north prefers gnocchi, risotto and polenta dishes. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing and, in the latter cases, northern cooks use much less tomato, preferring to use wine or broth as the liquid and chopped herbs for flavor. The results can be elegant and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings.

In Central Italy the summers are hotter and longer than those of the North and, consequently, tomato-based dishes are more common than they are further north; at the same time, the winters are chilly inland, making it possible to grow leafy vegetables that reach their best after it frosts, for example black leaf kale. Though there are braised meats and stews, in much of central Italy the centerpiece of a classic holiday meal will be a platter of mixed grilled or roasted meats, with poultry, pork or beef, especially in Tuscany, where the renowned Chianina cattle graze the fields. In Lazio, on the other hand, the platter will likely have lamb, which may also be present on Umbria and the Marche table.

Central Italy also has a rich specialty farming tradition, with many crops that are difficult to find elsewhere, including farro, an ancient grain domesticated by the Romans and saffron, whose distinctive sharpness adds considerably to many dishes. The area, which is almost entirely hilly or mountainous, also boasts massive chestnut stands on the steeper slopes; chestnuts were in the past one of the staple foods of the poor and even now roasted chestnuts are a wonderful treat in winter, as are the dishes made with fresh chestnut flour.

In the sun-drenched south, you will find more Greek and Arabic influences, with a cuisine featuring fragrant olive oils and many varieties of tomatoes both fresh and dried, spiked with hot peppers and seasoned with basil and oregano. Historically the South is known for shepherding and lamb and kid play a much more important role in the diet than they do in much of the rest of Italy. Fish in many coastal areas dominate. Sicilians add citrus, raisins, almonds and exotic spices that set their cuisine apart. The Spaniards’ influence, most notably saffron, is found throughout the south and also in Milan and Sardinia where they once ruled.

Classic Regional Recipes

regional carbonade

Carbonade

A classic northern Italian stew.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (800 g) lean beef, cubed
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • Bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Flour
  • Beef broth
  • 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

Flour the beef and brown the pieces in the butter, taking them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and setting them aside when brown.

Slice the onions into rounds and brown them in the same pot, add a ladle of broth and simmer until the broth has evaporated. Add the meat, the spices, the bay leaf, salt and add a pinch of sugar. Then add the wine, bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, adding more broth as necessary to the meat submerged.

After about 2 hours or when the meat is tender, add a grinding of pepper and serve it over polenta.

Yield: 4 servings

regional pasta

Spaghetti Aio Oio

A central Italian traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 1/2 a dried chili pepper, crumbled, or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano, optional

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil until the garlic begins to turn a light brown.

Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to over brown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is cooked to the al dente stage, drain, transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the sauce.

Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side; some people like it, whereas others, especially traditionalist Romans, shudder at the idea.

4-6 servings

regionalpizza

Pizza Margherita

A southern Italian staple.

To make the dough for 2 12-inch pizzas, you’ll need:

  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons, or about 20 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups (330 ml) warm (105-115 F, or 42-45 C) water
  • 3 1/2 cups (400-430 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A healthy pinch of salt

For the topping for each pizza, you’ll need

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes
  • Quarter pound of shredded mozzarella
  • 4 fresh basil leaves.

Directions

Begin by dissolving the yeast in the water, in a large mixing bowl; let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix, either by hand or with a mixer set to low-speed, until the ingredients are blended. Hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Coat the insides of another bowl with olive oil and turn the dough in it to coat it in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat the oven to 475 F (250 C) — if you are using a baking stone it should heat for at least 45 minutes. Otherwise grease and dust two flat baking sheets with corn meal. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes. Then shape them into disks, stretching them out from the center on a floured surface. Do not roll them, because rolling toughens the dough.

Ladle and spread a half cup of tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes over the dough, add the cheese and basil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

If you’re using a baking stone and have a baker’s peel, lightly flour it, slide the pizza onto it and transfer it to the stone with a shake — the flour will keep the dough from sticking. If you don’t have a peel, use a flat cookie sheet instead, lightly flouring it, to transfer the pizza from the work surface to the stone.

If you’re using metal baking pans you should bake the pizza towards the bottom of the oven.


100_0859

Meatloaf does not enjoy the very best reputation in the food world. Why? because it can be dry or lack flavor. A well made meatloaf is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches.

Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:

Don’t handle the mixture too much. If you over mix the ground meat it will compact, squeezing liquid out during cooking, resulting in a tougher, drier loaf.

Meatloaf consists of three basic ingredients: ground meat, a binder like bread crumbs or oatmeal and a liquid. Soak the binder in the liquid before adding it to the meat. Then you won’t end up with dry chunks of bread in your meatloaf – one of the most common complaints about meatloaf.

When you’re making meatloaf from ground turkey or chicken, you must add lots of binder or the loaf will be too compact and heavy. For traditional meatloaf recipes, you can use all ground beef or add ground pork to the mixture for a little lighter texture and a more interesting loaf. Make sure your meat mixture is not too lean. Aim for about 15 percent fat.

Adding other ingredients to a meatloaf will help add moisture and flavor and make the texture lighter. Plus you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in each serving! You can add mashed or grated carrots or potatoes, diced and cooked onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked spinach and cheese. The meatloaf might not hold together as perfectly with these add-ins, but it will taste fabulous. And seasonings are so important.

After the meatloaf is cooked (when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees), let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute so the texture is moist and tender.

Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:

2 pounds of ground meat: any combination of beef, pork, lamb, ham, sausage, turkey, chicken

Baking dish, loaf pan or broiler pan and a saute pan for the vegetables

Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables

Binder: dried bread crumbs, fresh bread slices, oats,

Liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, tomato sauce, ketchup, broth

Brush a glaze across the top of your meatloaf to make the meat more moist

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the cooked meatloaf

Classic Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil; more for the baking pan
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 lb. ground beef, 85-percent lean
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from firm country white bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the bacon and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.

Oil a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan, turn the meat mixture out onto the pan and shape it into a large oval loaf. Place strips of bacon across the shaped loaf.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 60-75 minutes. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Slice and serve.

Variations

For a little extra color, sauté 1 cup diced red, green or yellow bell peppers along with the onions and garlic; when cool, fold them into the rest of the mixture.

The simple addition of 1/4 cup shredded basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese will offer another level of flavor or you could add a tablespoon of a favorite fresh herb, such as thyme or rosemary.

Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:

turkey_meatloaf

Mushroom Turkey Loaf

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 small leeks or 1 large, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with the mushrooms and let cool.

Add fontina cheese, bread, egg, and sage to the bowl with the mushrooms and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn out mixture onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf.

Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reads at least 160°F. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra sage leaves, if desired.

mediterranean-meat-loaf

Italian Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 ounce jar sliced roasted red peppers, drained, finely chopped and 2 tablespoons reserved for the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
  • 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups dried seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped roasted red peppers, olives, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well.

Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish (8”x4”). Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat loaf registers 160 degrees F.

Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from meat loaf; loosen meat loaf from sides of pan and turn out onto a serving platter. Sprinkle reserved chopped peppers and chopped parsley on top, slice and serve.

Old-fashioned-Glazed-Meatloaf

Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

BBQ Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

For the Glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, the crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, the 1/2 cup of ketchup and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush half the glaze over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F.

Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

sausage meatloaf

Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 lb Italian sausage, mixed hot and sweet, casings removed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, mix ground beef, sausage, egg, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, the bread crumbs and pepper together.

On a large piece of foil, pat mixture to a 12×8 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese; gently press into meat. Top with spinach leaves.

Starting at the short end, roll up tightly, using the foil to start the roll and tucking in spinach leaves; seal ends. Place seam side down in an ungreased 12×8 inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.

Bake 1 hour. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


Roast-Chicken Cover

With its crispy skin and juicy meat, roasted chicken is one of the tastiest, most satisfying dishes you can make. If you’ve never roasted a chicken before, or if it’s been a while since you did, I’ll take you through the steps:

Here’s what you’ll need:

One whole chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds

A roasting pan with a rack

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Butter or olive oil for rubbing on and under the chicken skin

Carrots, celery and onion

2 cups of chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for thickening the gravy

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the chicken

A mesh strainer, for straining the gravy

Optional: Garlic, fresh herbs and citrus fruits such as lemons or oranges

Kitchen twine for trussing

Roasting a chicken will take you about an hour and a half from start to finish, which also includes making gravy.

Basic Roast Chicken

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken’s body cavity and pat the chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Rub the outside and inside of the chicken with butter or olive oil, then season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper — both inside and out.

Truss (tie the legs together) the chicken securely with cooking twine. This step is optional, but it will help your roasted chicken cook more evenly.

Thick slice half an onion and quarter one single celery stalk and one single medium carrot. Scatter these veggies in the bottom of a roasting pan. They will flavor the gravy that you will make later.

Set a roasting rack over the vegetables and place the chicken (breast-side-up) on the rack.

Transfer the roasting pan to the oven. After the chicken has roasted for an hour and 15 minutes, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. The thermometer should read at least 160°F. If not, continue roasting, and check again in 15 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully lift out the rack with the roasted chicken on it and transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Let it rest there for 20 minutes, uncovered, while you make the gravy.

Place the roasting pan with the roasted vegetables on the stove top. Remove the large pieces of vegetables. Add a tablespoon of butter and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir to form a paste. Pour in the 2 cups of chicken stock or broth into the pan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat until reduced and thickened. Some cooks like to strain the gravy to remove any bits of vegetables but I like to leave them in there.

Season the gravy to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. Once the gravy is finished and the chicken has rested, you can carve the chicken and serve it with the homemade gravy.

Flavoring Tips:

You can stuff the chicken with fresh herbs or other aromatic items. Thyme, rosemary, sage and marjoram are great choices, but any fresh herbs will do. For flavor and aroma add a couple of lemons or oranges cut into wedges and fennel fronds. Add a few peeled cloves of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture before roasting.

Here are some additional ways to roast chicken.

How-to-Roast-a-Whole-Chicken-in-the-Crockpot-Step-3

How to Roast a Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 lb) whole chicken, insides removed and patted dry
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Mix together paprika, all-purpose seasoning, garlic powder and salt.

Place 4 medium-sized foil balls in the bottom of a crock pot. This will act as a stand to prevent the chicken from drying out.

Rub seasoning over the entire chicken (including the inside). Place on top of the foil balls. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 – 4½ hours, or LOW for 6½ – 8 hours.

98d9274f-a77a-47ca-bc19-cedc8e004d16

Roast Chicken with Maple Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°.

In a large roasting pan, mix the sweet potatoes, onion and cranberries with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Push them to the edges of the pan, leaving a space in the center for the chicken.

Rub the cavity of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Twist the wings behind the back and tie the legs together. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the roasting pan. Coat the chicken with the remaining tablespoon oil, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and dot with the butter. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, thyme and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir the potatoes. Brush the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the glaze and drizzle the potatoes with about 1/2 tablespoon of the glaze.

Return the pan to the oven and cook, stirring the potatoes and brushing the chicken with the remaining glaze 2 more times, until the chicken and potatoes are just done, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving plate and keep in a warm spot for about 10 minutes.

Skim off the fat from the roasting pan. Pour the pan juices over the chicken and the sweet potatoes.

salsaverde chicken

Roasted Chicken with Spicy Salsa Verde

4 servings

Ingredients

  • One 4-to 5-pound chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salsa Verde:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the salsa verde:

Combine the extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, capers, mint, red pepper flakes, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and juice, hot pepper and shallots in a bowl and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to meld for at least 15 minutes before serving; if planning to serve after more than an hour, add the lemon juice at the last minute to keep the color vibrant. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lift the chicken skin up and wedge 3 lemon slices and 1 bay leaf between the skin and each breast. Put the garlic, onion, thyme and remaining lemon slices in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the entire chicken liberally with olive oil.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof saute pan or roasting pan breast-side up, slide it into the oven and roast until the thigh reaches 160 degrees F, or until the cavity juices run clear, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and drizzle with the Salsa Verde.

lemon chicken

Roast Chicken with Lemon Shallot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 4- to 5-lb. chicken
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 pound shallots
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup reduced-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Loosen skin of breast and thighs and work some salt under the skin. Rub remaining salt all over chicken and in the cavity. Chill, uncovered, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°. Zest lemons. Slice 1 lemon; juice half of the other.

Pat chicken dry, inside and out. Rub zest under as much of the skin as possible and rub any remaining zest inside the cavity. Rub chicken all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the thyme. Put lemon slices in the cavity.

Set a V-shaped rack in a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold shallots. Put chicken in the rack, breast side up. Add shallots to the pan and drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, turning them to coat.

Roast chicken until chicken leg moves easily and skin is brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (remove shallots after 1 hour and set aside). Tip chicken so juices from cavity pour into roasting pan. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, covered with foil.

To make the sauce: Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup with a pouring lip. Trim tops from shallots and squeeze soft insides into a blender. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat from pan drippings and add drippings to the blender. Add 1/2 cup broth and the wine and pulse until smooth.

Pour sauce back into the roasting pan. Cook, scraping up brown bits and adding more broth if you want a thinner sauce, over medium-high heat on your biggest burner (or straddling 2 burners) until sauce turns a nutty brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved lemon juice. Carve chicken, discarding lemon slices and serve with the sauce.

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash

Roast Chicken with Pumpkin

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons water

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°.

Coat the chicken quarters with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Arrange the chicken quarters, skin-side up, in a large roasting pan.

Mix the pumpkin cubes with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the sage.  Add the pumpkin to the roasting pan.

Bake, stirring the pumpkin occasionally, until the chicken breasts are just done, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the breasts from the pan. Tilt the roasting pan and spoon off most of the fat from the pan.

Return the pan to the oven. Continue cooking until the chicken legs and the pumpkin are done, about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken and pumpkin from the pan.

Pour off the fat from the roasting pan. Set the pan over moderate heat and add the water. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Boil until reduced to approximately 2 tablespoons. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and pumpkin.


visual-guide-winter-squash_612

These cooler days are a great time to cook with winter squash. Sweeter, denser and more firm in texture than summer squash or zucchini, winter squashes take well to a wide variety of recipes and can be delicious in soups, casseroles, risotto, lasagna and even desserts.

Winter squash are harvested in the fall and these hardy vegetables will keep well through the cold winter months for which they’re named. Sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti and butternut squash are probably the most common types to find at your local supermarket. The other varieties are worth seeking out at farmers’ markets and specialty markets. Regardless of the type, select winter squash that are blemish and bruise free with an intact stem and a heavy feeling for their size.

Naturally low in fat and calories, winter squash provide significant nutritional benefits. For example, one cup of baked butternut squash contains vitamins A (from beta carotene), B6, C and E, as well as magnesium, potassium and manganese. Flavors are generally mild-to-sweet, so squash won’t overwhelm other ingredients and can easily be incorporated into seasonal recipes. The orange and yellow flesh helps brighten dishes, especially in the colder months, when variety and color can be hard to come by in seasonal produce. Don’t be discouraged by winter squash’s size and tough exterior and you can sometimes find popular varieties, like butternut, in stores already peeled and cubed. See my earlier post on tips for cutting up winter squash.

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/11/26/how-do-i-cook-winter-squash/

See chart above for photos of each of the following winter squashes.

1. Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in.

2. Butternut Squash
Characteristics: A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a slightly sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.

3. Red Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The red kabocha is squat, like its green counterpart, and has faint white stripes running from top to bottom. While the green kabocha is savory, the red kabocha is sweeter.

4. Carnival Squash
Characteristics: Combine an acorn squash with a sweet dumpling squash and you get a carnival squash. While the carnival squash’s exterior resembles both of its relatives, its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.

5. Sugar Pumpkin
Characteristics: Sugar pumpkins are prized for their classic pumpkin flavor, as well as for their thick and fleshy walls. If you’d like to opt out of canned pumpkin for your baking and make your own purée instead, use a sugar pumpkin.

6. Sweet Dumpling Squash
Characteristics: This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like a sweet potato and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

7. Spaghetti Squash
Characteristics: Take a fork to the inside of a cooked spaghetti squash and you’ll understand how this squash got its name. If you’re in search of a healthy pasta alternative, try this very mild-tasting squash.

8. Blue Hubbard Squash
Characteristics: Most blue Hubbard squash are huge and bumpy and are often sold as pre-cut wedges. Some varieties, like the Blue Ballet, are smaller, making it easier to store and prepare at home. Underneath the gray-blue skin is sweet-tasting orange flesh.

9. Delicata Squash
Characteristics: This particular winter squash, with its pale yellow shading, most closely resembles its summer squash relatives. The thin skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the delicata has a consistency similar to that of a sweet potato—creamy and soft—although the flavoring is more earthy.

10. Red Kuri Squash
Characteristics: Like all Hubbards, the red kuri has an asymmetrical, lopsided look to it. However, the red kuri is smaller and easier to handle. Its yellow flesh is smooth and has a chestnut like flavor.

11. Buttercup Squash
Characteristics: Compact and green with paler green stripes, the buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash but it has a distinctive circular ridge on the bottom. On some, the ridge may surround a more pronounced bump, or “turban.” A freshly cut buttercup may smell like a cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense.

12. Acorn Squash
Characteristics: This mild flavored squash is named for its acorn like shape. Choose one with a dull green rind; an acorn squash that’s turned orange will have tough and fibrous flesh.

(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

vegeta-porrusalda

Squash and Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cod or white fish available in your area, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped in 1/2-inch sections
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
  • 4 potatoes, chopped in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound winter squash, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4-5 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and sauté leeks until they brown slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until they begin to take on a slight tan color, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add potatoes, carrot, squash and cod pieces. Immediately, pour in enough broth to cover and add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Bring soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 25 minutes or until potatoes and squash are tender. Stir once or twice. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

51134000

Mediterranean Squash with Lemon Sauce

This dish goes very well with baked chicken.

ingredients

  • 1 small kabocha squash or large acorn squash (1 pound), scrubbed,
  • 1 1-pound delicata squash, scrubbed, cut into 1″-thick wedges or rings, seeded
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Arrange two racks in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425°F.

Place kabocha on one rimmed baking sheet and delicata on a second sheet. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the squash on both baking sheets and sprinkle each pan with a 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.

Combine 1 tablespoon oil and the scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter scallion mixture over the squash, dividing evenly between the two baking sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).

Whisk lemon juice, tahini and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer squash to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over the squash and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

Empanadas6

Sweet Squash Turnovers

Makes 24

Ingredients

Squash Filling

  • 4 lb squash, sugar pumpkin or any winter squash of choice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

Pastry Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze

  • Egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • Cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)

Directions

To make the filling:

Rinse off the exterior of the squash. Using a serrated knife cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Scrape out the stringy layer (pulp) with a spoon. Discard seeds and pulp and cut into 4 inch slices leaving the skin on.

In a steamer or large pot, steam the squash over the 2 cups of water, making sure to keep the lid on tight, for 20 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool. Once cooled, scrape the flesh off the skins and into a mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mash with a potato masher and strain the liquid in a colander into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and set squash puree aside.

In the same large pot, put the reserved liquid from the squash (you will have about about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and the add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring liquid to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat. Replace the lid and let steep for 30 minutes.

Remove cinnamon and cloves and add the squash puree to the liquid. Add the brown sugar and over medium-low heat let it melt into the squash puree, stirring occasionally, so it will not burn or stick to the pot. Once the sugar has melted, lower the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until all the water evaporates. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down before refrigerating, about 15 minutes. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

To make the pastry dough:

Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening and add the eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Combine until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the turnovers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Take out half the dough and divide it into 12 equal balls of dough. Keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you are finished with the first half.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles, about 4-5 inches. Place a tablespoon of filling on one half of each of the dough circles. Wet the bottom edges of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover the filling and seal the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush each turnover with egg white mixture, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each turnover with a fork.

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place turnovers on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack in the oven. After 15 minutes move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown. Follow the same procedure for the remaining turnovers.

20060615_0002

Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna

For the squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 lb butternut squash or squash of choice, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel and chopped

For the sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling the lasagna

  • 1/2 lb mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 lasagna noodles, partially cooked

Directions

To make the filling:

Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley, sage and nuts. Cool filling.

To make the sauce:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook mixture, whisking, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of the sauce with wax paper, if not using immediately.)

To assemble the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water, about 6 minutes. Drain and place on kitchen towels, so they do not stick together.

Mix cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a buttered 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover the sauce with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between the sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one-third of the filling, then sprinkle with a 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered heavy-duty foil and bake the lasagna in the middle of the for oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 20 minutes before serving.

239812

Kabocha Squash Mini-Cakes

Cakes:

  • 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded kabocha squash (from one 3-pound squash)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored beer
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 2 cups vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

Directions:

Combine squash and milk in a heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add the bean pod. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pod. Drain squash. Place in a processor and blend until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray six 3/4 cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 cup squash puree in large bowl (reserve remaining puree for another baking use). Add sugar, oil, beer and egg to puree and beat to blend. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt over; beat to blend. Divide batter among prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in ramekins. Turn out onto serving plates.

Topping: Combine yogurt and brown sugar. Serve with the mini-cakes.

 



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