Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Seasonings


How To Make The Best Roast Chicken

Whenever possible, buy the best quality chicken you can find. The taste difference between a pasture-raised organic chicken and a traditional feedlot chicken is huge. Big chickens ― often labeled roasters (generally 6 lbs.) have a richer and more complex flavor than smaller ones. Young chickens (also called broilers and fryers; about 3-4 lbs.) can be roasted but by the time the skin is an appealing color, the breast meat of smaller birds is dry.  A roasting chicken, however, cooks evenly.

Season the entire chicken generously with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the back, underneath the wings, between the thighs and inside the cavity. Other additions, like ground spices and finely chopped herbs add flavor to the outside. Stuffing the chicken with aromatic ingredients, like citrus quarters, full sprigs of herbs, smashed garlic and onion can infuse it with flavor from the inside.

Some of my favorite flavor combinations:

All Purpose Dry Mix For Poultry

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix the salt, basil, rosemary, garlic powder, mustard, paprika, black pepper, thyme, celery seed, parsley, cumin and cayenne pepper together until blended. Rub all over chicken, inside and out before roasting.

Other flavorings that go well with chicken include: lemon and orange juice, garlic, white wine, ginger, pesto, honey, maple syrup, smoked paprika, mustard and chili peppers.

Before you prepare the chicken for roasting, give it time to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Placing the chicken directly from the refrigerator into the oven will increase its roasting time and the chicken will cook unevenly. Another common mistake is not properly drying the chicken before roasting it. A damp chicken makes for limp, soggy skin. There’s no need to rinse the chicken, simply remove it and place it on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Thoroughly pat it dry, inside and out, then proceed with your recipe.

While it is probably hard to break the habit, don’t wash raw chicken before cooking as germs can be spread through splashed water on the counter or in the sink. Cooking chicken at the right temperature will destroy any bacteria present and you need to make sure that chicken is properly cooked through; the juices should run clear and the meat should not show any signs of pink.

There are two common ways to roast a chicken: low and slow or hot and fast. To make the right decision, you first have to decide how you want to serve the chicken. For sticky, rotisserie-style skin with fall-apart meat, cook it at a low temperature for several hours. If it’s crispy, crackling skin you’re after, cook the chicken quickly at a high temperature. Sear the chicken on the stove-top in a pan (preferably cast-iron). Once the skin is golden, transfer the skillet to an oven set at 425˚F. The chicken will cook in just 35-40 minutes—depending on its size.

Once you take the chicken out of the oven, remove it from the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. The juices need time to redistribute throughout the meat or else they’ll wind up on your cutting board. After 15 minutes the chicken will also be cool enough to carve.

Classic Roast Chicken

It is very practical to roast two chickens at the same time, so that you can have plenty of leftovers for weeknight meals.

6-8 Servings


  • One 5 pound roasting chicken, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 garlic bulbs
  • 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (cut any large pieces in half lengthwise)
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth, plus extra
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle inside and out with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. Cut one-half of one of the onions into two pieces; place onion pieces and the thyme sprigs in the body cavity of the chicken. Skewer neck skin to the back; tie legs to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.

Cut the remaining 1-1/2 onions into wedges. Cut off the top 1/4 inch of the garlic bulbs to expose the ends of individual cloves. Keeping the garlic bulbs whole, remove any loose, papery outer layers.

In a large bowl combine onion wedges, garlic bulbs, carrots, celery, 1/4 cup broth, oil, bay leaves, sage sprigs, thyme leaves and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange vegetables around the chicken; spoon liquid from the bowl over the chicken.

Roast, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until drumsticks move easily and the chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees F), stirring vegetables a few times. Add small amounts of additional broth if the vegetables and the bottom of the pan begin to get too brown.

Remove from oven when cooked and cover with foil. Let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Remove and discard bay leaves and sage sprigs. Serve chicken with vegetables and pan juices.


Sticky Chicken Rotisserie Style

8 servings


  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 (4 pound) whole chickens, at room temperature


In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.

Remove and discard giblets from the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub each chicken, inside and out, with the spice mixture. Place 1 onion into the cavity of each chicken.

Place chickens in a resealable bag or double wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 to 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).

Place chickens in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for 5 hours, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Let the chickens stand for 15 minutes before carving.


Honey-Spiced Roasted Chicken

6-8 servings


  • 1 (5-6 pound) whole roasting chicken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.

In a bowl, mix together the honey, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder. Using your hands, rub the honey mixture all over the chicken. Baste chicken with the melted butter.

Roast the chicken in the preheated oven until the skin begins to brown, 30 to 45 minutes. Baste the chicken with juices in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with foil.

Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting occasionally during roasting. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow to rest in a warm area for 15 minutes before slicing.


Italian Flavored Roast Chicken

6-8 servings


  • 1 roasting chicken (6 to 8 lbs.), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 14 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 rosemary sprigs, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
  • 2 onions (about 1 lb. total)
  • 8 Roma tomatoes (about 2 lb. total)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove giblets and pull off and discard lumps of fat from the chicken. Pat dry and fold wing tips under the first joint. Set chicken, breast side up on a V-shaped rack set in a medium pan.

In a small bowl, mix chopped rosemary and basil. Starting at the neck, gently ease your fingers under the skin to loosen it over the breast area. Push 1/3 of the rosemary-basil mixture under the skin and spread it evenly over the breast.

Place 6 garlic cloves and 3 rosemary sprigs in the body cavity. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Stem and seed the bell peppers; cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Peel onions and cut each into 6 wedges. Core tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.

Distribute peppers, onions, and remaining garlic around the chicken in the pan. Set tomatoes, cut side up, on top of the pepper mixture and sprinkle vegetables with another 1/3 of the herb mixture and the remaining salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil.

Roast until the vegetables begin to brown and a thermometer inserted through the thickest part of the breast or the thickest part of thigh at joint reaches 180°, about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours.

Insert a carving fork into the chicken cavity, lift the chicken and drain the cavity juices into the pan. Set the chicken on a rimmed platter; let rest, covered with foil, in a warm place for 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a shallow bowl; sprinkle with olives and keep warm.

Skim and discard fat from the pan; add vinegar, wine, broth and remaining herb mixture. Stir often over high heat, scraping browned bits free, until reduced to 3/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a small pitcher or bowl.

Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetable mixture. Add pan juices and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the serving platter with the remaining rosemary sprigs.


My favorite seafood market on the Gulf Coast.

My favorite seafood market on the Gulf Coast.

It’s a great time of year to enjoy some fresh seafood. Whether you buy it fresh from the counter at your favorite market, catch your own or buy it frozen, seafood is a great addition to your summer menu. Make salad your main course by adding some grilled fish to it. Include lots of leafy greens (choose from spinach, arugula, romaine or mixed baby greens) and add tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber and diced onion. Top your salad with a tasty homemade dressing.


Italian Marinated Seafood Salad

Serves 6


  • 3/4 pound sea scallops
  • 1/2 pound medium unpeeled shrimp
  • 1/2 pound fresh mussels
  • 1/4 pound calamari rings
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste


Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add scallops, shrimp, mussels and calamari to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain.

Peel the shrimp and remove the mussels from their shells.

Place cooked seafood and olives in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, chives and red pepper flakes. Chill for 1 hour.

Divide salad greens onto 6 plates or salad bowls. Spoon seafood over greens. Garnish with slices of lemon and red onions. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Lentil Salad with Grilled Salmon

You can use canned salmon but for really good flavor, grill extra salmon one night so that you have leftovers for this salad.

6 servings


  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup cucumber,seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, rinsed, or 3 cups cooked brown or green lentils (see cooking note below)
  • 12 oz leftover grilled salmon fillet or 1 ½ cups flaked canned salmon


Whisk lemon juice, dill, mustard, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add bell pepper, cucumber, onion, lentils  toss to coat. Let marinate for at least one hour or chill until ready to serve. Place leftover chilled salmon on top of the salad or flake and mix in with the lentils just before serving.

Cooking Note:

To cook the lentils: Place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes for green lentils and 30 minutes for brown. Drain and rinse under cold water.


Mediterranean Salad with Sardines

4 servings


  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large cucumber, cut into large chunks
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
  • Two 4-ounce cans sardines with bones, packed in olive oil and drained (see cooking note below)


Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large serving bowl until well combined. Add tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, feta, onion and olives; gently toss to combine. Let marinate for at least an hour.

At serving time, divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines.

Cooking Note:

Look for sardines with skin and bones (which are edible) as they have more than four times the amount of calcium as skinless, boneless sardines. If you’re lucky enough to have fresh sardines available in your market, try them in place of the canned sardines. Lightly dredge them in salt-and-pepper-seasoned flour and sauté them in a little olive oil.


Grilled Fish Fillet Salad

6 servings



  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (5-6 medium), scrubbed and halved
  • 1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound halibut or striped bass or your favorite fish fillet (see cooking note below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 large head tender lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted  Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley


To prepare the vinaigrette:

Using a fork, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in 5 tablespoons oil. Add 6 tablespoons orange juice, vinegar and mustard; whisk until well blended. Taste and season with more salt, if desired. Set aside at room temperature.

To prepare the salad:

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander. When cool enough to handle, slice and place in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 cup vinaigrette; set aside.

Add beans to the saucepan and  bring to a boil; cook until the beans are bright green and just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well. Place in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette.

Combine lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper in a sturdy ziplock plastic bag; shake until the salt dissolves. Add fish and marinate for up to 20 minutes.

Heat a grill to medium-high and preheat for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. (For a charcoal grill, wait until the flames subside and only coals and some ash remain—flames will cause the oil on the fish to burn.) Oil grill rack.

Grill the fish, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side for halibut; 3 to 4 minutes per side for bass.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Arrange the fish (whole or flaked into large chunks), potatoes, green beans and tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Garnish with eggs, olives, parsley and pepper to taste.

Cooking Note:

Fish that flakes easily requires a delicate touch to flip on the grill. If you want to skip turning it over when grilling, measure a piece of foil large enough to hold the fish and coat it with cooking spray. Grill the fish on the foil (without turning) until it flakes easily and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.


Shrimp & Arugula Salad

Grill extra corn to use in this salad.

4 servings


  • 12 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover grilled fresh corn kernels, (from about 2 ears)
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined, tails removed if desired
  • Homemade croutons made ahead and cooled, (see recipe below)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shaved


Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning from time to time, just until they turn pink and are opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. chill in the refrigerator.

Combine arugula, basil, corn and tomatoes in a large salad bowl.

Whisk 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Add to the arugula mixture along with the croutons.

Whisk the dressing again and drizzle over the salad; toss to coat. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Grind black pepper over the salads and sprinkle with cheese.

Homemade Croutons


  • 3 pieces of good quality Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

On a large baking sheet, spread out the bread cubes in one layer.

Evenly sprinkle the Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt over the bread cubes.

Then drizzle the olive oil over the top.

Using your hands, toss to combine thoroughly and then spread back into one even layer.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. The croutons will harden as they cool.



I find if I wash, chop and dry Romaine lettuce in the salad spinner it keeps wonderfully for 5 days or so in zip lock bags with a few paper towel. This can make the weeknight meal prep shorter. Just add tomatoes, cucumber, onion and dressing and you don’t have to lug out the salad spinner midweek!

Roasted vegetables keep well when make ahead and stored in sealed container in the refrigerator.

Most foods can be prepped ahead of time. Chop onions, garlic, ginger, green onions, asparagus, etc on the weekend to use during the week. You can even chop fresh tomatoes and keep them in a covered container. I’ve never heard that you can’t pre chop cucumbers and carrots and I do it all the time. I have a container that I fill up with carrot and celery sticks, sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes. We can easily grab some veggies to munch on or to use for a fast salad.

I happen to like roast chicken, but you could easily roast a turkey breast or a beef roast or a pork shoulder to use during the week in place of my chicken.

Next weekend make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and use it for lasagna and chicken parmesan. These are just a few ideas to give you a head start.

Menu For The Week

Sunday – Mediterranean Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Olives and Spinach

Monday – Tuscan Beef Stew; Italian Bread

Tuesday – Spinach Chicken Salad; Italian Bread

Wednesday – Italian Pork Roast with Fennel and Onions; Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Thursday – Pasta with Beef Stew; Roasted Broccoli Salad

Friday – Italian Grilled Pork Panini; Coleslaw; Pickles

Recipes for the Week

On Sunday cook the chicken and pork in the oven and the beef stew on top of the stove. Prep ingredients for Tuesday’s salad and make the dressing. Cut up the broccoli for roasting on Wednesday.

Italian Seasoning

I use this seasoning often in my recipes. You can buy it in the store or make your own. My recipe can be found in a post here

Tuscan Vinaigrette_Gimme Some Oven_Recipes_1007x545

Italian Vinaigrette


  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Mix vinegar, Italian seasoning, sugar and sea salt in a small bowl with a wire whisk. Gradually add oil, whisking until well blended. Cover.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Whisk dressing before drizzling over salad greens.


Mediterranean Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Olives and Spinach

Serve this dinner on Sunday

Serves 6


  • 4 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning , divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 12 Yukon gold potatoes, each cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse grind
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled and divided


Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Mix 2 tablespoons of the dried seasoning with the butter. Rub 3/4 of butter mixture under the chicken skin (breasts and legs) and remaining mixture on the outside of the chicken. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning over the outside of the chicken.

Stuff 3 lemon halves inside the chicken cavity. Place chicken in large roasting pan.

Mix potatoes, oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon dried seasoning. Arrange potatoes around the chicken in the roasting pan.

Roast 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from oven to a platter. Let stand 10 minutes.

Transfer vegetables to large skillet. Add olives, salt and pepper; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes on low heat. Add spinach; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until leaves just begin to wilt. Remove from the heat.

Set aside half of the mixture in a covered bowl for Wednesday’s dinner and refrigerate the dish.

Gently stir in 2 oz feta and juice of 1/2 lemon into the remaining vegetable mixture in the skillet. Reserve the remaining 2 oz feta for Wednesday’s dinner.

Remove the vegetables to large platter. Carve enough chicken needed for dinner and serve with the vegetables.

Dice the remaining chicken and reserve half for Wednesday’s dinner and the other half for chicken salad for lunch.


Tuscan Beef Stew

Serve half the stew with some great bread and a salad using the vinaigrette and prepped salad ingredients for Monday’s dinner.

Serves 8


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds cubed chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced into ½ ­inch chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained


Heat oil in a 5 ­quart Dutch oven on medium ­high heat. Add beef in batches; cook until browned on all sides. Return all of the beef to Dutch oven. Sprinkle with flour; mix well. Stir in carrots, onion, tomatoes, stock and Italian Seasoning. Mix until well blended.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium­ low; cover and simmer 1 hour or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in beans. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

Serve half the recipe for dinner and reserve the remaining stew for Thursday’s dinner.

Spinach Chicken Salad

Serve this on Tuesday.
Place the reserved spinach, olive, potato mixture in a shallow salad bowl. Add reserved feta cheese and drizzle with a little of the Italian vinaigrette. Add diced chicken and mix. Heat up the leftover bread from Monday’s dinner and serve additional vinaigrette on the side.


Italian Pork Roast with Fennel and Onions

Serve this pork dinner on Wednesday.

Serves: 8


  • 2 boneless pork tenderloins or 1 pork loin roast, trimmed (about 2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning , divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, tops and cores removed, and bulbs cut into 1/4­inch thick slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 ­inch thick slices
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Place pork roast in 6­ quart shallow Dutch oven.

Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dried Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon of the oil, lemon peel, fennel seed and sea salt in small bowl. Rub evenly over the pork. Toss fennel, onion, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tablespoon dried seasoning in large bowl. Place vegetable mixture around the pork.

Roast 40-45 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork reaches 145°F, stirring vegetables occasionally. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Then, layer in a shallow casserole dish (9×13).

Place Dutch oven with vegetables on medium­ low heat. Stir in stock and lemon juice. Simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally. Pour over the pork slices in the casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate until Wednesday.

Use some of the leftovers to make Italian Pork Panini sandwiches for Friday.


Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

Place the pork dish in the oven to heat while the broccoli roasts on Wednesday.


  • 1 large head of broccoli (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch florets, stems peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large baking sheet, toss the broccoli florets and stems with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the broccoli in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until browned and tender. Serve half for dinner with the 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Add some of the Italian vinaigrette to the remaining broccoli and refrigerate to serve with Thursday’s dinner.

Pappardelle with Beef Stew

Serve this dinner on Thursday.

Cook 8 oz pappardelle pasta (wide noodles) in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking heat remaining beef stew.

Serve over noodles and garnish with grated Parmesan. Serve with reserved broccoli salad.


Grilled Pork Panini

Serve with pickles and coleslaw on Friday.


  • Leftover pork slices and vegetables
  • 8 slices Italian bread
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade basil pesto
  • 4 one ounce slices provolone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing


Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each slice of bread. Top four slices of bread with pork slices, fennel, onion and cheese; top each sandwich with remaining bread.

Lightly brush the outer surface of the sandwiches with olive oil; grill in a medium-hot skillet or in a sandwich press until toasted on each side.

Easy Coleslaw

You can make this the night before.


  • 1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


Combine all ingredients except coleslaw mix in a large bowl and combine well.

Add the coleslaw, mix and toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend.


What makes for a great sandwich?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

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

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

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

But, the question is – What’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?

For me – it is the quality of the bread – what is it for you?

sandwich 5

Mortadella, Cheese and Basil Panini

Mortadella is a large Italian sausage or cold cut made of finely ground, heat-cured pork sausage, which incorporates small cubes of pork fat. Mortadella is a staple product of Bologna, Italy.

6 servings


  • 1 (16-ounce) loaf ciabatta, cut in half horizontally
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 8 ounces sliced mortadella 
  • 2 hot cherry peppers, sliced
  • 1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil cooking spray


Brush the cut side of the bottom bread half with mustard; brush the cut side of the top half with vinegar. Top the bottom half with mozzarella, basil, mortadella, peppers and tomato. Top with remaining bread half.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add the sandwich to the pan; top with another heavy skillet. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Cut sandwich into 6 wedges. If the sandwich does not fit in your pan, cut it in half and cook in two batches.

sandwich 2

Family Style Hearty Steak Sandwich

6 Servings


  • 2 cups seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank or sirloin steak
  • 1 (1-pound) Italian round bread loaf (boule) 
  • 4 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 ounces arugula


Heat an outdoor gas grill.

Combine tomatoes, olives, basil, red onion, vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.

Place steaks on the grill over medium heat. Grill to desired temperature, turning once. Place on cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain.

Slice bread horizontally. Grill, cut side down, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place cheese on the bottom half of the bread. Top with tomato mixture, steak and arugula. Top with remaining bread. Slice into wedges.

sandwich 1

Vegan Muffuletta

Serves 4-6


  • 3 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 (8-inch) Italian round bread loaf, halved horizontally
  • 1/3 cup sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1/3 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 12 basil leaves


Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard the black gills from each mushroom. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until it begins to turn light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Arrange mushrooms in the skillet in a single layer, then add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning the mushrooms once, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes total. Set aside off of the heat to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine black and green olives, parsley, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and press the mixture with the back of a spoon until it’s roughly mashed; set aside.

Using your fingers, remove some of the bread from the inside of both halves of the bread loaf, making sure to keep a 1-inch border around the edge. (This will help to make room for the filling. Save the bread that you remove for another use, such as bread crumbs or croutons.)

Layer both halves of bread with olive mixture then arrange peppers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and basil on the bottom half. Top with the cooked mushrooms, spreading them out to cover the entire width of the bread. Assemble the top and bottom halves of the loaf to form a sandwich.

Serve muffuletta right away or wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, weighted down with a heavy object like a cast iron skillet filled with a few heavy canned goods. Cut into wedges before serving.

sandwich 3

Mediterranean Tilapia Sandwiches

Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seed and herbs frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas.



  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray


  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Sandwich ingredients:

  • 4 Mediterranean wheat pitas or flatbread (such as Toufayan), heated
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)


Preheat a broiler.

To prepare fish:

Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Za’atar , 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with olive oil cooking spray. Broil 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

To prepare Tzatziki:

Combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor or blender; pulse until smooth.

To prepare sandwiches:

Spread 2 tablespoons Tzatziki sauce in the center of each pita. Divide fish evenly among the pitas. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tomato slices and about 6 cucumber slices; fold pita or flatbread in half.

sandwich 4
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

4 servings


  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 crusty Italian rolls, such as ciabatta
  • Salt
  • 1 3/4 pounds thin chicken cutlets


Light an outdoor grill.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with olive oil. Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Brush the chicken cutlets with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Grill them over high heat, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.

??????????Whether oven roasted, smoked, braised or cooked in a crock pot, pork shoulder is one of those cuts of meat that just gets better the longer it cooks. Pork shoulder is probably one of the cheapest cuts of meat around but smells so good when it cooks, it will make you want to hang out in the kitchen.

Both a pork shoulder and a pork butt come from the shoulder area. Cuts labeled “pork shoulder” or “picnic shoulder” are from the thinner, triangle-shaped end of the shoulder, whereas the “butt” is from the thicker, fatty end of the shoulder. As such, pork shoulder is better for cooking whole and slicing, whereas pork butt is perfect for making pulled pork and other recipes in which the meat is meant to fall apart. Yet both pork shoulder and pork butt benefit from long, slow cooking and are great cut up and used as stew meat and in chilis.

Pork Shoulder Cuts

Bone-in Pork Shoulder

Pork Butt

Boneless Pork Shoulder

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in the Oven

  • Let the pork shoulder sit and come to room temperature for half an hour prior to cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
  • Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan, so it does not sit in its own juices. Place the pork fat side up so it will baste itself.
  • Pierce the pork with a knife in a few different spots. This will allow the juices to spill out and baste the meat.
  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, marinade or rub.
  • Roast pork for about 3 hours. The skin should be crispy.
  • Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).
  • Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Slow Cooker

  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings or rub. Let it sit for 30 minutes so the rub sticks to the meat.
  • Add other desired ingredients to the crock pot, such as vegetables or herbs for more flavor.
  • Place the pork shoulder into the crock pot on top of the other ingredients.
  • Cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the pork shoulder with liquids of your choice, such as water, unsweetened apple juice or stock. 
  • Place the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the pork is very tender.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder on the Grill

  • Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Use olive oil or nonstick cooking spray on the grill grates to prevent the meat from sticking.
  • Pierce the pork shoulder with a knife a few times over the surface.
  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, rub or marinade.
  • Grill the pork shoulder for approximately 3 hours.
  • Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).
  • Let the pork shoulder rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Storing Pork Roasts

Sealed, prepacked fresh pork cuts can be kept in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days. If you do plan on keeping the raw, fresh pork longer than 2 to 3 days before cooking it, store it well-wrapped in the freezer. Generally, fresh cuts of pork, like roasts, can be kept in the freezer up to 6 months.

Follow these steps to help keep your pork fresh in the freezer:

  • Use one of these freezer wrap materials: specially-coated freezer paper (place the waxed side against the meat); heavy-duty aluminum foil; heavy-duty polyethylene film; heavy-duty plastic bags.
  • Cover sharp bones with extra paper so the bones do not pierce the wrapping.
  • Wrap the meat tightly, pressing as much air out of the package as possible.
  • Label with the name of the pork cut and date.
  • Freeze at 0 degrees F or lower.

pulled pork sandwich

Family Favorite – Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I use a boneless pork shoulder for this recipe instead of a pork butt (or Boston butt) because it is leaner. For best flavor prep the meat one day ahead.

12 servings

Dry Rub:

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 (5 to 7 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

Mustard Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register at least 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it falls apart.

While the pork is roasting, make the mustard sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready for it.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 20 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to “pull” the meat. Use 2 forks: 1 to steady the meat and the other to “pull” shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with some of the mustard sauce.


Porchetta-Style Roast Pork

Porchetta, or roast suckling pig seasoned with garlic and herbs, is a traditional Italian dish. Here, the flavors of porchetta are used on a roasted pork shoulder. You’ll need to start this dish one day ahead, as the pork has to marinate overnight.

Makes 8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 5 1/2- to 6-pound boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth


Stir fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a spice mill and cool. Add kosher salt, peppercorns and dried crushed red pepper. Grind to medium-fine consistency (not a powder).

Place pork in 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish. Rub garlic all over pork, then coat with spice mixture. Loosely cover pork with waxed paper. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush a large rimmed baking pan with oil. Place roast, fat side up, in the center of the baking pan. If any of the spice mixture has fallen off, return it to the meat and drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Roast pork 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Roast pork until very tender and a thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 190°F, after about 3 hours 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board but do not clean the baking pan. Let pork rest 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour all pan juices from the baking pan into 2-cup measuring cup. Let sit for a few minutes and spoon off any fat that rises to top. Place reserved baking pan across 2 burners on the stove. Pour wine and broth onto the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until wine mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

Add degreased pan juices and whisk to blend. Pour pan sauce into small bowl (sauce will be thin). Thinly slice roast and serve with the sauce.


Pork Ragu Over Pappardelle

Slow cooked pork shoulder adds much more flavor to the ragu than using ground pork.


  • 2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic 
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes (crushed red pepper)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 lb pappardelle (wide) pasta


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

Pour the olive oil into the big pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread the pieces in the pan and season with salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning and moving the pieces occasionally as the meat releases its juices and they cook away.

When the pan is dry and the pork starts to sizzle and crackle, clear a spot on the bottom and add in the chopped garlic and peperoncino. Stir them for a minute or so in the pan until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, then stir and toss with the meat cubes.

Raise the heat a bit, pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble until it is nearly evaporated and the pork is sizzling again. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of water and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir well.

Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the pork is tender and falls apart under gentle pressure 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 rapidly.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve ragu over the cooked pappardelle.

pork shoulder

Mediterranean Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 4


  • 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut in 1/4″ wedges
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thin-skinned oranges, cut in eighths
  • 1/2 cup Cerignola or Kalamata olives
  • 2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade or low-sodium if using canned)
  • Fennel fronds for garnish


Preheat oven to 300° F.

Secure each piece of pork with kitchen twine, so they will stay together while braising. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from the pan and transfer to a rimmed plate.

Add the fennel wedges, onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth, oranges, thyme and bay leaf. Return the pork to the pan with add any accumulated juices on the plate.

Bring to a boil. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and cook the pork for 2 hours longer, turning the meat over and adding the olives after the first hour. The pork should be very tender, if not, cook for another 30 minutes.

Transfer the pork, fennel, oranges, vegetables and olives with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a serving bowl. Remove the string from the pork and tent with foil.

Place the Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning.

Cut the pork into small chunks and spoon the sauce and vegetables over the pork, sprinkle with the fennel fronds. This dish is often served over polenta or couscous.

pork chili

Southern Style Pork Shoulder Black-Eyed Pea Chili


  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 pounds, fat trimmed pork shoulder cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 – 12 ounce bottle ale
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups canned whole Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
  • 1 pound black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheddar and sour cream for serving


In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika and cumin and toss with the pork to coat in a large plastic ziplock bag. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1/3 of the pork and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and repeat the process twice with 2 more batches of pork. Transfer all the pork to the plate. Only add more oil, if necessary, to keep pork from sticking to the pot.

Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Return the pork to the pot along with any accumulated juices from the plate. Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles and black-eyed peas and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Season the chili with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the chili in bowls with cheddar and sour cream.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The benefits of giving homemade holiday food gifts are numerous. They are easy on the budget and ideal for those people on your holiday gift list who have everything. The receiver appreciates the personal touch and effort you’ve put into the gift and, for you, the creative act of putting together ahomemade gift is rewarding.

But what many people may not know about the benefits of homemade gifts is that they can actually be better for the planet than the standard store bought gifts. Many mass-produced gift items are things that your gift recipients actually do not need. How many times have you received an off-the-shelf Christmas gift that you simply tucked away in a corner of your closet? With homemade gifts, you get to customize your gifts to what your gift recipients might like or use. Homemade gifts can also be less energy-consuming to produce, since you get to cut out the shipping process.

Homemade gifts also have the benefit of giving materials, originally headed for the recycling or trash bin, a new lease of life. For example, a piece of leftover ribbon can now be reused as part of the gift-wrap for a homemade gift. The process of hand-making your gifts can help to contribute to less waste, especially if you seek to reuse materials as much as possible. In the process of making homemade gifts, you might have to purchase some materials. Try to minimize that if you can. Be innovative, find alternatives that already exist at home. Because you have a choice over the type of materials, you can choose the environmentally more friendly or biodegradable versions.

What could be easier than baking a batch of your favorite cookies or mixing mocha drink ingredients or making a container of pickles and giving it as a gift in a fancy jar, complete with recipe and instructions? It is best to use a recipe that has your own special ingredients. Give the recipient a gourmet food jar or container that they might not find anywhere else. The best part about this step is that you can use a variety of jars in different shapes and sizes, adding to the uniqueness of your homemade food gift. Print the recipe and attach it to the food gift. Be sure to include all of the directions and a list of the ingredients the gift recipient will need to finish the recipe.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Toffee

Yield: about 20 pieces


  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (about 4 oz.)
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a shallow pan; bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking pan halfway through. Remove to a bowl to cool, then chop.

Line a 15-by-10-inch baking sheet with foil; mist with cooking spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer on sheet, breaking crackers as necessary to fit.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a small pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Spread mixture evenly over crackers. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove sheet from the oven; add peanut butter in dollops. Return to oven until peanut butter begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack.

Spread peanut butter evenly. Sprinkle both types of chocolate chips over the mixture on the baking sheet; let stand until chips soften, about 1 minute. Spread chips over peanut butter. Sprinkle with almonds. Let stand for 30 minutes. Place sheet in the refrigerator; chill until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into approximately 20 pieces. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

As A Gift: Fill a decorative coffee mug with toffee pieces.

Peppery Peach Sauce

Yield: 8 half-pint jars


  • Three 16-ounce packages frozen unsweetened peach slices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 15 1/2 ounce can peach or apricot nectar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 fresh hot red chile pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed and chopped


Place half of the frozen peaches in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until peaches are very finely chopped. Transfer chopped peaches to a 6-quart pot. Repeat with remaining peaches. (You should have 5 cups pureed peaches.)

Add sugar, nectar, vinegar, lemon juice, chile pepper, salt and garlic to the pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in raspberries.

Immediately ladle peach sauce into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Remove jars from canner; cool on racks.

As A Gift: Tie a ribbon around a filled jar, then slide a basting brush underneath the ribbon. Add a sprig of rosemary to the top of the jar for a festive touch.

Sweet Potato Loaf


  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed cooked peeled sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In one bowl, combine flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, sugar, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in sweet potatoes. Add sour cream mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in dates and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

As A Gift: Wrap the loaf in cellophane or a pretty dish towel and tie with ribbon.

Parmesan Grissini

Yields: 25 to 30 grissini


  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warmed milk
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan


In a bowl combine bread flour, yeast, sea salt, fennel seeds and red pepper; make a well in the middle.

Pour olive oil and warmed milk into the well. Stir until dough comes together. Add Parmesan and mix until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (You can prepare the dough in a mixer with a dough hook, if desired.)

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Lightly flour work surface again, then turn dough out and knead lightly for 1 minute.

Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 12- by 15-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into strips just under 1/2 inch wide. Lightly flour hands, then quickly roll strips until they’re slightly rounded.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving space between each strip. Set aside to rise again, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle shelf until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, turning bread sticks halfway through. Let cool completely.

As A Gift: Bundle in wax paper or parchment and seal with gold stickers.

Homemade Spice Mixes

Combine the individual mixtures and package in decorative containers. You can purchase decorative tins or spice jars from any kitchen supply company or use some of your empty spice jars.

Poultry Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt free chicken bouillon granules

Fish Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Steak Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Italian Seasoning

  • 4 tablespoons dried basil
  • 4 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage

Gluten Free Flour Blend

If you have friends with gluten intolerance, they will appreciate having this baking mix handy.


  • 2 cups finely ground rice flour
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum


Combine all ingredients in large bowl; stir very well. Store mixture in a container with tight-fitting lid in the freezer; stir before using.



Cosenza is one of the most highly populated provinces of Italy and occupies about 44% of the Calabrian region, basically the whole northern and central parts of the area. The landscape is unique and characterized by mountains,  hills, plains and deep valleys bounded by the Busento and the Crathis rivers. Cosenza is one of the most ancient cities in Calabria and is situated on seven hills in the valley of Crati. The area in and around Cosenza exhibits signs of historic transitions since the prehistoric period with sites in the area attesting to human presence during those prehistoric times.

The fortress, Rocca Imperiale, overlooks the Ionian Sea, and was built by Frederick II.

Important water travel routes have existed here since the Magna Graecia and Roman periods. In 204 BC, the region was conquered by the Romans, and became an important route along the Via Popilia, connecting Rome to Sicily. In the Middle Ages this land was conquered by the Byzantines, who brought economic benefits to the territory with the introduction of new agricultural techniques and architectural design. Byzantine influences are still present in the elegant architecture of the city, as well as the influences of the Normans, the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Spaniards, who all left their traces in the centuries that followed.

Cosenza Church of San Domenico


Due to its cultural past, it was known as the Athens of Italy and today it houses the largest university campus of the nation. The city of Cosenza is rich in art and culture and officially recognized as a “City of Art” in the Calabria region. Cosenza is also called the capital of the Bruzi. The Bruzi were an ancient population who lived in southern Italy and they settled in the area of land that lies between the woods of the Sila plateau and the Crati Rivers. They took economic and social control of these areas following the decline of the Greek dominance and, in the 4th. century BC, they attained independence forming their capital Cosenza, formerly called Cosentia.

The old city is characterized by steep and narrow alleys and, during the few last years, this area has experienced a renewed vibrancy. This section is one of the most beautiful and ancient city centers in Italy, where one can find historical buildings, manor houses, an urban plan, and a labyrinth of streets around the old buildings and churches that have existed for centuries.

The cultural activity of the city centers around theater and opera events held in the Rendano Theater, the historical Cinemateatro Italia and the Teatro Stabile d’Innovazione of Calabria. The Accademia Cosentina promotes culture, artists and scientists.The Brettii Museum, officially opened in 2009, in the 15th. century complex of St. Agostino and is located in the center of the city. The Museum of the Rimembranze and the Open-Air Museum Bilotti can also be found there.


The variety in the landscape here makes the province of Cosenza an ideal place for long outdoor excursions. The trekking routes will lead you to the discovery of small churches and a beautiful countryside that you can admire from charming wooden bridges. The flat, hilly areas are usually used for horse riding. Photography enthusiasts will draw plenty of inspiration for their picture taking. During wintertime, organized snowshoe excursions in the mountains are popular, while ski establishments can be found in the highest areas of the Sila Mountains.

The National Park of Pollino offers opportunities to practice rafting and canoeing, especially on the river Lao, among the canyons and gorges. During recent years, Nordic walking has become more widespread, as it is a gentle sport, suitable for everybody. Water parks can be found along the coast, like Odissea 2000, in Zolfara. The area is well equipped for water sports, from windsurfing to water skiing, as well as beach volleyball.

Inland, many fairs and festivals offer opportunities to taste local dishes and discover local traditions.The culinary specialties of Cosenza are based on local, simple foods. Such specialities, as the Cuddrurieddri, are salted doughnuts prepared for the Immacolata Feast or for Christmas time. The Turididdri are fried Christmas pastries covered with figs and honey, while the Scaliddre are sugar-glazed.

First courses offer fresh fusilli pasta with potatoes, sauteed potatoes, onions and peppers, broccoli with sausages, thick tagliatelle pasta with chickpeas and fresh pasta with mushrooms. Among the fish dishes, the most famous are fried cod and spaghetti with anchovies and breadcrumbs.

Pitta ‘mpigliata, a traditional Christmas dessert pastry,  Mostaccioli, pastries prepared for the Feast of Saint Joseph and focaccia bread made with honey or figs, mulled wine, flour and almonds and formed into different religious shapes are popular desserts. The area is well known for its anise liqueur.

Make Some Cosenza Inspired Recipes At Home:

First Course

Italian Peppers, Onions and Potatoes

Serve with Italian bread


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 lbs. sweet long Italian frying peppers or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips 
  • 1 lb. long hot Italian peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar


Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic, onion, potatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Add sweet and hot peppers, crushed red pepper and oregano.

Cook until peppers and potatoes are tender, stirring often. Stir in vinegar.

Second Course

Simmered Tuna Steaks


  • 1 ½ lbs. fresh tuna cut into 4 even sized steaks
  • 2 oz pancetta
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 boned anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 1 1/4 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes or equivalent fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 hot dried red chilli pepper, chopped or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper


  1. Chop the pancetta finely and set aside.
  2. Chop the garlic and onion together and set aside.
  3. Pat the tuna dry with paper towels.
  4. Season the dry tuna steaks thoroughly on both sides with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the oil in a wide skillet.
  6. Coat the tuna lightly on either side in flour and cook the steaks for 3 minutes on either side in the hot oil.
  7. Sprinkle with the wine and allow the alcohol to boil off for 1 minute.
  8. Remove the fish to a plate.
  9. Put the pancetta, garlic and onion and half the parsley in the skillet.
  10. Saute gently for about 5 minutes, then add the anchovy fillets and mash them into the ingredients in the skillet with a fork.
  11. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes and stir together thoroughly.
  12. Add the chilli and simmer slowly for about 15 minutes, then slide in the fish. Heat through thoroughly for about 8 minutes, turning them over gently once.
  13. Arrange the tuna on a warmed serving dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with remaining parsley just before serving.

Dessert Course

Chocolate-Dipped Figs with Almonds                                                                                                                           

Makes 2 dozen


  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped unsalted toasted almonds
  • 24 plump dried figs, such as Calimyrna


Line a large baking sheet or tray with parchment paper.

Place almonds into a wide, shallow dish.

Put chocolate into a small pot and heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Working with one at a time, hold a fig by the stem and carefully dip it into the chocolate, coating it about halfway up. Shake off any excess chocolate, roll the bottom in almonds and transfer to the paper lined tray.

(If chocolate becomes too stiff, reheat it briefly over medium low heat.)

Set figs aside in a cool spot until chocolate is set, about 2 hours. Alternately, chill the figs in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and then return them to room temperature.

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