Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Etruscans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grape Flat Bread

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Peasant Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat olive oil in heavy 4 quart sauce pan.

Cut sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.

Brown sausage in pan until no longer pink.

Add onion and garlic and stir until softened.

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

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

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Etruscan Pici

Ingredients

For the pasta

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

For the sauce

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

Directions

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

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

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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

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

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

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Guinea Fowl in Porcini

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About these ads

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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.


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

Monday

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Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

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

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

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Carrot Spice Muffins

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

Dry ingredients:

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

Wet ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

Add the carrots and stir to combine.

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

Tuesday

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Salmon Cucumber Boats

Serves: 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Salad with Tangerines

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Directions

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

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

Wednesday

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Chilled Tomato Soup with Melon

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Shrimp Pita

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat  an outdoor or indoor grill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday

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Rib-Eye Steak with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Friday

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Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grilled Peach-and-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

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

Salad

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

Directions

Dressing

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

Salad

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

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


lunchtime

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

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

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

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

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Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

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

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Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

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

Ingredients

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

Yogurt Sauce

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Leftover Frittata

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

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

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

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

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

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

Prepare the Salad:

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

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


piegaro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cuisine of Piegaro (Umbria) Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fettuccine With Black Truffle Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Serve on pre-heated plates.

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Pork Roast Braised with Milk

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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Asparagus, Peas and Basil

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Stir in basil and sea salt to taste.

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Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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


healthyfat

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Avocado

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

Monounsaturated Fat – Tree Nuts

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

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

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat – Oily Fish

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

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Italian Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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Italian Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with crispy bread sticks or crostini.

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

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

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Fettuccine with Sardines

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top and serve.

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Nut-Crusted Fish with Summer Vegetables

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

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

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

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

In another dish, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and cayenne.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water.

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

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

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

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Italian Pesto alla Trapanese

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serve over whole wheat pasta, grilled meat or fish.


Healthykids

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

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

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

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

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

Blueberries

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

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

Black Beans

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

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

Eggs

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

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

Spinach

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

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

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

After School Snacks

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Apple Snack Wedges

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

healthykids4

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

healthykids3

Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Lunch Box Ideas

healthykids5

Chicken Wrap

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

healthykids6

Lunch on a Stick

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

healthykids9

Bean Dip & Chips

1 serving

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Healthy Dinner Options

healthykids7

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

Ingredients

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

Directions

Place butter in a shallow bowl.

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

Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.

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

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

healthykids2

Pizza Meatloaf Cups

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

healthykids8

Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.

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



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