Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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rice

What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

rice2

Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

rice4

Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.

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fallpizza

If the chill in the air has you wanting to make some heartier pizzas, look no further for inspiration than the fall farmers’ market. Apples, butternut squash, sage, kale, mushrooms, cauliflower, figs…these ingredients are perfect. The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more fruit or vegetable servings each day. This fall’s harvest offers the opportunity to revisit the classics while searching for new flavors. What better way to enjoy these ingredients than on a pizza. You can prepare it so many different ways, so experiment and have fun with it. Who knows? Maybe you will create a new family favorite that you can look forward to year after year.

Master Pizza Dough Recipe:

fallpizza5

Make this dough at least one day ahead.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Semolina flour for dusting

Directions

Combine the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil, honey and water and stir on low-speed until the flour is all absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to floured work surface and gently round into a ball. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).

fallpizza1

Sage Pesto and Butternut Squash Pizza

For a vegetarian version, leave out the pancetta.

Ingredients

  • One prepared pizza dough, see above, or your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sage pesto (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 cup caramelized butternut squash (recipe follows)
  • 2 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 4 thin slices of pancetta cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Sage pesto:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Caramelized butternut squash:

  • 1/2 small butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the sage pesto:

Combine the walnuts, sage, parsley, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 10 to 15 times to break up the walnuts and herbs somewhat. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt, if needed.

For the caramelized butternut squash:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the diced squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender, mixing once after 15 minutes. Let cool.

To make the pizza:

Remove dough from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours.

In a small skillet heat the 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the pancetta and leek until  the pancetta begins to brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Spread the sage pesto on the dough and then evenly distribute the caramelized squash, the Fontina cheese, the pancetta and the leek. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and add fresh cracked pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano, and additional nutmeg. Slice and serve immediately.

fallpizza2

Fennel, Onion and Italian Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe pizza dough, recipe above
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fennel fronds, for garnish

Directions:

Remove dough from refrigerator and rest at room temperature for 2 hours. On a lightly floured work surface, gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Saute crumbled Italian sausage in a skillet until no longer brown. Set aside. In the same skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, thyme, salt and fennel and cook over medium heat until onions are soft and golden and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a few times and form it into a round flat disc. Roll or stretch the dough out in a 15 inch pizza pan or a 13×9 rectangular baking pan .

Brush the crust with a thin layer of olive oil. Spread with grated mozzarella and top with sausage, the onion and fennel mixture. Season with pepper.

Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly brown.Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and a few fennel fronds. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

fallpizza3

Mushroom, Kale Pizza with Roasted Garlic Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 large head roasted garlic, see recipe below
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups torn kale leaves (not tightly packed!)
  • 1 prepared pizza crust, at room temperature
  • 1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack in the oven.

Remove roasted garlic cloves from their skins and place in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mash with fork until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom slices and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add kale and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Place pizza dough in a 14-15 inch pizza pan and push dough to the edges.

Spread roasted garlic sauce onto the crust, leaving a 1-inch edge on all sides. Top with half of cheese, mushrooms and kale, then remaining cheese.

Transfer pizza pan to the pizza stone. Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and kale is just beginning to crisp.

Roasted Garlic:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice off the top of the head of garlic to expose some of the cloves inside. Place the head on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in the foil. Roast until the cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

fallpizza4

Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza

Any combination of roasted vegetables, you like, can work in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 small, thin eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1 zucchini, halved, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut into eighths
  • 1 red, yellow or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 prepared pizza dough, recipe from above
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Garnish with fresh basil

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Let stand, covered, for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss together the first 8 ingredients with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a single layer in 2 aluminum foil-lined 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pans.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown.

Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Press dough out in a 15-inch pizza pan and coat crust with remaining olive oil.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella over the crust and top with roasted vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and crushed red pepper over the vegetable mixture. Place the pan on the pizza stone and bake 10 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and dollop the ricotta cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until the crust is crisp and cheese is melted. Garnish with basil, if desired.


Food52

There are plenty of fall weather produce that you can make into delicious salads.

What’s Fresh Now

Apples

Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.

Pears

It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful, recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities:  Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice and place them in a water bath–or serve them immediately after slicing.

Grapes

Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and toss them in your favorite salad.

Fennel

Fennel is available from fall through spring and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic vegetable is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The green tops can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and softer than in its raw state.

Cabbage

Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild tasting cabbages. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking. I have had great success with wrapping the cauliflower in white paper towels before putting it into a ziplock plastic bag.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.

Spinach and Kale

When buying greens, make sure they are very fresh. Look for vibrant dark green leaves that are crisp and full, not wilted or yellowish. Go organic when possible. Non-organic spinach, kale and collards are high in pesticides. Certain vegetables are worth buying organic and greens are one of them.

Spaghetti Squash

Look for spaghetti squash with a firm, dry rind, free of soft spots and cracks. Squash should be heavy for its size  with a firm, dry, rounded stem, which helps keep out bacteria. Store squash in a cool, dry place (preferably 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 3 months. Refrigeration will make the squash spoil quickly, but squash can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks.

fallsalad1

Spaghetti-Squash Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-pound) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, 3 ounces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti squash and cook until it is al dente, about 12 minutes; drain. Place the spaghetti squash halves cut side down on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the sliced almonds on a pie plate and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly golden. In a food processor, combine the chopped olives with the sliced scallions, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Working over a medium bowl and using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash into the bowl, separating the strands. Add the dressing along with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds and season with salt and white pepper. Toss the spaghetti squash salad and serve warm.

Spinach Salad with Smoked Chicken:: Apple:: Walnuts:: and Bacon

Spinach, Chicken, Apple, Walnut and Bacon Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound cooked and sliced boneless chicken breast
  • 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed (about 9 cups)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 350F°. Toast the walnuts until golden brown on a cookie sheet, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and then crumble it.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the dressing with the chicken. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the chicken absorbs the dressing. Add the walnuts, bacon, spinach, onion, apple and about half of the remaining dressing and toss. Pass the remaining dressing to add to the salad, if needed.

fallsalad3

Seafood Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 head fresh broccoli
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 pound crabmeat or shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Cut the florets off the head of broccoli and reserve the stalks for another recipe, such as soup. Cut the florets into small pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt. black pepper and cayenne.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, and crab. Toss mixture with dressing. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

fallsalad4

Apple and Zucchini Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Leaf lettuce

Directions

Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously.

Combine apples, bell pepper, zucchini and cucumber in a salad bowl; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad with Soy Cheese

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • Small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine the walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and agave syrup in a small bowl and mix well. Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well. Taste and season according to your preference for salt and pepper

Slice the core off the bottom of the fennel. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and slice very thinly or shave using a mandolin.

If your pears are organic, you can leave the skin on, if desired, otherwise, peel the pears then slice thinly.

Mix the pears and fennel slices together and mix in half of the dressing to coat the ingredients evenly and retard discoloration.

Divide the salad onto four individual plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and shaved cheese on top of the salad.

Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.


fallsoup

Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

fallsoup1

Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

fallsoup2

Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

fallsoup3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

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Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


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10 Piece Chicken Nuggets with Large French Fries

$6 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $24

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Cheeseburger with Large Curly Fries

$4 per serving

Family of Four Total Cost: $16

Eating healthy should not be a privilege or reserved for people who can “afford” it. Fresh fruits and vegetables actually don’t cost more than burgers, fries and sodas. In fact, they’re often less expensive, so shopping for good, fresh produce shouldn’t be an impossible achievement. The family friendly, healthy dinner recipes below are full of nutrition, but they don’t skimp on taste. Plus, at less than $1 per serving, the recipes are easy on the wallet and the waistline. They are also easy to prepare.

Luckily, many of these pantry staple foods cost less than $2 per package. A 1-pound bag of brown rice, for example, sells for about $1.75 and cooks up into about 10 side dish servings — that’s just 18 cents a serving. Prices may vary slightly based on the store, location and time of year. If you have the items below stocked in your pantry and refigerator, you will be able to make delicious meals and save money.

Brown Rice

Great for side dishes, rice salads, casseroles, soups and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dry, uncooked rice. Price per serving: 18 cents. A 1-pound bag costs about $1.75 and contains 10 servings.

Whole-Wheat or Multigrain Pasta

Great for hot and cold pasta dishes.

What’s a serving? 2 ounces of dried pasta which means you get about 8 servings in a one pound box or bag of dried pasta. Price per serving? About 24 cents. You can get a 16-ounce box or bag of store-brand dried pasta for about $1.69.

100% Whole-Wheat Bread

Great for hot and cold sandwiches, bread stuffing, bread pudding and breakfast.

What’s a serving? 2 slices, the amount you’d use to make a sandwich. Price per serving: About 18 cents. You can get a 22-ounce loaf of store-brand 100 % whole-wheat bread for about $1.99. (My store often has buy one, get one free.) Each loaf has about 22 slices or 11 servings of 2 slices each.

Old-Fashioned Oats

Great for hot or cold cereal, granola, crumb toppings for desserts and muffins.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup dry oats. Price per serving: 13 cents. A 42-ounce container of store brand oats costs around $3.99 and each container has about 30 servings of dry oats.

Quinoa

Great for salads, side dishes, breakfast or in any recipe for rice.

$0.60 per ¼ cup serving, about $4 per box. It may be hard to pronounce (that’s keen-wah), but it’s easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. Filled with protein and fiber, this superfood also contains nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own.

Canned Tuna and Salmon

Great for sandwiches, fish cakes, casseroles, several types of salads and appetizers.

What’s a serving? A 6-ounce can is about 2 servings. Price per serving: About 70 cents for chunk white albacore in water. You can buy a 6-ounce can of solid white albacore in water for about $1.99 or a 6-ounce can of chunk white albacore in water for about $1.39. The best deal is usually with chunk light in water for 85 cents per 6-ounce can. For salmon $0.75 per serving or about $1.50 per can.

Jarred Marinara Sauce

Great for pasta dishes, pizza, casseroles, appetizers, Italian sandwiches and stews.

What’s a serving? 1/2 cup. Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 24 or 28-ounce jar or can of marinara or pasta sauce for $1.67. Watch for store sales.

Dried Lentils and Beans

Great for casseroles, salads, soups and stews and more. Lentils are the most user-friendly of the beans because they cook quickly without pre-soaking. Generally you just need to cover 1 cup of lentils with 3 cups of water or broth and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup dried lentils. Price per serving: 10 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce bag for $1.29. Each 16-ounce bag makes about 13 servings of lentils. That small bag of lentils is deceiving because the lentils are dried, but once cooked, you will see the value.

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Below is a list of fresh, nutritious foods that cost less than $1 per serving.

Chicken Breasts

$0.75 per 4 oz serving, about $2.99 per pound.  Forgo fast food on a budget — a small fresh chicken breast is cheaper and filled with healthy, lean protein. Grill, bake, use in salads or slice for a whole-wheat wrap with veggies.

Eggs and Store-Brand Egg Substitute

Great for: Making quick omelets or breakfast. You can also blend half egg substitute and half eggs to make scrambled eggs, quiches, frittatas or egg casseroles.

What’s a serving? 1/4 cup. Price per serving: 25 to 37 cents. You can buy a 16-ounce carton of refrigerated egg substitute for $1.99 to $2.99 and supermarkets eggs, ($0.19 per egg) for about $2 per dozen. Eggs are a quick, delicious and inexpensive protein.

Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Great for: A quick snack, parfaits made with fruit and granola, salad dressings and smoothies.

What’s a serving? Most individual servings come in 6 ounce or 8 ounce containers. You can save money by buying a larger container of Greek yogurt and then making your 6 or 8 ounce portion from it. Price per serving: individual servings can cost about 89 cents each and sometimes less when found on sale.

Low-Fat Milk

$0.25 cents per cup, about $4 per gallon. One calcium-filled glass can help keep teeth strong. Add a splash to a fruit smoothie or enjoy in a bowl of oatmeal or cereal.

Cottage Cheese

$0.88 per 1/2 cup serving, about $3.50 per 16 oz container. This mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes.Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries for a sweet protein-packed treat.

Apples

$0.50 to $0.75 per apple (depending on variety) Full of vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Snack with peanut butter or add thin slices to a sandwich.

Bananas

$0.20 to $0.50 per banana, about $0.60 per pound or $2 per bunch. Filled with fiber and potassium. Add to your cereal or vanilla ice cream!

Cantaloupe

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $2.50 to $3 per melon. Filled with antioxidants, cantaloupe is inexpensive and contains many servings.

Watermelon

$0.30 per 1 cup serving, $ 4 to $5 per melon and filled with vitamin C — a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health.

Pears

$0.85 each, about $1.75 per pound (depending on variety). White fleshy pears may help prevent strokes. They’re also full of fiber. Try the Bartlett, Bosc and Anjou varieties.

Oranges

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound (in family sized packages). Oranges aren’t just about their vitamin C. This citrus fruit is also filled with fiber, folate and potassium.

Garlic

$0.30 per bulb. It’s also full of antioxidants to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Add to a pan of veggies or tomato sauce to spice up the flavor or roast it in the oven for a sweeter flavor.

Onions

$0.18 each, about $0.59 per pound. Onions pack a surprising nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants. Sautée and add to an omelet or add a sandwich for extra flavor.

Sweet Potatoes

$0.50 each, about $1 per pound  High levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene (which may help prevent cancer and protect us from the sun) and also helps keep skin silky smooth.

Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, etc.)

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.50 a pound. Squash is a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Delicious roasted.

Kale

$0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), about $2 per bunch. Kale contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.

Broccoli

$0.50 per ½ cup serving, $2 per bunch. Broccoli has high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Beets

$0.35 each, about $1 per pound. Beets are packed with folate, fiber and vitamins, making them one of the best health bargains around. Roast or add to a salad.

Spinach

$0.50 per cup (raw), about $2 per bunch. These greens are nutrient dense with vitamin A, K, and calcium. Try sautéing them with mushrooms or use to replace lettuce in your next salad.

Carrots

$0.50 each, about $2 per pound. Carrots provide a nutritious crunch along with vitamin A. They’re perfect for dipping into hummus and taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.

Frozen Vegetables

Great for: Side dishes, casseroles and stews.

What’s a serving? 1 cup. Price per serving: around 25 cents. Frozen vegetables come in 12-ounce to 24-ounce bags that cost anywhere from $1.75 to $2.25 and contain 6-8 cups, depending on the vegetable and the size of the bag. A bag of petite peas or a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach will cost about $1.19. You will do even better when they are on sale, so stock up.

Dinner #1

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Kielbasa Apple Kabobs

Serves 4-6

Kielbasa are fully cooked smoked sausages traditionally made of pork, but also available made with beef, turkey or chicken. The cooking time is short for these as the sausage is already cooked. I like to serve this dish with sauerkraut, an inexpensive side dish, but you can also serve brown rice.

Ingredients

  • 10 wooden or metal skewers
  • 1 pound fully cooked kielbasa sausage
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red apple, such as Braeburn or Gala, cored
  • 1 tart green apple, such as Granny Smith, cored
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling.

Cut kielbasa, onion and apples into 2-inch pieces. Combine in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt. Toss to coat.

Preheat grill to medium high. Thread sausage, onion and apple pieces on skewers, alternating them. Grill 3 to 5 minutes each side, until apples and onions are slightly blackened on the edges, yet still crisp inside, and the sausage is very hot.

Dinner #2

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

You can use leftover chicken or turkey in place of the ground meat. Serve this meal with a cucumber salad.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Topping

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Filling

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, optional
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth or beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup frozen or canned green peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Scrub potatoes and pierce several times with a fork. Place in a baking pan and bake until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool while you make the filling.

While the sweet potatoes are baking, wash and slice mushrooms, if using. Peel onion and garlic. Dice onion. Mince garlic.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, in a large skillet over medium-high, cook beef or turkey, mushrooms and onion, crumbling the meat with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks, until the meat is no longer pink, about 30 minutes.

In a colander, drain off liquid and the mixture return to the skillet. Add thyme and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in peas, salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and place in a medium bowl. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mash until smooth. Spread over the filling. Bake until hot and bubbling at the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving

Tips:

  • Substitute another green vegetable for the peas, if you prefer—spinach, green beans or lima beans are all good options.
  • This dish reheats well, so consider making it over the weekend and reheating it on a busy weeknight. Prepare through Step 4, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, at 350 degrees F until hot throughout.

Dinner #3

Food Styling by Catrine Kelty

Spinach Salad with Eggs

Serves 5-6

Ingredients

  • 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (any type)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Wash and dry spinach. Remove stems. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by one inch. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat right away. Let sit 12 minutes. Remove eggs and place in a bowl of ice cold water until cool. This will make it easier to peel the shells. Peel and chop eggs.

In a large bowl add spinach, eggs and dried cranberries. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

In a jar, add oil, vinegar, honey and salt. Cover tightly with lid. Shake well.

Just before serving, drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to coat spinach leaves.

Tips:

  • Make double the dressing. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week. Use on other salads or to flavor sandwiches.
  • To save time, cook eggs in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Make extra eggs, if you like. Use them for breakfast or to make egg salad.

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Squash and Orzo

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 large winter squash (such as butternut or acorn)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut squash in half. Remove seeds. Chop rosemary.

Drizzle the maple syrup over the cut sides of each squash half. Sprinkle each with rosemary and red pepper flakes.

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place squash halves on the baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 30–35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Keep squash loosely covered with foil.

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Drain in a fine mesh colander. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat well.

Cut each squash half into thirds. Remove skin from the squash and cut squash into cubes. Place over the pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  • Orzo and squash reheat well without losing flavor or quality. Cook the entire meal the night before. Refrigerate until ready to serve the next day.
  • For faster cooking, cook squash halves in the microwave. Heat for 7 minutes on high or until squash is tender and pierces easily with a fork.

Dinner #4

lowcost6

Chicken Burger and Fries

Serve with a salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small bell pepper
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 whole wheat burger buns
  • Lettuce and tomato slices

Directions

Finely chop bell pepper and onion.

In a medium bowl, combine bell pepper, onion, ground meat, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Divide mixture into 4 pieces. Form pieces into patties about 4 inches across.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add burgers. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add water to the pan. Cover and cook until the burgers reach 165ºF, about 10 minutes more.

Serve on whole wheat buns with lettuce, tomato, onion and condiments of choice.

lowcost7

Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil. Coat with non-stick cooking spray before placing the sweet potatoes on the pan.

Scrub sweet potatoes. Pat dry with a paper or kitchen towel.

Leaving the skin on, cut sweet potatoes into thick French fry strips, about ½-inch wide.

In a large bowl, mix paprika, salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add oil. Blend with a fork until there are no lumps.

Add sweet potato strips to the bowl. Toss until they are coated on all sides.

Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on the baking pan. For the crispest fries, be sure sweet potatoes do not lie on top of each other.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn fries over and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until fries are crispy and tender.

Dinner #5

lowcost8

Crunchy Oven Fried Fish Fillets

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 2 egg whites or 1/3 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 1 pound tilapia, catfish or pollock fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or oregano, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Stir flour, seafood seasoning, salt and pepper together in a shallow dish and set aside. In a bowl, beat egg whites until white and frothy. In another bowl, combine bread crumbs with cornmeal and basil.

To bread the fillets, dip first into flour, shaking off any excess, then into egg whites, then into bread crumb mixture.

Spray a shallow baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Lay fillets flat in the dish, tucking under any thinner ends or edges for more even cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish is crispy and flakes easily with a folk.

lowcost9

Bow Tie Pasta with Zucchini Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat bow tie pasta
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente in boiling salted water. Prepare zucchini sauce while pasta is cooking.

Peel and mince garlic and grate zucchini.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Cook until mixture softens and zucchini yields some liquid, about 5 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid. Add 2 teaspoons cooking liquid to the zucchini mixture. Add drained pasta. Stir, coating pasta evenly with the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed.

Transfer pasta to large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and toss to combine.


molise

Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.

Campobasso

Campobasso

Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.

molise1

Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.

molise5

Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.

Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.

Antipasto Course

molise4

Baked Caciocavallo Cheese

Serves 8

  • 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.

Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

First Course

molise2

Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 7 ounces anchovies
  • 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Hot pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.

Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.

Second Course

molise6

Breaded  Rib Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8 rib lamb chops
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.

Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.

Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.

molise8

Braised Peas with Onion

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.

Dessert Course

molise7

Italian Almond Orange Cake 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at  room temperature, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.

In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.

Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions.  Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.



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