Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peppers

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Roughly 90 percent of U.S. potatoes are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. The marketing season for fall potatoes begins in August (for areas of early harvest) and may continue through to the following August. Unlike most produce crops, which are perishable, potatoes are well-suited for long-term storage in climate-controlled rooms or containers.

Potatoes harvested in the winter, spring and summer account for less than 10 percent of the U.S. potato production. However, these potatoes meet specific market needs and generally cost more than fall potatoes. For example, some consumers prefer “new” or “freshly dug” potatoes, such as round red, white, yellow and purple varieties that are smaller in size and are normally not stored before sale.

Any variety of potato that is harvested early is considered a new potato. Since they are picked before their sugars have converted to starch, new potatoes are crisp and waxy and high in moisture. They also have thin skins, making them great for cooking and eating unpeeled. New potatoes are in season in spring and early summer and they should be firm, smooth and free of cracks or soft brown spots. Choose potatoes of similar size so they cook evenly.

Store potatoes in a cool, well ventilated place. Temperatures lower than 50 degrees, such as in the refrigerator, cause a potato’s starch to convert to sugar, resulting in a sweet taste and discoloration when cooked.  If you do refrigerate, letting the potato warm gradually to room temperature before cooking can reduce the discoloration. Avoid areas that reach high temperatures (beneath the sink or beside large appliances) or receive too much sunlight (on the counter-top).

Perforated plastic bags and paper bags offer the best environment for extending a potato’s shelf-life. Don’t wash potatoes before storing them, as dampness promotes early spoilage.

For Breakfast or Lunch

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Potato and Vegetable Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 lb medium new potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • Small bag of fresh baby spinach
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs, beaten

Directions

Boil potatoes in a saucepan, covered, until tender. Drain and when cool enough, cut into thin slices..

Heat an oven broiler.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, red pepper and onion until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach; cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in sliced potatoes, salt and pepper.

Stir in half the basil, the Parmesan cheese and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes. Place the pan under the broiler. Broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil.

As An Appetizer

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Roasted Potatoes with Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place potatoes in the center of a 3-foot-long piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring the long sides of the foil together and fold edges over, then tightly crimp the ends to create a packet. Roast on a baking sheet until cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut a small X on top of each with a paring knife and gently squeeze open. Place 1 teaspoon ricotta mixture into each. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the stuffed potatoes on a serving platter

In A Soup

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Italian Fish and Potato Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, small dice
  • 2 new red potatoes, diced
  • 2 new white potatoes, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • One 28 oz can Italian diced tomatoes
  • One 8 oz bottle clam juice
  • 4 cups water
  • Juice from 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh or frozen cod-fish (or any other firm white fish), cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped Italian green and Kalamata olives
  • Additional salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
In a large soup pot, heat oil and add onion, garlic, celery and potatoes. Season with thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté for about 10 minutes until slightly softened. Add tomatoes, clam juice, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Add the fish and olives to the soup and gently stir. Continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

In A Salad

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Arugula with Roasted Salmon and New Potatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound red or yellow new potatoes, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillet
  • 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 10 ounces baby arugula

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking pan, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.

Toss potatoes and push to the sides of the baking pan; place salmon in the center and season with salt and pepper.

Roast until potatoes are tender and the salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate; break into large pieces with a fork.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, chives and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Add arugula and potatoes; toss to combine. Top salad with salmon pieces and serve.

In A Pasta

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Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 8 ounces cavatappi pasta
  • 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup homemade basil pesto or store-bought
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large pot of water; bring to a boil.

Add salt and cavatappi or other short tubular pasta; return to a boil; cook 2 minutes.

Add green beans. Return to a boil; cook until vegetables are tender and pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes.

Drain reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.

Toss pasta and vegetables with the pesto and thin with some of the pasta cooking water. Garnish with fresh black  pepper.

In A Main Course

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Roast Beef with New Potatoes and Shallots

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red new potatoes (10 to 12), well scrubbed, halved or quartered
  • 1 pound shallots (8 to 10), peeled, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds eye-of-round beef roast, tied

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a large rimmed baking pan, toss potatoes and shallots with the oil; sprinkle on the Italian seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Push vegetables to the edges of the baking pan; place roast in the center. Turn roast to coat with oil on the pan and season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing potatoes and shallots occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 130 degrees F for medium-rare, 40 to 50 minutes.

Let the beef rest 10 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil, before slicing and serving with the potatoes and shallots.


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Central States

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Minnesota

The Italian Cultural Center

The Italian Cultural Center

The ICC (The Italian Cultural Center) was established as a center in Minneapolis for all things Italian and to serve as a beacon for classic and contemporary Italian culture through language, art, music, design, cinema, architecture and technology. The ICC draws Italian-Americans who want to learn more about the culture and connect with their roots.

Discovering modern Italy is a goal for ICC’s students. Some of the students who come to study language here also enjoy learning about what Italy is like now. The Center’s seven university-trained teachers are from Italy and bring their own diverse heritages into the classroom, giving students a glimpse of life in some of the small towns and villages.

Films are a big part of the Italian cultural experience. Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have enjoyed great international acclaim and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2015, Italian films have won 14 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country.

Every year, the ICC presents a series of outstanding contemporary films in their annual Italian Film Festival. They also offer screenings throughout the year in the CineForum series.

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Through the lens of drama, comedies, documentaries and movies, the view of Italy is broadened and offers a fresh perspective on the country and its people. It is a way to take a journey to Italy without leaving Minnesota.

The desire to show Twin Cities’ residents the real Italy has led them to select films by modern Italian directors for the ICC’s annual free film festival, held in collaboration with the Italian Film Festival USA and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). The Italian film series offers a glimpse into award-winning, post-war Italian films and the high fashion industry they launched.

Antipasti Skewers

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Serves 8

Inspired by her travels and studies in Tuscany, Carmela Tursi Hobbins created Carmela’s Cucina to teach the art of Italian cooking and entertaining. Her experience blends years as co-owner of a successful catering business and her background as a classroom teacher. She has written two cookbooks, Carmela’s Cucina and Celebrations with Carmela’s Cucina.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of fresh tri-colored tortellini
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 pint fresh bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint pitted olives
  • 1/2 pound salami sliced thin
  • 2 envelopes Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix
  • Bamboo skewers

Directions

Boil the tortellini for about 6 minutes in salted water.  Drain and put the tortellini into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Wash the tomatoes and basil and pat dry.

Thread the tortellini, tomatoes, basil leaves, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, olives and salami (folded into quarters) onto the skewers.

Using one package of the Italian salad dressing mix, make up the dressing following the directions on the package and drizzle the dressing over the prepared skewers.

Sprinkle the contents of the second envelope of dried Italian Salad mix over the skewers and let marinate for several hours.

When ready to serve, assembled skewers can be stuck into a melon or pineapple half or laid on a lettuce lined tray.

Nebraska

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Little Italy is a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska that, historically, has been the home to the city’s Italian population. Omaha’s first Italian community developed during the 1890s near the intersection of South 24th Street and Poppleton Street. It was formed by immigrants from southern Italy and Italian immigrants who moved there after living in the eastern states. In 1905, Sicilian immigrants settled along South 6th Street in the hills south of downtown. Additional immigrants from Sicily arrived between 1912 and 1913 and following World War I.

Two brothers, Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno, are credited with creating Omaha’s Little Italy, located near the Union Pacific yards in downtown. When Sebastiano took a job as an agent for a steamship company in 1904, he encouraged friends from Sicily to emigrate. Joseph then secured housing and jobs for the immigrants, particularly in the downtown Omaha’s Union Pacific shops that included grocery stores, clothing and shoe stores and the Bank of Sicily, established by the Salerno brothers in 1908.

Today, the Festival of Santa Lucia is still celebrated throughout Little Italy, as it has been since the arrival of the first immigrants. An annual festival called “La Festa” is held to unite the city’s Italian community and celebrate its heritage. Many other remnants of Little Italy endure, making this area distinct within the city.

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Little Italy has several landmarks, including St. Francis Cabrini Church, built in 1908 at 1335 South 10th Street. Other landmarks include the Santa Lucia Festival Committee Hall at 725 Pierce Street; Marino’s Italian Grocery at 1716 South 13th Street; Sons Of Italy Hall located at 1238 South 10th Street and Orsi’s Bakery at 621 Pacific Street.

Orsi’s Bakery and Pizzeria is a gold mine for Italian fare. Their Sicilian style pizza, in particular, has been popular since they first opened in 1919. Passed through the Orsi family for over 90 years, the interior and the owners may have changed, but the recipes have stayed the same. Along with pizza, their Italian deli offers a variety of meats, cheeses, olives, peppers and desserts.

Steakhouse Spaghetti

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Chefs at Omaha’s Piccolo Pete’s flavor the sauce for their spaghetti with beef steak trimmings and pork and beef bones. In the true sense of Italian American cuisine this recipe combines Italian heritage cooking with Omaha’s love of beef.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. beef shank bones, trimmed
  • 1/4 lb. raw steak trimmings (ask your butcher for this)
  • 1 pork neck bone
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons. celery seeds
  • 4 sprigs basil
  • 3 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions

Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook bones and steak trimmings until browned, 7–9 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic and onion; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, celery seeds, basil, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bones and trimmings. Cook, until the sauce is reduced by a third, about 1 hour. Discard bones, trimmings, basil and bay leaves; shred the meat and add it to the sauce.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and divide among serving bowls; ladle with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Kansas

Heart of America Bridge

Heart of America Bridge

The Columbus Park area is Kansas City’s Italian neighborhood. Although ethnic lines are less distinctly drawn than in years past, the unique character of the neighborhood remains. Unlike other Little Italys that blur into other neighborhoods, Columbus Park has established boundaries: the Missouri River on one side and the Heart of America Bridge on the other. As one of Kansas City’s oldest immigrant neighborhoods, it has also had a long history of social infrastructure and culture. By 1920 there were about 10,000 Italians living in the area.

The heart of the community is the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Built in 1895, the Church was the result of petitioning by the local Italian community for a church. Bells still toll on Sunday mornings and services have continued in the building for more than 100 years.

The main business area is found along 5th street, where there are many Italian restaurants and grocery shops. You will find traditional foods and products at Garazzo’s Ristorante, LaSala’s Deli and LaRocca’s Grocery.

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Wish-Bone Salad Dressing originated in Kansas City. In 1945, returning World War II veteran, Phillip Sollomi, opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City called, The Wish-Bone®. In 1948, Sollomi began serving his mother’s salad dressing made from a recipe she brought with her from her native Sicily. As demand grew, Sollomi began mixing the dressing in a 50-gallon drum and bottling it. The dressing became known as“The Kansas City Wish-Bone® Famous Italian-Style Dressing. Word of this unique salad dressing spread throughout the heartland. In 1957, Sollomi sold the business to Lipton.

Chef Jasper Mirabile grew up in an Italian family. Each year he travels back to Italy and his family’s hometown of Gibellina, Sicily to see family and friends. He also goes to do research on the authenticity of Sicilian cuisine and to learn as much as he can about its rich history.

He writes in The Kansas City Star, “ I like to say my mother is “old school” in her style of cooking. No short cuts, no microwaves, no cheating at all, just respecting traditional recipes and cooking methods. Unlike me, a short order line cook, mama measured everything exactly, never doubling a recipe, never experimenting with different ingredients, just preparing the same tried and true recipes over and over again since she learned to cook as a teenager. Mama learned to prepare her Sunday sauce, meatballs and braciole from her mother, Rosa Cropisi. Grandmother Cropisi brought the recipe over from Corleone, Sicily, never-changing a single ingredient. My mother claims my father only married her for her mother’s meatball recipe.”

Jasper Mirabile’s Recipe for Meatballs

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Makes about  20

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Romano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Parsley, (Chopped)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, (Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Onion, (Minced)
  • Salt and Pepper, (To taste)
  • 2 cups Plain Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Olive Oil

Directions

Place pork & beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Mix.

Add the bread crumbs and blend into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water until the mixture is moist. Shape the meat mixture into 2 1/2- to 3-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.

When the bottom half of the meatballs are well browned and slightly crisp, (usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes), turn them over and cook the other side for 5 minutes more.

Remove the meatballs from the heat and drain them on paper towels. Simmer in your favorite sauce.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, Jasper’s, with his brother. He is the author of The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. Chef Mirabile is a culinary instructor, a founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts a weekly radio show, “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM.

Oklahoma

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Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp inhabited by the English, Irish and Italian miners. The commercial exploitation of coal in the Native American Territories began in 1872, with the completion of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. A few years later, the Osage Coal and Mining Company leased the property on which the town of Krebs emerged. The first mine opened in 1875 and twenty years later, 15 mines were operating in the area.

Krebs, Oklahoma is considered the center of Italian culture in the state of Oklahoma. Most of the immigrants who found their way to Oklahoma settled in the coal-producing communities in Pittsburg County and in the Choctaw Nation. Italian immigrants to Oklahoma were predominantly from northern Italy. They came as families and often established strong ethnic communities. In 1910, there were 2,162 Italians living in Pittsburg, Latimer and Coal counties. Later on the region attracted immigrants from southern Italy.

First-generation Oklahomans learned Italian from their parents. There aren’t many first-generation Italian Americans left in Krebs. The language hasn’t made it down through the generations, but it can still be heard during festivals and community events, especially over a game of bocce ball. The Italian Festival has been running for 40 years and is the community’s biggest single event.

When Kreps’ resident, Joe Prichard, took his family back to the Italian town his grandfather emigrated from, he was surprised by how familiar it felt. “The little village my grandfather left was almost a clone of the village he came to in Oklahoma,” he said. Joe discovered that San Gregorio Magno, in the Campania region, was not only the same size as Krebs, but community life there also centered around the Catholic Church. Even the town’s differences created parallels for him.

Krebs is famous throughout Oklahoma for its many Italian restaurants. Isle of Capri, “Pete’s Place” and Roseanna’s, to name a few, have been there for generations. A specialty of the region is Lamb fries, the name generally given to lamb animelles (testicles) that have been peeled, rolled in cracker meal and fried. Lamb fries are served in many Italian restaurants, particularly in Oklahoma’s “little Italy” and the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

Original Pete's Place

Original Pete’s Place

Three years after his arrival, at the age of 11, Pietro began working in the coal mines, changing his name officially to “Pete Prichard.” Through hard work and determination, he managed to make a meager living. However, in 1916, when Pete was 21 years old, a massive cave-in nearly cost him his life. He survived, but the accident crushed his leg in such a way that he couldn’t return to work in the mines.

To help pass the time, Pete took an interest in brewing beer. He found a unique recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, which made use of the plentiful supply of golden wheat that grew on the Oklahoma plains. Pete experimented and tested until he perfected his own version, which he named choc® beer.

Before long, other immigrant miners began gathering at his house regularly to relax and enjoy a beer during breaks. Then, it only seemed natural to start fixing the men a hearty lunch to go along with the beer. That’s the Italian way! He served “family-style” helpings of homemade Italian specialties like spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli and sausage. In 1925, Pete officially opened a restaurant in his home and, since everyone had always just called it “Pete’s Place®”, the name stuck.

Caciocavallo Cheese

Caciocavallo Cheese

When Mike Lovera’s Grocery first opened in 1946 in Krebs, it was a regular mom-and-pop general store and meat market. But it was the homemade Italian sausage that made Lovera’s store stand out from the competition. A specialty Italian grocery store would find it hard to survive in most towns of 2,000 people. But Krebs has been largely Italian since immigrant coal miners arrived in the 1870s and the town has no problem supporting a grocery store, three Italian restaurants and a Catholic church.

Along with about 40 imported Italian products, Lovera’s is famous for its caciocavallo, a milky cheese covered in wax. Initially, Lovera bought caciocavallo from local Italians who made it at home, but when the supply started to dry up, Lovera learned how to make it.

Sausage and Peppers

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Source: News OK, Dave Cathey, Food Editor

Ingredients

  • One 16-ounce coil of fresh Lovera’s sausage
  • 1 whole garden-fresh green pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno cut in thick slices, optional
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush sausage with 1 tablespoon oil and place in a cast-iron skillet or small roasting pan.

Roast sausages 20 minutes.

While the sausages are roasting, toss onions and peppers with remaining oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

After 20 minutes in the oven, turn the sausages over and top with the onion-pepper-oil mixture. Roast another 20 minutes and remove the pan from the oven.

Remove the sausages from the pan, let sit five minutes, then cut in slices and toss with the onions and peppers in the pan.

Serve with pasta and Italian tomato sauce or with crusty bread.

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Read Part 5

Read Part 6


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Warmer weather means BBQ time.

Getting started:

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal. When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat if specified in the recipe.

Keep a third of your grill fire-free. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Do not boil sausages before grilling because it diminishes flavor and moistness  Pre-boiling is unnecessary, if you grill carefully.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F. The casing will be crisp and brown, the filling plump and bubbling. But the only way to check, if the sausages are cooked, is to insert an instant-read meat thermometer through one end of the sausage toward the center.

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Warm Pepper and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 mixed colored large bell peppers, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and separated into layers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Toss peppers and onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill on a lightly oiled grill sheet or a sheet of heavy-duty foil set directly on the grill rack (with grill covered if using a gas grill), turning occasionally, until slightly softened and charred, 9 to 15 minutes (onion will cook faster), transfer vegetables to a platter when cooked.

Add vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the peppers and onion, tossing to coat. Let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Place grilled sausages on top.

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Potato and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 2 pounds peeled small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Simmer green beans in salted water until barely tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or wire-mesh skimmer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and pat dry.

Add potatoes to the same pot of salted water and simmer until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and halve them.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and thyme in a large bowl. Add potatoes, beans and red onion. Gently toss. Season with coarse salt.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 600 gr (1.3 lbs) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 19 oz can cannellini beans, well-drained and rinsed (if using dried beans, 450 gr or 1 lb)
  • Arugula

Directions

If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered with water, add some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 160 C/320 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.

Pour the tomato mixture onto a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until they begin to blistered. Place the tomato mixture in a serving bowl.

Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while they are still warm, taste for seasoning.

Serve warm as a side dish over arugula leaves.

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Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 pound sliced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush two rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil each. Arrange eggplant slices on the baking sheets. Brush tops with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

On a serving platter, layer eggplant with sliced mozzarella and tomatoes. Top with basil leaves and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Tortellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

8 servings

Ingredients

Tortellini

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Arugula or baby spinach, for serving

Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortellini until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the tortellini along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, scallions and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Vinaigrette:

Working over a bowl, rub tomato halves on the large-holed side of a box grater until only the skins remain. Discard the skins.

Add vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to the tomato juice and whisk until blended.

Add the Tomato Vinaigrette to the tortellini salad and toss. Serve the salad on a bed of arugula or baby spinach.


 

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Use in-season spring ingredients to create some healthier dinners this week. After a few weeks of holiday eating and chocolate candy, you may want to eat a bit lighter.

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells or shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

For the marinade:

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and salt. Pour marinade over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to coat shrimp. Marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the risotto (15 to 25 minutes).

For the risotto:

In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in peas. Let stand about 1 minute or until heated through. (Rice should be tender but slightly firm and creamy.) Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Cook shrimp in a skillet or on the grill as described below. Serve shrimp with risotto and lemon wedges.

SKILLET: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade to the skillet. Cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring frequently.

GRILL: Drain shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between shrimp. Brush shrimp with the reserved marinade.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place kabobs on the grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover and grill for 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling.

Dinner Menu 2

lightspring4

Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pound boneless pork top loin roast
  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or use thawed  frozen artichoke hearts, if you cannot find fresh
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole baby carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine rosemary, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Trim fat from meat. Place meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; spread the remaining oil mixture over the meat. Arrange potatoes around the meat. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash artichokes if using fresh; trim stems and remove loose outer leaves. Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into quarters. Place quartered artichokes in a medium bowl; toss with lemon juice.

In a covered large saucepan cook artichokes and carrots in boiling, lightly salted water for 10 minutes; drain.

Add artichokes and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to combine with potatoes. Roast for 15 to 35 minutes more or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F and vegetables are tender, stirring vegetables occasionally.

Remove from the oven. Cover meat and vegetables with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before slicing meat.

Dinner Menu 3

lightspring2

Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillweed
  • Paprika and coarse salt

Directions

In a 3 to 4 quart pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, rice, stock and salt. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 35 minutes until rice and carrots are very tender. Cool slightly.

Using a handheld immersion blender, process the mixture in the pan until completely smooth. Whisk in milk and creme fraiche.

Heat and stir over low heat. For a thinner texture, stir in additional milk. To serve, sprinkle with green onion, dillweed, paprika and coarse salt, if desired.

lightspring1

White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-5 ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced and toasted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beans, tuna, arugula, red onion and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Dinner Menu 4

lightspring7

Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in meaty chicken pieces (breasts and thighs), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep skillet with a cover. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Scatter the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley and oregano over chicken pieces in the skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the wine and the chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and place on a serving platter.Place the the chicken on top of the spaghetti and pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Dinner Menu 5

lightspring6

Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Boiling water
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large slices country-style white or whole grain bread
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp cooked

Directions

Place asparagus spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour enough boiling water over the asparagus to cover. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright colored and crisp-tender. Drain. Finely chop three of the asparagus spears; set aside.

In a small bowl use a fork to mash the avocado; stir in lime juice. Stir in the chopped asparagus; set aside.

For the omelet:

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, the water, salt and pepper until combined but not frothy.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat until the skillet is hot. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add half of the egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Immediately begin stirring eggs gently but continuously with a wooden or plastic spatula until the mixture begins to come together. Stop stirring. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the egg is set.

Remove from heat. Using a spatula, lift and fold an edge of omelet to opposite edge. Transfer to a warm plate. Cover with foil and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining egg mixture to make a second omelet.

Toast bread. Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 2 of the bread slices. Top with each with half the bacon, half the asparagus spears, omelets and the remaining 2 slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half to make 4 servings.

lightspring5

Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh beets with tops
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces sliced ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the tops from beets; set tops aside. Place beets and rosemary on a piece of heavy foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold in remaining edges to completely enclose. Roast beets about 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully open the packet to release the steam. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skins from the beets and cut into wedges. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry the beet greens. Thinly slice just the beet greens and discard the stalks.

In a large bowl gently toss warm beets, shredded beet greens and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the greens are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

On a large platter or four salad plates arrange the beet mixture. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts. Top with cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

lightspringcover


pastatonightcover

If you are trying to eat less meat, substituting pasta dishes made with vegetables are not only healthy but quite satisfying. Vegetables that are especially good in pasta are frozen or canned artichoke hearts, mushrooms, broccoli/broccoli rabe, cauliflower, zucchini, peas and fresh tomatoes.

pastatonight1

Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs made from Italian bread with crusts removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Snipped fresh thyme or fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Directions

Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling.

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Add bread crumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently (reduce heat and stir constantly if bread crumbs are becoming too dark). Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is fragrant. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel; set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds.

Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Meanwhile, in the large pot cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package.

Drain spaghetti. Return to the pot and add the cauliflower mixture to spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente.

Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. If desired, garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme or thyme sprigs.

pastatonight2

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Cheese

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) ricotta
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fontina, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the rigatoni until almost done, about 12 minutes. Drain. Put the pasta in the prepared baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, squeeze as much of the water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor and puree with the ricotta, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in half of the fontina cheese.

Stir the spinach mixture into the pasta. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top. Bake the pasta until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

pastatonight4

 

Creamy Fettuccine with Spring Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 4 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (you can leave these out if you are not a fan)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and return to the saucepan. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus, Brussels sprouts, if using, broccoli and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from the skillet; set aside.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Gently stir in pasta and vegetables. Stir in additional milk, if the sauce needs thinning. Sprinkle with lemon peel and additional shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve.

pastatonight3

Baked Ziti with Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ziti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade pesto

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-by-8-inch square or oval baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta for 7 minutes. It will be partially cooked. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until very thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, about half the Parmesan, the pesto and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Put half of the cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and top with about a third of the tomato sauce. Spread the ricotta mixture on the sauce in an even layer. Cover with the remaining pasta and then the remaining sauce. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

pastatonight5

Linguine with Sweet Bell Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound red, green, yellow, orange bell peppers, sliced thin
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Add the cooked linguine, pasta water, tomatoes and basil to the skillet and toss over moderate heat for 1 minute; then serve.

pastatonight6


Number 2 made of food

Buying grocery items in bulk may seem like a way to save money, but mushy salad greens in the refrigerator vegetable drawer mean wasted dollars.

Here are some tips for saving time and money at the supermarket when planning fast and healthy meals for two.

  • Avoid waste,;use the salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need or like at the salad bar.
  • Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula or mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving two.
  • The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are the right size.
  • If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp in 2-pound bags. Since the shrimp do not stick together in the bag, you can take out what you need when you need it, without having to defrost the whole amount..
  • If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats and you have a small freezer, ask the meat department to give you just the amount you need.
  • One 14-ounce can of chicken or beef broth works well when making soup for two. When you only need a small amount of broth for a recipe, use a low-sodium bouillon mix. Cooking rice in leftover broth gives it great flavor.
  • 8-ounce cans of  regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size to have on hand for dinner.
  • Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over..
  • Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6 and 8 ounce containers of yogurt, 4 ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3 ounce blocks of cream cheese to avoid spoilage after these packages are opened.

So, you find a recipe that sounds good, but the yield is “four to six servings.” How do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half or make the full amount and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

Instead think about what the portions are per serving for a particular ingredient.

If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta, and you know that your preference is for two ounces each, look at how much pasta the recipe calls for. Twelve ounces? Then your starting point is to divide by three for two servings. Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts without ruining the overall flavor.  I often cut the sauce for a dish that serves 6-8 in half rather than try to reduce it further. I know that I’ll probably have more than we need, but it’s usually an easier reduction without ruining the flavor of the sauce. I can often freeze the extra or use it later in the week for another dish.

It is also helpful, if you develop a file of recipes that serve just two. I will help you out by sharing the following recipes.

fortwo1

Stuffed Turkey or Pork Tenderloin

This dish goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable. Serve the leftover pear on the side.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup thin sweet onion wedges
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cored red skinned pear, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 10 ounce turkey breast tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, cook onion, covered, in 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped pear and thyme. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pear is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, cut a large pocket in the side of the turkey or pork tenderloin by cutting horizontally into the tenderloin, but not all the way through to the opposite side. Spoon cooled onion mixture into the pocket. Secure opening with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle top of tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Carefully wipe out the skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add stuffed tenderloin, top side down, to hot skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn tenderloin.

Roast, uncovered, in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice to serve.

fortwo2

Cioppino For Two

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 small red potatoes, (1 to 2-inch diameter), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small firm white fish fillet, diced (about 6-8 ounces) such as grouper, cod, halibut or snapper
  • 2 large sea scallops, cut in half and patted dry
  • 4 peeled medium shrimp
  • 6  mussels or small clams
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock or water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fish filet and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add wine, stock or water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the fish, scallops, shrimp and mussels or clams, potatoes and capers, return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

fortwo3

Fusilli with Sausage, Arugula and Tomatoes

To make this dish vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add one 8-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Heat with the arugula and tomatoes.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fusilli  pasta
  • 4 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry  tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir in garlic, arugula or spinach and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a serving bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and the olive oil.

Drain the pasta and add it to the serving bowl. Toss to combine. Pour the sausage-arugula mixture over the pasta and divide into two serving bowls.

fortwo4

Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 very thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage sprigs

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken with the sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side. Add wine; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°.

Place the cornmeal and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1-quart casserole. Gradually add water or broth, stirring until blended. Cover dish and microwave at high 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from the skillet. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and prosciutto.

Spoon polenta onto two plates, top with chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired.

fortwo5

Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers

Serve with egg noodles tossed with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 bell peppers (one yellow; one red), cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Rub steak with fennel seed and 1/4 teaspoon salt, turning to coat on all sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, about 2-3  minutes.

Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add bell peppers, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pepper mixture, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Return the steak to the pan. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, turning the meat once, about 2 minutes to heat. Serve over cooked noodles, if desired.


umbriacover

In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

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The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

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Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. 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.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

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Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

umbriafarro

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

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This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), 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. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 



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