Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: potatoes

A common question today is : “What should I eat to be healthy?”

Here are some “tried-and-true” meal planning tips:

  • Entree. Here’s where you can put the dietary guidelines to work for you. Plan on fish twice a week and at least one meatless meal. You’re almost half-way done. For the remaining meals, plan one that’s fast and easy to cook, one big family-type meal and one meal based on leftovers. Remember that a serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards. The rest of the plate will be filled with other good things.
  • Vegetables. Begin to fill in vegetables according to the entree. Look for colorful ones and plan some variety throughout the week. Get out of the rut of the too familiar rotation of cooked peas, corn and green beans. How about sugar snap peas, broccoli or beets? Instead of the same old iceberg lettuce, how about spinach, tomato slices or shredded carrots?
  • Whole grains. Think of all the options: brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread or rolls, couscous, barley, and kasha You can cook whole grains ahead and use leftovers the next day — especially in soups and salads.
  • Fruit. It’s not just for dessert anymore. Fruit can be a topping, a salad, a sauce, stuffed into chicken, and grilled or broiled on skewers. Think frozen bananas, grapes or berries for those hot nights.
  • Beverage. Water is perfect. Other good choices include low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and a glass of wine or beer.
The following menus are formed around stuffed chicken breasts because chicken is a good dinner choice due to its versatility and popularity. The menus show you how to build a meal around this delicious entree.  I would, however, encourage you, if at all possible, to buy organic chickenChicken is one of the best places to spend your organic dollars, according to a 2006 “Consumer Reports” study. If you’re resolved to eat a healthier diet, consider the benefits of organic chicken and add it to your shopping list.
Yesterday’s health news is another reason to look for organic chicken in your supermarket. A growing number of medical researchers say more than 8 million women are at risk of difficult-to-treat bladder infections because superbugs – resistant to antibiotics and growing in chickens – are being transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli.  The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chicken to protect them from disease in cramped quarters. It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/superbug-dangers-chicken-linked-8-million-risk-women-122809803–abc-news-health.html.
While health news recommendations can be confusing from report to report, it is standard industry practice to regularly use antibiotics in livestock production.  It is important for consumers to be aware of what goes into the production of their foods, so they can make wise purchase decisions.
Look for this label to be certain you are purchasing organic chicken:

Menu 1

Two-Cheese Stuffed Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup part-skim, shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless medium chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add onion and cook, stirring until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes and garlic. Add spinach, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes until spinach is soft. Remove from heat.
3. Let mixture cool slightly; stir in Mozzarella and Parmesan.
4. Heat oven to 375°F.
5. Beginning in the center of the thicker end of the breast, insert a small knife horizontally, stopping about 1 inch from the opposite end. Open incision to create a wide pocket and pack 1/4 of the filling mixture into each breast.
6. Season chicken with Italian seasoning blend and place in 13″x 9″x 2″ baking dish.
7. Pour broth over chicken. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
8. Keep warm until served.

Brown Rice Pilaf With Hazelnuts                                                                                                                               

4 Servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons (2 ounces) coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Alternate: Replace the hazelnuts with walnuts, pine nuts, or pecans.

Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and nuts and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, thyme, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. For best results, avoid stirring the rice while it cooks. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Radicchio Salad

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds radicchio, cut in 1-inch shreds
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Put the fruit in a small bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Let soak for 15 minutes. Pour the fruit and vinegar over the shredded radicchio in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt. Toss well to coat the salad with the dressing.

Menu 2

Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Basil Couscous

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

Ingredients:

  • 4  (about 1 1/4 pounds) medium skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
  • 1/4 cup (about half 4.4-ounce package) light garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 8  whole fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Lemon and Basil Couscous:                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarse

Directions:

  1. Prepare Stuffed Breasts: With tip of knife, cut each chicken breast from a long side, keeping knife parallel to surface of breast, to form a deep pocket with as small an opening as possible.
  2. In small bowl, combine cheese, peppers, and basil. Spread 1/4 cheese mixture in each chicken pocket. Rub outside of chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare Lemon & Basil Couscous: In 2-quart saucepan, add oil, salt, pepper, and 1 1/3 cups water and bring to boiling over high heat; stir in couscous. Cover saucepan; remove from heat and let stand at least 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place chicken on grill over medium heat and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear when thickest part of the breast is pierced with tip of knife, turning over once.
  5. To serve, add basil and lemon juice to couscous, and fluff with fork to mix well. Spoon couscous onto 4 dinner plates and arrange chicken on top.

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Salad


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup of chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or green onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, onions and oregano together. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over vegetables.
Serves 4.

Menu 3

Chicken Roll-Ups

   

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 11/4 lb chicken cutlets
  • 4 slices lean ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of Progresso Italian Panko crumbs  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay cutlets on plastic wrap, pound until thin. Fold ham and cheese and half and lay over the chicken. You can add basil, rosemary  or any herb of choice.

Start at the narrowest end of cutlet and the roll up. Secure with a toothpick or be sure to lay them seam side down once breaded.

Dip pastry brush in extra virgin olive oil and brush on chicken rolls. Quickly put the entire chicken roll into bowl of Panko crumbs and use your hand or a spoon to press crumbs firmly onto chicken roll.

Transfer the rolled cutlets to a  greased baking dish. Then, using a teaspoon, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over each chicken roll.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in the middle of the oven. In the last few minutes switch your oven to “broil” and move your baking dish to the rack closest to heating element. In 1-2 minutes, the high heat will brown up the crumbs.

Broccoli with Orecchiette                                                                                                                                                                         

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or small shells, whole grain
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch (about 1 1/2 pounds) broccoli stalks, peeled and trimmed, stalks and florets, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until golden, stirring to avoid burning, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli and reserved cooking liquid; cook, stirring, until broccoli is tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Add reserved pasta to pan, and toss well to coat. Transfer to four serving bowls; drizzle each with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and garnish each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Menu 4

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 6 oz low fat softened cream cheese
  • 12 sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices Proscuitto

Directions:

In a skillet, saute mushrooms in oil until browned on medium heat stirring often to avoid burning. Add shallots and cook for an additional minute. Mix with cream cheese.

Divide the filling so that you have enough for 4 breasts. Put filling in the middle and roll tucking in the side ends so that you will not have the filling spill out later.

Do the same with the rest of the chicken pieces.

At this point wrap with prosciutto ham to encase the roll. Place in a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Spaghetti with Roasted Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz spaghetti, whole grain
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 small zucchini (about 1 lb total), sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions:

Heat oven to 425°F.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

In a large bowl toss the zucchini, garlic, red pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the Parmesan cheese toss to combine. Spread the zucchini mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the zucchini is tender and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the zucchini mixture, parsley and lemon zest.

Menu 5

Chicken Roulade with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Preserved Lemon or lemon zest
  • 12 pitted Kalamata ripe olives, drained and divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Directions:

1. Combine breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons capers, 1 tablespoon Preserved Lemons, 6 olives, and garlic in a food processor or blender, and pulse 10 times or until the mixture is coarsely chopped.

2. Place each breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions; spread 1 portion on each breast half, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the outside edges. Roll up each breast half, jelly-roll fashion, starting with short side. Secure with wooden picks or twine.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned. Add wine; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 1 minute), stirring often. Add remaining 2 tablespoons capers, 1 cup water, broth, juice, raisins, and turmeric. Quarter the remaining 6 olives. Add to pan; bring to a boil. Add chicken to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, turning chicken after 10 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce.

Roasted Red Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 12 small red potatoes cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash® Garlic and Herb Blend, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Toss potatoes with olive oil and 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Blend in a bowl. Turn into a greased baking dish.

Roast in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 30 minutes.

Increase heat to 450°F. Sprinkle with remaining Mrs. Dash Blend and continue to roast for 5 – 10 minutes or until tender and browned. Sprinkle with cheese just before serving.


Sauteed Fresh Green Beans 

In skillet with cover, add 1 small shallot sliced, 1 small garlic clove, minced, 1 cup low sodium chicken broth and 1 lb. trimmed fresh green beans.  Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper. Bring to boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook until beans are tender.
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Are veggie haters born or made? The answer seems to be both. Some of us have negative veggie experiences from our childhood that come back to haunt us as adults. Maybe you were forced to eat vegetables, or had to plow through a stack of green beans to get to dessert. Maybe you were served overcooked, mushy vegetables. “If veggies are only served in ways that don’t match your personal flavor preferences, they won’t seem exciting,” explains Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research. So if you love spicy food, you won’t like veggies served plain; or if you love simple, earthy flavors, veggies covered with a rich sauce won’t be appealing. 

When my children were young, they struggled with eating some vegetables that were on their dinner plates.  I, also, know that many parents struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables – it’s a never-ending battle in many households in America. Nagging and taking away dessert are often futile remedies. What can help is, if a parent can involve their children in food preparation and find healthy ways to make vegetables taste good. 

Deep frying or adding butter and cheese make everything taste so good.  The real challenge is how to make vegetables taste good without it, if you are trying to make your meals more healthy. Cooking vegetables with the right herbs can make a difference, such as oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, coriander, dill and garlic. Adding chopped nuts to vegetable dishes is another way to bring more flavor and nutrition into the meal. Using cooking techniques other than boiling in water, such as roasting and grilling, are ways to improve the taste of vegetables without adding a lot of fat.

Prep veggies, like carrots, asparagus and peppers, place in foil, mist with extra virgin olive oil, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or another flavored vinegar or with a low-fat dressing, sprinkle with herbs like thyme, rosemary and cracked black pepper and place the package on the grill. Some take as little as 10 minutes to become tender. Or use the same seasonings on vegetable kabobs, alternating  vegetables of your choice with cherry tomatoes and onion slices.

You can roast just about anything, but vegetables especially benefit from the high, dry heat of the oven. Their flavor becomes concentrated and their natural sugars caramelize, transforming them into richly satisfying sides. For every 2 pounds of vegetables, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil prior to roasting. Spread in a single layer, with space in between the pieces or they’ll just steam instead. You can roast different veggies together if their cooking times are similar.

The recipes below are ones I have made, adjusting ingredients, cooking techniques and utilizing Italian flavors to make these dishes just right. These are vegetable side dishes that my family likes and enjoys at our family dinners.  

Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.

Tip: This is a good dish to make ahead and reheat for dinner.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Oven-roasted Vegetables with Rosemary, Bay Leaves and Garlic

 The process of roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and intensifies their natural flavors

Ingredients

  • Sea salt
  • 1 lb red or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 lb butternut squash, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium red onions, cut into eighths
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of bay leaves

Directions

In a large baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray place potatoes, squash, onions and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Toss to coat, then roast for 20 minutes.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining ingredients to the baking pan.

Roast for another 20 minutes, turning the vegetables occasionally until tender and edges slightly brown. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Vegetables with Basil Dressing

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, sliced into chunks
  • 1 zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into squares
  • 1 small red onion, sliced and cut into 8 segments
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic  vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Dressing
  • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Thread skewers with alternating pieces of eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and onion. Place skewered vegetables in shallow pan.

Make the marinade for vegetables by blending vinegar, oil and 1/4 cup fresh basil. Pour over vegetables. Let stand 10 minutes, occasionally turning skewers so marinade coats all sides.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place yogurt, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh basil and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Transfer to small serving dish.

Grill vegetables, adjusting height of rack to avoid charring, if using an outdoor grill.

Serve vegetables as a side dish, as a sandwich filling in ciabatta rolls or on sliced Italian bread or bruschetta. Pass basil-yogurt dressing to use as a topping.   

Baked Spaghetti Squash

What I like about this spaghetti squash dish is that when it comes out of the oven, it’s ready to serve. It does not need any additional cooking to give it flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium spaghetti squash
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Kosher or salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up, spray lightly with the cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix together the paprika, onion powder, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Sprinkle over squash.

Bake at 350° F for about an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Remove from the oven and let it cool 10 minutes.

Using a fork, scrape out the squash flesh a little at a time. It will separate into spaghetti-like strands. Place in a serving dish and serve.

Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Lemon Zest

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook broccoli rabe in water for 4 to 5 minutes until tender and bright green. Drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a large saute pan heat  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes then toss in the broccoli rabe.

Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, gently tossing it in the pan. Finish with the lemon zest and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves  6

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs

Lemon Vinaigrette

Whisk together:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon small capers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash the head of cauliflower and trim off the outer leaves. With a sharp knife, remove a cone-shaped piece from the core, keeping the head intact.

With your fingers, rub a little olive oil into the bottom of a deep oven-safe baking dish, rub the remainder on all over the cauliflower, working the oil into the crevasses as best you can. Place core-side down in the baking dish and sprinkle with salt and breadcrumbs.

Bake for 1 hour or 1-1/4 hours, until the exterior is brown and crusty and the center soft.  With a spoon, drizzle the vinaigrette over the top of the cauliflower and let it seep slowly.

Crispy Parmesan Broccoli

2 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 lb broccoli, rinsed, dried, and cut into flat sided bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1/4 cup Progresso Lemon Pepper Panko Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs and cheese.

Put the broccoli in a large bowl, add the egg substitute, and toss with your hands to coat.

Sprinkle in the bread crumb and cheese mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer to a baking sheet, flat side down, and roast for 12 minutes.

Italian Green Beans Marinara

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, cleaned and stem ends removed
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Snap the beans into 2-inch pieces. Blanch lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes to soften slightly. Drain well.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper.
Simmer uncovered, until tomatoes start to break down. Add the green beans and cook, covered, until tender.
Taste the beans for seasoning and, if desired, add more salt, pepper or oregano. 6-8 Servings

Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

Servings: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • olive oil spray
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 4 slices (2 oz) thin sliced prosciutto
  • grated Parmesan cheese
Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Lightly spray asparagus spears with olive oil cooking spray. Season with fresh cracked pepper and divide into 4 bundles.

Bundle 1/4 of the asparagus together and wrap a slice of prosciutto around it.  Place on a baking dish seam side down.  
Repeat with the remaining asparagus and prosciutto.
Place in the baking dish and bake 12 minutes or until asparagus is tender crisp. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.


Roasted Chicken

Most of the chicken recipes we associate with Italian cuisine were really developed in the United States by the Italian immigrants. When chicken is eaten in Italy,  it is a simple preparation ,usually browned in olive oil and flavored with olives or lemon and garlic. Additionally, the meat is probably pheasant, squab or rabbit and not chicken. Some of the most well know dishes in America are Chicken Parmigiana, Chicken Marsala, Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Tetrazzini. These dishes have been on Italian restaurant menus for years and cooked in many homes across the world, but they are high calorie dishes.

Chicken (or Veal) Parmigiana or also known as Chicken Parmesan is made by dipping a chicken breast in a mixture of beaten eggs and bread crumbs, shallow-fried and topped with a tomato sauce and mozzarella. It is then usually baked until the cheese is melted.

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Marsala is a traditional Italian dish that starts with boneless chicken breasts that are coated, usually with flour.  The sauce  is made of butter, olive oil, mushrooms, Marsala wine, and sherry. Salt, pepper and oregano season the dish. Some chicken Marsala recipes also include capers and lemon juice.

Chicken Cacciatore ( means “hunter’s style) and is a country-style dish where a whole chicken is cut up and browned in olive oil, then braised in a light tomato sauce with vegetables.

Chicken Tetrazzini is a dish made with mushrooms, cream, parmesan cheese, eggs, onion, pepper, salt, milk, sherry and cooked spaghetti. The dish is said to have been named for the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1941), called “The Florentine Nightingale.” She was extremely popular in the United States and was a star of the San Francisco Opera. She also was a long-time resident of San Francisco. It was a culinary tradition to name new dishes after personalities of the day, and Chefs of the 19th century use to flatter great prima donnas, like Luisa Tetrazzini, making them the inspiration for their creative efforts and then naming dishes for them.
This dish is also a great example of a high calorie entree. Let me cite for you the recipe from the Italian Inn in Tulsa, Ok.

I should tell you that one serving equals 1664 calories and 92.7 g of fat, before you go ahead and make this dish.

                                                                                                                                                     Chicken Tetrazzini

  • 3 1/2-4 1/2 lbs chicken, cooked

    Chicken Tetrazzini

  • 2 sweet red peppers, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions

  1. Remove the meat from the chicken, discard bones and skin and cut chicken into bite size pieces.
  2. Cut the peppers into dice.
  3. Make a veloute sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, then stir in the flour. When it is cooked and bubbling, stir in the chicken stock gradually, continuing to stir until the sauce is thickened.
  4. Add the cream, and season with the salt, pepper, Tabasco and wine.
  5. Put the chicken and diced peppers in the sauce, and hold over low heat while you cook and drain the spaghetti. Stir the cooked and drained spaghetti into the chicken mixture, and pour into a prepared greased baking dish.
  6. Cover the top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and almonds.
  7. Dot with butter and place in 475º oven for a few minutes until the topping is glazed and bubbling.  Serves 4.
Childhood Memories
Certain chicken dishes stand out in my mind from my childhood. My mother often make scaloppini dishes (which are thin cutlets pounded thin, breaded, and pan fried) with veal or chicken. Chicken Cacciatore was on the menu regularly .  I remember that my father and grandfather would sometimes get together on a Sunday and prepare chicken cacciatore with rabbit.
That was a dinner I passed up.
 
A favorite dish of my parents was a dish popular in the Italian-American community called Chicken Scarpariello.  The recipe below is similar to the dish my mother prepared.  This version is from the famous restaurant in New York City, Rao’s.
       Chicken Scarpariello
  •  1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 lb sausage, a combination of hot and sweet, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2- 2 ½ pound chickens, cut into 12 small   pieces, bone in
  • 2 large bell peppers, red, green or yellow, cored, seeded and cut, lengthwise into ¼ inch strips
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut, lengthwise, into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup vinegar hot cherry peppers
  • ½ cup vinegar sweet bell peppers
  • ½ cup of vinegar from vinegar sweet bell peppers
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Sauté sausage for about 8 minutes until lightly browned.  Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage from pan and set aside to drain.  Reheat oil so that it is hot but not smoking, pat chicken dry, and sauté chicken for about 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through.
Stir in bell peppers, onion, and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.  Drain off all excess oil.  Return sausage to pan.
Add wine and chicken broth to chicken, sausage, and vegetables and bring to a boil.  Stir in hot and sweet vinegar peppers, vinegar, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Again, bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes or until flavors have combined and sauce has reduced.  Remove from heat and serve.
serves 6

I really didn’t care for the flavor of the vinegar peppers in the dish and the recipe calls for a lot of oil in its preparation. I did like the idea of roasting chicken, potatoes and peppers for an entree and I worked on making a dish with these ingredients in a healthy way.

A great feature of this meal is that it is a one-pot dish with plenty of leftovers.  The way I have lowered the calories in this recipe was to reduce the oil to 1 tablespoon, use lower fat sausage and brown the chicken and sausage in a hot oven.  You also save cleaning a messy stove-top and a skillet.

I prefer to use chicken sausage (that is nitrate free) in this dish instead of pork sausage. I think the chicken flavor is enhanced with the chicken sausage. I also take the skin off chicken as another fat reducing technique.

The dish does not have a name since I haven’t found any recipes exactly like this one, so I call it this dish:

Baked Chicken, Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 whole 3 lb. organic chicken, cut into 10 pieces or 1 whole bone-in chicken breast, cut into 4 pieces and 6 bone-in thighs,skin removed
  • 1 package Al Fresco or Applegate Farms chicken sausage (lower fat and nitrate free) each link diagonally cut into fourths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in bottom of a roasting pan and spread over the bottom of the pan with your fingers. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage pieces around the sausage.
Chicken ready for browning in the oven.

Bake 15 minutes
Turn chicken pieces and bake 15 minutes
Squeeze lemon over chicken, place the lemon skins in the roasting dish with the chicken and sprinkle chicken with minced garlic and oregano.
Chicken browned after 30 minutes,
Add the sliced potatoes onions, and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.
Peppers, potatoes and onions added.
Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees
Cover pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes.
Serves 6-8 and you do not need to add anything else to this menu.


100_0521


I have read that Italian breakfasts are very light, usually consisting of coffee (espresso) or cappuccino and some kind of pastry or bread.  Biscotti are also favorites for an Italian breakfast. Biscotti are a, not too sweet cookie, that is baked, cut, then baked again to form slices of hard biscuits that are often dunked in coffee . Egg dishes, such as frittatas, are usually eaten at lunch or dinner, never for breakfast.

I can remember going to my grandparents’  home around breakfast time and my grandfather would be having a cup of coffee and eating the heel end from a loaf of Italian bread.  This was pretty much his usual breakfast.  I am not sure when Italian-Americans began eating specialty pastries from a bakery, but I can remember Italian bakeries were numerous where I grew up in New Jersey.  I think  the tradition of going to the Italian bakery came about when folks who had just come from church services wanted a special breakfast on Sunday.  I can remember long lines at the bakery counter, didn’t like standing there, but liked those pastries. My grandfather even got into the habit and would bring us pastries when he visited us on Sundays.  He continued the tradition when my children were little and brought us pastries up until the time that he died.  Some of those delicious pastries (just wanted to make you drool) are pictured below. Of course you know they are not a healthy choice.

Sfogliatelle feature luscious mandarin flavored ricotta filling encased in a crispy shell shaped pastry.

Pasticiotti are tender pastry cups filled with either ricotta cheese, vanilla cream or chocolate cream

Frittatas

I recall that most of my breakfasts growing up were the usual cereal and scrambled eggs. Very American.  My mother, however, often made traditional Italian style egg dishes, such as potatoes and eggs, or peppers and eggs or spinach frittata and I will share those recipes with you.  My children weren’t so fond of fritattas when they were growing up, but they like them now as adults, so I like to make frittatas for breakfast when they visit.

A frittata is a healthy and economical dish that you can eat for any meal of the day. It is a dish similar to a French quiche,  an American omelette,  or a Spanish tortilla.  Frittatas generally consist of eggs,  vegetables, cheese, and herbs.

In my house, the contents of a frittata usually consist of whatever leftovers I have in the refrigerator that day. Italians are frugal and know how to use leftovers creatively.

You will want to pick items that have a natural affinity for each other. Think of things that you might find on a plate together anyway, or on a pizza and cheese is a key ingredient in any frittata. Making this dish is very simple as long as you have an ovenproof skillet.  Sauté whatever veggies you are putting into the dish and heat through any cooked meat leftovers.

Here are some ideas:

  • 1 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and sauteed until soft, 2 diced plum tomatoes and 4 ounces of diced or shredded Fontina.
  • A bag of cleaned spinach cooked in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1/4 pound sliced Prosciutto, some grated Parmesan cheese and some shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • I prefer to use reduced- fat shredded cheeses from Kraft or Sargento and substitute half of the eggs with egg substitute to save on calories.

General techniques include

  1. Turn on the broiler.  Place a non-stick skillet with an oven safe handle on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Heat the pan and add 1 tablespoons olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the frittata vegetables, stirring until warm, and then pour the eggs beaten with the egg substitute over the vegetables.
  3. Slowly cook the frittata until the edges start to firm up. When the frittata is cooked about three-quarters of the way through, scatter the top with shredded cheese and move it to the heated broiler.
  4. Set the frittata about 6-inches below the broiler.
  5. When it is just golden brown and puffed up, remove the skillet to your stove top.
  6.  BE SURE TO PROTECT THE HOT HANDLE WITH A HOT PAD SO YOU DO NOT BURN YOUR HANDS!

Spinach Frittata

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

5 eggs and 1 1/4 cups egg substitute

8 ounces chopped raw spinach (or 1-10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oil  in a 10 or 12 inch skillet with a heat-resistant handle over medium heat.   Saute onion in the oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the mozzarella cheese. Whisk until well blended. Pour egg mixture into skillet with onions and spinach. Return to low heat and cook 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler. Remove when the top is golden brown and cut into wedges.

Some Traditional Italian Style Egg Dishes

Peppers and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute (such as, Egg Beaters)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden.
Add the peppers, cook 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften.
Cover skillet and cook 5 more minutes until they are tender.

Mix the eggs, oregano, salt and pepper together and por over the peppers in the skillet.
Stir fry the eggs and peppers to allow the uncooked portions to reach the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat when the eggs are done to your liking.

Potatoes and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Cooking Directions

Heat the oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the potatoes until tender and golden brown. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture to the potatoes and onions. Stir fry the mixture turning the ingredients with a spatula over and under until the eggs look cooked to your liking.

Completing the Breakfast Menu

The best accompaniments to the egg dishes featured here are bread and fruit, such as, melon or berries. Certainly a loaf of  Italian bread would be good, but I like to serve Focaccia.

Focaccia  is a flat oven-baked Italian bread which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients.
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese, meat, or vegetables.
Focaccia dough is similar in style and texture to pizza dough but is usually baked in a deep dish pan. The bread bakes up thicker than pizza and can be used for sandwiches.

In Ancient Rome, foccacia, was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace. The word is derived from the Latin word meaning “centre” and also “fireplace” – the fireplace being in the centre of the house.  As the tradition spread, the diverse regions and the different local ingredients resulted in a large variety of breads.  The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine, a coastal region of north-western Italy.  In America, it is referred to as focaccia bread.

Here is a recipe I have adapted from King Arthur.

This bread is just about the easiest home-baked bread recipe that I have found because it can be made without kneading and is ready in under 2 hours.

No-Fuss Focaccia

1 1/2 cups warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for drizzling)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour

1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

Italian seasoning or other herbs of choice

Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Drizzle the bottom of a 9″x 13″ pan with 1 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine all of the ingredients and beat at high-speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.

Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan.  If you spray a spatula (or your fingers) with cooking spray, the dough will be easier to smooth out.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.  Drizzle it lightly 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated parmesan cheese.

Bake the bread until it is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Focaccia



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