Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: soup

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There are some nights you just want a bowl of soup and a sandwich – no fuss. To keep it healthy, I like to prepare these ingredients when I have time and keep them in the freezer for when we want this simple type of dinner.

I bake the bread loaves, cut them in half and store each half in a separate freezer bag. Certainly you can buy bread if you don’t have time to bake, but this recipe makes exceptional tasting sandwich bread.

You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand for a sandwich, but I usually like to have extra cooked chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or meatloaf in the freezer. I slice them in sandwich portions and store them in freezer bags.

Soups are always a good solution after a busy day. I like to keep homemade soups in the freezer because they are healthier than canned soup. Soups that are not too heavy go better with sandwiches. I also freeze these in one or two cup portions.

Now with these in the freezer, you won’t have to ask – what’s for dinner?

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

This is a very moist, tender, slightly chewy bread and stays moist for a few days.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup honey, divided
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter or butter alternative, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal 
  • 4 tablespoons of powdered vital wheat gluten
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, mix warm water, yeast and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups bread flour and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes or until big and bubbly.

Mix in the 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey and salt. Stir in the whole wheat flour.

Knead on level 2 for about 10 minutes. Then, take the dough out and knead by hand on a floured surface until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter for about 1 minute. to form a large dough ball.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

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Punch down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in two greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise until the dough has topped the pans by one inch. You may also make 3 smaller loaves (8×4 inch pans) and reduce the baking time to about 25 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30-35 minutes. To be sure check the temperature with a thermometer. Most breads are done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F.

Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter when done to prevent the crust from getting hard. Cool completely

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Italian Seasoned Meatloaf for Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce 
  • 1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs.
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except bread crumbs. Mix well. Gradually add breadcrumbs and lightly mix mixture after each addition. Stop when the beef and breadcrumb mixture begins to feel firm and holds its shape.

Form into a loaf and place in a baking pan.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, about 60-75 minutes.

Let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute.

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Meatloaf Sandwich

Ingredients for each sandwich:

  • 1 slice Italian seasoned meatloaf
  • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar
  • 1 large slice deli provolone cheese
  • 2 slices homemade whole wheat bread

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Butternut Squash-White Bean Soup

The soup ingredients may seem like an unlikely combination, but I have to tell you that the flavor is incredible. Be sure to use a good brand of chicken stock or even better use homemade.

Serves 4-6

For serving:

Cooked bacon, crumbled, and chopped parsley for garnish, if desired.

For soaking the beans:

1 cup dried white beans, such as cannellini, haricot blanc (navy) or Great Northern beans. Soak in 4 cups of water overnight. Drain.

For cooking the beans:

In a large soup pot combine

  • Drained beans
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are tender but not soft. Check after 40-45 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Reserve.

For the soup:

In the same pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 or 4 freah sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf

Cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes and cook for 5 minutes.

Directions

Drain the beans and the garlic and set aside. Add all of the cooking liquid to the squash and onion mixture.

Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cook at a simmer until the squash becomes very tender. Add the drained white beans and garlic and heat thoroughly. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée one-third of the soup and add back into the pot. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Serve in individual bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and crumbled bacon, if desired.

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Soup can be anything you want it to be – quick, slow-cooking, hearty or light. You can also experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans and meats to make delicious meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and soups make wonderfully satisfying meals. Here are some tips for making great tasting soup.

1. Start with a Delicious Liquid Base

Soups are mostly water, but often include broth or stock, wine or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink. The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. The best to use is homemade but many delis, supermarkets and butchers sell freshly made frozen stock that works well, too. If you buy store- bought broth, dilute it with water (4 parts of broth to 1 part water) and find a brand sold in boxes instead of cans to avoid a slight metal taste. When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol taste. For cream or milk-based soups, check the expiration date to be sure you are using fresh dairy products.

2. Sweat the Aromatics

Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.

3. Use the Right Tools

A large and heavy pot with a cover

A powerful blender or hand immersion blender

An ample soup ladle.

4. Salt in Layers

Canned and prepared soups and broths are known to be high in sodium. You want a satisfying homemade soup that is full of flavor but not overly salty. Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you are cooking them. If you’re cooking meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before adding more salt.

5. Include Something Fresh

You’ve used great ingredients. You’ve cooked and salted them properly. Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt or pesto. A hint of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep melded flavors in the rest of the soup.

6. Garnish at the End

Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper. The best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.

  • Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a pureed vegetable soup )
  • Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht )
  • Bitter on savory (herbs on a lentil soup)
  • Salty on sweet (diced prosciutto on sweet potato or squash or carrot soup )

Fall Soups

Take advantage of the fall vegetables that make great additions to soup:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mustard Greens
  • Rutabagas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Squash
  • Turnips

Tuscan Peasant Soup with Pancetta

Yields 3-1/2 qts.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 -1 cup small-diced pancetta (about 4 oz. or 4 thick slices)
  • 4 cups large-diced Savoy cabbage (about ½ small head)
  • 2 cups medium-diced onion (10 to 12 oz. or 2 small)
  • 1-1/2 cups medium-diced carrot (about 4 medium carrots)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 28-oz. can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 7 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 2 15-1/2-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained (about 2-1/2 cups, drained)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 4- to 5-qt. Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp (the oil will also be golden brown), about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and with a slotted spoon or strainer carefully transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the chopped cabbage and salt lightly. Cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until limp and browned around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat again and transfer the cabbage to another plate.

Put the pot back over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and the vegetables are browned around the edges and beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, 8 to 9 minutes.

Add the last 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the fresh rosemary and the ground coriander. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stir together, and cook the mixture 2 to 3 more minutes.

Return the cabbage to the pan and add the chicken broth. Stir well, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes to infuse the broth with the flavor of the vegetables. Add the beans, bring back to a simmer and cook for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary and let rest a few minutes.

Taste the soup and add lemon juice to brighten it—you’ll want at least 1 teaspoon. Season with more salt, if necessary, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Serve the soup hot, garnished with the reserved pancetta crisps, the toasted breadcrumbs and the grated Parmigiano.

Fall Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch parsley, washed and chopped, thick stems discarded
  • 2 or 3 cabbage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch chard, preferably white, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini, with their liquid. (If using canned beans buy low sodium.)
  • Water

Directions:

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pot and turn the heat to medium.

Add half the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, which takes about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and repeat the process, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

Add the parsley, cabbage and chard and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is softened but not browned.  Add the tomato paste and stir.

Mash half the beans and leave the remainder whole. Add this mixture to the pot, along with any bean cooking liquid and enough water to cover the ingredients completely.

Continue cooking, tasting and adjusting the seasoning as necessary, until all the vegetables are very tender and the soup is hot. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Roasted Butternut Soup with Apples and Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped in large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock 

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the oil.

Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Set aside some of the bacon for garnish.

Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.

If you’re using a roasting pan that can be used on the stovetop, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat. Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat.

Add the stock and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes. You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up with a potato masher. Garnish with bacon before serving.

Chicken Kale Soup with Pesto

If you are pressed for time, you can substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto.

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces), cut into quarters
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 6 ounces baby kale or spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can low sodium cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot, bell pepper and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Lightly salt the chicken and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add kale (or spinach if you cannot find baby kale in your market) and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan cheese and basil in a food processor (a mini processor works well). Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water if needed, scraping down the sides as necessary.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Sauteed Leeks

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped and thoroughly rinsed
  • 6 slices Pancetta, diced
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

In a wide, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (do not brown), about 5 minutes.

Add cauliflower, potato and 2 tablespoons butter; stir to combine. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups broth and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add leek and diced pancetta, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 cups broth and a pinch salt; cook at a very gentle simmer for 15 minutes. Strain liquid into pot with cauliflower; reserving pancetta and leeks for garnish.

In a blender or with a hand immersion blender, carefully purée cauliflower mixture. Return purée to pot, if using a blender, and gently heat to warm through. Adjust seasoning. Add additional broth to thin soup to your liking. Ladle soup into bowls, top with pancetta and leeks and sprinkle with parsley.

 


This time of year is perfect for lighter soups that showcase the flavors of seasonal vegetables. Taste isn’t the only reason for cooking up a big pot of spring soup. It can save you money, too. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cornell University scientists found that the cost per serving is usually lower for in season fresh food than for processed food. Further, a recent USDA Economic Research Service analysis found that fresh seasonal produce costs 12 to 18 cents per serving on average. Eating in-season fruits and vegetables will also provide you countless health benefits, thanks to an almost endless variety of nutrients.

Italians enjoy food in its most straightforward state—no fuss, just real ingredients in their purest form, allowing for the integrity the of the ingredients to shine. They also use the time of year as their guide and work with products available, visiting their local grocers or farmer’s markets to see what is fresh. The delicate flavors in these soups are a direct reflection of the new beginnings taking place around us in our environment. Sometimes the most effortless dish makes for the most appetizing meal.

These soups provide the perfect way to incorporate spring’s most green ingredients: peas, asparagus and artichokes, to name a few. All great soups start with the basics- carrots, onions and celery- with variations like shallots, leeks, garlic and even fennel. The goal of a great soup is to build upon the basics to create a wonderful and balanced set of flavors, which can take hours or just 30 minutes. When making Italian soups, it’s best to start with traditional ingredients and then add your own personal flair to achieve something new and unique. Soups are a great way to showcase your individuality and taste.

The first two soup recipes below are two of my favorites for this time of year and I make them on a regular basis. The last group of soups are ones that I adapted from the cookbook,The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti, Chronicle Books, 2006. They are great examples of the kinds of soups made in Italy and in Italian American homes, that utilize all the wonderful springtime produce that are found in markets this time of year. I have changed some of the ingredients and some of the techniques to suit my family’s palate.

Broccoli Leek Soup                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2-pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins.” Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups broth, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Return soup to the heat; add florets; bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add half-and-half and chives and reheat on low briefly.

4 servings

Spring Chicken & Barley Soup

Yield: 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Place barley in a bowl with just enough water to cover it.

Heat olive oil on medium heat in an 8-quart stockpot.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the olive oil, cooking for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken to stockpot, along with the salt and black pepper. Brown for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, vegetables and spices to the pot.

Drain the water from the barley. Add the barley to the soup.

Bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium. Cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.

Pour into serving bowls and garnish with parsley.

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Rice And Lettuce Soup

Use a variety of lettuces for a mix of colors and textures, especially radicchio. The greens lose their bright hue when you cook them, taking on muted, earthy tones. If you want to perk up the color, gently stir in another handful or two of spinach during the last few minutes of cooking. Adding a small rind of Parmigiano while the soup is simmering boosts the flavor of the broth.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 small head butter lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 1 small head radicchio or escarole, washed, trimmed and shredded
  • 3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth or low-sodium commercial chicken broth
  • 1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly shaved or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and then stir in the butter and romaine lettuces, radicchio and spinach, tossing the greens so that they are well-coated with the other ingredients. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes or so, just until the greens have wilted.

Pour in the broth and add the Parmigiano rind. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Stir in the rice, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shaved or grated Parmigiano cheese.

Ladle the soup into a serving tureen or into individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining cheese.

Shepherd's Soup

Shepherd’s Soup

This recipe is Sardinian based and uses tender vegetables and broken spaghetti in a simmered milk-based broth. In Italy, this soup is made with fresh sheep’s milk or goat’s milk.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups cut-up thin green beans (1-inch pieces)
  • 7 baby carrots (3 to 4 inches long), halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound baby yellow or new potatoes, scrubbed clean and halved or quartered (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cups broken spaghetti (1-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine the milk and water and bring almost to a boil over medium-high heat (do not let the liquid boil over). Stir in the salt, green beans and carrots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a bare simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to turn tender. Add the potatoes and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until they are just starting to soften. Stir in the pasta and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes if using frozen, or slightly longer if using fresh, or until they are tender but still bright green.

While the peas are cooking, put the cheese in a small bowl and add a few spoonfuls of the milky broth. Stir the cheese and hot broth together to make a thin paste and stir this paste into the soup until fully incorporated. Add a generous grinding of pepper and stir gently but thoroughly.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with an additional sprinkle of cheese.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Tender green asparagus, spring onions and fennel combine in this for a typical spring. Adding pearled barley to the mix gives it a little more substance. Accompany the soup with country bread for a one-dish supper.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 spring onions, bulbs and tender white part of stalks sliced crosswise, about 1 cup
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and quarters thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low-sodium commercial broth, heated to a simmer
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Put the barley on to cook before you start the soup: In a large saucepan, combine the water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the barley. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. It should not be mushy. Reduce the heat, if necessary, so that the barley cooks at a gentle, steady simmer. Drain the barley in a colander placed in the sink and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the barley is cooking, trim off the tough ends from the asparagus and discard them (or add them to the pot in which you are heating the broth to enhance its flavor; remove them before adding the broth to the soup).

Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Set aside the tips. You should have about 4 1/2 cups asparagus pieces, not including the tips.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and fennel, reduce the heat to medium-low and saute, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir vigorously to combine. Pour in 1 cup of the heated broth and stir for a minute or so to incorporate thoroughly.

Slowly pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and add the asparagus pieces — except for the reserved tips — and the parsley sprigs. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.

Using an immersion or standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Stir in the cooked barley and asparagus tips and heat gently over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve the soup, stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Ladle the soup into a large serving bowl or tureen and top the remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sweet Pea Soup With Radish

Makes 4 servings

For the radish topping:

  • 3 to 4 radishes, cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slivers or small dice (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 small spring onion (bulb only), thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Mix together the radish and cucumber with the coarse salt. Place the radish and cucumber in a small colander set over a bowl and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and pat vegetables dry with paper towels.

Transfer the radishes and cucumbers to a bowl and stir in the spring onion, oil, sugar and a grinding of pepper. Gently toss to combine. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until serving time.

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced spring onions or leeks (bulbs and tender parts of stalk)
  • 1 small sprig fresh marjoram
  • 1 small sprig fresh thyme
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth, or low-sodium commercial broth
  • 4 cups shelled peas (about 4 pounds in the pod) or 4 cups good quality frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mascarpone or ricotta cheese, for serving

Directions:

In a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the spring onions and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they have softened but are not browned. Add the marjoram and thyme and cook for 1 minute, stirring.

Pour in the broth, raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Carefully tip in the peas and cook for 6 to 8 minutes for fresh peas; 3 to 4 minutes for frozen, or until they are just tender but still bright green. Take off the heat and remove and discard the sprigs of marjoram and thyme. Using an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Return the soup to medium heat and stir in the milk, salt and pepper to taste. Heat until just warmed through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of mascarpone or ricotta cheese and top with a spoonful of radish mixture.

 


Nothing beats the winter chill like a steaming bowl of soup. Soup can be filling and also budget-friendly, since it can last for weeks or months in the freezer. Let the soup recipes below warm your cold bones. Soup doesn’t have to be rich and creamy to be satisfying, though. The soup recipes here include recipes for a vegetable soup, a chicken soup and several other easy soup recipes that are healthier versions of their more traditional counterparts. I have also added recipes for homemade broth, if you are so inclined.

Here are a few tips to help you add flavor to your soup recipes. These tips will help take bland tasting soups and turn them into delicious, full flavored soups.

Use fresh ingredients at their peak of flavor. Many make the mistake of using old or leftover ingredients, especially vegetables, to make soup. The basic soup vegetables needed for starting soups are, onions, carrots, leeks, celery, sometimes green and/or red bell pepper, parsnips and garlic. Of course you can add other vegetables depending upon your soup recipe.

Homemade broth can really make a difference in how your soup tastes. Soups need bones. Unless you are a vegetarian, this is important to develop a flavor base. You need a flavorful broth or stock and soup bones are key to making a flavorful broth. I save bones from steak, chicken or roasts, etc., in my freezer for this purpose. If not, you can buy soup bones or meat parts that have bone attached. You can buy a whole chicken and keep the non-meaty parts like the neck or back for soups. Chicken wings or a turkey carcass also make a delicious soup stock. Beef shanks make excellent beef stock.

Roasting the bones in a hot oven first also adds more flavor and you do not need to add fat to brown them in the soup pot. Delicious vegetable broth can be made by roasting the vegetables first.

Fish bones are needed for a good fish stock, even shrimp shells will work for this type of stock.

Remove Fat From Chilled Broth

An advantage to making the broth ahead of time, is that the broth can be chilled overnight and, the fat that accumulates on the top of the broth, can be removed before making the soup.

Use herbs and seasonings. Find good fresh, flavorful salt free seasonings. Experiment with different herbs and spices. Try different chilies (they range from mild to hot) and, they are especially good to add to bean soups. Adding freshly ground black pepper can also make a difference and increase flavor in a soup recipe.

Take your time and let good flavorful soups simmer for a few hours or use a crock pot. Make plenty and enjoy delicious, healthy soups even more the next day. Also, put some in the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner.

Stock Vegetables

Easy Method for Making Homemade Broth for Soup

Vegetables do not need to be peeled – just wash – peel and all. Use these broths in the recipes below. Of course, you can use canned broth, if you do not have time to make the broth.

CHICKEN STOCK

Roast 2 lbs. of chicken bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of chicken stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

SHELLFISH STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of shrimp or lobster shells or fish bones in the oven at 325 degrees F. for 40 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of fish stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

VEGETABLE STOCK

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a roasting pan add 4 carrots, 3 onions halved, 2 leeks, 3 stalks of celery, 2 shallots and 4 tomatoes cut in half. Roast for 45 minutes. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of vegetable stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

BEEF STOCK

Roast 2 lbs of beef bones in the oven at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes with 3 carrots, 2 onions halved, 2 leeks and 2 stalks of celery in a roasting pan. Transfer to a soup pot and add 2 gallons of water, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black whole peppercorns and simmer until reduced to half. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. Remove the fat and continue with your soup recipe or freeze in pint bags. This makes 1 gallon of beef stock that will last over 1 year if frozen

Winter Soups

Potato and Kale Soup

Collard or mustard greens can be substituted for the kale.

Servings 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bacon or turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium canned
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, root ends trimmed
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed, washed and thinly sliced
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2. In a heavy stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a bowl; lightly mash with a fork (or use an immersion blender). Return mashed vegetables to the soup pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in kale, a handful at a time. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the kale is tender. Stir in the reserved bacon and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Apple Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, large, peeled and diced
  • 8 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 small onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable broth or low sodium canned
  • 1/2 cup Marsala (optional)
  • 2 ounces dried apples
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche or Greek yogurt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Place the diced vegetables and fresh apples on a baking sheet and toss with the walnut oil, honey, rosemary, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Roast, turning often, until vegetables are softened and lightly caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.

3. Combine the vegetable broth, Marsala, and dried apples in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; simmer for 20 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables.

Immersion Blender

4. Working in small batches, puree the ingredients in a blender; (or use a hand immersion blender in the soup pot) and transfer to a saucepan. If the soup is too thick, thin with hot water or vegetable broth.

5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle a little creme fraiche or yogurt over the top of each serving and swirl with a skewer or a knife. 

Easy Minestrone

Servings 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, medium-sized, washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth or low sodium canned
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red potato, large-sized, scrubbed and diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves or Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta (whole wheat, if possible)
  • 15 ounces white beans, canned, drained and rinsed
  • 2 zucchini, trimmed, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh spinach, washed, stems removed or a bag of baby spinach
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Pour in broth and water. Add potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. Add orzo and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 5 minutes. Add beans and zucchini and continue to cook, partially covered, until the vegetables and pasta are tender, about 8 minutes.

3. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season the soup with vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with Parmesan.

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Serves 8

To make a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth and substitute quartered button mushrooms and/or cubed firm tofu for the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups homemade chicken broth or low sodium canned, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1 small chicken breast (about 6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced or other greens of choice

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook about 8 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Add remaining 7 1/2 cups of broth, water, rice, chicken and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 35 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

3. Remove bay leaf and stir in kale. Continue cooking just until kale is wilted and tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Bean and Cabbage Soup

A thick, simple soup for a chilly afternoon, this dish is easy to make and tastes even better a day later.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red or white beans (1/2 pound), rinsed and picked over (or use low sodium canned beans)
  • 2 quarts water or homemade chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 head cabbage (about 1 1/4 pounds), cored and shredded
  • 1 – 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each parsley, thyme, a bay leaf and a Parmesan rind
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Directions:

If using canned beans skip step 1.

1. Combine the beans and broth or water in a large saucepan or pot. Discard any of the beans that float. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Season to taste with salt. Do not discard bean cooking water.

2. In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until tender, five to eight minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant, and add the cabbage and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for five to 10 minutes until the cabbage has wilted.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste and the red pepper flakes or cayenne, and continue to cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture smells fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add more so that they’re just covered. Add the bouquet garni, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The beans should be soft. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, passing grated Parmesan, if desired, to sprinkle on.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: The cooked beans will keep for four days in the refrigerator. The soup also will keep for that long and can be frozen.


Most people are creatures of habit. We go to the grocery store on the same day every week and fill our carts with the same stuff. If it’s Monday, chicken’s for dinner and Wednesday, always means spaghetti. We are comforted with knowing what to expect—even if our meals aren’t that exciting–we know what we’re going to eat.

That’s what makes eating healthier so scary sometimes. We are so used to eating a certain way that we rarely think about what we’re actually putting into our bodies. So planning a healthier diet means paying attention to what’s on your plate.

Explore these tips for eating well:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice
  • Use healthy fats in your cooking, such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Choose low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Choose lean sources of protein and don’t forget to add nuts to your meals.
  • Compare sodium in foods, especially soup and frozen meals and choose foods with less sodium.
  • Eat seafood at least twice a week
  • Pay attention to portion size.
  • Drink tea.

All you need to round out these entrees is a garden salad with Italian dressing (made with olive oil) and some whole grain Artisan country bread.

 

Homemade Vegetable Soup

Makes about 9 cups; 60 calories per cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetables fresh or frozen vegetables (about 28 ounces total)(see choices below)
  • 4 cups liquid (water, stock or broth), enough to cover
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs such as basil, Italian seasoning or other spice blends
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, if using water for liquid, otherwise to taste

Directions:

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil until shimmery on medium high. Add onion, celery and carrots and stir well to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables turn golden.

While the onion-celery-carrot mixture cooks, prep the other vegetables.  It helps to keep starchier vegetables (potatoes and sweet potatoes) separate from the rest. Stir vegetables in (starchier ones first) and let them cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the non-starchy vegetables and saute a few minutes more.

Cover with liquid. Add tomatoes, dried herbs and salt. Bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are done.

Notes:

Vegetable Choices

Aim for 4 to 6 kinds of vegetables, varying color and shape and kind of vegetable. Use all fresh vegetables or half fresh vegetables and half frozen vegetables. Good fresh vegetables include bell peppers (red for color, green for price), turnips, fennel, rutabaga, sweet potatoes (peeled), potatoes (skins on), turnips, zucchini, bok choy, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, spinach. Good frozen vegetables include corn, green beans and green peas.

Cooking Tips:

The trick to this soup is flavor and texture. For flavor, let the onion/carrot/celery mixture cook really well, until golden. For texture, the other vegetables should be cooked just until done.

Fresh Broccoli and Red Pepper Frittata

Makes 4 servings. (serving size: 1/4 of a 10-inch Frittata) 211 calories

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper strips
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fat free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, and return to a boil. Cover and boil 2 minutes or until just crisp-tender. Drain well in a colander.

Wipe skillet dry with a paper towel. Reduce heat to medium; add oil, and heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook 3 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring frequently. (Note: Do not overcook peppers, as their color will start to fade.)

Meanwhile, combine eggs, milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, thyme, and ground red pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until well blended.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add broccoli to onion/pepper mixture in skillet, and stir gently. Pour egg mixture evenly over all. Cover tightly, and cook 12 minutes or just until set. Remove from heat; sprinkle with remaining salt, and top with cheese.Place in the broiler and cook until top starts to brown lightly.  watch carefully so the top does not burn. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

 

Italian Seafood Stew

6 servings

Serving Size: 2 cups; calories 214

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen cod or other white fish
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen shrimp
  • 1 cup finely chopped leeks
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1 pound mussels, soaked, scrubbed, and beards removed or clams
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions:

Thaw fish and shrimp, if frozen. Rinse fish and shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 1-inch pieces. Peel and devein shrimp; halve shrimp lengthwise. Set fish and shrimp aside.

In an 8-quart Dutch oven, cook leeks, fennel, celery, carrot, and garlic in hot oil about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste and Italian seasoning; cook for 1 minute. Add wine and stir until wine is nearly evaporated.

Stir in tomatoes, broth, the water, and clam juice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add mussels or clams and fish. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until shellfish open. Discard any that do not open. Add shrimp; cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until shrimp are opaque. Stir in half of the parsley. Ladle into shallow soup bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Makes 6 servings (2 cups each)

Tip

Scrub mussels or clams in shells under cold running water. Remove beards on mussels. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, combine 4 quarts cold water and 1/3 cup salt; add mussels or clams. Soak for 15 minutes; drain and rinse. Discard water. Repeat soaking, draining, and rinsing twice to rid the shellfish of sand.

 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Shrimp

Makes: 4 servings; Calories 275 per serving

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-26 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, capers, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Return the shrimp mixture to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and heat. Turn into serving bowl and garnish with basil.

Peppered Chicken in Marsala Sauce

Makes: 6 servings; 275 calories per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken breast halves (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
  • 1 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala
  • Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Skin chicken. Brush chicken with oil; sprinkle black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt over chicken. Arrange chicken in a 15 x 10 -inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degrees F).

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan, cook mushrooms in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add broth and Marsala. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more. Place sauce on serving plates and top with a chicken breast. If desired, sprinkle with additional pepper.

Roasted Pecan Salmon Fillets

4 servings; 265 calories per serving:

Ingredients:

  • 4 salmon fillets (5-6 oz. each)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Wedges of fresh lemon

Directions::

1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on baking sheet.

2. Combine mustard and honey, brush on top of salmon.

3. Mix topping of bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley or rosemary and sprinkle over salmon.

4. Bake at 400°F 15-20 minutes or until flaky. Serve with wedges of fresh lemon.


They are convenient and tempting  — those mixes packaged in envelopes in the grocery store. Adding a pouch to some water and having gravy or a seasoning packet for chili is easy to pick up and makes you feel that you are saving time.

But what if you had these things in your own home and for a lot less money?

Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever made your own mixes? There are many recipes available, from Hearty Bean Soup Mix to Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk to Spice Mixes. Make a flavored coffee creamer or your own hot roll mix. With a little organization, some tightly sealed containers and labeling equipment you can have a pantry full of fabulous mixes in no time and you don’t have to run out to the store before making your favorite casserole. It’s also wonderful to have recipes for seasoning and herbs blends that may be difficult to find in some parts of the world, like Beau Monde seasoning or Herbs de Provence. 

Many consumers are concerned about fat and sodium content in many recipes that call for condensed soups and seasoning mixes. Make your own mixes and you control the sodium and fat content in the foods you eat. On a low sodium diet? Just leave out or reduce the salt or salty products. Want to eat low fat? Substitute low fat ingredients for higher fat ones. As a bonus, you can customize each mix to your taste. And you’ll save money too! You can add, subtract, or substitute for just about any herb or spice in these recipes.

All of these mixes should be stored tightly covered in a cool, dry place. I have found that large Tupperware containers or large glass jars with screw-on lids work best. Most mixes will stay fresher longer if stored in the refrigerator. Just like purchasing a commercial mix with directions on the package, you will need to have the directions (stored with the mixes) to use the mixes that you make.

Time Saving Convenience Mix Recipes

The ingredients in these recipes can be doubled or tripled.  These mixes are great to have during the busy holiday season, so that you can make a quick dinner on those nights when you have a “million” things to do.

Cream-of-Something Soup Mix

A commercial brand lists 13 ingredients including corn syrup, vegetable oil, and sugar. This version has half that number and no mystery ingredients. If your recipe calls for cream of mushroom – add sauteed mushrooms to the reconstituted mix or for cream of celery soup add celery, etc.

Makes 3 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and store in a covered container.

For soup: combine ½ cup of the mix with 1 cup of water. Stir until smooth, then bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

For use as a condensed soup: combine 1 cup of the mix with one cup of water. Stir until smooth and bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

Note: There is no salt added; the bouillon has plenty.

Homemade Onion Soup Mix

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup instant minced onion
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/3 cup beef-flavored bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To use: add two tablespoons mix to one cup boiling water. Cover and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Homemade Rice Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, recipe below
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)

Mix together and store in an airtight container.

To prepare white rice:  combine 1 cup white rice, 2 cups water, and 3 tablespoons of the seasoning. Bring water to a boil and add rice & seasoning. Reduce to simmer and cook for 18 minutes.

To prepare brown/ wild rice: combine ½ cup long grain brown rice, ½ cup wild rice, 2 cups water and 3 tablespoons seasoning mix. Bring water to a boil and add rice & seasoning. Reduce to simmer and cook for 50 minutes.

Seasoned Salt

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Put all ingredients into a mini food processor or small blender container and blend on low. Store in an airtight container.

All-Purpose Biscuit Mix

Makes 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 3/4 cup trans fat free solid shortening, such as Spectrum

Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in a airtight covered container. It is not necessary to refrigerate.

To make 10 biscuits: combine 3 cups of the mix with ¾ cup water. Stir just until the dough comes together.

Pat out on a lightly floured surface and cut into rounds or squares. For soft biscuits, place in a round cake pan with the biscuits touching. For crisp biscuits, place the biscuits an inch apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes.

Muffin Mix

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix in large bowl and store in airtight container.

To bake muffins: place 2 cups mix in a large bowl. Add 2/3 cup water, 1 slightly beaten egg and 1/4 cup canola oil and mix only until dry ingredients are moistened. Fill 12 paper lined muffin cups 1/2 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes until muffins are puffed and firm.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup instant minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon instant minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend thoroughly with wire whisk. Spoon mixture into a tightly closed container and label as “Taco Seasoning Mix”. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months. Makes 6 packages (about 2 tablespoons each) of mix. 2 tablespoons equals 1.25-oz. pkg. purchased taco seasoning mix.

To make Taco Filling:

Brown 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey in large skillet over medium heat; drain grease. Add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons. Taco Seasoning Mix. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough filling for 8 to 10 tacos.

Brown Gravy

French's® Brown Gravy Mix - 6/.75 oz. packets

You can’t taste the coffee but it gives the sauce its dark brown color. Great money saver for frugal cooks. Low sodium bouillon can be substituted.

Yield: 11 batches gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1  2/3 cups cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons beef bouillon cubes
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee crystals
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make gravy: measure 3 tablespoons mix into a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute.

Individual Oatmeal Packets

Homemade oatmeal packets are handy and cheaper.

For each packet: fill a sandwich bag with 1/2 cup of oats, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, a handful of dried fruit and another handful of nuts. Repeat for each bag. Store the bags in a large ziplock storage bag.

When needed, just add ½ cup hot boiling water and let sit until it’s absorbed. Add milk, if desired.

Italian Salad Dressing Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 tablespoon White Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celery Salt

Mix to combine. Store in an airtight container.

To make the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Wine Vinegar
  • 2/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Water
  • 2 tablespoons Dry Mix

Place all ingredients in  a jar with a lid and shake to combine.

Quick-Fix Healthy Mix contains over 150 dry and liquid mix recipes to stock your kitchen using easy-to-find basic ingredient, allowing you to choose how much and what types of sugar, fat and flour goes into your finished food.

http://www.amazon.com/Quick-Fix-Healthy-Mix-affordable/dp/1440203857


Soup and sandwich pairings are a great go-to choice when you’re looking for warm, comforting meals in a hurry. You can make delicious soups and substantial sandwiches that are tastier, healthier, and cheaper than eating out or picking up fast food meals.

While you might think of sandwiches or soup as just for lunch, they are a good dinner choice when you get home after a hectic day. Sandwiches are endlessly versatile—you can pile lots of delicious, healthy toppings on whole-grain bread and many hearty soups can come together in 30 minutes or less with just a little advance planning.


How To Keep Sandwiches Healthy:

Better Choices:

Bread

Pick a bread with has three to five grams of fiber per serving

  • High-fiber whole wheat bread
  • High protein bread
  • Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories)
  • Reduced calorie bread
  • Multi-grain bread

Proteins

  • Lean deli meats preferably without nitrates : Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef or homemade meatloaf
  • Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini or vegetarian patties
  • Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad made with low-fat dressing

Cheese

  • Harder cheeses (such as Swiss and Cheddar) usually have less fat.
  • Softer cheeses (like light cream cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese

Condiments

  • Mustard, nonfat salad dressings, salsa, and nonfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
  • Avoid high-fat salad dressings, regular mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.

Vegetables.

A sandwich is a great way to slip vegetables into a meal. 

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cucumbers or pickles
  • Onions: Sweet, hot, or red
  • Peppers: sweet or hot
  • Lettuce
  • Apples or pears (especially good with ham and turkey)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Herbs (Basil with toasted cheese and tomato)

How To Keep Soups Healthy:

Fat

Most soups begin with a fat, such as oil, to saute vegetables and bring out their flavor. Fat isn’t always unhealthy; monounsaturated fats can help improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and can help improve your blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature: Peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil and olive oil are healthy choices. Always use the least amount of oil as possible in your cooking. I believe that you never need more than 1 tablespoon of oil in a recipe to saute ingredients.

Soup Base

In high-sodium soups, the base is often a salty stock. Keep the sodium low by using a salt-free stock. Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stock often are available in salt-free varieties. Canned low sodium tomatoes are readily available and make a fine base for soup on its own or mixed with stock, depending on how thick you want the broth. Milk or fat free half works for creamy soups. Do not add salt or use full-sodium broth. There are 860 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of full-sodium chicken stock and only 72 milligrams in low-sodium chicken stock. If you add 1 teaspoon of salt to the base, you increase the soup’s sodium content by 2,325 milligrams.

Protein and Fiber

Most soups include a source of protein, either meat or legumes. Legumes are also an excellent source of fiber. Lean beef, chicken, pork, turkey or fish are good choices. For legumes, don’t choose a sodium canned variety — they can have as much as 818 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. There are many no salt added canned beans in the markets today. Almost any legume works in soup. For additional fiber, add whole grains, such as barley, quinoa or brown rice, all of which are low-sodium. If your soup recipe has noodles, choose a whole grain variety. In addition, use only fresh — not canned — veggies to avoid excess sodium. Onions, carrots, garlic, celery, corn, spinach, kale and potatoes are good choices for soup.

Seasoning

The seasonings make lower sodium soup tasty. They complement the flavor of the other ingredients and finish your soup. Add seasonings to taste — stir, taste and then add more if necessary. Most spices and herbs do not contain sodium. Provided it does not have added salt, any seasoning works. Rosemary, thyme and marjoram make a tasty combination, so do chili powder and cumin. Parsley and basil complement almost any type of soup.

Quick Soups and Healthy Sandwiches  

Vegetable Beef Barley

Saute 1 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; drain fat.

Add 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.

Warm Prosciutto-Stuffed Focaccia

 

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (9-ounce) round loaf focaccia bread, whole grain if possible
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette

 Directions:

Cut bread in half horizontally, using a serrated knife. Top bottom bread half with prosciutto and next 3 ingredients.

Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette; cover with top bread half. Wrap in aluminum foil; place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until warm. Cut focaccia into six wedges. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Many markets sell butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes in the produce section of the market, usually next to the cut up fruit.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 and 1/2 pounds after trimming)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat free half half

Directions:

Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in awhile. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée the soup with a hand blender and add the half and half. Warm gently, and serve immediately.

Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
  • 2 cups arugula

Directions:

Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.

Crab Chowder                                                                                              

6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup cored fennel bulb, finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups diced red potatoes, unpeeled
  • 28 oz container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 pound pasteurized crabmeat

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crabmeat and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.

Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt

 Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
  • 5 ounces thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 small)
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli turkey breast
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread one side of each of 4 bread slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.

Place one cheese slice on dressed side of bread slices; top each with 5 apple slices and 2 ounces turkey. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices.

Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan.

Cook 2 minutes on each side or until bread is browned and cheese melts.

Black Bean Soup 

Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Add one 32 oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, 1- 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, two 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, and one 1.4-ounce can diced green chili peppers. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon light sour cream. Garnish with baked tortilla chips.

Avocado Tomato Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches), room temperature
  •  Lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced Avocado Tomato Wraps
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, mash a fourth of the avocado with a fork; spread over tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato and remaining avocado.

Sprinkle with cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper; roll up. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.


Native to the East Indies, endive and escarole were introduced into Egypt and Greece at a very early period and references to them appear in early history accounts.  Escarole is a member of the leafy chicory family, widely cultivated in England from at least the 1500’s and is a popular green in Sicilian cuisine. The plants were, eventually, brought to America by colonists.

Endive is closely related botanically to chicory and the two names are sometimes incorrectly used as synonyms. Escarole is another name for a type of endive with broad leaves and  “endive” is used to designate plants with narrow, finely divided, curly leaves. Equally confusing are the two types of endive plants that you will see in your produce aisle. These greens are used raw in salad, or may be cooked like spinach. The slightly bitter flavor adds zest to a mixed salad.

French Endive

Endive-Frisee

Chicory

The outer layers of the escarole plant are dark green but after peeling back a layer, it will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green. Each layer will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green, and as the leaves lighten in color, the bitterness will also significantly lessen. What this means is that in preparing a dish, one can use different layers of escarole in order to achieve a particular taste that one wants.

Few young people, these days, have ever heard of escarole and I wonder how many have ever tasted this leafy green. In the world of Italian-American foods, escarole may be second only to Sunday “gravy.” Escarole finds itself in soups, in recipes with beans and in stuffed versions. A very important use of escarole has been for a New Year’s Day soup, a soup that most Italian Americans called “Straciatella,” which means something like “rag soup.” The name comes from the way the greens and the beaten egg swirl about shapelessly in the chicken broth. Then, there is escarole and beans, one of my grandfather’s favorites.

Purchase and Care of Escarole

Choose firmly packed heads with unblemished leaves. Crispness, freshness, and tenderness are essential factors of quality. Wilted plants, especially those that have brown leaves, are undesirable, as are plants with tough, coarse leaves. Such leaves will be excessively bitter. 

How to Store: Wrap escarole in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to four days.

What are the health benefits of Escarole?

Escarole is rich in many minerals and vitamins, especially folate.  A 1/2 cup serving of escarole provides 36 mg of folate.

Escarole is a good source of vitamin B complex, A, C, and K.

Escarole is high in fiber and is also an optimum source of minerals: potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, sodium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, and selenium.

Escarole is fat free, low in carbohydrates and calories. It can be added to any diet plan and 100 grams of fresh leaves will only be around 17 calories

Escarole is enriched with a good amount of antioxidants that are derived from Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is also an essential vitamin for vision, healthy hair and glowing skin. Consumption of natural greens also protects from lung and oral cavity cancers.

So next time you are in the produce aisle, pick up a head of escarole and make one of the following recipes.

Sauteed Escarole                                                                                                                                                                    Sautéed Escarole with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Capers recipe

Serves: 4

Italians incorporate an abundance of vegetables into their diet. This is a very typical and simple preparation of a traditional vegetable. Serve as a side dish with your favorite entrée or a pasta with a hearty tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads escarole, about 1 3/4 lbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pine (pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

To prepare escarole:

Cut out the core of each head, then cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Rinse leaves several times in cold water until all dirt has been rinsed off. Drain escarole of as much liquid as possible prior to sautéeing.

Combine olive oil and garlic in a large sauté pan and heat together over medium heat until the garlic begins to lightly brown. Be very careful not to burn garlic as it will turn bitter. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute. Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover the pan for a few minutes so that escarole can braise in its own liquid and lose some of its bitterness. Uncover and let liquid evaporate. Escarole is finished once it is tender (approximately 5 to 6 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl.

Escarole and Beans

This dish is best served with warm crusty Italian bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large heads escarole, torn into bite sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

Wash escarole well in several changes of water

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook for one minute. Mix in escarole, turning to coat with oil. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until tender.

Pour in beans and chicken broth, and simmer until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley; simmer 10 minutes more.

Escarole Salad

Using marmalade in a dressing allows you to put a little sweetness into a salad without adding additional sugar. Orange Marmalades range in flavor and texture, so your dressing will vary, depending on which sort you choose. Some are more sweet, others more bitter. Use the marmalade you like best.

 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
  • 1/2 pound small button mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 4 ounces escarole (inner leaves are good for this dish), torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 4 ounces baby spinach (about 4 packed cups)
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • Flaky coarse sea salt

Directions:

Make the base for the dressing: In a small saucepan, combine the shallots, oil, 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Heat over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are very soft and just lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature.

When the shallots have cooled, add the marmalade plus the orange zest, the vinegar, lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon each fine sea salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, then whisk in the lukewarm water.

In a large serving bowl, combine the escarole and spinach. Add the dressing and toss. Season to taste with crushed flaky coarse sea salt and pepper, then add the mushrooms and walnuts. Gently toss to combine and garnish with extra orange zest, if desired.

Caponata-Style Escarole With Fish Fillets                                                                                                                          

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each) other firm white fish fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large head of escarole (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
  • 10 anchovies (about 3 ounces), drained and coarsely chopped
  • 10 oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, well rinsed
  • Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Thinly slice off both ends of one lemon. Cut into 8 thin slices. From remaining lemon, squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice into a bowl.

Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic to the oil and cook over moderate heat until deep golden, about 2 minutes; discard the garlic. Add the escarole to the pan along with the anchovies, olives and capers. Cook, stirring constantly, until the escarole turns bright green and wilts, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange salmon or other fish fillets on top; season with salt and pepper. Place 2 lemon slices on each fillet. Cover, and cook until salmon is opaque throughout, about 15 minutes.

Transfer salmon to a plate. Stir lemon juice into escarole mixture. Serve fish over the escarole and garnish with parsley.

Mediterranean Rice-Stuffed Escarole

Stuffed Escarole

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • 1 large head escarole (1 1/4 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten  or 1/4 cup egg substitute   
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the upper third of the oven.

Quarter escarole, lengthwise, leaving base attached, and rinse well. Cook in a medium pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) 6 minutes. Drain and cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1 quart water to a boil with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium saucepan. Add rice and parboil, uncovered, 10 minutes (rice will not be tender). Reserve 1/2 cup the cooking liquid, then drain rice in a fine sieve.

Cook pine nuts in 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add beef and brown. Add peppers, raisins, capers, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until raisins begin to plump, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add rice. Cool slightly, then stir in egg and 1/4 cup cheese.

Cut off and discard base from 1 escarole quarter, then gently spread leaves to create a 4-inch-wide area. With base end nearest you, place one fourth of rice mixture in center of bottom half of one escarole quarter. Fold base of leaves over rice, then fold in sides and roll up rice in escarole. Put, seam side down, in a 2-quart flameproof shallow baking dish, then repeat with remaining escarole and stuffing.

Drizzle with reserved rice cooking liquid and remaining tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and turn on broiler, then broil 4 to 6 inches from heat until cheese is browned, 4 to 7 minutes.

 


I get a comforting feeling when I think of soup.  There was always soup in the refrigerator in my house when I was growing up – whether it be chicken noodle or vegetable or meatball soup.  Even today, at 94, my mother makes soup for herself or for when company comes calling.

I like soup of all kinds, and usually have one on hand for lunch. To me, soup makes an ideal lunch, filling enough but not to the point where you feel stuffed and most soups are healthy and low on calories. It also appeals to my frugal nature. I save little bits of this or that from dinner in my freezer – a half cup of corn, 1/4 cup of kale, 1 cup of rice, a piece of chicken or steak.  when it is time to make soup, I survey my freezer and start pulling out packages. I think about what will go together in the pot and get to work.  The first soup below, is kind of like that. During the summer season I often receive an abundant quantity of greens and potatoes from my CSA.  So I package the extras and during the winter they are available for tasty soup combinations. There are endless possibilities to be creative and inventive – just remember to write down what you used in this fabulous soup you created.  Sometimes I forget and am sorry I can’t remember how to recreate this great tasting concoction in my bowl.

When the weather turns brisk, there’s nothing cozier than a big bowl of hot soup. Autumn is the perfect time to warm the kitchen with stove-cooked soups made with the summer season’s harvest of vegetables. Hearty, homemade soups need little monitoring while they slowly simmer, leaving the cook free for other activities. The pay-off comes at serving time, when the taste of homemade beats out commercial soups every time. The following soups are hearty and can serve as the main meal with some good tasting bread.

Creamy Potato, Kale, and Leek Soup

Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. This leafy green is very low in calories (36 calories per cup) and is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K. It’s also a good source of fiber and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron.

This soup’s thick, smooth texture usually comes from cheese and heavy cream. However, by using 1 percent milk and mashing the potatoes, you get all that creamy goodness without all the fat.

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups (6 oz) kale ( or any greens you like), chopped and tightly packed
  • 3 cups of leeks, white and pale-green parts, chopped (2 medium leeks)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups 1 percent milk*
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Ground black pepper

Directions:

In soup pot, heat oil for 1 minute over medium heat. Add kale, leek, and salt. Stir. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Add milk to soup pot and bring to a low boil, add potatoes, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook potatoes until tender.

With a potato masher or back of a large spoon, mash the potatoes. Return the kale mixture to pot and simmer until flavors blend, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle each serving with pepper to taste.

*Tip If you prefer your soup on the thinner side, add a half-cup more milk.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, (peeled or unpeeled, your preference) and cut into large chunks (1/2 and 3/4 inch chunks)
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. arrange two oven racks – one near the top and one near the bottom. You will also need two rimmed baking sheets.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes and garlic cloves. Add 1 tablespoons of olive oil, salt (about 1 teaspoon or to taste) and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon or to taste). Stir to combine. Pour as a single layer onto rimmed baking sheet. Place on top oven rack.

In same mixing bowl, combine the cubed eggplant and onion. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt (about 1 teaspoon or to taste) and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon or to taste). Stir to combine. Pour as a single layer onto a second rimmed backing sheet. Place on bottom oven rack. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Using tongs, remove tomato skins. Place tomato/garlic mixture and 1/2 of the eggplant/onion mixture in a food processor or blender. Add in the basil leaves. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large pot or dutch oven. Add in the remaining eggplant/onion mixture and stir to combine.

Add the 2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock. Stir and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with chopped basil before serving.

 

Lemony Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 carrots and/or parsnips, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup small pasta (such as ditalini or orzo)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and/or parsnips, celery, onion, thyme, 1  1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Add the chicken, chicken broth, and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks; discard the bones.

3. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the soup and simmer until al dente, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice, and parsley and stir to combine and heat.

Tips

This soup can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, run the containers under warm water until the soup slides out. Transfer to a pot and cook over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

This broth makes a great base for a variety of soups. Instead of the pasta, stir in 2 15.5-ounce cans of rinsed white beans and 1/2 bunch chopped kale and cook until the kale is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Top with a spoonful of prepared pesto.

Mediterranean Meatball Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed, or 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound 90% or higher lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow and/or red sweet peppers, seeded and cut into bite-size strips
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups less-sodium beef stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 15 ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, egg, half of the garlic, half of the rosemary, and the black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well. Shape meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Place meatballs in a foil-lined 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until done in centers (160 degrees F). Set aside.

In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrot, sweet pepper, onion, and the remaining garlic; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beef stock, the water, Great Northern beans, barley, and the remaining rosemary. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until barley is tender.

Add meatballs to barley mixture; heat through. Stir in the spinach just before serving.

The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, a collection of more than 60 exceptional, authentic recipes that celebrate each season in the Italian tradition.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Pearled Barley

Adapted From The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy (by Domenica Marchetti, Chronicle Books, 2006)

Make 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 spring onions or scallions, bulbs and tender white part of stalks sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, quarters thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

Put the barley on to cook before you start the soup. In a large saucepan, combine the 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Slowly pour in the barley. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender but still a little bit chewy. It should not be mushy at all. Reduce the heat if necessary so that the barley cooks at a gently, steady simmer. Drain the barley in a colander placed in the sink and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

While the barley is cooking, trim off the tough ends from the asparagus and discard them. Cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Set aside the tips. You should have about 4 1/2 cups asparagus pieces, not including the tips.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the spring onions and fennel, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir vigorously to combine. Pour in 1 cup of the vegetable broth and stir for a minute or so to incorporate thoroughly. Slowly pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and add the asparagus pieces—except for the reserved tips—and the parsley sprigs. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes.

Using a hand blender (immersion) or a stand blender, puree the soup (in batches if you’re using a stand blender). Stir in the cooked barley and reheat the soup over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup is heating, put the reserved asparagus tips in a steaming basket placed in a pot of boiling water, cover, and steam for 4 to 5 minutes, or until just tender. Or put the tips in a plastic storage bag along with 1 tablespoon water. Set the open bag in a microwave oven and cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tips are bright green and just tender.

To serve the soup, stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Ladle the soup into a large serving bowl or tureen and top with the reserved asparagus tips and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. You can also serve the soup in individual bowls, garnishing each serving with a few asparagus tips and a sprinkle of cheese.


How to Make Healthy Food Choices In Your Busy Life

You already know how important it is to make healthy food choices for you and your family, but how can you fit the best choices into your busy life?

You’ll be pleased to discover that a hectic life doesn’t mean that every meal has to be fast food on the run! Sometimes it’s difficult to make healthy changes, but with a little planning and know-how, it can be done.

Here are some strategies to help you and your family make healthy choices:

1. Avoid temptation. It’s so easy to walk into the store with good intent, but walk out with bags full of unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, our wills are weak, especially if we’ve trained ourselves over the years to buy junk foods.

Never shop when you’re hungry. This way you won’t pick out unhealthy choices because they look good at the moment.

Get rid of the unhealthy foods in your home. If they aren’t around, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Think of healthier alternatives to your family’s favorite unhealthy foods. Rather than high calorie chips, try trail mixes or whole grain crackers. Low calorie puddings or frozen yogurts are better alternatives to higher fat ice creams.

2. Eat fast and healthy meals at home. When you’re tired at the end of the day and you realize you still have to feed the family, it’s easy to go to a fast food chain and bring home dinner. It may save some time, but it won’t save your health – or your pocket book!

The great thing is that there are many easy, fast, and healthy foods you can make at home. This takes some planning, but you’ll be more satisfied, save money, and be healthier as well.

Look online for quick and easy recipes made with all natural ingredients. Many recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less and only have 5 ingredients. Taking the time to do some recipe research will save your sanity in the long run. (Don’t forget; there are many such recipes on this blog.) Then once you find a “hit” with the family, store the recipe in a book or on your computer.

3. When you cook, make large batches and freeze the leftovers. This way, you’ll already have meals in the freezer that you can just thaw, heat, and serve. No muss, no fuss! This is the opportune way to enjoy “fast” food at home.

4. Eat Slower. Since the brain takes about 20 minutes to get the signal that the stomach is full, if you eat too fast you’ll pack in a lot more food than you need. When you’re still thinking you’re hungry, it’s easy to make the wrong choices about food. If you slow down while you’re eating, you’ll eat less and you’ll still feel full.

5. Make dinner time a social experience. Dinner should be about enjoying your company and taking pleasure in the foods you’re eating.

Set a calming mood before sitting down for a meal. Avoid having the television on or eating as you’re rushing the kids out the door to another activity. Sitting calmly at the table will allow everyone to relax and enjoy their meal.

When you begin to look at mealtime as a social experience, it becomes easier to make the right choices about healthy foods. Suddenly you aren’t so worried about rushing through and making it quick.

Dinner becomes a great experience when you’re able to enjoy healthy foods together. Take time to eat as a family and enjoy a real conversation with each other. Talking will naturally slow down your eating pace, while also reconnecting you with your family members.

Healthy food choices are a possibility in your busy life if you take the time to plan ahead and make dinner time a priority in your home.

Grilled Sirloin Steak With Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless top sirloin steak
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat vinaigrette Italian salad dressing
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup cubed Havarti or Swiss cheese or cheese of choice
  • Creamy Italian salad dressing, recipe below
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens

Directions:

Brush steak with vinaigrette salad dressing and let stand for 15 minutes. Heat grill.

In large bowl, combine corn, onions, pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese with creamy Italian salad dressing and toss to combine. Place greens on serving plate and top with corn salad.

Grill steak for 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. Remove from grill and let stand for 5 minutes.

 Slice thinly across the grain and place on top of corn salad. 4-6 servings

Low Fat Creamy Italian Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, process all ingredients except sour cream until completely mixed.

Add sour cream and process just until mixed.

Fruit and Chicken Pilaf

Serve with roasted broccoli florets, see recipe post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/07/vegetables-on-the-side-no-butter-please/

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 6 oz. package quick cooking long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large skillet; add ground chicken and onions and cook until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 14-19 minutes until rice is tender and mixture is hot. 4 servings

Italian Sausage Kale Soup

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds Italian turkey sausage links, casings remove
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 carton (32 ounces) low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Crumble sausage into a Dutch oven; add onion. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain and wipe out pan; set sausage aside.Add olive oil and saute kale until wilted. Add garlic and, if desired, pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute. Add wine; cook 2 minutes longer.

Stir in the broth, beans, diced tomatoes, dried tomatoes, pepper and sausage mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until kale is tender.

Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts).

Linguine With Spicy Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp, tails removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 2 bunches watercress(or baby spinach leaves), torn (about 6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, stopping just short of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta. Wipe out the pot.

2. Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add the pasta, watercress, lemon zest, and reserved cooking water and cook, tossing, until the sauce coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes.

Tip

You may see either bagged, larger-stemmed, or delicate hydroponically grown watercress in the grocery store. All work equally well in this recipe. Trim off any thick and woody stems before using.

Tuna Fish Cakes

Serve with Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, recipe below

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz.cooked tuna, (3-5 oz. cans or pouches) drained
  • 1 large sweet potato, mashed with a little milk and olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Plain Panko crumbs (enough to be able to shape the fish into cakes)

Directions:

Put sweet potato in a pot of boiling water and cook until tender. Mash adding just enough milk and olive oil to moisten. Drain tuna well and add to mashed sweet potato.

Add in the scallions and sweet chili sauce. Mix together well.

Add enough breadcrumbs to make patties. Season with salt and pepper. Mold the mixture into 4 patties.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in frying pan and cook the fish cakes for 5 -7 minutes, turning only once, until hot and golden.

Orange-Scented Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

4 servings, 1 cup each

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Place a steamer basket in a large saucepan, add 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Put green beans in the basket and steam until tender, about 6 minutes. Toss the green beans in a large bowl with oil, orange zest, salt, pepper and almonds.



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