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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Breakfast and Lunch With April Avocados

Ripe avocados are typically a dark, almost black color with hints of green when they’re ripe. If you want to use the avocado as soon as you get home, choose one that is dark. If you plan to use one in a couple of days, select one that’s more green. If an avocado looks ripe, you should still feel it to test its ripeness. Hold it in the palm of your hand, and squeeze gently. A ripe avocado should yield to a firm, gentle pressure, but shouldn’t feel overly soft or mushy. Store whole, ripe avocados in the refrigerator.

Breakfast Sandwich

You can vary this sandwich by replacing the tomatoes with smoked salmon or adding bacon or a sausage patty.

For each serving:

1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 slice sourdough, whole wheat, or pumpernickel bread, toasted
Half an avocado pitted and skin removed
4 thin slices of a plum tomato
1 slice American cheese

Directions

Heat the butter in a small skillet. Add the egg and cook over easy or the way you like to cook eggs.

Place a slice of toast on a small foil-lined pan.

Mash the avocado and season with salt and pepper. Spread the mashed avocado over the slice of toast. Place the tomato slices over the avocado. Top with the cooked egg.

Place the cheese on top of the egg and place the sandwich under the broiler just until the cheese begins to melt. Remove and serve immediately.

Avocado Boats

2 servings

Ingredients

1 ripe avocado, cut in half, pit removed
1 cup chicken salad, recipe below
Chopped chives or chopped cooked bacon for garnish
Lettuce, optional

Directions

Loosen the avocado flesh with a spoon by running the spoon around the shell. Do not remove the avocado from the shell.

Place a ½ cup of chicken salad on one avocado half. Garnish with chives or bacon. Repeat with the second half of avocado. Place on a lettuce leaf, if desired.

Chicken Salad

Ingredients

For the cooking the chicken

2 bone-in chicken breast halves
1 small onion, halved,
1 clove garlic, cut in half
The tops of the celery stalk that will be used in the salad
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water

Ingredients for making the salad

4 scallions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced tops used for cooking the chicken
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Add the chicken breasts and remaining ingredients for cooking the chicken.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.

Drain the chicken over a bowl and save the broth for another recipe. Cool the chicken breasts. Discard the cooking vegetables. Dice the chicken.

Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly and chill covered in the refrigerator for several hours.

Cobb Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

2 grilled chicken breasts or 2 cups chicken salad (recipe above)
4 slices bacon
Lettuce, chopped (4 cups)
2 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and sliced or cherry tomatoes
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
4 ounces chilled blue cheese (preferably Roquefort), crumbled (1 cup)
4 hard-boiled eggs
Blue Cheese or Ranch Dressing
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Gently lower in 4 large eggs into the water. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes.

Drain off the hot water and add ice cubes and cold water to the pot.

Once the eggs are cool to the touch, peel them and set them aside until you’re ready to assemble the salad.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.

Slice the hard-boiled eggs. Cut the avocado into slices.

Arrange the lettuce on two individual salad plates.

Place the chicken salad (or sliced chicken) on one area of the lettuce, the tomatoes on another followed by the eggs and avocado as you go around the plate.

Place the blue cheese in the center of the plate. Break the bacon into large pieces and place on the salad plates.

Sprinkle with chives and serve with Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing.

Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped chives
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1 dash salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, and Worcestershire until smooth. Stir in chives, blue cheese crumbles, salt, and pepper.

Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Dinner With April Cabbage

Look for compact heads of cabbage that are heavy for their size. Whether red or green, the leaves should be crisp and deeply colored. Check the stem to make sure it has no cracks around its base. Avoid discolored heads with wilted outer leaves.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients

1 lb cooked Italian hot (rope) sausage
8 savoy cabbage leaves
2 cups Marinara Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Oil an 8×12 baking dish.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water or, as I do, freeze the leaves and then defrost them overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the bottom part of the stem on each leaf. Place the leaves on a kitchen towel.

Cut the sausage into 8 equal pieces. Place one piece of sausage on each cabbage leaf. Roll up the leave into little packages. Spread some Marinara Sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the rolls with Marinara Sauce. Cover the dish with foil and bake the cabbage rolls for 1 ½ hours.

Garlic and Herb Rice

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, cilantro, mint, or tarragon, or a combination of many
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Bring broth to a simmer in medium saucepan.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add hot broth and 3/4 teaspoon salt and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Turn off the heat; let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Add herbs to the rice; fluff with a fork and serve with the cabbage rolls.

Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Dressing
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Adjust oven rack to uppermost position and heat broiler.
Mix the asparagus with the 1 tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste, then lay the spears in a single layer on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from the heat, shaking pan halfway through to turn spears, until the asparagus are tender and lightly browned 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool the asparagus for 5 minutes and arrange them on a serving dish.
Whisk the shallot, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, mustard, and 2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the asparagus and serve.

 

Pot Roast For Cold April Days

Beef Pot Roast

Ingredients

3 lb chuck beef roast
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups beef broth

1 large sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water

Directions

In a small bowl combine the sea salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, thyme, and onion powder. Mix together. Rub seasoning mixture all over the roast.

Heat a large Dutch Oven over high and add the oil. Sear the roast on both sides until browned.

Pour the beef broth over the roast. Sprinkle minced garlic over the top and add the onions. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to low.

Cook for 60 minutes, turn the roast over and add the carrots and mushrooms. Cover and cook for 2-3 hours more or until the meat is falling apart tender.

Remove the carrots and roast from the pot and place on a serving platter. Cover with foil and let rest while you thicken the gravy.

In a small bowl combine: arrowroot powder and cold water. Stir until mixed.

Bring the sauce in the pot to a boil and pour in the arrowroot powder mixture. Boil and stir until the sauce thickens. Turn down the heat to very low.

Slice the roast and serve with the carrots and hot gravy.

Swiss Chard and Mashed Rutabaga

You may use two Yukon gold or one large baking potato instead of the rutabaga in this recipe.

For the Swiss Chard

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2 large bunches of Swiss chard, washed in several changes of water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

For the rutabaga

1 medium rutabaga
Salt
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions for the Swiss Chard

Drain the washed chard very well. With a knife, remove the chard stems that run up the middle of each leaf. Cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and black pepper.

Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender.

Add the chard leaves and cook, covered, for 5 minutes until the leaves are wilted and brightly colored. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan if it seems like the leaves are getting too dry.

Add salt to taste and set aside.

Directions for the Rutabaga

Peel the rutabaga. Cut into ½ inch diced pieces. Place the rutabaga in a medium saucepan with a cover.

Add the chicken broth, garlic, and a little salt to taste. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook until very soft, about 45 minutes.

Drain the rutabaga over a bowl and reserve the broth for soup. Return the cooked rutabaga to pan and mash with a potato masher. Add the olive oil.

To finish the dish

Stir the mashed rutabaga or potato into the Swiss chard. Heat the mixture over low heat, cover the pan and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes until the chard is very tender. Serve with the pot roast.

Dinner With April Mushrooms

Pork Marsala with Mushrooms

3 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose or gluten-free or low carb flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 minced garlic clove
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Directions

Cut the pork chops in half lengthwise. Mix flour, salt, garlic powder, and oregano together in a medium bowl. Add pork and toss until well coated. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and set aside.


Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the pork cutlets in the skillet in a single layer, and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on both sides. Place the pork on a plate.


Add the mushrooms, shallot and minced garlic to the pan; cook and stir briefly.


Stir in wine, scraping the skillet to loosen any brown bits. Add the broth and the 2 tablespoons of reserved flour. Stir well. Return the pork to the skillet.

Cover and simmer over medium heat until the pork is tender and the sauce is thickened for about 15 minutes. Add the cream, stir and simmer for a few minutes. Serve.

Zoodles or Pasta with Herbs

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs
4 oz thin spaghetti, cooked or zoodles (2 zucchini)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, add the cooked spaghetti or zucchini noodles and herbs.

Toss until hot. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Mini San Marzano Tomato Salad

Ingredients

2 cartons mini San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons Italian vinaigrette
Salt & pepper to taste
Your favorite herbs to taste ( I use a dried herb blend called Sunny Paris from Penzey’s that includes: shallots, chives, green peppercorn, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil, and bay leaf.) Tastes so good on tomatoes.

Directions

Several hours before serving time.cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Leave the salad at room temperature to marinate until serving time.

Dinner With April Asparagus

Fresh asparagus stalks are firm, straight and smooth. They should be a rich green color with a small amount of white at the bottom of the spear. A dull green hue and wrinkles in the stems are an indication of old age. Also look for asparagus that stand up straight–the stalks should not be limp. The asparagus tips should be tightly closed and compact. If possible, buy asparagus that are standing in a shallow bin filled with a small amount of water which keeps the base of the stem from getting dry. There are endless ways to prepare asparagus and here is one of mine.

Asparagus and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 servings

Ingredients

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halve, about 6 oz each
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 slices prosciutto
10 very thin asparagus spears, trimmed – divided
4 large, thin slices provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped parsley or chives for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease an 8×8-inch baking dish with a cover (or you may use foil) or use individual baking dishes.

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound the chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet until very thin. Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place two slices of cheese on top of the chicken. Place a prosciutto slice on top of the cheese. Place 5 spears asparagus down the center of the chicken. Repeat with the other chicken breast and roll the chicken around the asparagus to make two compact rolls. Place the rolls seam side down in the prepared baking dish and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Cover the dish and return the baking dish to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees F. Sprinkle the chicken rolls with fresh chopped herbs before serving.

Sautéed Beet Greens

See Monday’s recipe for Marinated Beets. The beet greens from that recipe are used here.

Ingredients

2 bunches beet greens, stems removed and leaves cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Optional garnishes crumbled bacon or feta cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the greens and cook until tender. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Place in a serving bowl and top with optional garnishes, if desired.

Springtime Veggie Pizza Dinner

We really like veggie pizza. Fresh vegetables shine here. Many people consider pizza fast food and lump it together with all the burger and fries places. However, pizza has quite a few advantages over other fast foods and is one of the healthier choices you can make. And, if you make it at home, it is even healthier and more delicious. Veggie Pizza undoubtedly contains more nutrient-packed vegetables that can help contribute to your daily requirements. Add vegetables that are in season for even a better taste and you won’t miss the meat. Don’t forget the salad to go with your pizza.

Veggie Pizza

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
1/2 cup finely diced bell pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced very thin, about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup Marinara Sauce
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese, sliced
Dried oregano, salt, and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Oil a large pizza pan.
Stretch the pizza dough until it covers the bottom of the pan. Distribute the mozzarella slices evenly over the dough. Spread the Marinara sauce over the cheese and arrange the vegetables on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Place the pan on a middle shelf in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

Arugula Salad with Asiago Cheese

Arugula is also in season now and makes a delicious salad. Look for: arugula that is fresh, vibrant and green. Avoid leaves that are wilted, yellowing or slimy. When buying pre-packaged arugula, check the bag for excess water, as moisture can cause arugula go bad quickly. Storing the arugula in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel can help the greens stay dry. Kept dry and cool arugula can last up to two weeks.

Ingredients

3 cups washed and dried arugula leaves
1/2 cup shaved Asiago cheese
Freshly coarse cracked black pepper

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, grated
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

For the dressing

Pour all the ingredients into a jar with a screw top and shake until combined. Place the arugula in a salad bowl and shave the cheese over the salad.

Pour a little of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Add cracked black pepper and serve.

 

Dinner With April Beets

 

Select beets that are heavy for their size and show no surface nicks or cuts. If they’re sold with their tops on, the greens are always a good indicator of freshness as they show wilting very quickly. So, buy beets that have very crisp leaves attached. Save the leaves and cook them for a side dish, as I did in the Stuffed Chicken Rolls for later in the week. I will post that recipe on Friday.

Marinated Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Two bunches (6) medium-sized beets
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, sliced
¼ cup sliced red onions
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Wash and trim the beets so the stems and roots are about ½-inch long.
Place the beets onto a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the foil on a baking sheet, sprinkle the beets with salt and pepper, add the garlic slices and drizzle with a little olive oil. Close the package tightly and place in the oven for about an hour or until the beets are easily pierced with a knife.

Cool the beets before peeling.
Cut the beets into thick slices and place in a serving bowl.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the balsamic vinegar. Mix well.
Marinate the beets for at least 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, before adding a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Pan Seared Fish Fillets with Tomato Bacon Sauce

Ingredients:

4 (12 ounces) thin fish fillets
1 large Florida tomato, diced
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine, plus extra for garnish
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small shallot, finely minced
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Lightly season the fillets with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.
Preheat a skillet just large enough to fit the fillets over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and carefully place the seasoned fillets skin side up in the sauté pan. Cook each fillet for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and completely cooked throughout the thickest part of the fillet. Remove the cooked fillets from the pan and place on a plate.

Add the tomatoes, shallot, and garlic to the skillet. Cook the tomato mixture until the tomatoes start to wilt and release their juices. Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vegetable stock. Quickly bring the ingredients to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Return the fish to the skillet just to warm the fillets. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Sautéed Baby Zucchini

Scallions (green onions) are also in season in the spring. Look for crisp, bright-green stalks and a firm white base. Avoid stalks with any slimy, wet tops.
Young zucchini are in season where I live. If they are not available in your area, substitute another vegetable, such as green beans.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 young zucchini
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Directions

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut each in half crosswise to make 8 pieces.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and place the zucchini cut side down in the pan. Sprinkle the garlic and scallions over the zucchini. Let cook for 7- 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle with oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat and serve.


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