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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Veneto is a large, beautiful region in northeastern Italy. It reaches northwards into the Dolomite Mountains, where you will find some of Italy’s most exclusive tourist and ski resorts, and westward to Lake Garda with its olive trees and its majestic views. Following along the course of the Brenta River, you will come to Palladio’s splendid villas. Picturesque towns seem to sprout up from the gently rolling hills. Vineyards feed off the water of the Adige river which passes through Verona on its way south to the Venetian lagoon.

Almost Switzerland – The Dolomite Mountains, Northern Italy

Lake Garda

For nearly 1400 years, the two or three miles of shallow water separating Venice from the mainland of Italy, had not only protected Venice from invaders but effectively isolated the Venetians from Italian politics.

Untouched by imperialist warfare, feudalism and territorial squabbles; Venetians fixed their attention on the East and the rich markets of Levantine and Constantinople to become a great mercantile empire called the Venetian Republic.

A city built out of fear of invasion, was soon to be known as one of  the most beautiful cities in the world. While the Florentines were regarded as great thinkers, the Venetians would be regarded as great doer’s, since they alone conquered Veneto’s malaria-ridden swamps to build a great city, Venice, from nothing.

The diverse landscape of the Veneto is reflected in the region’s varied cuisine, influenced in large part by the region’s history, cultural open-mindedness and the presence of the sea. Grains, like corn and rice, are grown in the flatlands. Rice is a  popular crop around Verona, where you will find the only Italian I.G.P rice variety, Vialone Nano Veronese.  (D.O.P. means Protected Denomination of Origin. Products that are assigned the D.O.P denomination must be produced exclusively in very limited and strictly defined areas.   These rice products may come from wider areas than D.O.P labeled products, but are certified I.G.P., that the typical characteristics of each product are within the approved standards for the whole area.)         

These two grains, rice and corn, are the main ingredients of the region’s first courses, which include many types of risotto and polenta. Rice is a particularly versatile ingredient, and here you will find risotto made with everything from chicken giblets or eel, to fresh peas or radicchio from Treviso or asparagus from Bassano.

The Grand Canal, Venice

As you head north towards the mountains, polenta becomes the grain of choice. Polenta is often served with baccalà, a dried salted cod, calf’s liver and onions or braised beef or horsemeat.

Along the Adriatic coast, fish soups or brodetti, are traditionally served as first courses. Chioggia, a picturesque costal town located just south of Venice, is particularly famous for its fish soup and its massive fish market.

The mountainous areas of the Veneto are known for their excellent cheeses, the most famous of which is Asiago (DOP). The regional salumi (meats/salami) are also well known, including Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (DOP) and Soppressa Vicentina. ( Soppressa, unlike salami, which is made from good cuts of pork, sopressa is made with just about everything: the hams, shoulders, sides, and so on. About the only thing that doesn’t go into it, is the skin.)

When it comes to dessert, the Veneto is home to one of Italy’s most well known sweet breads, the Pandoro. This rich bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipes. In Venice, be sure to look for Scalete, Pandolo, and Baicoli, all traditional sweets favored by Venetians.

Rialto Market

For a seafood lover, there is perhaps no better place in the world to visit than Venice, Italy. The cuisine of this historic city relies heavily on the abundant bounty of the Venetian Lagoon, and the vast array of sea creatures which inhabit it. Every morning, the Rialto Market of Venice is overflowing with exotic catches of the day, from tiny snails called bovoleti to razor clams (cape longhe) and gigantic swordfish. Besides the lagoon, some fresh seafood is obtained from fish farms, or from the mountain streams of the Alto Adige. Wherever the source, the fish of this region is of amazing quality and variety.

While in Venice one can sample some of the seafood delicacies of the region found nowhere else in the world. Simply sticking to old Italian staples, such as cheese pizza or spaghetti with meatballs, would be an unfortunate choice, when presented with Venice’s unique dining options. The following list represents some of the most popular seafood dishes found in Venice, today. Preparation of these dishes is generally simple, relying on the quality of the ingredients and basic cooking techniques.

Pesce Fritto Misto (Fried Mixed Fish)  Typically these mixed-fries will include seafood choices, such as calamari, scallops, small shrimp, some large prawns or a small-sized whole fish. This hearty meal is usually served with Polenta and lemon wedges and, perhaps, no more than a sprinkling of salt and parsley for seasoning.

Seppia al Nero (Squid in its Own Ink) Seppia, or cuttlefish, is a squid-like fish which sprays black ink when threatened. The meat of the seppia is sweet and tender when grilled, and is often served in Venetian restaurants over a bed of linguine or risotto, colored black by its ink. The ink gives the pasta or rice a rich, briny flavor.

Sarde in Saor (Marinated Sardines) This classic dish is one of the most popular Venetian first courses. Sardines are fried and placed in a sweet-and-sour marinade of vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts. If one’s only experience with sardines are those of the canned variety, then trying this specialty of the Venice region is a must.

Pizza con Pesce (Seafood Pizza) Seafood pizza in Venice is unlike pizza served anywhere else in the world. It is prepared with a topping of calamari and mixed shellfish such as shrimp, clams and mussels – often still in their shells. The shells open as the pizza bakes in the oven, releasing their juices onto the very thin crust with a tomato sauce base. Of course, there is absolutely no cheese served on such a pizza, as in true Italian cooking, cheese and seafood are considered highly incompatible.

Branzino Me Alati (Salt-Crusted Mediterranean Sea Bass) A classic Venetian way to prepare a whole branzino (sea bass) is to bake it in a thick salt crust. The salt forms a hard shell around the fish while it cooks, and the scales are left on the fish while cooking to prevent the salt from penetrating the flesh. The crust must then be carefully cracked and peeled away before filleting the fish. The resulting flavor is sweet and tender and usually served with risotto or pasta.

Folpetti Consi (Boiled Baby Octopus) Tiny young octopus are boiled with carrots and celery until tender, then seasoned lightly with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Rombo, also known as Turbot, is a uniquely Mediterranean fish, not unlike the flounder. It is a flat fish that is quite popular in Venetian restaurants for its delicate flavor. It can be prepared in a number of different ways, but it is usually baked in a light tomato sauce.

Recipes For You To Make At Home

Venetian Rice and Peas – Risi e Bisi

Risi e bisi (rice and peas) is a classic Venetian dish. In the past it was prepared only on the feast days decreed by the Doge (Venice’s ruler), and though one can now prepare risi e bisi at any time, the dish really shines when freshly harvested baby peas are available. However, quality frozen peas can work very well, if fresh peas are not available. Venetians use a risotto rice called Vialone Nano, but Arborio rice will be fine if the Venetian rice is not available in your area.

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or Smart Balance Butter Blend), divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta (about 2 oz.) or prosciutto
  • 2 cups arborio rice or vialone nano rice (about 14 oz.)
  • 4 cups shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Cover and keep warm. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft (do not brown), about 5 minutes. Add pancetta and cook until light brown, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring until coated, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup stock. Stir constantly until stock is almost absorbed, about 1 minute. Continue adding stock by the cupful in 5 more additions, stirring constantly and allowing stock to be absorbed between additions, until rice is almost tender. Add peas and remaining cup of stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is creamy and tender but still firm to the bite, about 22 minutes total.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, Parmesan, and parsley. Season rice and peas with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowls or plates, and serve.

Mediterranean Flounder or Sea Bass Fillets

Ingredients:

  • 6 flounder or sea bass fillets (about 6 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 small jar capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Directions:

1. To cook fillets: Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

2. In a separate dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Flour the fillets and place in the sauté pan. Cook until golden brown on each side. Remove to a serving platter.

3. Keep the drippings in the sauté pan and add the parsley, capers and wine. Cook over a low flame for 3 minutes.

4. Spoon the sauce over the fillets and serve immediately.

6 servings

Pork Stewed in Milk – Mas-cio al Late

Pork Stewed in Milk is one of the most popular second course entrees in the restaurants of the Venice, and, as a result, there are many variations. Some use white wine vinegar rather than white wine, others omit the garlic, and others use pork loin rather than pork rump.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds pork rump
  • 3 pints whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance
  • White wine vinegar
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A little unbleached flour

Directions:

Tie the meat with butcher’s twine to give it as regular a shape as possible, and put it in a pot that’s just large enough to hold it. Add good, but not too strong or acidic white wine vinegar to cover, cover the pot with a cloth, and set it in the refrigerator for 48 hours, turning the meat four times each day and adding more vinegar if need be to keep it covered.

When the time is up, remove the meat from the vinegar and dry it well. Flour it and brown it in the butter, turning it so as to brown all sides. In the meantime, heat the milk, and, while the meat is browning, tie together the sage leaves and rosemary. Add the herbs to the pot, and season the meat with salt and pepper; next, slowly pour the milk over it. Let it come back to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the pot, and cook for two hours, turning the meat every now and again, but being careful not to puncture it.

Half way through the cooking, add a large clove of peeled, crushed garlic. By the time the meat is done the milk will have condensed into a creamy sauce.

Slice the meat fairly thickly, arrange the slices on a heated serving dish, spoon the sauce over them.

Potato Gnocchi with Salsa Nera

If calamari and black squid ink are not your thing, I would use small shrimp or bay scallops for the calamari and 1 tablespoon basil pesto for the squid ink.

Ingredients:

For gnocchi:

  • 6 pounds potatoes
  • 2 cups flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For salsa nera:

  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 pound calamari, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, black squid ink
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

To make gnocchi: Scrub the potatoes and place, unpeeled, in a large pot of boiling water (lightly salted).

Cook for 45 minutes until tender but not overcooked. When cool, peel potatoes and mash. Add flour, eggs, salt and pepper.

Roll dough into long thin rods, and cut into small pieces about 1-inch in length to form the dumplings.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop gnocchi in and cook for approximately 1 minute until they float to the top. Scoop out with a mesh strainer.

To make Salsa Nera: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add parsley, tomato paste, white wine, black squid ink (or pesto), salt and pepper; cook for 20 minutes then add the calamari ( or shrimp or scallops) and cook for 3 minutes more.

To assemble: Place cooked gnocchi on a large serving platter. Add the salsa nera and gently toss to cover gnocchi with sauce.

Crespelle with Berries and Cognac

Ingredients:

For crespelle:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar or 2 tablespoons Truvia for Baking
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups low fat milk
  • 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray to coat crêpe pan, as needed

For berry sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or Smart Balance)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar or 1/4 cup Truvia for Baking
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 cups mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup cognac

Directions:

1. To make crepes: In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs, butter and vanilla extract. Whisk batter well to remove any lumps, and then let the batter rest for at least 1 hour to ensure tender crêpes.

2. In a small, flat, round crêpe pan, heat the pan over medium heat and grease lightly with butter to prevent sticking.

3. With a ladle or small measuring cup, quickly pour a small amount of batter into the pan. Immediately tilt and swirl the pan to spread the batter in a thin, even layer that just covers the bottom of the pan. Cook for a few minutes, and then check the doneness of a crepe by carefully lifting one edge and looking underneath it for a golden color with specks of light brown. With a spatula, loosen the edge of the crêpe from the pan, flip it over, and cook on the other side until golden, about 30 seconds. Set aside crepes on individual dessert plates.

4. To make berry sauce: Melt butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add sugar and cook until it begins to caramelize. Add orange juice and reduce by half. Add berries and heat through.

5. To assemble: Once berries are hot, add the cognac, and ignite. Spoon over crepes and serve immediately.

4 servings

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Quick breads (chemically leavened, not yeast leavened) which most fruit and nut bread recipes are, were not developed until the end of the 18th century. This took place in America, where pearlash was discovered. Pearlash is a refined form of potash, and it produces carbon dioxide gas in dough. In American Cookery, ( 1796 – the first American cookbook), Amelia Simmons published recipes using pearlash, and the US exported some 8,000 tons to Europe in 1792. Baking powder was not developed commercially until 1857 (phosphate baking powder). So the quick bread, as we know it, was probably not made in America until the 18th century, when housewives discovered pearlash as a chemical leavening agent.

“Quick bread” refers to any bread that uses leaveners like baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast and requires no kneading or rising time. The definition includes pancakes, waffles, scones, biscuits, coffee cakes and muffins. These breads keep well, they’re tasty for a quick breakfast, snack, sides, a healthy after school snack and they’re great as gifts, too!

More versatile than most other baked goods, quick breads give you greater freedom to add healthy ingredients and make substitutions that reduce the carbohydrates and calories. See healthy alternate baking ingredients at the bottom of this post.

Bake several loaves and freeze, pulling them out as needed. (Muffins and quick breads can be frozen for up to 3 months.)

Slice loaves and freeze servings individually (wrap each slice in plastic wrap and then in a resealable larger plastic freezer bag). Kids can grab one from the freezer in the morning for a snack if they are going straight from school to an after-school activity.

Tips on Baking Quick Breads:

To lower the fat in your own quick bread recipe, you can substitute some of the oil with an equal amount of almost any fruit puree (applesauce, plum baby food, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas).

The secret to moist, tender quick bread is in the mixing: use a gentle touch. Combine in a bowl the dry ingredients (flour, leaveners, salt, and spices) and mix them thoroughly with a wire whisk. In another bowl, beat together the fat, sugar, and eggs. Stir any other ingredients (fruit puree, flavorings, or extracts) into the wet ingredients.

Only when each bowl of ingredients is mixed thoroughly should they be combined. When you are ready, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones and fold them together gently with a large spatula. Do this part by hand rather than with a mixer and stir just until incorporated. Over-mixing will cause “tunnels”–holes where the air bubbles escaped–and will make the bread tough.

To keep the bread from sticking to pan, you should always grease the pans before you pour in the batter. The best thing to use for greasing the pan is shortening, because its melting point is higher than any other kind of fat, which helps maintain a “shield” between pan and batter while the bread is baking. A high-quality cooking spray–one that won’t bake on to your pans and discolor them–is also a fast, easy fix. Next, be sure to flour the bottom of the pan and shake out any excess.

The crack on top happens when top of the loaf “sets” in the heat of the oven before the bread is finished rising. Don’t worry–it’s normal for quick breads. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if it is important to have an attractive loaf.

Bread that looks done on the outside but is still raw in the middle is a common quick bread problem. It can be caused by a few different factors. The oven temperature could be too high. (Use an oven thermometer to check: they’re cheap and available at most supermarkets.) Try lowering the oven temperature and/or putting a loose tent of foil over the top of the bread so it won’t burn before the middle has time to catch up.

Another cause of “raw center” could be using a different pan size than the recipe calls for. One of the nice things about quick breads is that you can use the same batter to make muffins, mini loaves, jumbo loaves, or rounds, but each size requires different baking times–and some require different baking temperatures. The larger and thicker the loaf, the longer it’s going to take to bake. If you’re using a different size pan than your recipe calls for, adjust the baking time accordingly and check the bread often.

Tips for using baking soda and baking powder:

Batters made with baking soda should be baked soon after mixing for best results because the leavening starts to work as soon as the wet and dry ingredients are combined.

Batters made with baking powder can be allowed to rest for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature, but no longer, before going in the oven.

An open can of baking powder should be used within 4 months and kept in the refrigerator. To test for freshness, place 1 teaspoon of baking powder in a small amount of hot water. If it is fresh, it will fizzle rapidly.

Lemon Bread

Ingredients

  • 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute blend (Truvia for Baking) equivalent to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely ground toasted almonds (grind in a processor)

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan; flour the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2 . In another medium bowl combine the egg, milk, oil, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. If desired, stir together the 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the 1 tablespoon sugar. While bread is still in the pan, brush lemon-sugar mixture over the top of the loaf.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before serving to improve flavor. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices).

Orange Quick Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute blend* (Truvia for Baking) equivalent to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lowfat milk
  • 1 (8 oz.) carton vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon flaked, sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and flour bottom. Combine sugar, oil and egg in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level with a knife (as opposed to scooping from container). Combine flour, ¼ cup coconut, orange rind, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Make a well in the centre and add milk mixture.

Stir until just moist. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coconut on top. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cut in slices and serve warm with a little low sugar orange marmalade.

Quick Apple Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced peeled apples
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup almond meal (flour)
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend for Baking, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for the top) or 1/4 cup Truvia for Baking (plus 1 tablespoon)

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. and spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Flour bottom of the pan.

Put the chopped apples in a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and let them sit while the other ingredients are prepared.

Whisk the eggs, butter, ricotta, vanilla and buttermilk together in one bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients together, including the cinnamon and salt in another bowl until combined. Gently mix in the buttermilk mixture.

Drain the apples in a colander and shake off excess water. Fold in the apples, do not over mix.

Fill the loaf pan and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon Truvia. Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch.

Test for doneness with a toothpick. Do not overcook, as the bread will continue to cook a bit more when you remove it. Remove and cool.

Honey Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend for Baking, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat bottom with flour. Mix 1/2 cup flour, the whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the honey and butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer or use a hand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in the mashed bananas and the walnuts.

Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove to the wire rack to cool completely.

Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup orange juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Add the cranberries and chopped nuts, stir to coat with flour.

Combine the egg, oil, orange juice and grated orange peel in another bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let bread sit for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

 Choose Healthier Baking Ingredients

 Picture of Ultragrain All Purpose Flour

LightKing Arthur Whole Wheat Pastry Flour / Graham Flour - 3 lb.


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.


Chickpea Plant

Chickpeas are perhaps better known by their Spanish name garbanzo beans. They are a roundish, beige member of the legume family grown primarily in western Asia, India, and in the Mediterranean. Most people are familiar with chickpeas as either used whole in salads, or ground up to make the popular Middle Eastern dish hummus.

The name chickpea came from the French word chiche and Italians call them ceci beans. In Italian the word ‘ceci’ means both wart and chickpea. At some stage it was believed that you could cure warts by touching it to a chickpea plant at a new moon.

Chick peas are also a frequent ingredient in Italian dishes. They may be used to make pasta and beans. They are often added to marinated vegetables and are usually on an antipasto platter. They may also be recognizable as a staple in three-bean salad, which is comprised of green beans, kidney beans and chick peas and pickled with vinegar or stored in vinegar and oil.

Chick peas are an excellent nutritional choice. A serving of chick peas, about 4 ounces or half a cup, has about 17 grams of dietary fiber and 19 grams of protein. They are also considered more digestible than most other beans. Dried chick peas cook much more quickly than other dried beans.

Chickpea Pod

Shelled Chickpeas

Salad or Side Course

Chickpea and Spinach Salad

Serves 4

Great as a side salad with grilled meat, it can also work as a vegetarian entree.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                             

  • One 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons Greek nonfat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 cups lightly packed)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh mint

Directions:

 In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, parsley and onion.

 In a small bowl whisk together the oil, lemon juice and zest, oregano, cayenne, salt, and black pepper.

 Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat evenly.

 In another small bowl stir together the yogurt, orange juice and zest, and honey.

 Serve the chickpea salad over a bed of spinach leaves. Top with the yogurt sauce and garnish with the mint.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

  • 8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water to cover, soaking liquid reserved
  • or  two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 16 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) yellow or red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 English cucumber (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 carrots (4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 scallions, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil

Directions:

 Place chickpeas, soaking liquid, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large pot. Liquid should cover beans by 2 inches; adjust as necessary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a bowl. (Makes 3 cups chickpeas.) Or substitute two 15.5-ounce cans chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed.

 Using a chef’s knife, press flat side of the blade back and forth across garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to make a paste. Transfer to a bowl, and whisk in peppercorns, vinegar, oil, and oregano. Pour dressing over chickpeas. Let stand, stirring once or twice, for 30 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, scallions, parsley, and basil.

Vegetarian Main Dishes

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped celery stalk
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can low sodium chopped tomatoes (15 ounces)
  • 2 cans low sodium chickpeas (15 ounces each), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped 

Directions:

 Preheat the oven to 400º F. Toss together the cauliflower, 3 tablespoons olive oil and a little salt and place on a baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

 In a large pot, heat the remaining olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add in the shallots, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender. Add in the Italian seasoning, fennel seed and cayenne pepper and stir about 15 seconds.

 Turn the heat down to a simmer and add in the vegetable stock, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and roasted cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the stew over medium heat until it thickens slightly, about 20 minutes.

This stew can be served over rice or couscous.

Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Makes 4 chickpea cakes and 1 cup cucumber-yogurt sauce

Sauce

  • 1/2 an English cucumber, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Arrange the grated cucumber in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Let drain for 10 minutes and place on a paper towel. Squeeze dry. Stir in the remaining ingredients together in a serving bowl and add the cucumber. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 15 ounces canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), mashed fine with a fork
  • 1/2 cup plain panko crumbs
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped fine
  • Olive oil, for sauteeing

Directions:

While the cucumber drains, in a large bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the yogurt, olive oil, spices and seasoning. Stir in the chickpeas, panko, green onion and cilantro, combining without overworking. Evenly divide mixture in four; gently form four one-inch thick patty with your hands, compressing the mixture just enough to hold it together. Place on a plate and cover with waxed paper.  Refrigerate for an hour or longer.

In a large skillet, heat oil just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the skillet until shimmery. Add the chickpea cakes and cook without moving for four to five minutes per side or until golden and hot clear through.

Serve with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce on the side.

Tip: These cakes can be made ahead and reheated on a grill pan or outdoor grill. They also freeze well.

Main Dishes

Grilled Fish With Chickpea Artichoke Salad

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Fish

  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black  pepper
  • 4 thick fish fillets (salmon, tuna, or swordfish; 1 1/2 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Chickpeas

  • 1/2 cup canned or frozen quartered artichokes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bag baby arugula leaves (4–5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Heat outdoor grill or grill pan. Brush fish with olive oil.

Combine fennel, salt, and pepper; then coat both sides of fish.

Grill fish 5 minutes on each side or until 145°F registers on a thermometer and fish flakes easily.

Chop artichokes and onion.

Combine arugula, chickpeas, onions, and artichokes.

Whisk vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper until blended; add to salad. Toss.

Serve grilled fish over chickpea salad.

Spicy Penne with Broccoli, Sausage and Chickpeas                             

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli or broccoli rabe; trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 pound penne or whole wheat penne
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian hot sausage, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 1 –  15-oz can chickpeas; rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon oregano; freshly chopped
  • 1 15-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • Crushed red pepper flakes 

 Directions:

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add penne, and cook 4 minutes less than package instructions; add broccoli. Cook 2 minutes or until penne is al dente and broccoli is bright green. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.

 Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Add garlic to sausage and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and chickpeas. Season with salt, crushed red pepper and oregano, and simmer for a few minutes. Add pasta, broccoli and reserved cooking liquid to the sauce and heat.

Add cheese and toss to coat.


According to the Roman historian Livy, a Celtic village was first founded in this area in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Roman legions in 222 BC, “Mediolanum” (this was the Roman name for Milan) attempted to rebel, becoming an ally of Carthage, Rome’s enemy. But the Romans won and, towards the end of the 1st century BC, Milan became a part of the state of the Caesars.

Milan then went through several transitions over the years, beginning in 1535, when the city fell under Spanish rule, and then in 1713, the city was passed to Austria.

In 1802, Milan became the capital of Napoleon’s Italian Republic, and he was crowned King of Italy and Milan in 1805. Following a brief return of the Austrians, Vittorio Emmanuele II drove them out in 1859, thus incorporating Milan into the new Kingdom of Italy. To commemorate this king, the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II was built in the center of Milan. The key factor of the city’s success was credited to trade, which led the city to a great success in development.

La Scala, is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated in August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala.

Milan now is the fashion icon of the country of Italy and houses millions of residents in this Northern city in the Lombardy region. Located south of the Italian Alps, Milan is very close to several other cities and attractions such as Venice and Florence, great skiing and the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. Each are just a few short hours away, which makes Milan a great place to live or tour.

The fashion quarter is full of the big names in the industry but also many small boutique stores and fashionable shops. However, everyone looking for fashion will be searching out the big designers and they are all here, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent all have shops. This area is where you will find all the prestigious outlets, top line names with the prices to match.

Milan Specialties

Each region in Italy has its own culinary specialty, which may have been influenced by an area close to it, such as, the sea or the mountains or a bordering country.  Noted below are five specialties of the Lombardy region. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Polenta– is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal and it is one of the staple foods in Northern Italy, especially in the region of Lombardy. Usually this dish is served with tomato sauce and sausages and ribs.

Risotto alla Milanese– is a typical dish of the city of Milan with rice, saffron and ox bone marrow.  Even though there are a number of different varieties of this dish in Northern Italy, the original has these ingredients plus onion, wine, butter and beef broth.

Cotoletta alla Milanese- is actually the rib of calf with the bone, breaded and fried in butter, originally, the fried butter used was also poured on top of the meat, but in more modern times people tend to use lemon on top, and sometimes you will find it with tomato sauce and rucola (arugula) on the side, but this version is used during the cold months.

Panettone– is cake is used for Christmas in all parts of Italy and it literally means big bread.  It is originally from Milan and was served only in the houses of noble people but later became popular for everyone. The shape of the Panettone is almost like a dome, and the ingredients are water, flour, butter, eggs and dried candied fruits.

La Barbajada-a sweet that is made with whipped cream, hot chocolate, coffee and milk.  It is delicious drink but with a high caloric content, and it is served hot, which makes it a great winter dessert. The history behind this dessert is that the hot chocolate with whipped cream was invented by Domenico Barbaia, who operated a coffee shop in the La Scala Opera House in Milan and it became popular around the 1830’s.

Bring The Foods Of Milan To Your Table

You can make some of Milan’s culinary specialties without the unhealthy calories by using the recipes that I have adapted, as posted below:

Minestrone alla Milanese

Serves 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 pound garden peas
  • 1/2 pound lima beans or 1-10 oz. package frozen, defrosted
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1  1/4 cups small pasta or rice, whichever you prefer
  • 1 bunch Parsley
  • Handful of Basil and Sage
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano (or Parmigiano)

Directions:

Dice the celery, carrot, and zucchini; slice the tomatoes, discarding the seeds; peel the potatoes and dice, and mince the parsley, basil, sage and the garlic with the onion. Put the vegetables, except for the peas, in a pot and add 2 quarts of water; lightly salt the soup and simmer it over a gentle flame for about 2 1/2 hours.

When the time is up stir in the peas, and the short pasta (e.g. ditalini or small shells) or rice. Adjust seasoning and cook, stirring gently, to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the pasta is cooked, ladle the soup into bowls and serve it with grated cheese.

Pappardelle with Mushrooms                                                                                                               

This recipe calls for porcini mushrooms and they are necessary to do it justice. Ideally, fresh porcini, but if you cannot find them you will have to make do by purchasing cultivated mushrooms and a 1-ounce packet of dried porcini (this will be about a half cup, packed. Steep the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then mince them and add them to the cultivated mushrooms. Strain the steeping liquid, since it may contain sand, and add it to the sauce as well. The other option, in the absence of fresh porcini, is to use the wild mushrooms available where you live, combining them with some cultured mushrooms, if need be, and some steeped dried porcini.

A last thing: This recipe calls for pappardelle, which are broad (1-inch) strips of pasta. You can, if you want, use fettuccine (half-inch strips) instead.

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pappardelle, ideally freshly made
  • 3/4 pound fresh porcini, or follow directions above
  • 2 shallots
  • 12 oz. low sodium diced canned tomatoes
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • The leaves of a sprig of rosemary
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Chopped parsley for a garnish

 Directions:

Clean the mushrooms, brushing the dirt away from the stems, and separate the caps from the stems; dice the stems and cube the caps, keeping them separate.

Mince the shallots and the herbs and sauté them for a few minutes in the oil in a deep pot. Add the diced stems, cook another minute, and then add the wine and the tomatoes. Season with a little pepper and simmer the mixture over a very gentle flame for 30 minutes. Depending upon how much moisture the mushrooms contain you may need to add more liquid: a little more wine or water (or the liquid the mushrooms steeped in if you are using dried mushrooms), and the cubed caps. Continue simmering the sauce over a gentle flame.

In the meantime bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pappardelle. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce; garnish with herbs and serve with grated cheese.

Milanese Chicken Stuffed with Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken weighing 3 ½ to 4 pounds
  • 10 walnut halves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 4 white cabbage leaves, shredded
  • 2 leaves sage
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 onion, cut in quarters
  • 2 celery ribs, cut in quarters
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Twine 

Directions:

Bring a pot of water large enough to contain the whole chicken to boiling and add the celery and onion.

In a bowl combine the shredded cabbage, sage, garlic, cheese, pancetta, breadcrumbs, egg, nutmeg, and walnuts. Mix well and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Fill the cavity of the chicken with the stuffing and close it tightly with the twine (don’t forget to include the neck opening).  See directions below.

Salt the boiling water and submerge the chicken. As soon as the water comes back to boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken, partially covered, for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken with 2 large spoons to a platter. Cut up the chicken into 8 pieces, without breaking up the stuffing. Arrange the pieces on a heated platter, slice the stuffing into half-inch thick slices, and serve.

Save the broth for making risotto, or for serving meat based tortellini, or for making soup.

Step 1
With the breast side up, line up the middle of your piece of twine with the chicken’s tail and tie a knot around the tail

Step 2
Make a loop around each drumstick.

Step 3
Pull them close together and tie a knot.

Step 4
Keeping the twine tight around the chicken, pass each half of the twine through the wing.

Step 5
Tuck the wings under the chicken so that they’re holding down the twine.

Step 6
Flip the chicken over so that it’s breast side down. Tie the twine around the neck so that it’s holding down the wings. Make sure the knot is secure, then cut off any excess string.

Milanese Meat and Vegetable Stew

Milanese Stew, or Stufato Milanese: Almost every region of Italy has a stew or pot roast, it calls its own. This variation is Milanese, and it will also work well with lamb or pork; the important thing is that the pieces of meat not be too small, because if they’re small then the dish is a spezzatino as opposed to a stufato. The quality of the red wine is important; don’t use something you wouldn’t want to drink — and also, be careful not to overcook it.

Serves 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef (chuck or a similar cut suited for pot roasting)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • Canned beef broth
  • Flour
  • Dry red wine (For example, Valcalepio Rosso, or Valpolicella), enough to cover the meat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg ( a pinch)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Dust the meat with some freshly ground pepper, a little salt, and a pinch of nutmeg. Put it in a bowl and add wine to cover; let it sit in the refrigerator for at least six hours, turning it occasionally.

Slice the onion and sauté it in the butter in a Dutch Oven until golden. Remove the onion from the pan. Remove the meat from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat the meat dry. Flour it and brown it in the pan drippings. Then return the onions to the pan, add the remaining ingredients and the reserved marinade, cover, and cook at the barest simmer for about 4 hours. Check on it occasionally, and, to keep the meat covered with liquid, add a little beef broth to the pot, as needed.

Served with Polenta.

Charlotte alla Milanese

Charlottes fall into the category of dolci semifreddi, in other words chilled desserts. They are also generally much more elaborate than this version, generally calling for liqueur, whipped cream, candied fruit, and all sorts of other things. In short, they’re desserts for when company is expected. So is this Milanese Charlotte, though not so much for the ingredients as for the presentation.

6-8 servings                                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons Truvia Baking Blend
  • 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Butter Blend
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 jigger Rum
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • Thinly sliced Italian bread, about 16 slices

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place apples, 1/2 cup sugar (or a 1/4 cup of Truvia), lemon zest and wine in a heavy saucepan. Pour in water to cover completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered 15 minutes.

Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak 10 minutes, then drain and reserve.

In a small bowl, cream together butter and  2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia until well combined. Coat the bottom and sides of a 2-quart round baking dish (or a Charlotte Mold) with this butter-sugar mixture.

Line bottom and sides of the baking dish with bread slices, overlapping slightly. Drain the apples and combine them with the drained raisins. Spoon the fruit mixture into the lined dish. Cover the top with the remaining bread. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon of Truvia.

Bake in the preheated oven 1 hour.

To serve, pour rum over the warm charlotte and light it with a long match or kitchen torch to brown the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


You’re hungry, you just arrived home and you don’t have much food in the house. You can’t be bothered to cook and you want something that you can eat immediately. You need something more substantial than a yogurt or a mango, so what do you reach for? No, not the cereal, you need one of life’s most celebrated foodstuffs – the sandwich. But what makes a good sandwich?

Well, what is it?

Is it the bread?

The meats?

The toppings, e.g. lettuce, tomato, sprouts, etc.?

The spread, e.g. mayo, mustard,  dressing?

Well, of course it’s probably a combination of all and probably some additional factors.

But, the question I ask you is, ” what’s the most important thing to making a sandwich great?”

Good ingredients (not necessarily specific ones either) which go together, moist spread(s) whether mayo or mustard or tomato based, a very good bread or roll but not as thick as the often illustrated sandwiches in food magazines. You must be able to get your mouth around it with ease and not make a mess in the process.

According to popular legend, the sandwich was invented by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, while gambling, told his butler to put some meat between two slices of bread so he could eat without interrupting the game and getting grease on the cards. Although the tale is almost certainly questionable because the first sandwich was probably made the day after bread was invented, but the earl did lend his name to this popular food.

At its simplest, a sandwich is two slices of bread enclosing a filling. It also is often a perfectly balanced meal, consisting of protein, vegetable, carbohydrate, often dairy and even fruit. My definition is somewhat broader: A sandwich is a filling enclosed in bread that can be eaten by hand. That definition leaves out such things as open-faced roast beef or turkey sandwiches smothered in gravy that must be eaten with a knife and fork.

My definition includes such things as wraps, tacos, Cornish pasties, empanadas and stuffed pitas — all of which can be held in one hand while playing cards.  So what makes a good sandwich for you?

Sandwich Ideas

Here is an international festival of quick-and-easy, absolutely delicious sandwich ideas that are a snap to make, travel well, and deliver satisfaction on outings of all kinds.

Recipes combine fresh seasonal vegetables and other unique ingredients—including leftovers—to make tasty and versatile treats great for lunchboxes, long hikes, or elegant romantic getaways for two!

Use these ideas as jumping-off places for your own creativity. And keep sandwiches in mind when you cook: Leftovers from the grill or the frying pan make great sandwiches the next day.

Peasant Loaf

Cut crusty bread or baguette in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil and fill with thin slices of Gruyere cheese, ham, a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves, mesclun salad greens, salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.

Crunchy  Garden Rolls

Slice tender rolls in half, spread with light mayonnaise and fill with thinly-sliced radishes, thinly-sliced English cucumber, chopped scallions, watercress, and fresh or dried dill.

Hearty Tuscan Grill

Fill wholegrain bread or rolls with leftover grilled vegetables—bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, tomatoes, onions. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs.

Mediterranean Bagels

Spread halved bagels with light cream cheese and hummus, thinly-sliced cucumbers, chopped lettuce and tomato, and toasted sesame seeds.

Red Pepper & Spinach Wrap

This makes a delicious, quick and easy lunch that can be made ahead of time.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese, plain
  • 1 10″ whole wheat tortilla
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 roasted red pepper, jarred
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, fresh
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/6 avocado, sliced

Directions:

Spread cream cheese evenly over tortilla. Layer spinach leaves over cream cheese.

Chop red pepper and fresh mushrooms. Layer on top of spinach.

Add scallion and avocado. Roll, and wrap in foil for easy packing.

Italian Tuna Melts

Servings: 4

The tuna melt is a decidedly American sandwich with an Italian twist.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
  • 9 ounces marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls or 1 long ciabatta loaf, split lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 pound Robiola cheese or Mozzarella, sliced

Directions:

Preheat the broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard until combined. Add the flaked tuna, chopped artichokes, chopped olives, sliced red onion and shredded basil and toss gently. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Using a pastry brush, brush the cut sides of the ciabatta lightly with olive oil and broil cut side up on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, until the ciabatta is golden and lightly toasted; rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Rub the garlic clove over the toasted ciabatta and mound the tuna salad on top. Cover with the sliced Robiola cheese and broil until the cheese is just melted, about 1 minute. Serve the tuna melts at once.

Tomatoes on Toast

If you don’t have Boursin cheese, you can use light cream cheese with some chopped fresh herbs mixed in. You will find the Boursin easiest to spread if it has been sitting at room temp for 10 minutes or so.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 slices of Italian loaf bread
  • Light Herbed Boursin cheese, about 2 tablespoons per slice of bread
  • 1 medium to large vine-ripened tomato
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1 Toast the bread.

2 While the bread is toasting, slice the tomato into 1/4-inch slices.

3 Once the bread is lightly toasted, spread one side with Boursin cheese. Top with a couple slices of tomato, overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 as a snack.

Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Pockets

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce package fully cooked chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 pound), cut into small florets
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces provolone, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds pizza dough, at room temperature
  • All-purpose flour, for the work surface
  • Cut-up vegetables and ranch dressing, for serving

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 425° F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sausage, broccoli, bell pepper, and garlic with the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the broccoli is tender, 25 to 30 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the provolone, and toss to combine.

2. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch each piece into a 7-inch circle. Dividing evenly, spoon the broccoli mixture onto one side of each round (about ½ cup each), leaving a ½-inch border. Dot the border with water, fold the dough over to form a semicircle, and press firmly to seal.

3. Place the pockets on a parchment-lined large baking sheet and cut several slits in each. Bake the pockets until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the vegetables and ranch dressing.

4. The unbaked pockets can be frozen for up to 3 months. First freeze them on the baking sheet until firm, then transfer to freezer bags. To cook, bake the pockets from frozen on parchment-lined baking sheets at 425° F until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Tip

If freezing the pockets to cook at a later date, write the oven temperature and cooking time on the outside of the bag in permanent marker for easy reference.

turkeypanini

Turkey & Tomato Panini

Some pickles and sweet potato oven fries can round out this meal. Thinly sliced roast beef can be substituted for the turkey in this Panini.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli turkey
  • 8 tomato slices
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, Parmesan, basil, lemon juice and pepper in a small bowl. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the mixture on each slice of bread. Divide turkey and tomato slices among 4 slices of bread; top with the remaining bread.

Heat a panini maker and cook sandwiches according to manufacturer’s directions.

If you do not have a panini maker then have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 panini in the pan. Place the medium skillet on top of the panini, then weigh it down with the cans.

 Cook the panini until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the panini, replace the top skillet and cans, and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with another 1 teaspoon oil and the remaining panini.


Healthy Eating and Portion Control

Researchers at Louisiana State University have concluded that a low calorie diet can lower your insulin levels, reduce your core body temperature, and reverse signs of aging. However, those same researchers urge people to avoid going overboard when it comes to restricting calories. Consuming less food and using low calorie meal plans can undoubtedly be beneficial to your health. However, you should set realistic and healthy expectations for yourself.

If you regularly eat around 2000 calories a day, switching to a 500 calorie a day meal plan won’t be healthy or realistic. On the other hand, switching to a 1500 calorie meal plan wouldn’t be detrimental to your health or particularly difficult for you to do, especially if you were armed with the right strategies.

Strategies To Help You Plan Low Calorie Meals

If you’ve made the decision to change your diet and adopt healthy low calorie meal plans, you’re going to have to change the way you eat and what you eat. First and foremost, you should adjust your food portions. By learning to visually identify some simple serving sizes, you can better control your portions. When eating a typical serving size of meat, it should be about 3-4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. A standard serving of grains or raw vegetables is about the size of a tennis ball or your fist.

Your low calorie meals don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, particularly if you aren’t trying to adhere to any particular diet. If your primary goal is to reduce your caloric intake, you should plan your meals based on what you like. You may want to make a list of all the low calorie foods you normally enjoy eating and include those in your healthy meal plans.

Online tools can help you plan out your meals and count the calories you consume. Your goal should be to calculate all the calories you plan to consume each day as a part of your overall meal planning efforts. Excellent free online tool: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/SuperTracker/default.aspx

Drinking water throughout the day will help curb your appetite. And drinking a glass of water before each meal has been proven to reduce food intake. When you reduce your caloric intake, hunger is going to be your biggest hurdle. Drinking more water will help you overcome that hurdle.

Plan to eat two or three low calorie snacks a day, and bring those snacks with you to work or wherever you go throughout the day. Some ideal snacks are baby carrots, apple slices, grapes, and whole-wheat pita bread with hummus. Eating snacks throughout the day will help prevent overeating at meals and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Which One is Yours?

Lower Calorie Italian Dinners

Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Shrimp

 Serve with a Garden Salad.

Ingredients:            

PESTO:

  • 1/2 cup dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

PASTA AND SHRIMP:

  • 10 ounces multigrain angel hair pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

To make the pesto:

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak for 10 minutes, or until softened. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Add the walnuts and garlic and process briefly to combine. Add the whole tomatoes, parsley, oregano or basil, cheese, and oil and process until smooth. Add just enough of the reserved tomato soaking liquid to form a paste; process until smooth.

To make the pasta and shrimp:

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. Sprinkle with the black pepper and salt. Place in the bowl with the pasta and top with the pesto. Toss well to combine. 

Stuffed Boneless Pork Chops  

Serve with Braised Fennel (recipe below) 

4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop)

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil, diced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup block-style fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat broiler.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of the minced garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, tomatoes, and spinach; sauté until moisture evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and lemon rind.

Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each pork chop to form a pocket. Stuff about 1/4 cup spinach mixture into each pocket. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper over pork. Arrange pork on the rack of a broiler pan or roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Combine remaining garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and oregano in a bowl; stir well. Brush half of mustard mixture over pork. Broil 6 minutes; turn pork. Brush remaining mixture over pork; broil 2 minutes or until done.

Serve with

Braised Fennel 

Ingredients

  • 3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Slice the fennel into 1/2″ thick pieces (try to keep each piece with some of the root base so it stays together.)

On medium-high, heat a large saute pan then add olive oil. After oil is hot, add fennel and caramelize on all sides (3-4 min side.)

Add stock, wine, thyme and bay to fennel and reduce heat to medium-low.

Cover and gently simmer for 25 min., or until fennel bulbs are tender, (you may need to add more stock as you simmer).

Salt and pepper to taste.

Pan-Roasted Fish with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce                                                                                                                                                         

Use any firm white fish fillet. Serve with quick cooking brown rice and sauteed kale.

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 fillet and 1/2 cup sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped seeded plum tomato or 1 -14 oz can low sodium diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, skin on

Directions

1. Heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato to pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in capers, Dijon mustard, and minced garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, chives, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper; keep warm.

2. Heat remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add fish to pan, skin side down; cook 3 minutes or until skin is browned. Turn fish over; cook 3-4 minutes. Pour sauce over fish. 

Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables              

Add a garden salad to round out this meal.

 Ingredients:

  • One 1 1/2 pound acorn squash, scrubbed—cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings, seeds discarded
  • 1 small red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 large plum tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 12 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound whole wheat rigatoni
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the squash and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil; season with salt and pepper and spread in a single layer. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil on another rimmed baking sheet; add the tomato halves and garlic and roll to coat with oil. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and turn them cut side down.

Transfer both sheets to the oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, until tender. Using tongs, transfer the garlic to a bowl; continue roasting the tomatoes for about 20 minutes longer, until very soft. Roast the squash and onion for about 45 minutes total, until tender and golden brown. Remove skin from squash rings and cut the squash into bite-size pieces. Discard the tomato skins and coarsely chop the flesh. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al-dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta. 

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the pine nuts and toast over moderate heat until golden. Add the crushed red pepper and olives and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir over moderately high heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Return the pasta to the pot.  Add the reserved cooking water, basil and parsley and toss. Serve the pasta in bowls, topping each with 1/2 tablespoon of the pecorino.

Grilled Mustard Chicken Breasts with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

Serve with green beans and store-bought focaccia or grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.                                                                                                                                                        

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lightly cracked fennel seeds
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 oz. each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil

 Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and fennel seeds. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Trim any excess fat from the breasts and then rinse and pat dry. Season the breasts with salt and pepper and rub them all over with the mustard-oil mixture.

When the grill is ready, grill the chicken until one side is nicely browned and grill marks appear, 2 to 3 min. (There may be some flare-ups at first; if they don’t go out, move the chicken off to the side until they do.) With tongs, rotate the breasts 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the sides of the breasts are fully opaque, another 2 to 3 min. Flip the breasts and grill in the same way until the second side is browned and the inside has just a trace of pink, another 4 to 6 min. Transfer to a clean cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 5 min.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil with the lemon juice, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Slice the chicken on an angle and serve drizzled with the vinaigrette.

Dieting? Low And Slow May Be The Way To Go When It Comes To Dieting

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

If you’re dieting, you know you’ve got to count calories, carbs and fats. But if you really want to take off the weight and keep it off, you might want to pay more attention to the glycemic index, which is essentially a measure of how quickly foods are digested.

That’s because high glycemic foods cause a surge in blood sugar, followed by a crash. That biological reaction releases hormones that stimulate hunger and actually lower metabolism, adding up to a dismal recipe for people who want to lose weight and keep it off. According to David Ludwig of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, “One of the unfortunate aspects of weight loss maintenance is that it takes fewer and fewer calories to just stay the same. As the body loses weight, it becomes more efficient and requires fewer calories,making it harder and harder to continue losing and making it difficult to maintain weight loss without continually dieting.” By some estimates, only 1 in 6 Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off after one year.

But Ludwig and colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that offers some tools you might use to fight back. Researchers compared the low-carb, low-fat and low-glycemic diets to see which one burned the most calories per day. The low-carb diet was the clear winner. The low-fat diet was the loser. But it was the diet in the middle, the low-glycemic index diet, that Ludwig suggests is more promising. It burned more calories per day than the low-fat diet and proved easier to stick to over the long term than the low-carb diet.

Mike Rogers, 43, was a participant who managed to keep off the 40 pounds he lost. He says the difference in the three diets was “enormous,” adding that “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”

Still trim, Rogers now eats far more fruits and vegetables than he did in the past, and, when it comes to carbohydrates, he opts for those with a lower glycemic index. That means brown rice versus white, whole grain pasta and steel cut oats instead of “quick-cooking” oats. He pretty much stays away from all processed foods.

Highly processed and refined foods, like packaged items, white bread, white rice, prepared breakfast cereals and crackers have a high glycemic index. “The body can digest these foods into sugar literally within moments after eating,” says Ludwig.

Low-glycemic foods tend to be natural foods like most vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. They actually wend their way slowly through the body’s digestion system, using up more energy and burning more calories in the process. And, best of all, says Ludwig, they actually “increase the metabolic rate and decrease hunger, giving us a biological advantage” in losing and maintaining weight.

Ludwig is quick to caution that his study was short and not conclusive. He’s working now to design a long-term study that looks at diet and weight loss maintenance over a number of years.

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the low-glycemic diet is hard to follow. In large part, that’s because there are many factors that affect how the body digests food, including the combination of food we eat, food preparation, whether vegetables and fruits are ripe, and our individual differences in how we digest food.

And eating too many low-glycemic foods that are also high in calories, sugar or saturated fats can be problematic.

Dubost urges moderation of carbs and fats. But equally important, she says, is a “part of the equation often ignored”: exercise. She points to research that shows people who were successful in maintaining their weight a year after losing it added a significant ingredient to their daily regimen: at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every single day.



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