Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: April 2013

The perfect sandwich is a healthy sandwich that tastes good and makes you full longer. Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices of on-the-go Americans. They’re quick, delicious and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. If you aren’t careful, though, a few high fat ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories. So before you make that sandwich, make sure you know what hidden calories are lurking between those bread slices. If you make smart choices regarding the basic elements of a sandwich, you’ll be building healthier sandwiches in no time. 

1. Select healthy bread.


  • High-fiber whole wheat bread.
  • High protein bread.
  • Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories). Whole wheat versions are even better.
  • Reduced calorie bread.
  • Multigrain bread.

2. Find high-quality proteins.

Most (although not all) sandwiches benefit from tasty, high-quality protein. What is available and healthy to you may vary by region or supermarket. Keep in mind portion control–a serving of meat should be about the size of a deck of playing cards.

Consider the choices:

  • Classic deli meats: Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef, corned beef and others without nitrates.
  • Tip: Check the sodium in prepackaged and even deli-fresh meats; most products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium.
  • Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini, vegetarian patties
  • Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad.

3. Cheese. Although cheese can add a good deal of fat, it also contains a good deal of calcium.


  • Harder cheeses, such as Swiss and Cheddar that usually have less fat.
  • Softer cheeses (like Blue cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese.
  • You can even use low-fat cheese in a sandwich.

4. Dressing. Sandwiches usually taste best with a little condiment added–but it is optional.


  • Mustard, salad dressings, salsa and lowfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
  • Avoid high-fat salad dressings, and regular mayonnaise in a sandwich.

5. Vegetables. A sandwich is a great way to slip in a lot of vegetables into a meal. Make sure they are fresh and crisp.


  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Cucumbers or pickles
  • Onions: sweet or red
  • Peppers: sweet or hot
  • Mushrooms
  • Lettuce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Apples (especially good with ham)
  • Sauerkraut (with corned beef is a classic Reuben Sandwich)
  • Herbs (Basil tastes terrific in a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich)

Consider heating or toasting:

Heating or toasting a sandwich adds no calories and can greatly enhance the taste. Add lettuce after heating.

Consider sides:

Sandwiches are even healthier with classic pairings like carrot and celery sticks, a bowl of healthy soup or a side salad.


A sandwich is a marvelous canvas to work with and while there are classic pairings (peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on rye, grilled cheese, BLT, etc.) you can come up with  a new  favorites.

Here are a few ideas to start you off.

Turkey Reuben

4 servings


  • 2 cups packaged shredded cabbage with carrot (supermarket coleslaw mix)
  • 2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
  • 2 tablespoons Thousand Island salad dressing
  • 8 1/2 inch thick slices rye bread
  • 8 ounces sliced, cooked low sodium turkey breast
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (4 ounces) (reduced fat works just fine in this sandwich)
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • Pickle spears


In a medium bowl, combine coleslaw mix and Italian salad dressing; set aside.

Spread Thousand Island salad dressing on one side of each bread slice.

Place four of the bread slices, dressing sides up, on a work surface; top with turkey, cheese, tomato and coleslaw mixture.

Top with remaining bread slices, dressing sides down.

Preheat a large skillet sparayed with nonfat cooking spray over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook sandwiches, half at a time, for 4 to 6 minutes or until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, turning once. If desired, serve with pickle spears.

Oven Fried Green Tomato BLT Sandwiches 

Makes 4 servings


Green Tomatoes & Garnish

  • 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 large green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 8 slices cooked bacon
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 hamburger buns

Remoulade Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 sweet gherkins, chopped, or 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped


To cook tomatoes:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place a wire rack coated with cooking spray in a parchment paper-lined baking pan.

Whisk together buttermilk and egg white in a medium bowl.

Mix together cornmeal, salt, paprika and cayenne in a shallow dish.

Dip the tomato slices into the buttermilk mixture, then transfer to the cornmeal mixture. Gently turn each slice in the cornmeal mixture to coat.

Transfer the slices to the wire rack on the baking sheet. Lightly coat tomatoes on each side with cooking spray.

Bake the tomatoes in the hot oven until both sides are well browned, 18 to 20 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes.

To make remoulade sauce:

While the tomatoes are in the oven, combine mayonnaise, sour cream (or yogurt), horseradish, mustard, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, scallions, gherkins (or pickle relish) and capers in a small bowl.

To assemble sandwiches:

Place lettuce on the bottom halves of the buns. Top with tomato slices, remoulade sauce and bacon; cover with bun tops.


Tuna Steak Sandwiches

Serves 2


  • 2 tuna fillets, each 4 ounces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat Caesar dressing, recipe below
  • 2 whole-grain onion buns
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • 2 slices tomato


Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.

Sprinkle the tuna fillets with pepper. Place the fillets on the grill rack or broiler pan. Brush the tuna with 2 tablespoons of the Caesar dressing while cooking.

Grill or broil until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of a knife, about 8 minutes. Just before taking the tuna off the grill, place buns on the grill or broiler pan to toast.

Place the tuna steaks on the buns. Top with lettuce and tomato. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Caesar dressing. Serve immediately.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Makes about 1/2 cup.


  • 1/2 small clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Place garlic and salt in a medium bowl and mash with the back of a spoon to form a paste.

Add lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, anchovy paste (if using), and pepper; whisk to combine.

Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Add cheese and whisk to combine.

The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Egg-Vegetable Salad Wraps

6 servings


  • 6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow summer squash or zucchini
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh tarragon or basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon or basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 leaf lettuce leaves
  • 6 whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced


In a large bowl combine eggs, cucumber, squash, carrot and red onion.

For dressing:

in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, milk, tarragon or basil, salt and paprika.

Pour the dressing over egg mixture and toss gently to coat.

For each sandwich:

Place a lettuce leaf on a tortilla. Place 3 or 4 tomato slices on top of the lettuce, slightly off center. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture on top of the tomato slices. Roll up tortilla.

If necessary, secure with toothpicks. Cut the tortilla rolls in half crosswise. 

Mediterranean Chicken Panini

4 servings


  • Olive oil nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 recipe Tomato-Pepper Spread, below
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces total)
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread or multigrain ciabatta rolls, split
  • 1 small zucchini


Lightly coat an unheated panini griddle, covered indoor electric grill or large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat over medium heat or heat according to manufacturer’s directions.

Add chicken. If using griddle or grill, close lid and grill for 6 to 7 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. (If using a skillet, cook chicken for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, turning once.)

Cool chicken slightly; split each chicken piece in half horizontally and cut crosswise into 2-inch-wide slices.

Spread the Tomato-Pepper Spread on cut sides of the bread. Place chicken on bottom half of the bread.

Using a vegetable peeler, cut very thin lengthwise strips from the zucchini. Place zucchini strips on top of the chicken. Place bread tops on top of the zucchini, tomato pepper spread side down. Press down lightly. Lightly coat the top and bottom of each sandwich with nonstick cooking spray.

Place sandwiches on griddle, grill or skillet, adding in batches if necessary.

If using griddle or grill, close lid and grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until bread is toasted. If using skillet, place a heavy saucepan or skillet on top of sandwiches. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until bottoms are toasted.

Carefully remove saucepan or top skillet it may be hot. Turn sandwiches; top again with the saucepan or skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more or until bread is toasted.

Tomato-Pepper Spread

Yield: 1/3 cup


  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (not oil packed)
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/3 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a small bowl combine sundried tomatoes and the boiling water. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Transfer undrained tomato mixture to a small food processor (if you have a larger food processor you will need to stop and scrape down sides occasionally).

Add roasted red sweet peppers, balsamic vinegar, oregano, garlic and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth.


Grilled Vegetable Pitas

2 servings


  • 14 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Dash salt
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 1/4 of a medium yellow or red sweet pepper, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 large whole wheat pita bread round, halved crosswise
  • 8 fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 small fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta


If present, remove and discard mushroom stem. If desired, remove mushroom gills. In a small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently brush half of the oil mixture over mushroom and sweet pepper.

Place mushroom and pepper on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 10 to 12 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly charred and tender, turning frequently.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining oil mixture and the tomato; toss gently to coat. Cut grilled mushroom and pepper into bite-size strips. Add mushroom and pepper strips to tomato mixture; toss gently to combine.

Open pita halves to create pockets. Line pita pockets with spinach and basil leaves. Fill pita pockets with grilled vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Grilled Steak Sandwich

Serves 4


  • 1 (8- to 10-ounce) lean sirloin steak or 8 to 10 ounces leftover steak
  • 1 baguette, cut into 4 (5-inch) pieces
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 cups arugula or lettuce


Preheat the grill. Lightly oil the steak and grill it for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes, then slice thinly.

While steak is resting, cut baguette in half horizontally.

In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and blue cheese.

Spread half the bread with the mayonnaise mixture; top with sliced steak and arugula. Top with remaining baguette half and divide into fourths.



Kids are not always the pickiest eaters at the dinner table. Many adults are extremely finicky and some are fussy to the point of risking their health. They have it in their minds that veggies do not taste good, even if they have never tried them. It can be very difficult to come up with a variety of healthy dishes day after day for this type of eater, but with culinary creativity, it is easy to provide nourishing foods on the sly. Absolutely anyone can successfully sneak vegetables into foods for finicky adults and unless they catch the cook, they will never know the difference. When looking for ways to sneak vegetables into foods, look for ways to include them in your favorite recipes. Fresh and frozen veggies are the most nutritious. Cook and puree carrots, spinach or any other mild tasting vegetable that will be easy to stir into a tomato based dish. Be careful not to overdo it or the pureed vegetable will change the color of the sauce and alter the flavor. Add just enough of your favorite cooked and pureed vegetables to add nutritional value. Most people will not notice a difference, because the food will taste the same. Love macaroni and cheese with a rich golden sauce? A deep golden color can be achieved by stirring in pureed butternut squash or carrots. Top it with buttered bread crumbs and bake it in the oven until it is golden brown and bubbly. If it is cheesy enough, no one will realize that you were able to sneak in vegetables. It will look and taste just as it always does. Sometimes, it’s okay to be sneaky in the kitchen. Try these tips to sneak in one or two extra servings into your day and you’ll be adding a new twist to an old favorite recipe.

  • Shred or grate fruits and vegetables or puree them and see how creative you can get with your favorite recipes.
  • Meatloaf is a mixture of various foods, typically including ground meat, eggs, onions and some bread crumbs. Adding a little shredded carrots, zucchini or broccoli may give the meal a nutritional boost that won’t change the flavor.
  • Chili is chock full of beans; grate or dice in some carrots, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini for added nuitrition.
  • Use the blender or food processor to puree broccoli or peppers (a great source of vitamin C) and carrots and spinach (for vitamin A) to add to sauces.
  • Make homemade ravioli using pre-packaged wonton wrappers and fill with chopped veggies.

  • Quick additions – Layer zucchini slices into lasagna. Stir broccoli florets into macaroni and cheese. Toss tomatoes into an omelet. Include peppers in a cheese quesadilla.
  • Soup – Embellish your favorite soups, fresh or canned, with added veggies. Just add raw or frozen vegetables while you’re heating or cooking the soup.
  • Salads – Load your salads with as many raw veggies as you can: cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, green beans, onions, radishes, jicama, tomato, etc. Or try spinach leaves instead of lettuce.
  • Serve them raw – Raw can bring out the best in vegetables that have a strong taste when cooked, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage or spinach. Add a low-fat dip.
  • Spaghetti sauce – Add finely chopped zucchini, mushroom, onions, eggplant or yellow squash to spaghetti sauce. The smaller you chop them, the less likely you are to notice they’re there.
  • Make them fun – Try corn-on-the-cob wheels (slice cooked corn into 1-inch thick disks), fill celery sticks with peanut butter or light cream cheese or stuff zucchini or bell peppers with a savory filling.
  • Drink them – Try V-8 or carrot juice. Or blend some carrot juice with a fruit juice you enjoy, such as orange or tangerine.
  • Pizza – Top your pizza with any combination: tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini and artichoke hearts.
  • Grilling – After the meat or fish is taken off the grill, why waste the hot coals? You can probably use the same marinade you’re using for your meat. (Just marinate the veggies separately, using marinade that hasn’t touched the meat.) Make a kabob with chunks of vegetables (eggplant, carrot, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini or other types of squashes). Soft vegetables won’t need precooking, but firm ones such as sweet potatoes will benefit from steaming or microwaving before they go on the grill.

Each of these veggie-rich dishes fits into any meal plan and is loaded with color, nutrients and flavor. Best of all, low-calorie vegetables let you add more food to your plate!

Mushroom-Sausage Flatbreads

Makes for a great, quick weekend lunch! 4 servings Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces uncooked turkey Italian sausage links, with casings removed
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a 16 ounce package of frozen bell peppers and onion stir-fry vegetables (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 multi-grain low-fat wraps
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms over medium heat until sausage is browned and mushrooms are tender, stirring to break up sausage as it cooks. Drain mixture in a colander; set aside. Meanwhile, chop one of the tomatoes; thinly slice the other tomato. In the same large skillet, cook chopped tomato, stir-fry vegetables and garlic over medium heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated and vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally. Place wraps on a very large baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Spread vegetable mixture over hot wraps. Top with sausage mixture. Top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

Grilled Beef Garden Burgers

4 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces 90% lean or higher ground beef
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
  • 3/4 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 small tomato, thinly sliced
  • Condiments

Directions: In a large bowl, combine egg white, carrot, green onion, shredded zucchini, garlic and black pepper. Add beef; mix well. Shape the mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. For a charcoal grill, place patties on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 14 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of each patty registers 160 degrees F, turning once halfway through grilling. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place patties on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above. Serve each patty on a whole wheat bun with spinach, tomato and condiments of choice.

Mediterranean-Stuffed Chicken

4 servings Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/4 cup drained, bottled marinated artichoke hearts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained, bottled roasted red sweet peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions: Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast by cutting horizontally through the thickest portion almost to the opposite side. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine feta, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, green onion and oregano. Spoon evenly into pockets in chicken breasts. If necessary, secure openings with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle chicken with black pepper. Grilling directions: For a charcoal grill, place chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, (170 degrees F.) turning once halfway through grilling. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place chicken on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.

Layered Root Vegetable Bake

Good make ahead dish. 8 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and halved crosswise (1-1/4 cups)
  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 whole baby beets, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions: In a covered large saucepan, cook potatoes in enough boiling water to cover about 25 minutes or until tender, adding the carrot pieces and parsnips for the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain, using a slotted spoon, and cool until easy to handle. Very thinly slice potatoes, parsnips and carrots, keeping each in separate bowls. Reboil water, add beets and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Cool and slice thin. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9 x 1-1/2-inch round baking pan with heavy foil. Generously coat foil with cooking spray. Layer half of the beet slices, half of the carrot slices, half of the parsnip slices and half of the potato slices in pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the pepper. Layer remaining vegetable slices on top in the same order. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Cover with foil; press down lightly with hands. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Let stand for 5 minutes. Remove top piece of foil. Invert vegetables onto serving plate; peel off foil. Cut into 8 wedges to serve.

Golden Risotto


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, warmed
  • 1 cup carrot juice, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and almonds, stirring to coat. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated by half, about 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the broth, carrot juice, water and salt to taste. Add to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until absorbed, before adding the next 1/2 cup (total time will be about 20 minutes.) Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and pepper before serving. Zucchini-Oat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields: 48 cookies Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 2/3 cups (10-oz pkg.) Semi-Sweet or Dark Chocolate Chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Combine flour, cinnamon and baking soda in small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well combined. Add egg and vanilla extract, beat well. Add zucchini and mix. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, nuts and chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoon, 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Be sure to rotate baking sheets in the oven after 6 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.  

Cleveland, Ohio

By the mid-1800s, a small group of Italian immigrants had arrived in Cleveland and were working in various occupations, as bookkeeper, boot maker, gardener, carpenter, steel worker and stone mason. Twenty years later, Italians were owners of restaurants, saloons, produce stands and grocery stores. In the late nineteenth century, Italian immigrants traveled to Cleveland and many opened businesses to service the growing Italian population. They made their homes in several areas around Cleveland: Big Italy, Collinwood, Murray Hill and Kinsman. In 1912, the Italian communities had more than 50 local societies to help them assimilate. No institution better reflects the uniqueness of Cleveland’s Italian community than the hometown society that enabled the immigrants to transplant the solidarity of their native villages to America. Meeting weekly, they reminisced in their village dialect, maintained family acquaintances, continued ties with their Italian village, buried their dead, cared for widows and children and found employment and housing. The area relied on the local parishes, such as Holy Rosary; charitable institutions, such as Alta House and the cohesiveness of the neighborhoods to sustain them.

The Little Italy Heritage Museum closed at the end of 2007. The museum’s collection of photographs and artifacts were donated to the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle.

Many of these Italians were Neapolitan and were engaged in skilled lacework, garment making and the embroidery trades. The largest group came from the towns of Ripamolisano, Madrice and San Giovanni in Galdo and Campobasso Province in the Abruzzi region.

By the late 1920s, six Italian neighborhoods had been established. The largest was “Big Italy”, located along Woodland and Orange Avenues from East 9th St. to East 40th St. “Little Italy”, centered at Mayfield and Murray Hill roads, proved to be the most enduring. Nearby, at East. 107th St. and Cedar Ave., a community grew around St. Marian’s Church. Also on the city’s east side was a substantial Italian settlement in Collinwood. Two settlements were on the west side, one near Clark and Fulton Avenues and one on Detroit near West 65th St.

In each community, the Italians transplanted their institutions, including nationality parishes, hometown societies, mutual-aid organizations and a multiplicity of family-owned businesses. What the Italians brought to Cleveland were the traditions, values, patron saints and dialects from the villages they represented. Their affinities and affiliations were largely with their paesani (fellow villagers).

The Italian Drug Store on Mayfield Road was just one of many thriving businesses in Little Italy in the mid-20th century.

Eventually, Murray Hill became Cleveland’s only “Little Italy” and today remains strongly Italian. Red, white and green is proudly displayed in all forms and numerous restaurants, cafes, bakeries, specialty shops and galleries offer a wide variety of Italian food and merchandise. Little Italy sits above University Circle, bounded by Euclid Avenue to the south, Cedar Road to the east, Mayfield Road to the north and the Lake View Cemetery to the west. The area became a thriving neighborhood in the late 19th century when dozens of skilled stone cutters and craftsmen arrived from Italy to design and create the magnificent monuments at Lake View that mark the graves of some of that era’s most influential citizens. Joseph Carabelli’s Lake View Granite and Monumental Works was the leading employer of these skilled artisans. 

Cleveland’s Italians were also active in manufacturing. The Ohio Macaroni Co., established in 1910 by Joseph Russo & Sons, became Ohio’s largest macaroni company by 1920. Roma Cigar Co., started in 1913 by Albert Pucciani, produced 20,000 cigars weekly by 1920. Grasselli Chemical Co. was also prominent.  Although only 4 of the city’s restaurants were owned by Italians in 1920, one of these, New Roma, was reputedly the largest and most attractive in Ohio. Italian chefs prepared meals at the Cleveland hotels and at the Shaker Heights Country Club.

Little Italy resident, Angelo Vitantonio invented the first home pasta machine in 1906. His hand-cranked device revolutionized cooking in many an Italian household. The company he founded, VillaWare (though no longer family owned), still produces high-quality home appliances and cookware.

Twenty Italian medical doctors and dentists served the community by 1920; one of the most prominent was Giovanni A. Barricelli. Italian-born attorneys did not follow immigrants to Cleveland, so the community had to wait for the children of immigrants to fill this void. Politically, as long as the Italian community, family and “old ways” were not threatened, Italians were not seriously active, with only 1,423 “naturalized Italians” voting out of a foreign-born population of 13,570 in 1915. Not until the late 1920’s, did Cleveland’s Italians take a more active interest in politics. The area also produced a number of interesting favorite sons, including Angelo Vitantonio, the inventor of the pasta machine, championship boxer Tony Brush and Anthony Celebrezze, Cleveland mayor, federal judge, and secretary of health, education and welfare under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Italian-American press was one of the most effective means of ethnic expression. In 1903 the first Italian newspaper in Ohio, La Voce Del Popolo Italiano, was founded and by 1920, it claimed a circulation of 15,000 in Cleveland and another 30,000 throughout Ohio and other states. La Stampa also emerged during this period. These papers interpreted American law, made clear economic and social rights, emphasized the advantages of citizenship and became an incentive for literacy, offering news from the homeland. By 1915 La Voce became the first Italian newspaper in the U.S. to publish articles in both Italian and English. Later, other newspapers, such as L’Araldo, appeared but enjoyed limited success. As the Italian language reading skills of the second generation were lost, radio broadcasts with the “Italian Hour” became more popular. By the 1990’s a renewed interest in Italian heritage made possible the successful publication of a new Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta Italiana. Written largely in English, the paper garnered a large readership among 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Italian-Americans.

In 1994, the Little Italy Redevelopment Corporation was formed to manage improvements and direct growth. Festivals and events are held year-round, including opera in the Italian Cultural Garden, an Italian film festival, Art Walk, Italian classes, neighborhood walking tours and a Columbus Day Parade. In August, the Feast of the Assumption, the only fundraiser for the Holy Rosary Catholic Church, brings thousands to Little Italy for food, Italian merchandise, live music and a procession. Today, the neighborhood still retains its Italian flavor. There are small family-run bakeries, Italian restaurants – featuring everything from stylish Northern Italian cuisine to provincial pizza and pasta. Rosa and Charles Presti started their bakery business in Little Italy in 1920. Originally located on Coltman Road, the bakery moved to Mayfield Road in 1938. Presti’s continues to be a popular neighborhood meeting place.

White Pizza with garlic cream sauce, olives and artichoke slices

Il Bacio veal tortellini alla bolognese.

Little Italy has a long history of varied Italian restaurants. Chef Hector Boiardi (known to the world as Chef Boyardee) started his culinary career here and Guarino’s was Ohio’s first Italian restaurant. Today, the neighborhood is still the place to go in Cleveland for Italian food. Some of the most popular eateries are:

Trattoria On the Hill Roman Gardens, Guarino’s, Baricelli Inn, Valerio’s and Mama Santo’s Pizza.

Peppers stuffed with cheese at Trattoria on the Hill in Cleveland’s Little Italy.

Mayfield Road and Murray Hill Road are lined with small art galleries, featuring everything from pottery to photography to glass art to oil paintings. The most interesting of these galleries is Murray Hill School, a former elementary school, now home to dozens of artists’ studios and galleries.

Italian Band of Cleveland at the Feast of the Assumption, 1983
The Feast of the Assumption, held around the Catholic Day of Assumption (August 15) each year, is the most visited event in Little Italy. The three-day, part-religious, part-secular celebration draws more than 700,000 revelers each year.

Make Some Recipes From Cleveland’s Little Italy At Home

Stuffed Banana Peppers

Appetizer Serving for 2


  • 1/2 pound hot Italian Sausage, (casing removed) cooked and chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup Locatelli Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil to saute
  • 4 hot banana peppers
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Mix sausage, Romano cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and Italian seasoning together in mixing bowl. Cut the top of the banana pepper off and remove seeds. Gently stuff mixture into peppers. Place olive oil in hot saute pan. Gently place peppers in the pan and cook each side until browned.

Place them in a glass baking dish, pour marinara sauce over them, sprinkle with mozzarella on top and cover with foil. Put in a 375 F. degree oven for 20 minutes.

Braised Artichokes

From Chef Doug Katz


  • 4 artichokes, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 quart olive oil, not extra virgin
  • 2 sprigs Thyme
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons bread crumbs


Combine artichokes, oil and thyme in small stock pot. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Strain and cool. Save the oil; it can be used for cooking or salads.

While artichokes are cooking, combine goat cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.

Top or stuff cooled artichokes with goat cheese mixture, bread crumbs and a drizzle of the cooled oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until hot and golden brown on top. Serve with red pepper coulis, if desired.

Red Pepper Coulis

  • 1 red pepper, blended with a little water until liquefied
  • 1 cup red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 shallot, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • zest of 1/4 lemon
  • kosher salt to taste

Sweat garlic and shallots in oil. Add chopped pepper and continue to sweat for 5 minutes.

Add liquefied red pepper and cook for 30 minutes over low heat.

Puree in blender or food processor with lemon zest and salt.

Chicken Marsala

Recipe adapted from Fran Geraci, owner of Geraci’s in Cleveland, OH

Serves: 4 servings


  • 4 (6-8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 2 cups beef stock


Put the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper and flatten with a meat pounder until thin. Cut each chicken breast into 4 pieces. Add some flour to a shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess flour.

Add the butter and olive oil to a large saute pan over high heat and heat until it sizzles, do NOT let it brown. Add the chicken and saute until brown on both sides. Stir in the sliced mushrooms and saute briefly, then add the garlic. Add the Marsala and simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour in the beef stock and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Pasta with Porcini, Sausage and Marsala

Chef: Randal Johnson, Molinari’s Restaurant

2 servings


  • 1 1/2 ounces dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups sweet Marsala
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 ounces sliced red onion
  • 1 ounce fresh arugula
  • 12 ounces fresh short shaped pasta
  • 1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano


Place porcini mushrooms, marsala and beef stock in a pot, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let steep for ten minutes. Strain and rough chop the porcinis. Save the strained soaking liquid.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour to make a roux. Cook two minutes on medium heat and then add the marsala/stock mixture. Bring to a simmer while whisking. When thickened, add chopped porcini mushrooms.

Remove sausage from casing and roll into 24 small meatballs, bake at 350 F. degrees for ten minutes. Place meatballs, sauce, red onion and arugula in a sauté pan and bring to a simmer. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (about three minutes) strain the pasta and add to the saute pan with the other ingredients; add the Romano cheese, toss and serve.

Stone Fruit Crostata

From Chef Jonathon Sawyer and Chef Matt Danko.

Tart Dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1 stick cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg

For the Filling:

  • 2 nectarines
  • 2 peaches
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados
  • Zest from one orange

For the Assembly:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw


For the tart dough:

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Next add the butter and blend in the food processor until the dough looks like loose sand, then incorporate the egg and process until the dough forms. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide into two equal balls wrap in plastic wrap and flatten slightly with your hands. Chill for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

To make the filling:

Slice the fruit by first splitting in half, removing the pits, sliceinto 1/2 inch slices, place in a bowl and set aside.

Toss the fruit with the Calvados first, then add the sugar and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Let rest 20 minutes and strain off juices.

To assemble:

Remove the dough for the refrigerator and place on a well floured surface.

Roll one piece of dough out away from you, giving it a quarter turn between rolls. Turning the dough will keep it circular. Continue rolling and truning the dough out until it reaches a thickness of about 1/8 inch. and about 11 or 12 inches round.

Place the rolled out dough in the center of a well greased sheet tray, in the center of the dough place half of the filling and spread leaving a three inch border. Be sure that the filling doesn’t exceed two inches in height over the dough otherwise the crostata will not cook evenly.

Fold the excess dough towards the center of the crostata in a circular motion forming a crust. Beat the egg and with a pastry brush lightly coat the crust of the crostata and sprinkle sugar over top.

Repeat with the second piece of dough and remainder of the filling.

Bake the crostata in a 350 F. degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes, before slicing.

Spaghetti Squash is rounded and oblong in shape, measuring as much as 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. When ripe, it is typically light yellow in color and weighs around 5 pounds. It is also sometimes called vegetable spaghetti, (the more common term for it in the UK), noodle squash, vegetable marrow, squaghetti and mandarin squash. The “spaghetti” name comes from the fact that when it is cooked, the flesh of the vegetable is long and stringy in appearance, like spaghetti. It rose to popularity in the US and Europe during the 1970’s.

In the early 1990’s a new variety of orange spaghetti squash came on the market. Orangetti is slightly sweeter and higher in beta-carotene than standard spaghetti squash.

The word “squash” is of Native American Indian origin. And the squash plant is generally known to be native to North and Central America since ancient times, along with maize and beans. So it is entirely reasonable for most people to think that spaghetti squash originated in North America. However, it was actually developed in Manchuria, China during the 1890’s. We are not sure when or how squash was first introduced to China. But we do know that by the 1850’s, the Chinese were growing and using some varieties of squash for fodder. Perhaps the “spaghetti” variety was developed in an effort to come up with a variety that was easier to grow.

So, how did this Chinese squash make its way to America? In the 1930’s, the Sakata Seed Company, a Japanese firm, was looking for new types of plants to promote and came upon the Chinese squash. They developed an improved strain and introduced it in seed form around the world. The Burpee Seed Company in the US picked up and marketed Sakata “vegetable spaghetti” seed (as it was then called) in 1936.

While it found some limited acceptance in rural family gardens, vegetable spaghetti was not exactly an instant American hit. In fact it was still pretty much unknown in urban America up until the World War II era. During the war, however, some popular household staple foods were in short supply. In that environment, vegetable spaghetti grew in popularity as a substitute for Italian spaghetti noodles, that could be grown at home in one’s “victory garden.” After the war, however, when food shortages were no longer an issue in the US, vegetable spaghetti once again faded into obscurity. It was scarcely heard from again until around the 1960’s, when it was reborn in California as “spaghetti squash.” Frieda Caplan’s specialty produce company in Los Angeles—the one that made such a success out of the newly dubbed “kiwi fruit”—is popularly credited with making spaghetti squash a marketing success in the US.

Spaghetti squash became popular among the hippie counterculture, where it was touted as a healthy “natural” alternative to “processed” food. It eventually went mainstream and by the 1980’s, spaghetti squash had become fairly well known and common throughout the US. Today the squash continues to have a steady following, particularly among vegetarians. But also among dieters—since it is such a low calorie, low carb food.

One of the reasons for the popularity of squash is its nutritional makeup. One cup of the vegetable has:

* Only 42 calories, making it attractive to those watching their calories (just watch how much butter or sauce you add).

* Only 10 grams of carbohydrates, making it attractive to those on low carb or low glycemic index diets.

* 0 grams fat or cholesterol, making it attractive to those watching their cholesterol.

* Only 28 mg of sodium, making it attractive to those watching their sodium intake.

* Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, potassium, and trace amounts of zinc, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium and copper—things everybody needs.

Purchasing Squash

Spaghetti Squash is available year round in most large supermarkets. When selecting spaghetti squash at the market, look for hard, dense vegetables that feel heavy with no soft spots or bruises. Also look for uniformity of color with no green in it (either pale yellow or orange—depending on the variety). If it is green it isn’t yet ripe. It should be at least 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length with a 5 inch (12.7 centimeter) girth. 

I am sure you have heard that spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, so you’ve lugged one home from the store. Now what do you do with it? Just about any way you can think of to apply heat can be used to cook spaghetti squash. The big question is: to cut or not to cut it before cooking? You can do it either way. Here are the pros and cons of each. (Cooking times will vary with the size of the squash/pieces of squash.)

Cutting Up Spaghetti Squash Before Cooking

Advantages: It cooks faster.

Disadvantages: Like any winter squash, hacking it up takes muscle and a sharp knife or cleaver. It’s also a bit more work to scrape out the seeds and pulp when they are raw.

Method: Cut it in half (lengthwise) or quarters. You don’t want to cut it up too small unless you want short strands. Scrape out the seeds and pulp as you would with any squash or pumpkin.

Bake rind side up about 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Microwave 6 to 8 minutes (let stand for a few minutes afterwards)

Boil 20 minutes or so. Separate strands by running a fork through the flesh from top to bottom.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash Whole

Advantages: It’s easier.

Disadvantages: It takes longer to cook and you need to take care to not burn yor hands when removing the hotbpulp and seeds.

Method: Pierce the squash several times with a sharp knife. (Do this especially if you’re microwaving it, so you don’t end up with the squash exploding.)

Bake about an hour in the oven at 375 degrees F.

Microwave 10 to 12 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes afterward to finish steaming.

Boil for half an hour.

Slow Cooker/Crock Pot: Put it in with a cup of water and let it go on low all day (8 to 10 hours).

When done, cut open “at the equator” (not lengthwise), remove seeds and pulp (use tongs and an oven mitt — it is HOT) and separate strands with a fork.

Did You Know? Any squash seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds. They are low-carb, nutritious and delicious.

Spaghetti Squash Storage Tip

Like pumpkin and other squashes, whole uncooked spaghetti squash is best stored between 50 to 60 degrees and will last up to six months this way. On the other hand, spaghetti squash will keep several weeks at room temperature.

How To Serve Spaghetti Squash

A meat sauce made of ground meat of choice, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic can be mixed with spaghetti squash and topped with Italian cheeses.

Adding shellfish to spaghetti squash is a way to serve the vegetable to people who enjoy seafood dishes. Shrimp scampi is also good over spaghetti squash.

Many people enjoy mixing it with regular cooked spaghetti  to reduce the  amount pasta in a dish or even serving it with a marinara or alfredo sauce.

Cooked spaghetti squash can also be chilled and tossed with a light vinaigrette.


There are several simple ways of serving spaghetti squash without the addition of meat or shellfish and there are a variety of preparations for this squash.

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Herbs


  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano cheese)


Cook squash. To bake, pierce a few holes in the squash with a large knife, skewer or ice pick to allow steam to escape. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then halve lengthwise or crosswise. Scoop out seeds and fibers and discard. Use a fork to scrape out the squash flesh. It will naturally separate into noodle-like spaghetti strands.

Saute the minced garlic in the olive oil in a skillet until it’s softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano to the garlic and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon the garlic-tomato mixture on top of squash strands. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serves 4 to 6.

Spaghetti Squash Salad with Pine Nuts and Tarragon


  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 3 large (9 pounds) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Arrange the spaghetti squash halves cut sides up on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash cut sides down and pour the water and wine into the pans. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the squash is barely tender. Flip the squash cut sides up and let cool until warm.

In a small bowl, combine the white wine vinegar with the lemon zest and lemon juice, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the 2/3 cup of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

Working over a large bowl, using a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash, separating the strands. Pour the dressing over the squash and toss to coat. Add the tarragon, cheese and pine nuts and toss again.

Roasted Salmon with Spaghetti-Squash Salad

  • One 3 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small red chile, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 2 large kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into thin half moons
  • 2 tablespoons shredded mint


Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the squash until al dente, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil with the lime and orange juices, garlic, chile and orange and lime zests. Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully transfer the squash halves to a large bowl and let cool. Using a fork and starting at 1 end of each piece of squash, scrape and separate the strands. Pat dry with paper towels.

Spread the salmon slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon for about 3 minutes, or until cooked through.

In a medium bowl toss the cucumbers, mint and dressing with the squash strands. Mound the salad on plates, top with the salmon and serve.

Spaghetti Squash With Garlic, Parsley and Breadcrumbs

Serves 4


  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and place the squash on top. Bake for one hour, until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from half of the squash and place in a bowl. Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands. You should have about 4 cups of squash. (Use some squash from the other half if necessary). Set aside the other half for another dish.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and bread crumbs. When the bread crumbs are crisp —after about a minute — stir in the squash and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the garlic and oil and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. 

Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Onion


  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 zucchini (1 lb), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 8 ounces sliced cremini or white mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


Pierce squash (about an inch deep) all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Cook in an 800-watt microwave oven on high power (100 percent) for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.

Carefully halve squash lengthwise (it will give off steam) and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put on a platter.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately-high heat, saute onions and garlic, stirring frequently until golden, about 6 minutes. Then stir in zucchini, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, covered, until softened occasionally stirring, for about 7 minutes. Spoon mixture over squash.

Spaghetti Squash Bake

Serves 4 to 6.


  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 1/2 teaspoon leaf oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Shredded basil for garnish


Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place spaghetti squash, cut side down, in a baking dish; add water to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake spaghetti squash in a 375° F. oven for about 30 minutes or until the spaghetti squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash, separating strands with a fork.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion, red and green pepper and garlic until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and squash. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole; stir in 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° F. for 25 minutes. Sprinkle spaghetti squash with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and cook for 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Top with basil.


Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older.

In the book, The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe make a case that the earliest linguistic evidence of chocolate consumption stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania recently announced the discovery of cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.E. It appears that the sweet pulp of the cacao fruit, which surrounds the beans, was fermented into an alcoholic beverage of the time.

It’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was born, but it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency. One bean could be traded for a tamale, while 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen, according to a 16th-century Aztec document. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical or even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.

Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas. Legend has it that the Aztec king, Montezuma, welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate.  Chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first –one described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.

By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties. But it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700’s.

In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. His product became known as “Dutch cocoa” and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa. By 1868, a little company called Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that will sound familiar– Nestle.

In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. Chocolate manufacturing is more than a 4-billion-dollar industry in the United States and the average American eats at least half a pound per month.


The main types of chocolate are milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate. These types of chocolate may be produced with ordinary cacao beans (mass-produced and cheap) or specialty cacao beans (aromatic and expensive) or a mixture of these two types. The composition of the mixture, origin of cacao beans, the treatment and roasting of beans and the types and amounts of additives used will significantly affect the flavor and the price of the final chocolate.

One ounce of chocolate

The higher the cacao (kuh-KOW) content number, the less sugar. Vanilla and lecithin usually make up less than 1 percent.

Dark Chocolate

Sweetened chocolate with high content of cocoa solids and no or very little milk may contain up to 12% milk solids. Dark chocolate can either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. If a recipe specifies ‘dark chocolate’ you should use semi-sweet dark chocolate.

Sweet Dark Chocolate

Similar to semi-sweet chocolate, it is not always possible to distinguish between the flavor of sweet and semi-sweet chocolate. If a recipe asks for sweet dark chocolate you may also use semi-sweet chocolate. Contains 35-45% cocoa solids.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

This is the classic baking chocolate which can be purchased in most grocery stores. It is frequently used for cakes, cookies and brownies and can be used instead of sweet dark chocolate. It has a good, sweet flavor. Contains 40-62% cocoa solids.

Bittersweet Chocolate

A dark sweetened chocolate which must contain at least 35% cocoa solids. However, good quality bittersweet chocolate usually contains 60% to 85% cocoa solids depending on the brand. If the content of cocoa solids is high and the content of sugar is low, the chocolate will have a rich, intense flavor. Bittersweet chocolate is often used for baking/cooking. If a recipe specifies bittersweet chocolate do not substitute with semi-sweet or sweet chocolate. European types of bittersweet chocolate usually contain very large amounts of cocoa solids and some of them have quite a bitter taste.

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Unsweetened Chocolate

A bitter chocolate which is only used for baking. The flavor is not suitable for eating. Use it only if a recipe specifies “unsweetened chocolate”. It contains almost 100% cocoa solids and about half of it may be fat (cocoa butter).

Milk Chocolate

Sweet chocolate which normally contains 10-20% cocoa solids (which includes cocoa and cocoa butter) and more than 12% milk solids. It is seldom used for baking, except for cookies. An ounce of milk chocolate can contain 75 percent less cacao and twice as much sugar as the darkest chocolate.

White Chocolate

Chocolate made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and sometimes other flavorings. It does not contain any ingredients from the cacao bean and, therefore, has an off-white color. In some countries white chocolate cannot be called ‘chocolate’ because of the low content of cocoa solids. It has a mild and pleasant flavor and can be used to make Mousse, Panna Cotta and other desserts.

Here are some healthy recipes without too many calories to indulge your chocolate sweet tooth:


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.                                                                                           


  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups regular rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or chunks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment.

In a small bowl combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine peanut butter and butter; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar or sugar substitute, egg product, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined. Add the flour; beat until smooth. Stir in the oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate pieces into oat mixture.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned, reversing pans in the oven after six minutes.

Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

16 servings


  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 28 ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 18 ounces of fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 18 ounces lowfat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Chocolate curls (optional)


In a medium bowl stir together finely crushed graham crackers and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Cover and chill while preparing filling.

In a small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheeses until smooth. Beat in sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well mixed; gradually beat in gelatin mixture. Divide mixture in half. Gradually stir melted chocolate into half of the mixture.

Spoon half of the chocolate mixture over chilled crust in pan; spread evenly. Carefully spoon half of the white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl chocolate and white mixtures. Top with remaining chocolate mixture, spreading evenly; spoon remaining white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds and swirl again. Cover and chill about 6 hours or until set.

To serve, using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Cut cheesecake into wedges. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare as directed, except cover and chill for up to 24 hours.

Chocolate-Amaretto Pots de Creme

Yield: 6 individual pots de creme


  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces sweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten, or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (see tip)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 recipe Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping (below)
  • Shaved chocolate (optional)


In a heavy small saucepan combine milk, sugar, whipped topping, chocolate, margarine, cocoa powder and coffee powder. Cook and stir over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir about 1/3 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return the yolk mixture to the remaining hot chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla, amaretto and almond extract. Pour chocolate mixture into six small heatproof cups or pots de creme cups. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight or until set.

Spoon the Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping  on top of individual servings. If desired, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Makes 6 individual pots de creme.

Tip: If you use egg substitute, the mixture will be softer set.

Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping

  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • Several drops of almond extract
  • 1/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping

In a small bowl stir together amaretto, vanilla, instant espresso coffee powder and several drops of almond extract, stirring until coffee dissolves. Fold in frozen light whipped dessert topping.


Hazelnut-Mocha Torte

Yield: 16 slices


  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cups refrigerated egg product or 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Chocolate curls (optional)

White Mocha Filling:

  • 18 ounce container frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces white baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon instant sugar-free, fat-free Suisse mocha or French vanilla-style coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans. Set pans aside. In a medium bowl combine nuts, flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine eggs and sugar; cover and blend or process until combined. Add nut mixture. Cover and blend or process until nearly smooth, scraping side of container occasionally. Divide batter between the prepared pans; spread evenly.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread top with half of the White Mocha Filling. Top with remaining cake layer and remaining filling. Loosely cover. Chill frosted cake for 2 to 24 hours. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

White Mocha Filling:

In a small saucepan combine white baking chocolate, instant coffee powder and milk. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the whipped topping (whipped topping will melt). Cool mixture about 5 minutes. Fold melted mixture into remaining whipped topping.

Tip: To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan. Bake about 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool nuts slightly. If using hazelnuts, place warm nuts on a clean kitchen towel. Rub nuts with towel to remove loose skins.


Mocha Cream Puffs

Makes 20 cream puffs

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 recipe Mocha Filling (see recipe below)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an extra large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the water, butter, coffee crystals and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until a ball forms that doesn’t separate. Cool for 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth. Drop into 20 small mounds onto prepared baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes or until brown.

Cool on wire rack. Split puffs; remove soft dough from insides.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or a spoon, pipe or spoon Mocha filling into cream puff bottoms. Add cream puff tops. 

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare and bake cream puffs; cover and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Prepare Mocha Filling as directed; cover and chill for up to 2 hours. Fill cream puffs just before serving.

Mocha Filling

  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce carton lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container thawed light whipped dessert topping

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, cocoa powder and instant coffee crystals. Fold in thawed light whipped dessert topping. Cover and chill until serving time.


Fudgy Almond Cookies

Makes 36


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 ounces white chocolate baking squares (with cocoa butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon shortening
  • 36 whole almonds, toasted


In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar, espresso powder and baking soda; beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.

Add egg whites, yogurt and almond extract; beat until combined. Beat in cocoa powder.

Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or just until edges are firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

In a small saucepan combine white chocolate and shortening; heat and stir over low heat until melted and smooth.

Spoon a little melted white chocolate on top of each cookie. Press an almond on top of the white chocolate on each cookie. Let cookies stand until white chocolate is set.

Earth Day is the day designated for fostering appreciation of the earth’s environment and awareness of the issues that threaten it. In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. At present, Earth Day is observed in 175 countries and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network (EDN). The passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act are considered to be products associated with the 1970 Earth Day.

Each year, the Earth Day Network chooses a theme for Earth Day and this year the focus is ,”The Face of Climate Change”.  For Earth Day 2013, they are collecting and displaying images of how climate change has impacted your life and those around you. An interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of Earth Day events around the world.

The idea behind the theme is to personalize the challenge climate change presents by spreading the stories of those individuals, animals and places affected through imagery. Some of the images already part of the project include a man in the Maldives worried about relocating his family as sea levels rise, a polar bear in the melting arctic, a farmer in Kansas struggling to make ends meet as a prolonged drought decimates crops, a tiger in India’s dwindling mangrove forests, a child in New Jersey who lost her home to Hurricane Sandy, an orangutan in Indonesian forests ravaged by bush fires and drought and a woman in Bangladesh who can’t get fresh water due to more frequent flooding and cyclones. EDN is also including many images of people doing their part to address climate change: green entrepreneurs, community activists, clean tech engineers, carbon-conscious policymakers and public officials and average people committed to living sustainably.

There are Earth Day events happening in every corner of the U.S. and around the world and EDN encourages you to reach out to your local environmental organizations to see what opportunities there are.

It is important to remember that while we want many people engaged in Earth Day events, there are small actions that you and the young people in your life can take every day to help ensure a sustainable world.

  1. Start a vegetable garden: kids will learn how plants grow (and that vegetables don’t come from the grocery store) and your food will have traveled zero miles to reach your plate.
  2. Unplug electronics when you’re not using them: many electronics pull energy even when they are powered down.
  3. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about the environment and how you can help to protect it. Borrow some library books and read up on an issue such as pollution, endangered species, water shortages, recycling and climate change. Or, learn about a region you’ve never considered before, like the Arctic, the deserts, or the rain forests. Think about the issues that concern you the most and if you haven’t done so already, join a local group that undertakes activities to help protect the environment in your area.
  4. Buy as little as possible and avoid items that come in lots of packaging. Support local growers and producers of food and products – these don’t have to travel as far and so reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Take your drink container with you, and don’t use any disposable plates or cutlery. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Carry a cloth bag for carrying things in and recycle your plastic bags.
  5. Many of us take up a lot of natural resources with stuff we don’t really need, want or use. Ironically, there’s a still lot of people who don’t have basic necessities. Plus, a lot of your unwanted clutter can be used by local charities to resell for much-needed cash.
  6. Rid litter from our roadways. Many groups use the weekend of Earth Day to clear roadways, highways and neighborhood streets of litter that has accumulated since the last clean-up day. Many companies donate gloves and bags for clean-up groups and communities organize bag pick ups. Once the group has collected the trash and placed the recycled bags along the road, ask the public works department to pick the bags up. It’s a wonderful community project. Great for scout troops or rotary clubs.
  7. Try making up a simple vinegar-and-water counter cleaner or swap out your bleach cleaner for a less-toxic green-based one. You don’t necessarily have to give up your heavy-duty cleaners–just try using them when you really need to disinfect, rather than simply clean.
  8. Get your children involved. By giving their old toys and games to other children who could make use of them, older children learn two lessons: One is about giving to others and the second is about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away.

Cook A Special Earth Day Meal.

Plan a menu that uses locally produced foods, is healthy and has minimal impact on the environment. Favor vegetable and bean products, as these use less resources to grow than mass-farmed meat. If you still would like meat, look for locally produced, grass fed, organic meat or wild caught, sustainable fish. Try and have organic food completely. Decorate the table with recycled decorations made by you and your friends.

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 (32 ounce) box low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 cups packed chopped kale
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese.


In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add broth, kale, tomatoes, carrots and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Add beans and oregano and heat thoroughly. Serve with cheese.

Mediterranean Grass-Fed Ground Beef Kebabs


  • 1 1/4 pounds ground grass-fed beef
  • 1/4 cup grated white onion
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil


Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for medium-high heat cooking.

In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, parsley, spices, salt and pepper. Using your hands or a large spoon, gently mix the ingredients together until just combined—do not overwork.

Have ready 4 long metal skewers; form the beef mixture into 8 short sausage shapes and thread 2 onto each skewer. Brush with oil and grill, turning frequently, until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Serve skewers with Tabbouleh.



  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups small grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Strawberry Pie


  • 8 ounces Italian amaretti cookies or graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup butter or vegan non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Ice cream (optional)


Pulse cookies in a food processor until finely ground. (You should have about 1 3/4 cups crumbs.) Add butter and pulse again until completely blended. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and press evenly into the bottom and sides. Chill in refrigerator or freezer while preparing filling.

Put half of the strawberries into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and juicy; transfer to a medium pot. Add sugar, water and cornstarch and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, stirring often, until very thick and glossy, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, until lukewarm, about 20 minutes.

Fill crust with remaining strawberries, pour strawberry mixture over the top and smooth out to ensure it fills in the space between berries. Chill until set, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into slices, top with a spoonful of ice cream, if desired and serve.


Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” – Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990’s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960’s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.



  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen


  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying


Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.


  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese


Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab


  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving


  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs


In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.


Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan


  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)

A few little facts: The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome. Note: The banana plant is not a tree. It is actually the world’s largest herb! The time between planting a banana plant and the harvest of the banana bunch is from 9 to 12 months. The flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Bananas are available throughout the year – they do not have a growing season. Bananas are grown in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. They require moist soil with good drainage.

In fact, most exported bananas are grown within 30 degrees of either side of the equator. Plantations are predominant in Latin America and they require a huge investment in infrastructure and technology for transport, irrigation, drainage and packing facilities. Banana growing is, in general, labor intensive, involving clearing away jungle growth, propping up the plants to counter bending from the weight of the growing fruit, and installing irrigation in some regions. As well as implementing an intensive use of pesticides, the conventional production process involves covering banana bunches with polyethylene bags to protect them from wind, attacks of insects or birds and to maintain optimum temperatures.

After nine months, the bananas are harvested while still green. At the packhouse they are inspected and sorted for export. Buyers of the fruit want unbruised bananas and so very high standards are set. If the bananas do not meet these standards they are usually sold locally at a much lower price.They are then transported to ports to be packed in refrigerated ships called reefers. They are transported at a temperature of 55.94 degrees F. (13.3°C ) in order to increase their shelf life and require careful handling in order to prevent damage. Humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions are carefully monitored in order to maintain quality. When the bananas arrive at their destination port, they are first sent to ripening rooms (a process involving ethylene gas) and then sent to the stores and markets.

The true origin of bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. Bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great had his first taste of the banana, an unusual fruit he saw growing on tall trees, and he is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian, Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese people until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory and bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. Arabian slave traders are also credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia, were not the eight-to-twelve-inch fruits that have become familiar in U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger, therefore, the name banan, Arabic for finger.

By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered this tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary Islands with the first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk, who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean, as well as Central America.

It was almost three hundred and fifty years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”

Hafer & Bro. in Reading, Pennsylania, July 6, 1914

How did bananas get to Italy?

Italian Somaliland, also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various treaties. In 1936, the region was incorporated into Africa Orientale Italiana, as part of the Italian Empire. This arrangement would last until 1941, when Italian Somaliland came under British administration. The two major economic developments of the Italian colonial era were the establishment of plantations and the creation of a salaried workers. In the south, the Italians laid the basis for profitable export-oriented agriculture, primarily in bananas, through the creation of plantations and irrigation systems. Banana exports to Italy began in 1927 and gained primary importance in the colony after 1929, when the world cotton market collapsed.

Italian Style Banana Pudding


  • 1 cup amaretto-flavored non dairy liquid creamer
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant banana pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 ounces of bite-sized amaretti cookies
  • 3 – 4 bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces ( depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts


In a large mixing bowl place the coffee creamer, milk, pudding mix and vanilla extract. Whisk for 2 minutes until thickened; place the bowl in the refrigerator.

In a large mixer bowl place the 1/2 cup of heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Whip at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1-1/2 minutes. Fold mixture gently into pudding mixture until well combined.

Place six 1-cup dessert dishes or ramekins on work surface. Spoon a few tablespoons of pudding mixture into each dish. Place 4 cookies on pudding; top with banana slices. Layer in the same way ending with pudding and making sure cookies and bananas are covered on the top layer. Cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle each with chopped hazelnuts.


Banana Nutella Crepes

Serves: 8 to 10 crepes


For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons hazelnuts, peeled, toasted, chopped

For the filling:

  • 4 bananas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 small jar hazelnut spread (such as, Nutella)

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for serving


For the crepes:

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt. Place a small sauce pan or saute pan over low heat and melt the butter; cook it until it is light brown.

Add the egg and milk to the flour and salt and mix well so that there are no large clumps. Add the browned butter and mix to incorporate, being careful not to overwork batter. The batter should just coat the back of a spoon. If seems too thick, thin it out with a little more milk or water. Let the batter rest for 1 hour prior to cooking crepes.

For the filling:

Peel bananas, cut in half lengthwise and then cut 1/2-inch slices widthwise. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the bay leaves to the hot butter and cook until it crackles slightly, add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Add the bananas and orange juice and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes so the flavors incorporate and the bananas are hot but not mushy. Add the raspberries. Stir gently to combine. Set this mixture aside and let cool slightly.

For the Crepes:

After the crepe batter has rested for 1 hour, heat 1 (10-inch) nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 ounces of the crepe batter to the pan, remove pan from heat and tilt slightly to spread the batter over the entire pan. Return to heat and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom side is lightly browned. With your fingertips and a spatula, carefully flip crepe and cook the second side for about 15 seconds. Set the cooked crepe on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used all of the batter. You should be able to produce 8 to 10 crepes.

Lay the crepes out on a flat surface. Spread each crepe with about 1 tablespoon of hazelnut spread. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the banana mixture on one section of the crepe and fold the crepe over in half and in half again so that it forms a triangular shape. Repeat this with all of the crepes.

For the sauce:

In a small saute pan over medium heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the lemon juice and brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Serve the crepes on a plate with the sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with the remaining chopped hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar.

Note: See how to make crepes in post:

Grilled Bananas

Grilling bananas is a unique way to cook them. Prepare this dish when you can take advantage of a still very hot grill from a barbecue dinner, but remember to scrape the grilling grate with a grill spatula and let some of the bits burn off from any previous food that was cooked before placing the bananas on the grill.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 unpeeled bananas
  • 4 tablespoons Italian liqueur of choice, such as Frangelico
  • Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling


1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Put the unpeeled bananas on the grill 1 to 2 inches from the source of the heat until they blacken on both sides.

3. Remove from the grill, slice the bananas open lengthwise, leaving them in their peels, and sprinkle a tablespoon of liqueur, a shake of powdered sugar and cinnamon on each and serve.

Olive oil Banana Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (has salt and baking powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons instant expresso powder
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten


Spray a tube pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine bananas, eggs and oil in a small bowl.

Sift flour, expresso powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Make a well in the center and add the bananas mixture.

Stir until mixture is smooth. Pour into mixture into pan, spread eveningly and bake for 1 hour.

Allow the cake to sit on the wire cooling rack for ten minutes. Remove from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Gelato di Banana al Rum

8 servings


  • 4 slightly overripe bananas
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum


Peel bananas; cut into thirds. In heavy-bottom saucepan, bring bananas and milk to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until bananas are very soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In food processor, whirl banana mixture until smooth.

In electric mixer large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow and frothy. Slowly whisk in banana mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until banana mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the banana mixture surface; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Stir in rum. Chill another 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Freeze banana mixture in ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Banana Chocolate Chip Nut Biscotti

Yield: 24 cookies


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana ( about 1 large banana)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chip


In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine bananas, oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into dry mixture along with nuts and chocolate chips, stir together.

Flour a working area and turn dough out onto it. Flour hands as dough is sticky. Form two 7 inch loaves about 2 inches wide.

Put loaves on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn temperature down to 250 degrees F.

Remove loaves from cookie sheet and let cool 10 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4 inch slices, return slices to cookie sheet.

Bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.

Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more appealing.

Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.

Spring brings lots of healthy produce, These include asparagus, broccoli, fresh herbs, and leafy greens, which can be found fresh at farmers’ markets and the produce section of supermarkets. Other healthy spring ingredients include strawberries, artichokes, arugula, radishes, garlic, peas and mushrooms. In addition to being loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, these spring ingredients tend to lend themselves to lighter preparations, such as steaming and roasting. Fresh produce is often more flavorful than food that’s been stored for a long time, so a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs can be all you need to season it.

So, in the spirit of spring — as the trees are beginning to bud, the flowers are starting to appear and the days are getting longer — I’ve gathered some recipes using the ingredients of spring to inspire us all to keep it fresh and healthy this season.


Risotto with Chicken and Spring Peas

Make it a vegetarian option by using vegetable broth and eliminating the chicken.

Makes: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup loose-pack frozen tiny or regular-size peas
  • 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, shredded
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme


In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add the uncooked rice. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the rice is golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring broth to boiling; reduce heat to keep broth simmering. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of the broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue to cook, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until all the broth is used; stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. (This should take 18 to 20 minutes total.)

Stir in the peas and carrots with the last addition of the broth. Cook and stir until rice is slightly firm (al dente) and creamy.

Stir in chicken, spinach, Parmesan cheese and thyme; heat through. Serve immediately.


Parmesan-Crusted Fish

Makes: 4 servings


  • 4 skinless cod fillets (1-1/2 pounds total) or white fish fillets of choice
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1- 10 ounce package julienned carrots (3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Fresh salad greens mixed with Italian dressing


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Rinse fish and pat dry; place on baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl stir together panko and cheese; sprinkle on fish. Bake, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until crumbs are golden and fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet bring the water to boiling; add carrots. Reduce heat. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover; cook for 2 minutes more. Add butter and oregano; toss.

Mix greens with dressing and place on dinner plates. Top with cooked fish.

Serve carrots on the side of the fish.


Tomato and Eggplant Fusilli

Ricotta salata is a salty, mild-flavored cheese with a crumbly texture similar to feta.

Serve this entre with a green salad and crusty whole grain Italian bread.

Makes: 6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 lb), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli
  • 1 cup fresh basil, hand torn
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded ricotta salata


In a large lidded skillet, heat 1 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir in tomatoes and eggplant. Cook, covered, 15 minutes. (If skillet does not have a lid, cover tightly with aluminum foil.) Stir in garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; cover and cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook fusilli according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cups of the pasta water. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the fusilli to skillet with the tomato eggplant mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta water, 3/4 cups of basil, 3/4 cups of ricotta salata, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. (If pasta seems dry, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup pasta water.) Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup basil and 1/4 cup ricotta salata.


Pork Cacciatore


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 – 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice or whole wheat orzo pasta


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Stir in pork, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cover and simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Serve with the cooked rice or orzo and a green vegetable, such as asparagus.


Chicken Pomodoro and Garlic Spaghetti

Round out this meal with a green salad.

Makes: 4 servings


  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved, (about 8 oz. each)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half & half
  • cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions


Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Coat a large saute pan with nonstick spray. Add oil and heat over medium-high.

Saute chicken until brown, 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a plate.

Off heat, deglaze pan with vodka and cook until liquid evaporates. Add broth and milk and reduce until thick, 2–3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked. Turn chicken over to coat in sauce before transferring to a serving plate.

Pour sauce over cutlets and garnish with scallions. Serve with Garlic Spaghetti, recipe below.

Garlic Spaghetti

Makes: 4 servings

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste


Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain pasta.

Heat oil in the same pot over medium-high. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in pasta water, parsley, lemon zest and cooked and drained spaghetti; toss to coat.

Season spaghetti with additional salt, black pepperand red pepper flakes to taste.



Your body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. Sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re also known as blood sugar (glucose). From there, the glucose enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin. Some of this glucose is used by your body for energy, fueling all of your activities, whether it’s going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.

The theory behind the low-carb diet is that insulin prevents fat from breaking down in the body by allowing sugar to be used for energy. Proponents of the low-carb diet believe that decreasing carbs results in lower insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately helps you shed excess weight and reduce risk factors for a variety of health conditions. A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates — such as grains, starchy vegetables and fruit — and emphasizes dietary protein and fat. Many types of low-carb diets exist, each with varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.

When most people think of Italian food, their minds immediately leap to dishes which are overwhelmingly carbohydrate –- pasta, pizza and bread. But lots of Italian dishes are great choices for people who must watch their carbs or who are just looking for a lighter dinner option. Finding them is easier if you start to “think like an Italian”.

Low-Carb Italian Eating – Dos and Don’t

Italians are known for shopping daily for the freshest and choicest produce, seafood and meats, often with a fairly simple preparation, so as not to hide the wonderful fresh flavors. So cook with lots of healthy fresh ingredients.

Use olive oil. This type of fat, as well as the antioxidants in olive oil, are part of the reasons for the healthfulness of the “Mediterranean Diet.”

Italians eat their main meal slowly over several small courses.

Minimize the following which are high in carbs: pasta, bread, risotto, polenta, bruschetta, crostini.

Be aware that fried items, such as a calamari appetizer, will usually be breaded.

Appetizers (Antipasti)

In Italian, “pasto” means “meal,” and “antipasti” or “antipasto” is “before the meal.”

Antipasti are usually made with meats, seafood and vegetables, such as salami, cheeses and marinated vegetables, such as artichokes and peppers.

Gamberoni (shrimp) is a common antipasto dish, either cold or hot, often sautéed with garlic and wine.

Grilled, roasted or marinated vegetables.

Steamed clams or mussels


In Italy, soups are often served instead of pasta. Many Italian soups are low in carbs, even the soups with beans or pasta in them often only have small amounts of these per portion. Since there are so many different soups, the exact carb count depends on the cook, but generally you’ll want to go with thinner soups. Seafood soups are a good choice and another good choice is Stracciatelle, an Italian egg drop soup. Also, look for soups with lots of vegetables.

Salads (Insulata)

Salads are almost always a good bet, if you avoid croutons or other bread. An Italian salad could contain many fresh vegetables –- and, of course, olive oil. The classic caprese salad has mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.

Meats and Seafood – Secondi

This course  is the main concern for someone eating low carb. Most of the meats and seafood on an Italian menu have little starch or sugar. Avoid breaded meats, such as chicken or veal parmesan or milanese.

True Italian tomato sauces have little or no sugar, although many pasta sauces in the United States are loaded with added sugar. Read the labels on the jars or make your own.


In Italy, meals often end with fresh fruit..Needless to say, rich desserts are high in carbohydrates.


There are many low-carb alternatives to pasta. Many vegetables are bland enough to use as a “blank canvas” for pasta sauces and most of them are far more nutritious than pasta ever thought of being. Take the classic, spaghetti squash. Cup for cup, it has fewer than 25% of the calories and carbs of regular spaghetti (even whole wheat). It’s delicious with pesto and other pasta sauces.

Veggies that serve as good “beds” for pasta sauces:

Zucchini or other summer squash, shredded, julienned or just cut into ribbons with a peeler.

Cauliflower mashed

Cabbage – shredded and sautéed with sliced onion.

Use your imagination – many vegetables have compatible flavors with sauces, for example, green beans with pesto sauce or eggplant strips with marinara.

Low Carb Antipasto

Asparagus Rolls with Prosciutto and Basil Ricotta Cheese


  • 1/2 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup lowfat ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound medium asparagus spears, about 16 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 slices thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Trim two inches from ends of asparagus. Have a medium size bowl of ice water ready for chilling basil and asparagus. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil with salt. Add basil leaves to water and blanch until leaves brighten, about 20 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into ice water. Remove and squeeze out excess water. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until ends are soft when pinched. Remove from water and chill in ice water to stop cooking.

Place blanched basil leaves into blender or food processor. Add ricotta cheese, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Lay out slices of prosciutto on a cutting board. Place dollop of ricotta mixture on one end of the prosciutto slice. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Arrange two asparagus spears at the edge of each prosciutto slice and begin rolling around the asparagus until the end of the prosciutto is reached. Arrange on platter and serve.

Italian Vegetable Soup


  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped carrot or squash
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 3 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 15 oz can tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups swiss chard or spinach or other dark leafy green – cut into thin strips
  • 10 oz frozen green beans (or fresh)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 cups low salt stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


1. In a large soup pot, put oil, onion, and celery. Cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables are softened.

2. Add garlic and turn up the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or so and add the peppers and carrots. Cook another minute or two and add the spices. Stir and cook until fragrant — another minute or so.

3. Add tomatoes and stock, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add frozen beans and chard and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the beans are cooked.

4. Adjust seasonings.

Low Carb Second Courses

Italian Grilled Chicken


  • 6 boneless chicken breasts halves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese


To grill: Preheat grill. Skin chicken breasts and rub with black pepper to taste.

Blend basil, olive oil, butter, garlic and parmesan cheese using an electric blender or processor at low speed until smooth.

Baste chicken lightly with mixture.

Grill over medium coals basting during cooking time with more basil sauce.

During this time add the rosemary branches to coals for added smoke flavor.

Grill 10 minutes on each side or until chicken is done when the temperature reads 160°F. on a meat thermometer.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with Zucchini Lasagna, recipe below.

Low-Carb Zucchini Lasagna

This low-carb lasagna uses zucchini “noodles” instead of pasta noodles. The trick to making this work is to take some of the water out of the zucchini first by salting the “noodles”. Then they firm up and are more noodle-like, instead of mushy. This recipe can be made with or without meat.


  • 1 1/2 pounds of zucchini
  • salt – enough to lightly salt the zucchini – between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups jarred pasta sauce (any variety with no added sugars) or homemade
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated 


1. Slice the zucchini into strips, lengthwise. The strips should be about 1/8 inch thick.

2. Put the zucchini strips into a colander and sprinkle the salt on them. Toss to coat. Put the colander over a bowl to catch the juice. After 10-15 minutes, toss the strips again so that the brine will more-or-less evenly coat the strips. Drain for an hour.

3. While the zucchini is draining, cook the meat. Then, combine the ricotta, eggs, and basil or parsley.

4. Spread the zucchini strips on paper toweling or a cotton tea towel to take away most of the surface liquid.

To Assemble:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Put 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, and combine the meat with the rest of the sauce.

2. Begin layering by covering the sauce with a layer of zucchini. Then cover the zucchini with about one third of the ricotta mixture, one third of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat, only arrange the zucchini strips in the other direction, e.g. if in the first layer the strips are lined up along the length of the pan, for the next layer line them up across the width of the pan. Alternate again for the third layer. After the third layer, finish with the Parmesan cheese.

3. Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. (Note, if you refrigerate the lasagna before baking, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes covered, then remove the foil and cook an additional 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.)

Makes 8 Servings.


Meatballs and Eggplant with Fresh Mozzarella

Serves 6


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound 96% Lean Ground Sirloin
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar tomato sauce or homemade marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish


Heat oven to 375°F. Peel eggplant and slice it into 12 circles. Sprinkle evenly with salt. Place eggplant in colander in the sink for 15 minutes.

While eggplant drains, mix ground sirloin in a large bowl with onion, garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, Parmesan, egg and almond flour. Mix thoroughly and shape into 12 meatballs.

Slice mozzarella into 12 thin pieces.

Rinse eggplant well with cold water. Squeeze dry by pressing down on eggplant in the colander and spread on kitchen towels to dry. Place eggplant into a 9×9-inch square baking pan and spread with 1/3 cup tomato sauce. Place meatballs on top of eggplant slices and pour remaining sauce over all. Top each meatball with slice of mozzarella. Bake in the oven 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately. Serve with Italian Marinated Vegetable Salad, recipe below.

Italian Marinated Vegetable Salad

Serves: 12 servings



  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms (cut in half if too large)
  • 1 cup half-moon-sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup half-moon-sliced yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup roasted red pepper strips
  • 1/2 cup marinated, quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted

Italian Marinade:


  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon thinly-sliced fresh basil leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish

Equipment: 1 large stock pot with submersible pasta basket


Make the Vegetables: Fill the stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice and salt. Fill the pasta basket with the broccoli rabe, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini and squash. Submerge in the boiling water and cook, covered for 2 minutes. Remove the basket and refresh the vegetables under cold running water. Drain well.

Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and mix with the pepper strips, artichokes and olives.

In a blender, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix on medium until completely blended. While the motor is running, slowly pour in the oils in a steady stream to make a smooth dressing.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Add the basil and toss well. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Arrange on a decorative platter garnished with fresh basil and lemon wedges.