Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: July 2014

summersoup

Summer’s soup recipes are wonderful and on a warm day what could be lovelier than a bowl of cold soup. Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs. But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet.

These soups make elegant starters for a dinner yet are just as comfortable for outdoor eating, picnics and barbecues. The hotter the temperature, the cooler the soup needs to be, so add ice cubes or serve in chilled bowls. Not too hot, then serve at room temperature, which also gives soup maximum flavor.

A summer soup made with the bounty from your local farmers market or CSA is a great way to eat healthy and support local growers. Whether you’re using fruits, vegetables or a combination of both, you’re likely to come across some interesting flavors you haven’t experienced before. Flavoring your summer soups with an array of spices will add diversity.

Even though most summer soups are served cold or chilled, most must start out being cooked on the stove. When you can, you might want to do any of the necessary cooking in the cooler morning hours, so you won’t be heating up the kitchen right before mealtime. This strategy will give your soup plenty of time to chill. Chilled soup leftovers make an easy and quick lunch, also.

Cold soups need to chill at least two hours to taste their best at serving time. If you need to chill your soup quickly, place it over ice to cut down on the refrigeration time.

Fruit Soups

Fruit soups are a refreshing way to start or end a summer meal. Berry soups are often a combination of sweet and tart flavors. Tartness is important, since some of the flavor may fade while the soup cools. Buttermilk or yogurt are often used to add a smooth tartness.

Fresh lemon juice is often used to bring out the flavors of the fruit, but be careful when using lemon — too much can turn your soup an unappealing brown. Color is an important aspect of these cool, lively dishes.

Fruit soups are fun to garnish in creative ways, with whole berries, sliced fruit or a bit of sour cream. Soups served this way have visual appeal

Vegetable Soups

Cool summer vegetable soups are a nice variation from serving a salad. They can also be a hearty meal by themselves. Unlike the desired smoothness of a fruit soup, summer vegetable soups are often rich and full of texture. For additional texture, add beans, rice or bread to the mix.

Again, there’s nothing like a summer farmers’ market to offer you an array of vegetables for creating soups: spinach, avocados, cucumber, tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn and asparagus, for example. Any of these creatively combined with herbs and spices in a summer soup will revive your weary taste buds after a long summer day.

Remember, when cooled, some of the flavors of your vegetables may fade, so you need to start with the freshest ingredients you can find. Newly picked vegetables will give you the most satisfying results.

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Blueberry Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream, plus extra for garnish

Directions

Combine blueberries, water, cinnamon stick, honey and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until most of the blueberries have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids) or use an immersion hand blender. Place a fine sieve over the pan and pour the soup through it back into the pan, straining out any solids. (Discard the solids.)

Whisk cornstarch and milk in a measuring cup until smooth. Whisk into the blueberry mixture. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Boil, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, loosely cover and chill until cold, at least 5 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before serving, whisk 1 cup sour cream into the soup and ladle into bowls; top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and swirl it decoratively into the soup. Garnish with additional blueberries, if desired.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 2 and chill for up to 1 day. The finished soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Herbed Zucchini Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, (about 3 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and zucchini strips

Directions

Place broth, zucchini and tarragon (or dill) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Reheat over medium-high, slowly stirring in cheese until it is incorporated. Remove fromthe  heat and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve with garnishes.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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Chilled Melon Soup with Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve grnished with basil leaves. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

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Chilled Tuscan-Style Tomato Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (1-inch cubes) country-style Italian bread
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, each cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Additional basil leaves, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In small skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Remove skillet fromthe  heat.

In food processor pulse bread until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes and garlic; pulse until soup is almost pureed. Pour soup into a bowl; stir in chopped basil, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish each serving with basil leaves. Makes about 6 cups.

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Peach Soup with Shrimp and Crab

8 servings

Ingredients

Seafood Topping:

  • 8 ounces chopped cooked shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced hot fresh pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Soup:

  • 3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup matchstick-cut radishes
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced fresh hot pepper

Directions

To prepare seafood topping:

Combine shrimp and lime juice in a medium bowl; add crab; toss gently to combine. Stir in 3 tablespoons onion and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt). Chill at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

To prepare the soup:

Combine peaches, 1/3 cup juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of the peach mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed peach mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining peach mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup onion and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

To serve: Ladle about 1/2 cup of soup into a shallow bowl and top with 1/4 cup of the seafood topping.

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Cucumber Soup with Watermelon and Mint

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large cucumbers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 block (1-pound) silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (about 1 lemon) lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed, chopped and divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 2 tablespoons of mint and stir to combine. Working in batches, purée allthe  ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer soup to a large pitcher, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Before serving, taste soup and adjust seasonings, if needed. Divide soup between chilled bowls and top evenly with watermelon, reserved chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.

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MarcheMarche’s location is ideal for both catching fresh seafood and harvesting food from the land. While Marche recipes make frequent use of pecorino cheese, olive oil and unsalted bread, they are also influenced by other nearby regions. Marche’s most famous appetizer is Olive Ascolana-olives are stuffed with a bread, cheese and meat filling before being deep-fried. Since it is deep-fried, I don’t serve them, but if you would like to know how to make them click on the recipe link.

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Vincisgrassi is a pasta dish layered with lasagna noodles, chicken livers and giblets, veal brains, ham and mushrooms with béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese and white truffles, if they are in season. Tender pockets of ravioli pasta are filled with a parsley and ricotta mixture and served with sole cooked with tomatoes and white wine in what is called, Ravioli ai Filetto di Sogliola.

Lumachelle, a cheese flavored egg pasta, is made into a popular soup called Minestra di Lumachelle. Other popular soups in the Marche cuisine include Minestra di Trippa, a tripe soup served with battuto, a herb-flavored pork fat. Brodetto or fish soup, is eaten further along the coast and may contain any number of types of fish that are seasoned with vinegar, garlic or saffron and thickened with flour.

Several classic seafood combinations include a Potacchio sauce seasoned with white wine, tomato, onion. rosemary and lemon juice. Alla Marinara cooks the seafood in tomato sauce and Gratinati al Forno broils the fish in the oven. Porchetta combines cured pork, such as pancetta or prosciutto, wild fennel, rosemary and garlic with seafood and spices.

Mussels are stuffed with ham, bread crumbs and parsley before roasting in tomato sauce to make Muccioli Arrosto. Dried cod, tomatoes and carrots are cooked in a garlic and rosemary flavored sauce made with olive oil, white wine and milk for a dish called Stocco All Anconetana.

Marche cuisine includes a wide range of meats, from beef and lamb, free range poultry and pork, rabbits and game birds. Ground beef and bone marrow are mixed with cheese, spinach, bread crumbs and eggs to make a pasta that is served in broth. Quail, salt pork, peas and tomatoes are braised in white wine.

Marche’s variety of salumi is quite extensive. Ciauscolo,is a sausage that is spread on bread and prosciutto form Carpegna is especially well-known.

Fresh vegetables, such as greens, zucchini and peas, are eaten in season.

Marche cuisine takes advantage of dried lentils and beans to eat all year-long in soup. In the dish, Minestra di ceci, chick peas with pork ribs and tomatoes are simmered in a herb broth. It is served over toast with grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino from Marche is eaten while relatively young and mild. It is used frequently in focaccia and pizza. Formaggio di fossa is a rare cheese from Talamello, made from sheep and cow milk. It is wrapped in cloth and buried in pits to age.

Marche cuisine also uses cheese in sweet dessert dishes. Calcio are pocket shaped pastries made with fresh pecorino. Piconi are made with ricotta and flavored with cinnamon and rum. Becute, a raisin and nut biscuit and Frustenga, a dried fruit and walnut cake, are both made with cornmeal.

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Dinner Menu

Antipasto

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Slices of fresh Italian bread,  Ciauscolo, Pecorino cheese and olives.

First Course

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce & Béchamel – Vincisgrassi

Ingredients

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound chopped chicken thighs
  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

White Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Lasagna:

  • 1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

In a large stockpot, bring several quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside to cool on kitchen towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped prosciutto and sauté until almost crisp. Add the carrots and onions and sauté, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add the ground lamb to the mixture and cook until evenly browned. Pour in the white wine and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste until well mixed and add a little salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In another pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken, mushrooms and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the simmering meat sauce, along with 1/3 cup of whole milk. Cover the meat sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, tasting towards the end for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the white sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a light roux, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of whole milk. Allow the white sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a large rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce topped with white sauce. (Be sparing on bottom layers to avoid a soggy casserole). Add a layer of Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the top noodles with the melted butter and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

Serve the vincisgrassi piping hot from the oven, cut into squares.

Second Course

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Fish in Spicy Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as snapper or cod
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces (200 g) roasted red bell peppers packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (100 g) pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted or pickled capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • Hot water
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces. Salt and pepper the fillets and flour them lightly. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the fish on both sides, then pour in the wine.Simmer for 1 minute. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet sauté the onion, carrot and celery. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the tomato paste, roasted red peppers, olives, capers and a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Return the fish to the skillet and gently heat. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Zucchini Carpaccio

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 pound piece Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh mint or parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin lengthwise slices. Overlap zucchini in 1 layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan over the leeks. Garnish with mint leaves.

Dessert Course

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Poached Peaches in White Wine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm peaches 
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • White wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Mascarpone cheese or Frozen Yogurt

Directions

With a paring knife cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. If the stone will not come away easily, make a shallow incision around the stone and it will fall away once cooked.

Place the fruit cut side down in a pan or pot that fits the fruit snugly. Add in the herbs, lemon zest and the honey. Add enough wine to reach halfway up the fruit. Cover with baking paper (parchment) and bring the pan up to a medium simmer for 8-12 minutes total depending on the size of the fruit.

Give the peaches a turn on their backs after about 5 minutes and they are done when a knife slips easily into the thickest part of the fruit.

Once the peaches are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool. Return the pan to a low heat and reduce the wine until it becomes a syrup. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Strain the syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.

To serve: Carefully remove the skins and arrange the peach halves on a serving plate. Drizzle the peaches with the white wine syrup and add tablespoons of mascarpone or yogurt on top of each peach half.


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Summer Drinks

The sky is bright, the days are long and the weather warm: think Iced tea!  Now, with so many delicious loose-leaf tea varieties, you can really experiment to make easy, delicious and, most importantly, healthy iced tea for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some combinations to add some excitement to your cold tea.

Iced Tea Preparation Tips

Here are some guidelines for making iced tea.

As with any tea, you want to brew the tea first, using the correct-temperature hot water and proper steeping time. The only difference with iced tea is that it’s important to add double the amount of tea to strengthen the tea flavor. Once you add ice, the tea is going to dilute.

With green and white tea, the leaves are delicate and, therefore, boiling water will singe them. It’s best to heat the water to 175°F and steep for 2 1/2 minutes.

With black tea, use boiling water and steep for up to 5 minutes. You don’t want to leave the tea for too long or it will become bitter.

Once the tea is done steeping, pour over ice and it is ready.

If you’re making a cup for just yourself, use 2 teaspoons of tea.

Making iced tea for a crowd? Pitcher sizes vary, but generally one cup of loose-leaf tea for a large pitcher will be sufficient. Make the tea in a large pot, sweeten to taste and pour over ice when ready.

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Add Flavor To Iced Tea Drinks

Sencha Green Tea with Rose Petals and Cherry

This combination is naturally sweet, so no sugar is needed. Simply add some dried cherries and rose petals to sencha tea (a Japanese green tea). You receive great metabolism-boosting benefits from the green tea as well as antioxidants and vitamins.

Orange, Apple, Hibiscus Tea Cooler

Another unique, refreshing blend that is surprising in its depth and flavor is orange peel, apple peel, hibiscus and rosehip. They come together to create a caffeine-free fruit combination that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. It does have a hint of tartness to it, so add a bit of honey or agave to give it a slightly sweet taste. This tea is also packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C, which rosehip and hibiscus are rich in. It can be added, as well, to summer coolers and even sangria. Pour it into Popsicle molds to create a refreshing treat.

Traditional Iced Tea with Mango

If you’re looking for something more traditional, try organic black tea with some dried mango. The mango infuses the black tea with a fruity flavor.

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Tropical Sangria

Ingredients

  • 3 cups mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 orange, cut into small wedges
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 750 ml cold Rose’ wine, chilled
  • 1 cup orange juice, chilled
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, chilled
  • Fresh pineapple chunks for garnish

Directions

Gently mix berries with the honey and let sit to macerate about 20 minutes. Just enough to be slightly softened. Pour into a large pitcher.

Add brandy, triple sec, juices and chilled wine. Stir and chill. Top with ice cubes.and serve in wine glasses. Garnish with fruit.

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Cucumber Mojitos

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 cups agave syrup, honey or natural sugar
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle light (white) rum
  • 2 cups sparkling water or lemon-lime soda
  • Crushed ice

To serve:

  • 1 medium medium cucumber, cut into thin rounds for garnish
  • Fresh mint
  • Lime wedges

Directions

Combine water, cucumbers, mint, agave syrup and lime juice in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Combine cucumber mixture and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well. Refrigerate up to 4 hours.

To serve:

Fill glasses with crushed ice. Fill each glass halfway with cucumber mixture and top with sparkling water or soda. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, sprig of mint and a lime wedge.

For a kid-friendly alternative: make a double batch of cucumber mixture (one for adults; one for kids), omitting the rum in half of the mixture. Top with lemon-lime soda.

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Watermelon Lemonade

12 servings

Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Lemonade:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds

To make sugar syrup:

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and boil for 10 minutes. Place the sugar syrup in the freezer or refrigerator while you do the rest of the preparation.

To serve the lemonade:

Mix the chilled sugar syrup, water, lemon juice and lime juice in a big bowl or pitcher. Add the ice cubes, diced watermelon and other fruit. Stir well and chill until icy cold.

Snacks

With gardens and markets overflowing with ripe fruits and veggies, summer is the easiest season to eat healthfully. These recipes will let you enjoy summer’s bounty and feel good — all season long.

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Green Goddess Dip with Crudites

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, blotted dry with a paper towel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or other white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups assorted vegetable pieces for dipping (such as cucumber, celery, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas, mini sweet peppers, fennel, endive, blanched green beans and/or broccoli)

Directions

In a food processor combine avocado, parsley, tarragon, chives, mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, vinegar, milk. lemon peel and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl, if needed.

Transfer dressing to a serving bowl; cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Serve with assorted vegetable pieces for dipping.

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Grilled Sherry-Garlic Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 fresh large shrimp in the shells (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

For the marinade:

In a large bowl whisk together sherry, parsley, garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and salt, whisking until salt is dissolved. Set aside.

To butterfly the shrimp in shells:

Using small kitchen shears and starting at the head, cut through the shell along the entire backside of each shrimp (do not remove the shell). Remove and discard the vein. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep cut from head to tail, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Rinse; pat dry with paper towels.

Add shrimp to the marinade and, using your hands, gently lift and toss the shrimp to work the marinade into the openings, being careful to keep shells intact. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 3 hours. Drain shrimp; discarding marinade.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Grill shrimp and lemon pieces on the grates directly over medium-high heat, covered, 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque and lemon pieces are lightly charred, turning once.

Transfer shrimp and lemon pieces to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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Oven-Fried Dill Pickles

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 30 crinkle-cut dill pickle slices (about 1 cup), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add drained pickles, stirring to coat evenly.

In a food processor combine panko, cornmeal, paprika, pepper and garlic powder; cover and process about 20 seconds or until evenly fine crumb forms. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.

Working in batches, add a few buttermilk-coated pickles to the panko mixture, stirring with a fork to coat. Shake off excess crumbs. Arrange pickles in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly coat tops of pickles with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn pickles over. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

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Smoked Tuna Bites

6 servings

Ingredients

Tuna Spread

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 5 ounce can or pouch chunk white tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento, drained

Appetizer

  • 24 thin water crackers
  • 1/2 of an English cucumber (about 8 ounces), cut into 24 slices, each about 1/8 inch thick
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, onion, 1 tablespoon chives, the oil, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke until creamy. Flake tuna with a fork.

Add tuna and the pimiento to the cream cheese mixture; stir until well mixed. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To assemble:

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the tuna mixture on each cracker. Top each with a cucumber slice and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tuna mixture. Sprinkle with chives.

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Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices, plus 2 teaspoons for the bruschetta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 16 slices toasted Italian bread

Directions

Slice eggplant in thin circles, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and Italian seasoning.

Bake them on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Finely dice the eggplant and combine with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil.

Spread on toasted baguette slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a platter and serve.


Cinque

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The coastline, the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Over the centuries, people have built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, but cars cannot reach them from the outside. There’s not a chain store anywhere and each of the five villages has a distinct dialect and its own proud heritage. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination and the main attraction is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. Admiring this amazing natural scenery, one can imagine the intense human activity of carrying an enormous quantity of heavy stones on men’s shoulders and women’s heads to build the terraces that surround the hills. It is estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.

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The first historical documents concerning Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. The villages of Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first and the other villages grew later under the Genoa military and political era. In order to protect themselves from the attacks by the Turks, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defence towers. However, this isolated the inhabitants. In later years, thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and to the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia, the inhabitants were able to escape their isolation. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up until the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.

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There are few roads into the Cinque Terre area that are accessible by car. The one into Vernazza opened in June 2012, but it is very narrow and leads to a parking area that is a 1/2 mile from town. Local trains from LaSpezia to Genova and the rest of the region’s network connect the towns. Intercity trains also connect Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. A passenger ferry runs between the villages and enters Cinque Terre from Genova’s Old Harbor and LaSpezia ,Lerici or Portovenere.

Walking is very popular but In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly.

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The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. Most of the families in the villages made money by catching the fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food.

In 1998, the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up a natural marine area in Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economic development. In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape and safeguard the anthropological values of the location. Nevertheless, the dwindling interest in cultivation and maintenance of the terrace walls posed a long-term threat to the site. As a result the site was included in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization secured grants from American Express to support a study of the conservation of Cinque Terre and a site management plan was created.

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The Cuisine of Cinque Terre

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The cuisine of the Cinque Terre preserves tradition and respects the flavors and ingredients of its local products. Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area in the region of Liguria is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is common and locally baked. Farinata is also a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias- a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick-pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for its gelato made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines: Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include Grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

Some typical dishes include:

  • Trofie is a type of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and its usual condiment is pesto sauce.
  • Farinata, similar to focaccia but made with chickpea flour. A regional speciality.
  • Tagliatelle, a broad handmade pasta, is used with sauces that contain mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes, beans, chickpeas or sometimes pesto.
  • Vegetable pies are prepared with a stuffings that contain borage, parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes and leeks combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family’s traditions) and parmesan cheese.
  • Rice pie, or ‘torta di riso’, is a specialty of every grandma in the region. In Monterosso this rice pie is made by adding dried mushrooms to the filling. In Manarola, the tradition is to make this dish for the feast of the patron saint, Lawrence, on August 10th.
  • Egg frittata or flat omelettes are very popular and are used as an antipasto.
  • Cotoletta di acciughe are anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb filling and then fried.
  • Frittelle di bianchetti are fritters made from tiny anchovies or sardines.
  • Other dishes include stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.
  • Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia, are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed or baked.

Farinata with Sage, Olives and Onion

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick-pea flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 Ligurian black olives, pitted
  • 45 small or 30 large fresh sage leaves

Directions

At least 1 hour before making farinata, set a pizza stone on a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat the oven to 550°F.

Whisk together chick-pea flour and water until smooth, then whisk in salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Let stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Cook the onion with salt to taste in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes; then cool.

Put a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron round griddle on the pizza stone and heat 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add 1/2 tablespoon oil, tilting to coat evenly.

Working quickly, stir batter and ladle about 7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) evenly into the pan (batter will sizzle and start to set almost immediately).

Quickly scatter a third of the onion, olives and sage leaves over the batter and carefully return pan to the oven on the pizza stone.

If using an oven with a built-in broiler, bake 12 minutes, then turn oven setting to broil and broil the farinata for 3 to 5 minutes.

If using an oven with a broiler underneath, bake 15 minutes, then transfer pan to the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the top flecked with golden spots.

Slide farinata onto a cutting board. Make 2 more in same manner, reheating pan 5 minutes for each successive farinata. Halve farinata and cut into strips.

Fish Stew

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Buridda is a traditional fish stew, made around the Cinque Terre area. To serve six you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of mixed fresh fish (red mullet, angler fish, dogfish, drumfish, etc – things that are inexpensive and fresh)
  • 1 1/4 pounds cuttlefish, shellfish and/or and baby squid
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • A pinch of dried oregano (no more)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Slices of toasted Italian bread, for serving

Directions

Clean the mollusks and slice all the fish, removing any bones you may find. Thinly slice the onions and blanch, peel, and chop the tomatoes.

In a Dutch oven lightly oil the bottom, then add half the tomatoes and half the onions. Salt and pepper lightly, then arrange half the fish over the vegetables. Add another tomato-onion layer, then another fish layer, then season again and sprinkle the top with the parsley, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over a very low flame for about an hour, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Occasionally shake the pot lightly but do not stir it, or you will break up the fish.

Serve the Buridda over slices of toasted Italian bread that have been rubbed with garlic.

Pizzoccheri (Pasta with Potatoes, Cabbage & Cheese)

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Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 8 oz Savoy cabbage, halved, cored and cut into strips about 1/2″ wide
  • 1 lb pizzoccheri (buckwheat fettuccine) or regular fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 12 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 10 oz Italian Fontina or Taleggio cheese, diced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the coarse salt and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes or until potatoes are softened (but not cooked through). Stir in the cabbage and pasta. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is not quite tender and firm. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in the pasta pot and add the garlic and sage, adding the pinch of salt and pepper. The garlic should get soft, but not brown. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot. Add all but 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss it all together gently until incorporated.

Place half the mixture in the prepared casserole dish, scatter half the diced Fontina over the top and a grinding of pepper. Repeat and then top with the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid over top to moisten slightly.

Bake in the top half of the oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before serving.


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My favorite brand of Italian Sausage comes from a very fine market in Rhode Island. When I moved away from the northeast, I found it difficult to buy authentic Italian sausage until I found Fortuna’s.

Patti Fortuna-Stannard writes on her website:
“Our story starts with my Nani and Poppa, my grandparents who emigrated to America from Calabria, Italy over 100 years ago. They brought with them only their hopes, dreams, and great Italian Sausage recipes with old world techniques. I am proud to be a 3rd generation Italian-American sausage maker that plans to carry on our family traditions forever! We take great pride in making our salami the same way my grandparents did, in small batches, using only the finest hand trimmed pork, spices ground moments before blending, tied with pure cotton twine, stuffed into natural casings and hung to dry- not cooked. Every salami has a unique flavor and aroma! At Fortuna’s our passion is making only the very best salami and keeping our old world values, flavors and traditions alive. Our niche is all natural salami- they didn’t use nitrates and preservatives in the early 1900s and we certainly do not need to add them now! “

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

Photo from the Fortuna archives

Photo from the Fortuna Archives

This is true old world Italian salami and sausage that is made in the USA. Fortuna’s Sausage Company offers five types of Italian rope sausage:

  • Sweet – with pork and fennel seed
  • Calabrese – hot, hot
  • Tuscano – with sun-dried tomato, sharp Provolone cheese and Pepperoncini
  • Sandgate – a northern Italian specialty with Romano cheese, fresh parsley and garlic, wine and citrus in a sweet sausage base
  • Cheese & Parsley- a sweet base sausage in a thin casing that is great grilled.

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Grilled Italian Sausage

Other than simmering Italian sausage in sauce  for pasta, my next favorite way of cooking sausage is to grill it. My method is simple and they come out perfect every time.

To grill the sausage:

Heat the grill on high and then turn the burners off on one side of the grill or place coals on one side of a charcoal grill.
Lower heat is better and will prevent the meat from drying out. Oil the grill grates.
Keep the entire link whole – don’t cut it up or poke holes in it.

Coil the link over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill lid. After 10 minutes turn the sausage link over.
Use tongs to turn the links. Don’t pierce the link’s skin or the juices will flow out and cause the sausage to be dry.
Once the sausage has cooked for about 20 minutes, place the sausage over the direct heat and let the skin crisp slightly.

Check with a meat thermometer for 160 degree F internal temperature to be sure the sausage is cooked all the way through.
I like to grill hot (spicy) sausage and serve it over garlic sautéed broccoli rabe. Don’t forget the crusty italian bread.

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Italian Sausage Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 2 1/4 cups Carnaroli rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 5 ounces Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer the broth in a large pot over medium heat, cover and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a wide pan over medium heat, add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and chopped sausage and stir for about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute until all the wine has evaporated. Add 1/3 of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently.

Add 1 or 2 ladles of the remaining broth and allow the rice to absorb all the liquid before adding more. Continue stirring until the rice is creamy and al dente, approximately 16-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining butter, stirring well. Season the risotto with salt and pepper to taste.

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Sautéed Sausage, Peppers and Onions

Sometimes I leave out the tomatoes – just depends on how I want to serve this dish. The photo shows a double batch, since this dish doesn’t last long in my house.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound each of hot and sweet Italian sausage, uncut
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced into long strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • 1 small (15 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet with a lid. When the oil is hot, add the whole sausage links and brown them slowly. You want a gentle browning, not a quick sear. Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and cook, stirring often. Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the red wine and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned bits. Let the wine cook down by half.

Add the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes and stir well to combine. Add the sausages back in. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

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Baked Vegetable Sausage Penne

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces dried regular or whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Place sausage links in a large unheated skillet. Add 1/2 inch of water to the skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until juices run clear; drain off the liquid. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes more or until browned, turning occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, cut sausages in half lengthwise; bias-cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set aside.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, the 3 tablespoons parsley, oregano and the crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling. Stir in eggplant, zucchini and peppers. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta for one minute less than the minimum time listed on the package. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan. Stir in the eggplant mixture and the sausage.

Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Covered with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until heated through. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake about 5 minutes more or until the cheese melts. If desired, sprinkle with additional parsley. Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

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Pan Pizza with Ricotta and Sausage

Pizza Dough

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Coat a rimmed rectangular baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Combine water and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt on low-speed until combined.

With mixer running, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to the greased baking sheet and turn to coat. Stretch dough to a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

Stretch dough to the corners of the pan, cover loosely with plastic and let rise in a warm place until slightly puffed, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned finely chopped Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed, cooked
  • 6 basil leaves, cut into thin strips

Directions

Combine drained tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano and salt in bowl. Spread the dough with the tomato mixture. Scatter the cooked sausage on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pizza, leaving room between tablespoons.

Bake until well browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza onto wire rack, sprinkle with basil and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.


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According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

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Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

FW0508FWB01

Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

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Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

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Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

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condiments

There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.

Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.

Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!

Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.

Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.

Homemade Ketchup

condiments1

Makes about 3 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.

Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.

Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.

Seafood Cocktail Sauce

condiment0

Ingredients

  • 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below 
  • Large pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.

Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

condiments8

About 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.

This sauce freezes well.

Peach Puree

Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.

Herbed Honey Mustard

condiments6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 

Directions

Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.

When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).

Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

condiments2

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)

Directions

Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.

Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.

Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.

If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.

Store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

condiments4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill

Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.

Sweet Pickle Relish

condiments5

Great sandwich spread.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

condimewnt3

Use these pickles to top your burger.

Ingredients

Makes 3 cups

  • 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.

Homemade Hot Sauce

condiments7

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
  • 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions

Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.

In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.

The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.

Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.

Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip

condiments9

Makes about 1/1/2 cups

  • 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.

Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.



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