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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Strawberries are prefect for entertaining and are also the perfect snack. When shopping for strawberries, select those that are firm, plump, have a bright, glossy-red appearance and are fragrant. Their fringed caps should be bright green and look fresh. Berries should be firm, but not crunchy. Avoid bruised or soft berries or those having a dull appearance.

Strawberries do not ripen after they are harvested, so select fruit that’s at the right state of maturity — when the berry surface is fully red. Cool berries as soon as possible and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use. It comes as no surprise that fresh strawberries are highly perishable. Use them as soon as possible after purchasing for the best flavor, appearance and nutrient content. Fresh strawberries should be eaten within three to four days of purchase. There are any number of recipes you can make with fresh strawberries. Below are just a few of them.

strawberry-parfait

Easy Strawberry Parfaits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
  • 8 ounces whipped low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 6 amaretto cookies, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the whipped cream cheese, honey and lemon juice. Fold the yogurt into the cream cheese mixture.

In four wide-mouth glasses, evenly layer cream cheese mixture, strawberries and crushed amaretto cookies. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve chilled.

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Light As Air Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

Makes about 10 pancakes

Ingredients

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 egg whites

Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and oil.

In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into the flour mixture.

Grease a griddle and preheat it over medium heat.

For each pancake pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Cook over medium heat until pancakes are golden brown (1 to 2 minutes per side); turn the pancakes over when bubbly and the edges are slightly dry.

In a blender container or food processor bowl combine the strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla. Cover and blend or process until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the sauce until warm. Serve over the pancakes.

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Spring Strawberry Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 oz fresh strawberries, halved
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bag fresh baby arugula (4–5 oz)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts, shelled and toasted

Directions

Microwave water on HIGH 30 seconds or until hot. Stir honey and salt into the water until dissolved; let stand 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Place in a medium bowl: the strawberries, thyme leaves, cider vinegar and sweetened water; toss to coat. Cover and chill 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour), stirring occasionally.

Place arugula in a salad bowl; top with the strawberry mixture, toasted pistachios and cheese. Toss well. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

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Stuffed Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound strawberries, top trimmed
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish
  • Optional toppings: mini chocolate chips, blueberries or nuts

Directions

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.

Use a small paring knife to quarter the strawberries from the pointed end almost to the flat top. Don’t cut all the way through

Use a small spoon to fill the space between the strawberry quarters with the mascarpone mixture.

Sprinkle with toppings, if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve cold.

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Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients

Shortcake

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ cup cold butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Strawberries

  • 5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small bowl stir together the egg, sour cream and milk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once, stirring with a fork just until moistened.

Using a small offset metal spatula, spread dough evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a small metal spatula, loosen the sides of the cake.

Place a wire rack on top of the pan; place one hand on top of rack and the other hand under the pan and carefully invert the pan with the rack. Lift the pan off shortcake. Cool on wire rack.

Combine 4 cups of the sliced strawberries and the 3 tablespoons sugar and, using a potato masher, mash the berries slightly; set aside.

To serve:

Cut the shortcake in half horizontally. Spoon the sweetened strawberry mixture and the whipped cream over the shortcake bottom. Replace the shortcake top.

Spread the remaining 1 cup sliced strawberries over the top of the cake.

Sweetened Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a chilled bowl combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

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new-potatoes

I oven roasted 1 lb of small new potatoes last week. I used half of the potatoes as a side for dinner and saved the remainder to make a potato salad for another meal. See the recipe below.

I also sautéed one pound of green beans (they are in season here where I live) and served half with the potatoes for dinner and saved half for a green bean salad later in the week. I prefer to saute green beans rather than boil them and the recipe is below.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a heavy large baking dish. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the herbs, garlic and oil together until blended and then pour over the potatoes.

Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the potatoes, spacing them evenly apart, in a single layer.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, for about 45 minutes.

Sautéed Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and garlic. Add the green beans and seasonings. cover the pan.

Simmer the beans, turning occasionally until crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Serve half for dinner and refrigerate the remaining beans for the salad recipe below.

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Oven Fried Chicken

4 servings

This chicken tastes even better cold the next day.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and add the garlic. Set aside to cool.

On a sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, panko crumbs, paprika and salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the meted butter and then press the chicken in the crumb mixture. Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared pan.

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Drizzle any remaining butter over the chicken. (Chicken can be prepared in advance of cooking and refrigerated until cooking time.)

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until crispy, brown and cooked to at least 165 degrees F.

Potato Salad

seasonal potatosalad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ lb leftover oven roasted new potatoes (about 8), sliced thin
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely diced bread and butter pickles
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

Directions

Combine all the ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until dinner time.

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Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Half a pound of sautéed green beans, chilled
  • Half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the mustard, vinegar and olive oil in a serving bowl. Cut the green beans into 2 inch pieces. Add the green beans and cherry tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

 


eastercake

Tradition is important in the Italian-American culture. Second only to Christmas Eve in the way of Italian-American traditions, Easter is a big holiday and, as such, it is centered around food—as most Italian-American celebrations are. From Easter breads and ricotta pies to roasted lamb and asparagus, there are numerous dishes on the Italian American table. Here are some recipes for just a few of them.

Pizza Rustica

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Also, called Easter Pie. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are Italians. Most pies contain ricotta cheese, eggs and some type of Italian meat. Italian Americans love to make this pie for their family members.  I remember vividly, my father visiting his family at Easter time and coming home with pies made for him by his sisters and sisters-in-law. It twas a bit overwhelming.

Pastry Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Directions

Put the flour and salt into a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.

Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until it does.

Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead together just to form a smooth, tight dough.

Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut in a ½ inch dice
  • 4 oz diced Prosciutto di Parma
  • 4 oz sopressata cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 cooked sweet Italian sausage link (4 oz.) cut into ½ inch cubes
  • Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with one tablespoon of water)

Directions

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Pecorino, pepper and eggs.

Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, sopressata and sausage and mix well into the cheese mixture.

To Assemble the Pizza Rustica

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan or a 9 inch deep dish pie pan.

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside.

With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick.

Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough from sticking.

Place the dough in the pan and pat the dough to cover the bottom and sides. If the dough breaks just patch it.

Pour in the ricotta mixture.

Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling settles.

Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round. (You can also cut the dough for the top into lattice strips.)

Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal, then crimp the dough edges decoratively.

Brush the egg wash over the entire pastry top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Spring Minestrone

 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces ground chicken
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup orzo or ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds of peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (I uses a melon ball scoop). Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.

Stir in pasta and carrots;turn heat to low and simmer about 8 minutes.

Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.

Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.

Spinach Lasagna

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For the white sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick and smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lasagna

  • 1 lb.mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • White sauce, recipe above
  • 12parboiled spinach lasagna noodles

Directions

Mix the ricotta with the spinach and the remaining filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.

Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle the top with extra parsley for color.

Italian Baked Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar fig jam
  • 1 large ham (8 to 10-pounds bone-in, spiral cut or 4- to 5-pound boneless)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and juice and olive oil.

Set the ham on the rack and rub the ham with the rosemary mixture. Season with salt and pepper and cover with foil.

In a small pot, heat the fig jam with a couple of tablespoons of water.

Bake the ham for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and glaze the ham with the fig jam.

Continue brushing the ham with the glaze every 15-20 minutes with a pastry brush, for another hour or until heated through.

If the ham starts to get too brown, loosely cover it with foil. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Easter Lamb Cake

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Ingredients

  • 1 pkg store-bought chocolate or vanilla cake mix
  • 1 cup water (use 1/4 cup less than the package directions-my cake mix calls for 1 1/4 cups of water)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Whipped Cream Frosting, recipe below
  • 1 lamb mold

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the lamb mold by coating it with vegetable oil. Let sit for a few minutes then wipe clean with a paper towel.

Then grease (use a solid shortening) and flour the lamb mold, making sure to get all the creases.

Place the front of the mold on a baking sheet.

Prepare the cake batter according to the cake mix directions.

Fill the mold to the top for the front of the cake, do not fill the back side of the mold.

Place the back of the mold on the front and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake tests done. (Test with toothpick through a vent hole in the mold.)

Remove the mold from the oven, wait 10 minutes and remove the back of body mold.

Stand the cake up and gently remove the front of the mold. Have clean towels rolled up and ready to support the head of the cake, while placing a rolled up towel in back of the cake to support the that part also.

Place a dab of icing on a plate and stand the cake in an upright position. Frost and decorate with jelly beans, raisins, cherries, or chocolate chips for the eyes and nose.

(Best results cool cake in the refrigerator before frosting, this makes a firmer surface for the icing.)  Place green tinted coconut around the base of the lamb; add jelly beans and a colorful bow at the neck, if desired.

Whipped Cream Frosting

This is a great whipped cream recipe because it does not weep after it sits on the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Directions

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a electric stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.


stuffedcabbage4

Below is a dinner we had last week that makes use of “in season” produce: cabbage and Italian kale. It also demonstrates my frugal habits.

Italian Stuffed Cabbage

This dish goes well with mashed potatoes. I served Mashed Potatoes with Kale to make the dish a bit healthier, plus we like mashed potatoes mixed with greens. Swiss chard also works well. See the recipe below.

Makes 8 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of cabbage

Meat Filling

  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup dried Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sauce

  • 2 cups strained or crushed Italian tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • Half of a small onion, sliced thin

Directions

Prepare the cabbage:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Discard any discolored or broken outer cabbage leaves. Remove the cabbage core and carefully peel 8 large leaves off the head. Blanch leaves for 1 minute (half at time), until wilted and spread them out on kitchen towels so that they dry and cool.

I saved the rest of the cabbage for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Make the filling:

Combine all the meat filling ingredients with a pinch or two of salt and black pepper.

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Make the cabbage rolls:

Form some of the meat filling mixture into a golf ball-sized rounds and place on the cooled cabbage leaves. Fold in the sides of the cabbage leaves and roll up jelly roll style wrapping the cabbage around the filling.. Repeat with the remaining leaves and mixture.

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Make the sauce:

In a casserole dish large enough to hold the cabbage rolls, combine the sauce ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add the cabbage packages, arranging them carefully in the pan so that the stuffing remains intact. Cover the dish with foil a and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Uncover the baking dish and continue to bake for 15 minutes more.

stuffedcabbage3

Mashed Potatoes With Kale

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) kale, either curly or cavolo nero, with the ribs removed and the leaves washed
  • 1-1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan, add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover partially and cook until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain off the water, return the potatoes with the garlic to the pan and mash with a potato masher.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook the kale for 4 to 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil) until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop into small pieces and add the olive oil.

Stir the chopped kale into the hot mashed potatoes along with the milk.  Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.


seasonalmarchStarting with this post, I will include posts each week about cooking with seasonal and local (if possible) ingredients.

When buying produce in season, you are not only getting fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavor, you are also getting the best price! Try incorporating a few of the “in season” produce items in your market into your weekly menu. Below is a dinner we had last week that made use of what is in season where I live: asparagus and tuna. February and March are good months for catching tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. I also made this tuna steak work for two meals. Earlier in the week, I grilled a tuna steak and we ate about 2/3 of the tuna steak and I saved 1/3 to make the tuna cakes in the recipe below. Asparagus are at their peak right now and prices are quite reasonable, so they are on our dinner table each week.

seasonaltuna

Oven Baked Asparagus

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and trim the woody stems from the asparagus spears. Place them in a baking dish large enough so that they lay in a single layer. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and spread them back into a single layer.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Tuna Cakes

Serve with Remoulade sauce on the side, if desired. Recipe below.

tunafilet

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 oz cooked (leftover grilled) tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

tuna1

Shred the tuna into a medium bowl. Add all of the other ingredients, except the Panko crumbs and oil and mix very well.

tuna3

Sprinkle a coating of Panko crumbs on a sheet of wax paper. Divide the tuna mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.

tuna4

Press the panko crumbs into the tuna cakes as you form the patties. Refrigerate the tuna cakes for a few hours before cooking. They will hold together better during cooking.

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Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties to the pan and, cook for 3-4 minutes until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

 Light Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
  • 1  teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.


Porta Castello Tower

Porta Castello Tower

The Province of Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city of Vicenza is the capital of the province and it is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, rich in history and culture with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi.

Founded in the 2nd century B.C., Vicenza came under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The architectural work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80),  gives the area its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the region’s development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England, other European countries and North America.

The region was once under Napoleonic rule and, later, became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the populace of Veneto rose up against Austria and the area received the highest award for military valor for the courage it displayed in the uprising. Later, as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the province was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war for Italian independence.

Vicenza was a location of major combat in both World War I and World War II and it was the most damaged city from Allied bombings in the Veneto region.

vincenzapalazzo

Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare

In the 1960s the region experienced a strong economic development caused by the emergence of small and medium family businesses. In the following years, the region’s economic development grew and huge industrial areas sprouted around the city.

Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, which includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Behind the classical Palladian buildings, you will also find a more ancient Vicenza that goes back to the days of a less established social order. The daily strife and power struggles between rival families was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. If you walk down some of the smaller streets, you may still come across tall bulky houses with defensive turrets, each bearing the family’s coat of arms, and built to defend their ancestral rights and families. The combination of such towers that still watch over the town, led to Vicenza being known as the “City of a Thousand Towers”.

Also, in the province of Vicenza and within easy reach, are the castles of two very renowned rival families. In the town of Montecchio Maggiore, one will find the remains of the hilltop fortresses that belonged to the Montecchi (Montagues) and Capuletti (Capulets), the legendary protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet saga. The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting even without the town. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda, a charming and less formal house. The grand Basilica di Monte Berico, with its three Baroque facades, a painting by Veronese and the views from the hillside are impressive.

Here are some personal photos of the villa a dear friend lived in while working in Vicenza. She was kind enough to share these photos, so you may have a close up view of these magnificent structures and gardens. I am sure you will enjoy viewing them as much as I have.

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Thank you to Dolly Alvarez Crooks for photos of my friend Barbara Ferg-Carter’s Vicenza Villa.

The Cuisine of Vicenza

vicenzoasparagus

The quality and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica and the peas of Lumignano. These products have found their way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area.

The local specialty, Baccalà alla Vicentina, is made with salt-cured cod (stockfish) that is soaked for a couple of days and served with yellow or white polenta.

vicenzaasiago

The most famous local cheese, is Asiago, which comes from Asiago, located in the Vicenza Alps.

The province has numerous wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established and traditional wines include: Durello, Torcolato, Recioto and Raboso.

Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:

vicenzaappetizer

White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain the asparagus and place them on a serving platter.

Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the minced shallot. Saute for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Be careful not to burn the shallot.

Remove the pan from the heat, turn away from the stove and add the wine. Place the pan back on the burner and add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue to cook until slightly reduced.

Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder. Add the butter and continue to saute until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny.

Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme and lemon slices to serve.

vicenzarisotto

Risotto with Peas

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat and keep at a low simmer.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until it is thoroughly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is completely absorbed.

Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice mixture; stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed.

Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at time, stirring constantly after each addition, until the rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center and the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream, a total of 18 to 20 minutes.

About 12 minutes into the cooking time, stir in the peas. The rice should be al dente but no longer crunchy and the peas tender and bright green. The mixture will continue to thicken slightly when removed from heat.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the butter, cheese, chopped marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with marjoram sprigs.

vicenzachicken

Cutlets in Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium veal or pork cutlets or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Half of a small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens. Add the cutlets and cook until golden on all sides, around 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve the cutlets with the sauce spooned over the top.

vicenzadessert

Cherry Gelato

Ingredients

  • One 16 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed or 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a blender or food processor combine the cherries and orange peel. Blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the pulp. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the cherry mixture and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high-speed for 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saucepan the combine milk, cream and salt; heat just until simmering. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes.

Slowly stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining milk mixture. Combine thoroughly.

Heat and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Be careful not to let mixture boil.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl combine cherry mixture and the egg yolk-milk mixture, stirring until well mixed. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze the chilled mixture in a 2 to 4 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the mixture to a covered freezer container and freeze in your regular freezer for 4 hours before serving.

vicenzamap


companycookiescover1

Family will be visiting at the end of the month. Grandchildren are off from school and it is the perfect time to come south. Still cool up north, but swimming weather where Grandma & Grandpa live.  I like to have nutritious foods available when they visit, so I make a few things ahead of time, especially breakfast items and desserts. These recipes are healthy, easy to make and freeze well. They just need defrosting when company arrives.

bananabread

Good For You Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vanilla flavored, reduced fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 medium very ripe bananas (or 3 large), mashed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and lightly flour the bottom of the pan.

Combine the yogurt and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir until completely combined. Whisk in the baking soda, vanilla and mashed bananas. Add the honey and eggs and mix until completely combined. Stir in the flour and nuts.

Pour into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 1 hour and a cake tester should come out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Cool ten minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan. Invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing. The cake tastes better if allowed to rest overnight.

Hazelnut Cocoa Thins

24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until light and foamy. Add the cocoa, sugar, flour and vanilla, gradually, as you beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Fold in the hazelnut flour

Drop by rounded teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets – 12 to a pan – one inch apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto the kitchen counter. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them to a storage container. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar or make a glaze and frost them before serving.

companycookies1

Almond Orange Thins

24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 8 oz almond paste
  • 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Directions

Whip the egg whites until foamy and tripled in volume, but not stiff. Set aside.

Cut the almond paste into small cubes and beat in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and egg whites and mix until smooth. Blend in the almond extract and orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop by rounded teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets – 12 to a pan – one inch apart. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly brown around the edges.

Slide the parchment paper off the baking sheet and onto the kitchen counter. Allow the cookies to cool before removing them to a storage container. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar or make a glaze and frost them before serving.

cookiesbrownie

Peanut Butter Brownie Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Brownie Ingredients:

  • 18 ounce package brownie mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water

Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To form the cookies:

In a medium bowl, combine the brownie ingredients. Stir until well blended.

Drop 1 level tablespoon of dough on parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. I can get one dozen cookies on each of my baking sheets.

For the peanut butter filling:

Mix the powdered sugar and peanut butter together and roll 1/2 teaspoon of the dough into small balls. Press the peanut butter balls into the surface of the uncooked brownie cookies.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are set. Cookies may appear slightly undercooked, but do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheets for about 3 minutes and transfer to wire rack.

IMG_0176

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Makes 16 scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pecan meal (pecans ground to a powder)
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus extra for the topping
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Cinnamon sugar, vanilla sugar or sugar crystals for the topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, pecan meal, cinnamon and cinnamon chips.

Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with a few larger chunks of butter still showing.

In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently just until it holds together.

Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into 6 inch circle. With a bench knife, cut the circle into eight triangles.

Brush the tops of the scones lightly with buttermilk and sprinkle with flavored sugar.

Place the scones on the prepared cookie sheets and bake 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Rotate the pans on the oven racks after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and place the scones on a wire rack to cool.



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