Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: April 2023


Make a special Ham and Cheese Sandwich, such as a Monte Cristo or the French version of Croque Monsieur


Food historians believe that the Monte Cristo sandwich is a variation of a French dish called Croque Monsieur that was originally first served in a Paris cafe. According to oral accounts, the Monte Cristo sandwich is said to have been first served in southern California.

Croque Monsieur, the French version has ham, Gruyère cheese, and béchamel sauce. Monte Cristo sandwich contains ham and cheese that is dipped in egg, fried, and topped with powdered sugar.

These sandwiches can be rich and not very healthy. My easy version is better for you [somewhat!!] because I don’t deep-fry them.  I prefer the Monte Cristo sandwich. You can make this sandwich with two layers or three. I make the 2-layer sandwich for my family and served it with a cup of my Asparagus soup. See recipe.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

2 servings

Ingredients For 3 Layer Sandwich

6 slices of sturdy bread
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 thin slices of baked ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices American cheese
2 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinches of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter


Beat eggs in a shallow dish (large enough to fit a sandwich) along with the milk and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine the mustard and mayonnaise.
Spread the bread slices with the mustard/mayonnaise mixture.


Divide the ham and cheese between the layers of bread to make 2 sandwiches. Slightly compress sandwiches.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add butter; allow to melt.
Dip and coat each sandwich in beaten egg, and place in skillet.

Cook sandwiches for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned to a liking and the cheese has melted.

Serve with pickles and a garden salad.



Monte Cristo Sandwich

2 servings

Ingredients For 2 Layer Sandwich

4 slices of sturdy bread
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
4 thin slices of baked ham
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices American cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter


Beat the egg in a shallow dish (large enough to fit a sandwich) along with the milk and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Combine the mustard and mayonnaise.
Spread the bread slices with the mustard/mayonnaise mixture.

Divide the ham and cheese and place half on two bread slices.
Top each with a bread slice mustard side down. Slightly compress sandwiches.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add butter; allow to melt.
Dip and coat each sandwich in beaten egg, and place in skillet.

Cook sandwiches for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned to a liking and the cheese has melted.


6 servings


1 pound fresh asparagus
6 cups chicken stock
1 leek, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large baking potato, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Coupons for serving


Cut the woody bottom half of the asparagus spears off and reserve the tops. Wash well. Place the woody stems in a soup pot along with the chicken stock. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the stems. Return the broth to the soup pot. Add the chopped leeks, celery, garlic, and potato. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer vegetables until soft, about 30 minutes.

Chop the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces and add the asparagus pieces to the soup pot. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 15 minutes.

Process these cooked vegetables and broth with an immersion hand blender in the soup pot,
Add the half and half, butter, dill, and lemon juice. Simmer for 5 minutes, then taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.



½ cup panko breadcrumbs
½ cup {8 tablespoons} unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 cups cubed leftover ham
16 oz dried short pasta shape, such as elbows, cavatappi, or Penn pasta
5 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon ground mustard
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup diced processed cheese, such as Velveeta
¼ cup chopped parsley


Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large Dutch Ove. Mix this melted butter with the panko breadcrumbs and set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the same Dutch Oven. Add the onion, ham, and garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Pour the milk into the pot and bring to a simmer (medium heat). Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning on the bottom of the pot.
Add remaining butter and mustard. Mix everything together until the butter has completely melted. Add the 1 cup of diced Velveeta and heat until melted, stirring constantly.
Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese and mix until fully melted. Add the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese and mix well/ Add parsley and peas. Stir.

Remove from the heat source. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Top with buttered panko crumbs and place under the broiler for a few minutes to lightly brown the crumbs. Serve in pasta bowls.


Serves 2


1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 hamburger patties 85 percent lean ground beef, about 5 oxen each
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for buns
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon sugar
2 slices American cheese
2 hamburger buns


Mix onions with ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and sugar.
Season the burger patties with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place on a plate.
Cut the hamburger buns in half and butter each side. Wrap in foil and heat in a 300-degree oven while you cook the burgers.

Melt butter with the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Divide the onions in half. Place each half on the prepared burger. Press the opinion mixture down on the burgers with a large metal spatula.


Using the spatula, transfer burgers to the skillet onion side up and cook for 5 minutes. Carefully turn the burgers over, increase heat to high, and cook until well browned on the second side, about 5 minutes.


Remove the hamburger buns from the oven. Place one slice of American cheese on each bun bottom. Transfer burgers to buns, and add serve desired toppings.

Make a side salad or serve with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes topped with your favorite salad dressing.

9 inch (23 cm) springform cake pan
Electric Mixer

5 large eggs (room temperature)
¾ cup granulated white sugar (150 grams)
1 ¼ cups cake flour (150 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Strawberry Topping and Whipped Cream


Preheat oven to 340ºF/170ºC. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform cake pan and line the base and sides with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.

Sieve the flour and set aside.

Using an electric mixer and the whisk attachments, beat the eggs with the sugar at maximum speed for about 15 minutes until frothy and thick.


Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon extract. Once the eggs have been whipped, stop the electric mixer.

Mix in the sieved flour a little at a time using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula. Take care to slowly incorporate it with gentle movements from the bottom up.

Pour the mixture into the previously buttered and lined springform pan. This cake can also be used to make Tiramisu.


Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

DO NOT open the door during the first 20 minutes of cooking.
Use a cake tester to check on the cake after 20 minutes. When the tester is dry, turn off the oven.

Leave the cake in the turned-off oven with the door open for 5 minutes (this will prevent the sponge cake from undergoing a thermal shock and deflating too much as it cools). Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a thin spatula around the edge of the pan.


Remove the sponge cake from the pan and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack before serving or storing.

If well wrapped in plastic wrap the sponge cake lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen.

Cut the cake into wedges and serve with strawberry topping and whipped cream.



Flounder Parmigiano

2 servings


2 large or 4 small flounder fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian-flavored panko crumbs
½ cup Marinara Sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Oila large baking dish.
season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Mix the Parmesan with the panko crumbs. Lightly brush both sides of the fillets with mayonnaise. Dredge the fish in the prepared bread crumbs.
Press down on the breading to be sure it coats the fish.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the topping is golden.
Top each fillet with sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Return to the oven and bake until the sauce is hot and the cheese melts.



Baked Potato Wedges


2 medium Russet potatoes scrubbed and cut into eighths
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cooking spray


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.
Place the olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper and parsley in a ziplock plastic bag.

Place the potato wedges in the bag and seal the bag. Shake to coat the potatoes evenly with the seasoning.
Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes Turn the potatoes over and bake for 15- 20 minutes until golden brown.


Sautéed Leafy Greens


2 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 medium onion chopped
1/2 lb. leafy greens (kale, chard, or collard greens) I used Swiss chard grown by a friend in his garden
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste


Remove and discard the stem portions of the greens. Chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Wash the greens well in several changes of water. Drain well.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, whole garlic, black pepper, and greens. Heat, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and the greens are tender. Discard the garlic. Add salt to taste.


Baked Cheese Stuffed Shells


18 Jumbo shells
2 cups Bolognese Sauce

2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use to stuff pasta.
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions for al dente. Drain and place the shells on a kitchen towel to cool.

Spoon the sauce over the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold the stuffed shells in one layer.

Fill each shell with equal portions of the ricotta cheese mixture. Arrange the shells stuffed side up in the casserole. Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese. Cover the dish with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with extra cheese and serve.


Pan Fried Parmesan Zucchini

2 servings


One medium zucchini about 9 oz
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon each of garlic powder, salt, and pepper
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Cut zucchini into ¼-inch circles.
Heat oil in a medium skillet. Place zucchini slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with seasonings and cheese. Cover the pan and cook the zucchini over medium heat until lightly brown. Turn the slices over and cook until lightly brown on the second side. Serve with the shells.



For 2 servings


1 medium eggplant, about 1 lb, peeled and sliced
Olive oil

1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 ½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese,
1/4 cup of freshly shredded mozzarella 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
Salt and pepper

Marinara Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup finely chopped onion
28 oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


For the sauce
Heat oil in a sautépan and cook the onion until soft. Add the remaining ingredients.
Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes. Keep warm.

For the eggplant

Brush slices with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes, flipping eggplant halfway through cooking.

Combine the filling ingredients in a medium bowl.

When the eggplant has cooled for about 10 minutes, begin the rolling process. On each slice, put about 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese mixture. Spread it on the eggplant and then roll. Repeat with all eggplant slices.

Coat the bottom of a deep baking dish with Marinara sauce. Start placing the rolled eggplants in the baking dish. Pour sauce on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle some more grated cheese on top.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes.


1 lb lean ground beef {or any ground meat you prefer}
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup grated pecorino Romano
4 tablespoons shallots, minced
2 tablespoons dried Italian Seasoning


Working with your hands, combine all ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator for one hour.
Use a muffin scoop to form the meatballs. Roll until smooth. Place on a baking sheet and bake the meatballs in a 350-degree F oven until brown all over, about 30 minutes. Add the meatballs to the Marinara Sauce in the recipe above and heat over low for about 30 minutes.




½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup whole milk, room temperature

Spiced Pineapple:
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks {fresh, frozen, and defrosted or canned packed in water} drained well and chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to run up the sides and slightly over the pan. Grease with cooking spray or butter and set aside.

CAKE: In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture into the mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Add milk and mix together. Add the remaining flour mixture and continue to mix until there are no longer any dry streaks of flour. The batter will be thick.

PINEAPPLE: Toss pineapple in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

TOPPING: Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using two forks cut cold butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY: Spread the cake batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread the pineapple mixture (including any juices) on top. Add crumb topping all over.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before unmolding from pan. Dust with sifted powdered sugar before slicing and serving.


Regular Oven directions are below.


For the marinade:

2 lb. bone-in skin-on chicken pieces mix of cuts, breast cut in half
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon EACH hot Cajun seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, salt

For the breading:

1 cup flour
½ cup cornstarch or replace with more flour
1 teaspoon EACH hot Cajun seasoning paprika garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper
Oil for spraying chicken


Combine buttermilk and spices for the marinade in a large bowl. Add chicken and mix to combine. Cover and marinate for 24 hours or overnight.

In a medium shallow bowl, whisk the flour and spices for breading. Reserve marinade in another shallow bowl.

Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken the flour mixture and press flour on the top chicken to form a thick crust. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack while you flour all the pieces.
Dip each floured piece in the marinade and then flour again. generously spray chicken with oil. Place on the wire rack while you preheat the air fryer.

Pre-heat the air-fryer to 375F.

Transfer chicken to the air fryer in a single layer without overlapping. Set the Air-fryer to 30 minutes and start. After 15 minutes, flip the chicken and lightly spray the other side with oil. Continue cooking for 10 minutes or until the chicken is golden and the internal temperature reaches 165°.



Regular Oven Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. Place the chicken on the wire rack and bake for about 45 minutes.


Creamy Cheddar Sauced Gnocchi


Kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

One 16-ounce package of gnocchi

1 1/2 cups freshly grated sharp yellow Cheddar


Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions and drain.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine, then cook for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir the cheese into the milk mixture until melted. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of milk. Add the gnocchi and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes.

Kale Recipe