Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread


Fall is here and comfort foods are perfect for dinner. This meal is high on the list of favorites in my family. Years ago, I got the idea of combining potatoes with greens for more nutrition and who would have thought the children loved mashed potatoes prepared this way.

Tip: set aside one cup of the diced cooked potatoes and one cup of the roasted carrots to use in a beef pot pie later in the week. There is plenty of braised steak for leftovers.


Braised Steak

Serves 6-8


  • 2 pounds sirloin or round steak
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms


Combine the flour, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl.

Cut the steak into serving-size portions about 1/4 inch thick. Press the flour into the steak pieces with your hand. Reserve any flour that is left.



In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet.

Brown the steak pieces thoroughly on all sides and set aside the browned pieces on a plate.


Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Stir in any remaining flour and mix until thoroughly absorbed.

Add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Return the browned steak to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet.


Simmer on low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.


Mashed Potatoes With Spinach or Kale


  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) spinach or kale
  • 1 cup milk
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan. Add the garlic clove and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan partially and cook the potatoes until very tender, about 30 minutes.

Drain off the water, return the potatoes and garlic to the pan, cover tightly and let steam over very low heat for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a food mill. Add the olive oil.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the spinach or kale.

Cook the spinach for 4 minutes, kale for 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil), until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Chop fine.

Set the pan with the potatoes over low heat. Stir the chopped spinach into the hot mashed potatoes, add the milk and gently stir. Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot.


Roasted Carrots


  • 1 pound carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated orange peel
  • Sea salt


Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange carrots in single layer in a baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and orange peel; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.

Cover the dish tightly with foil. Roast until crisp-tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer carrots and any juices to a serving platter. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt.


Easy Biscuits


  • 2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold milk or buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the flour in a bowl. Work in the butter just until crumbs are the size of large peas.

Add the milk and stir until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl.

Scoop the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold it over on itself several times, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking.

Roll or pat the dough into an 8 inch rectangle about ½ inch thick.

Cut biscuits with a sharp knife into 2 inch squares.

Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the biscuits for 10 to 14 minutes or until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and serve hot.



For me, store-bought sandwich bread lacks good flavor and texture and usually contains way too many preservatives. The recipes in this post are easy to make and will reward you with great tasting bread for sandwiches and toast. Most ingredients are easy to find, however the ingredients for the rye bread include rye and pumpernickel flour. If you cannot find pumpernickel flour, use all rye flour in the recipe. I also use a flavoring made by the King Arthur flour company called deli rye flavor. If you do not have access to this ingredient, just substitute dried onion.

To always have fresh bread available, I slice each loaf in 1/2 inch slices and place them in a freezer ziplock bag. Bread slices can be removed, a slice at a time, and they defrost within a half hour. This is so handy.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread




  • 1 cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain bread improver or vital wheat gluten
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, mixing until a shaggy dough forms.


Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. (this step helps the gluten develop.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until fairly smooth and slightly sticky.


Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise until almost doubled, about 90 minutes.


Gently fold the dough over a few times on a lightly floured work surface.

Shape it into an 8″ log, and place it in a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Cover the loaf and let it rise until it’s crowned 1″ over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.


Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers 205°F to 210°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, let it sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool.

Seeded Rye Sandwich Bread





  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Deli Rye Flavor or dried onion
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted


Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, mixing until a shaggy dough forms.

Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes. (this step helps the gluten develop.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until fairly smooth and slightly sticky.


Place the dough in a large, lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.


Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and shape it into an oval.

Place the dough in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, tent it with lightly greased plastic wrap and set it aside until doubled in bulk and risen 1 inch over the lip of the pan, about 1 hour.


Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and tests done (the interior of the loaf will read 190°F on an instant-read thermometer).

Remove the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan, and cool completely on a rack.



When choosing a pumpkin at the market, look for soft spots, mold, wrinkles or open cuts that would indicate damage or early spoilage. Choose a pumpkin with a solidly attached stem. A green stem indicates a freshly harvested pumpkin. Choose pumpkins between 4 to 8 pounds and labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at cool room temperature.

Pumpkin Puree


  • 2 ½ pounds pie pumpkins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5×5-inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan.

Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender.

Cover and process or blend until smooth. Measure 1 cup puree to use in risotto. Transfer remaining puree to an airtight container.

Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.


Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 – 15 depending on the size of your muffin tin.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup reduced fat milk or almond milk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • Vanilla sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-15 cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine the remaining (wet) ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture until just moist. Fill the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean).

Let rest for 10 minutes.Remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack.


Apple Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin butter is a delicious addition to waffles, pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal or as a spread for toast. It also makes a great and healthy topping for ice cream.


  • 4 cups pumpkin puree or two 15-oz. cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients except nuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, about an hour until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.


Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Acorn Squash


Acorn squash can have orange, dark green, or tan skin. To pick a good-tasting one, press it all around to make sure it’s devoid of soft spots. Don’t refrigerate-just store the squash in an airy dry spot for up to 3 weeks.


Roasted Acorn Squash Slices


  • 1 medium acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven 350°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and membrane. Cut each half into 1/2-inch slices; discard ends.

Place slices in a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the maple syrup. Dot with butter.


Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.


Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

6 servings


  • 3 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers scooped out
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of 1/4-inch cubes of lightly toasted sourdough bread
  • ¾ cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


Oven 400 degrees F.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.

Place in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes and chicken broth until well mixed.

Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.

Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender. Place 1 squash half on each of 6 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.



That mound of apples and that mound of pears looked so beautiful at the market, so who could resist bringing them home. Now what to do with all this delicious fruit before it goes bad?

Here are a few ideas.

Apple Cinnamon Scones


Makes 12 scones


  • 2 3/4 cups Self-Rising Flour (flour that contains baking powder and salt)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 2 apples, peeled, in 1/2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • Topping: milk and cinnamon sugar


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and apple pie spice.

Work in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender just until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon chips.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and applesauce.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the mixture holds together.

Line two  baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sprinkle flour on the work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and divide it in half. Gently pat and round each half into a 5″ to 5 1/2″ circle about 3/4″ thick.

Stir together the coarse sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the topping.

Using a bench knife, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

Carefully place each wedge on the parchment lined pans, at least a 1 inch  apart.


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Rotate the pans after 10 minutes.

Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.

Apple Crunch Bagels




  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups bread flour  
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar  
  • 1 teaspoon salt  
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice  
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples, about 2 medium apples


  • 1 egg 
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • Pinch of salt


In a medium saucepan, warm cider and butter just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine two cups of bread flour, the brown sugar, the cooled cider mixture, salt, apple pie spice, apples and yeast with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Keeping the mixer on medium, add the remaining bread flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough comes together and is just barely sticky.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and “knead” the dough for about 6 minutes or until the dough is elastic.


Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Cover 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down and separate into 12 equal sized balls. on a well floured surface.


Roll and stretch one ball into an 8 inch-long rope and don’t taper ends.

Wrap the rope around your fingers, overlapping the ends by 2 inches, to create a ring. Pinch the ends together.

Once the bagels are shaped, place them on a kitchen towel to rise for another 10 minutes.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and heat the oven to 425 degrees F

To prepare the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, spice mix, salt and butter in a small bowl and mix until it is crumbly. Beat the egg with one teaspoon of water.

When the water comes to a boil, drop 4 bagels in at a time and boil for about 30 seconds per side. Remove with a slotted spoon to a kitchen towel.

After boiling, place the bagels on the parchment covered pans and brush with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the bagels.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bagels are golden brown, rotating the pans after 12 minutes.

Pear & Celery Salad


Serves 4


  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe pears, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 large leaves romaine lettuce, shredded


Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk vinegar, honey and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper.

Divide the lettuce leaves among 4 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pork Chops with Pear & Ginger Sauce


2 servings


  • Two 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium ripe pear, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 shallot, trimmed and sliced


Season the pork with salt and pepper and coat in the cornstarch. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the pork and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the sliced shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the vinegar and honey; stir to dissolve. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, stirring.


Add the pears and ginger. Cook, uncovered, stirring the pears occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan; turn to coat with the sauce and heat through. Serve with a side of roasted acorn squash.



My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.

Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.

Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.

If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.

Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.


Pureed Celery Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).

Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.


Crusty Italian Bread


  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.

Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.


Eggplant Olive Pasta

Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.


Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.

Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.


Vanilla Almond Biscotti

After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.

They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.

Makes about 15 biscotti


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the center is firm (about 30 minutes); remove from the oven and place the log on a cutting board to cool for about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.


Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.

Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.


This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course


Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6


  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth


Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.


Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps


  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Sourdough Cheese Rolls


  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course


Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes


  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar


Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.


Italian Style Peas


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course


Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce


  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.




One of the best ways to cut back on wasted food is to use it in a new recipe before it goes bad. You will notice in the recipes below that I cooked several dinners in the past few weeks and, of course, we had leftovers. I don’t mind meatloaf reheated once or twice, but not more than that. Certainly, I can freeze meatloaf but there are more interesting things I can do with it, as well as leftover pork and chicken. Do you have a leftover recipe makeover?

Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Wine Sauce


Becomes Pork Stroganoff


  • 3 cups chopped leftover Pork Tenderloin in Mushroom Wine Sauce (see recipe link here)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz wide noodles


Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and place the noodles on a medium serving platter.

Heat the leftover pork in a small skillet over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the sour cream.

Pour the meat mixture over the noodles. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Italian Style Meatloaf


Becomes Meatloaf Panini

Serve these sandwiches with oven baked onion rings, pickles and a salad for dinner.


  • 4 slices sandwich bread
  • 2 slices leftover Italian Style Meatloaf (see recipe link here)
  • 2 tablespoons spicy Italian peppers, chopped
  • 4 slices Provolone cheese
  • Olive oil


Layer 2 of the bread slices in the following way: a slice of cheese, a slice of meatloaf, 1 tablespoon of chopped peppers and a slice of cheese. on top of the each meatloaf slice.

Top with the remaining bread. Brush the bread with olive oil.

Warm up a large skillet over medium heat or heat a Panini maker. Place both sandwiches, oiled side down, in skillet or on the Panini press. Oil the bread on the top.

Close the Panini press and follow the directions for your machine.

If using a skillet, cook the sandwich for a few minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

Turn the sandwiches over and press down firmly with a spatula on the top of the bread to compress the sandwiches. Cook until golden brown.

Grilled Chicken Breasts

(See recipe here)

Becomes Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Small Batch Chicken Broth


Being a frugal Italian cook, nothing gets wasted in my kitchen. The chicken breasts I grilled last week were large, so we did not eat all the chicken. I removed the chicken that was left from the bones and reserved it for the Caesar Salad recipe. I also find that some recipes call for a small amount of chicken broth. The breast bones that were left can solve that need.


Small Batch Chicken Broth


  • 2 leftover chicken breast bones
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • Celery top
  • Small carrot
  • Small garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Few peppercorns


Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover the ingredients with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.


Strain the broth and pour into half cup containers. Freeze for future use.


Leftover Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad


  • Leftover chicken cut into cubes
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup croutons
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper


  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


Combine the anchovy paste, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce to a small bowl and stir together.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil, whisking until the dressing is emulsified.

Place the chopped lettuce in a bowl and toss it with the dressing, cubed chicken and croutons. Add shaved Parmesan and fresh black pepper. Toss and serve.



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