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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

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Spinach-Stuffed Tomatoes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch thick shell. Invert tomatoes onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add spinach and garlic; cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Add the spinach and cheese to the crumb mixture. Sprinkle tomato shells with salt and pepper and stuff with the spinach mixture.

Place in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° F for 20-25 minutes.

Italian Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound small shell macaroni
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Dice the butter and place in a large bowl. Warm the half & half in the microwave, about 1 minute. Cover to keep warm. Shred the Fontina cheese and add to the bowl with the butter. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add salt and the shells and cook until they are 1 to 2 minutes shy of al dente. Drain.

Add the warm half & half to the Fontina and butter. Stir until the cheese starts to melt. Season with salt to taste and the nutmeg.

Stir the shells into the bowl with the cheese. Toss to coat well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish.

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; sprinkle over the pasta.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Glazed Cipollini Onions

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Cipollini means little onion in Italian.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onions, stem side down, and cook, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue browning on opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vinegar and honey; cook, until slightly syrupy, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, thyme, and garlic; bring to a boil. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until onions are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Olive Oil and Spinach Mashed Potatoes

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves removed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water by 2 inches and add 1 tablespoon coarse salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; cook until the potatoes are very tender and easily pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup potato cooking water. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

Heat together the milk, spinach, chopped rosemary leaves and chopped thyme leaves then remove from the heat, cover and set aside to infuse flavors.

Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes with the olive oil and some of the reserved cooking water as needed to moisten. Add the milk and spinach mixture.  Stir until well combined and season with salt and pepper.

Pecan Pie

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  • Single Pie Crust Dough

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the dough and [lace in a 9 inch pie plate.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Mix in 3/4 cup pecans.

Pour into the prepared crust. Sprinkle with remaining 1 ¼ cups of pecans. Bake the pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Apple Pie

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  • Double Pie Dough Crust

For the Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled McIntosh apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

To prepare filling:

Combine apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, flour and salt in a large bowl.

To assemble & bake the pie:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.

Roll out half of the dough and invert the dough into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding it higher in the center than on the sides of the pan.

Roll out the second crust and invert the dough onto the top of fruit. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a rolled edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.

Combine the coarse sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours before serving.

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faith_willinger_20001My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/

In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.

Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.

Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger.  She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.

The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.

Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

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Bellini Cocktail

Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the drinks:

  • A few raspberries, if desired, for color
  • 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine

Directions

Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.

Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart

but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.

Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.

Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.

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Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
  • Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries

Directions

Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)

Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating.  Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken.  Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.  

Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.  

The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch.  Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side.  Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

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Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Directions

If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.

When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.

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Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
  • ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

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Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
  • 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Chili pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 14–16 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.

Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.

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Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.

Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.

Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.

For the sauce:

  • 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • Fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.

Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.

Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.

If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.

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The earthy flavor of cauliflower is the perfect complement to pasta. Adding vegetables to pasta stretches the pasta and adds more nutrients to your diet. Though cauliflower has a bland taste on its own, it is a highly regarded vegetable. In Italian cuisine, cauliflower is often paired with pasta because it absorbs flavor from the spices and sauces used in preparing the recipes.

According to research studies, water boiling and blanching have the biggest impact on reducing cauliflower’s nutrients. These methods cause significant losses of  protein, mineral and phytochemical nutrients after five minutes of boiling. Instead, cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when microwaved or gently stir fried. The very best method for cooking cauliflower seems to be gently sautéing it on the stove top, with a bit of water, broth, lemon juice or a healthy source of fat which can make its nutrients more absorbable. Of course eating it raw, perhaps dipped in some healthy hummus or another type of dip, also preserves its nutrients.

Since cauliflower is in season now, I try to think of a variety ways to cook this great vegetable and combining it with pasta is a family favorite. This recipe can be used with any vegetable that is in season.

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Cauliflower Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half a large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 sage leaves, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup of pureed sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 lb short pasta, preferably with ridges (I used trofiette – short, twisted spaghetti shape)

Directions

In a large skillet cook the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is tender. Add the sage and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the cauliflower softens a bit. Don’t overcook cauliflower or it loses its taste and nutrients.

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Add the tomato paste and wine and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomato puree and crushed red pepper. Heat gently.

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Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the reserved pasta water. Stir well. Turn the pasta out into a large serving bowl and add the parsley and cheese. Stir well and serve.

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Cucumber Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded and cut into thin half moons
  • ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup oil cured Italian olives

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a medium salad bowl whisk the dressing ingredients together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the dish and refrigerate until well chilled.


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This is a perfect dinner to have on a lazy weekend when you don’t feel like doing much or there is a great game on TV in the afternoon. This dinner is easy to fix in the morning and put it into the refrigerator until it is time to bake. Another advantage is that all the dishes go into the oven and bake together – so no extra pots or last-minute cooking.

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Normally, I make recipes for two servings, but there are some things I like to double up on for extra meals and leftover creations. Chicken and salmon are often two of those ingredients. In this post I am doubling up on the amount to chicken and stuffing, so I can use the extra for other meals and the stuffing can be divided into smaller portions and frozen to serve at another time, You will see later in the week how I use up some of my leftovers.

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Roasted Chicken Breasts

If you like dark meat chicken by all means substitute chicken leg quarters.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4- bone in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Distribute the lemon slices, the onion and garlic in a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken. Dry the chicken pieces well with paper towels.

Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with oil and sprinkle with half of the herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up and brush it all over with oil and the remaining herb mixture.

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Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and roast for another 15 – 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the chicken with the pan juices, cooked lemon and onion. Reserve remaining broth for leftovers.

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Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing

Reserve one-third of the stuffing for this meal and set aside the remaining stuffing for other meals. I assembled this recipe a few days ahead and set aside some for this meal.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, diced
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaved
  • 1 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and sausage. Cook until light brown, about 5 min. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the same skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are tender about 8 minutes.

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Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

This stuffing can be baked at a range of oven temperatures, depending on what else you are cooking.

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For this dinner, I put the stuffing in the oven with the chicken and let it bake for the same amount of time.

Place the stuffing in a casserole dish or baking pan and bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Roasted Broccoli Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If baking this dish with the chicken, place the broccoli in the oven after the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes and you are going to add the wine.

Wash the broccoli and cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalk, leaving some of the stalk attached. Pull the florets apart. You don’t want the pieces too small.

Place the broccoli florets in a single layer in an oiled baking pan. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.

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Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.


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The reason grass-fed meat is generally healthier for you is because it is lower in overall fat and saturated fat and it provides a higher amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat.

Opt for organic. The use of growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics is not allowed in certified organic beef production. Nor is feed made from animal by products..

Go for grass. Choose beef from cattle that were 100 percent “grass-fed”. ” These animals are raised on their natural diet of grass from birth to market and are not given antibiotics and hormones. Look for a grass-fed label from the American Grassfed Association.

Look at labels. Check for phrases like “Naturally Raised,” “No Hormones Added,” “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “Never Fed Animal Byproducts.”

Portion control: 5-6 oz of meat is more than adequate to satisfy. Serve vegetables and salad for menu balance.

Grass-fed meat requires less time to cook than grain-fed meat. Since it is generally leaner, with less fat to keep it moist, it will cook faster at the same level of heat. Grass-fed meat is best cooked medium rare to medium, or it will become tough. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part. At 135°F the meat is still rare. At 145°F to 155°F it will be medium. Above that the meat may lose its moisture and tenderness.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes after cooking it to help redistribute the juices inside. Do not cut it immediately since the juices will spill out, leaving a drier texture. For the same reason, turn meat with a spatula or tongs rather than a fork.

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Pan-Seared Steak Pizzaiola

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 rib-eye steaks (preferably grass-fed and organic) (about 12 oz. each and 1 inch thick), all fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut each steak in half lengthwise (to make four steaks) and pat them dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

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Place a 12-inch heavy frying pan over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, place the steaks in the pan and sear until deeply browned on both sides and medium rare, 2 minutes per side (no more than that). Transfer the steak to a serving to a plate.

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Add the onions and bell pepper to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan. As it comes to a boil, deglaze the pan by stirring the bottom of the pan well with a wooden spoon. Add the steaks; pour in the marinara sauce and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the steaks, cover the pan and heat just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

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Grilled Onion Burger

For 2

Ingredients

  • 10 oz. grass-fed organic ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • Half red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 hamburger rolls
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Divide the ground beef in half. Using a hamburger press form 2 burgers.

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Sprinkle with the steak seasoning and refrigerate until cooking time.

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For the onions: heat the oil in a small skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook until tender and set aside while you grill the burgers.

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I prefer to grill burgers instead of cooking them on top of the stove, so heat an outdoor grill to medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Spray the burgers on both sides with cooking spray and place them on the grill. Cook 4 minutes and turn them over. Cook for another 4 minutes. Toast the rolls on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the toasted rolls and divide the cook ed onions between the two burgers. Add ketchup, if desired

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Pot Roast with Onion Gravy and Mustard Sauce

For a leaner pot roast, choose a bottom round or rump roast. Chuck roast is a bit more tender, but fattier.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • One 3-pound (organic and grass-fed) rump or bottom round roast, trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for the gravy
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

To prepare pot roast:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.. Add the beef; cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove beef to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions; cook, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and orange zest; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Return the beef to the pot, nestling it among the onions. Add the wine to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F..

Cover the pot with a lid and transfer to the oven and bake until the beef is tender, 3 – 3 1/2 hours. Turn the meat several times during the cooking process.

To prepare the mustard sauce:

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and pepper in a small serving bowl. Reserve in the refrigerator until serving time.

To make the gravy:

Transfer the roast to a clean cutting board. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Skim fat from the liquid in the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; add to the liquid and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the meat and serve with the gravy and the mustard sauce.

The roast is delicious served with roasted carrots, parsnips and asparagus

Make Ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat the sliced pot roast with gravy in a skillet over medium-low heat. The mustard sauce can be covered and refrigerated separately for up to 2 days.


fallflavorsheadWhat flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, cinnamon, caramel, ginger, cranberry, pumpkin and nut flavors. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate these flavors into your cooking.

flavors7

Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes).

Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter melts. Garnish with parsley.

pumpkin7

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the crumbs for a topping.

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one.

If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling:

Beat together with an electric mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice.

Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch.

Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving.

fruitdesserts11

Apple Bars

Makes 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in the apples and nuts.

Add the egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick).

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely.

fruitdesserts4

Pear Crisp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Topping

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.

nutbread3

Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

Coat an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oats, applesauce and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine them.

Mix in the cranberries and pecans. It should have a consistency a little thicker than pancake batter.

Pour the dough into the loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf’s center comes out dry or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.

nutbreadcover


november

A new month as turned the corner and you will start to find less of the warm weather foods and more of the items that grow well in cooler weather at your market. The produce that seemed most abundant to me at the market this week were carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, leeks and broccoli. Here are a few ideas on how to serve them.

Sweet Potatoes

img_0004

Purchase sweet potatoes that are a uniform in size so that they cook evenly.
Scrub them under water and dry them with a paper towel.
Spray or rub them with oil.
Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato. (This keeps them from exploding when they cook. Don’t do this too far ahead of baking or the fork holes will oxidize and turn dark.)
Put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until soft.

Toppings:

Cheese: shredded cheddar/jack, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, ricotta.
Fresh herbs and seasonings: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, chives or dill.
Meats: chili, taco meat, fajita chicken or beef, pulled pork, bacon, chopped ham, salami, mini meatballs.
Vegetables: chopped scallions or red onions; steamed broccoli, green beans, snow peas or asparagus; grilled corn; chili beans; chopped fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes; sauteed spinach, mushrooms or onions; roasted red peppers; jalapenos; thawed frozen peas; chopped avocado or guacamole; coleslaw
Sauces & dressings: salsa; barbecue sauce; gravy; nacho sauce; ranch salad dressing;  peanut sauce, marinara sauce; pesto.
Sweets: brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
Toasted Nuts: sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts.

Tuna, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

img_0013

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 pears – cored and diced
  • 6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 12 ounces tuna, packed in water, drained
  • ½ cup peeled, grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

For the dressing: blend the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, blue cheese, tuna, carrots and onions. Pour dressing over the salad and toss, Sprinkle with pecans and serve the salad with a slice of the carrot bread (recipe below).

img_0006

Creamy Shrimp and Vegetable Pasta

I prefer to saute the vegetables separately, so that they do not overcook before adding them to the sauce.

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz short pasta, like rotini or penne
  • 12 large shrimp (16-21 size)
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of butter, add the leeks and garlic and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the leeks and garlic to a bowl and set aside.

img_0001

Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the diced zucchini and cook until tender, about 3-4

minutes. Remove the zucchini from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the leeks.

img_0002

Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and add them to the bowl with the leeks and zucchini.

img_0003

Add the remaining teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the shrimp and saute them just until they turn pink, turning them over once, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and Italian seasoning.

img_0004-2

Bring to a simmer. Add the cooked vegetables and heat gently.

img_0005

When the water boils, cook the pasta al dente. Drain and add it to the skillet with the shrimp mixture.

Add the grated cheese and stir gently. Serve immediately

img_0008

Carrot and Spice Quick Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar, beating well. Beat in the milk, egg, vanilla and orange extracts.

Stir in the carrots and walnuts.

Add the reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon the batter into 2 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

img_0007

Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.



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