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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: doughnuts

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Libya. This series continues with the country of Tunisia.

Tunisian cuisine is a combination of French, Arabic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. Seafood is eaten in the coastal communities and features recipes like fettuccine with fresh seafood and a green harissa dressing, grilled mullet with lemon and celery salad, and fricassee salad with grilled cedar plank salmon. The spicy paste harissa is a staple side to every Tunisian meal. It’s made from chilies, garlic, lemon and a combination of caraway, cumin and coriander seeds. Tunisian sweets are also impressive. Their doughnuts, called “yo-yos”, are soaked in honey, lemon syrup and orange blossom water.

The diverse blend of flavors in Tunisian cuisine is representative of the country’s past and location. While the cuisine varies by region, Tunisian food usually combines French and African flavors with spicy seasonings. Couscous, the main staple in Tunisian dishes, is often topped with fresh seafood or hearty lamb depending on local availability. A melting pot of cultures, Tunisia doesn’t just feature local food but all types of international cuisine can be found in the country’s larger cities.

Though the country’s Mediterranean climate and rich soil make it an ideal location for wine production, it’s often overlooked as a wine region. But Tunisia has a rich wine history and a modern cultivation of numerous grape varietals. Tunisians first began producing wine over 2,000 years ago, but Arab control in the eighth century nearly eliminated the practice. French colonization brought winemaking back to Tunisia in the late 1800s.

The Foods of Tunisia

Couscous

Couscous is derived from semolina and is present on nearly every dinner table in Tunisia. Couscous is prepared in endless ways across the country. In coastal regions, cooks prefer to serve it with fish, while interior regions opt for lamb and dried fruit. A local favorite, Sfax Couscous, is named for Tunisia’s second largest city, which is filled with freshly caught seafood.

Briks

Briks are another staple and can be found in little shops throughout the country. Similar to a samosa, a brik is made from wrapping pastry dough around a variety of fillings, including potatoes, eggs, or tuna. The packets are then fried in grapeseed oil and served piping hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Harissa

A thick, spicy paste made from hot chili peppers and garlic, harissa is a condiment for grilled meats and fish or stirred into soups and stews for added flavor. It is often served as a dipping sauce alongside bread. Harissa’s heat level varies depending on the number and type of chili peppers used. The peppers are typically smoked to add a complex, deep flavor.

Ojja

While typically a breakfast dish, ojja is often considered fast-food by Tunisian standards. Traditional ojja combine eggs and merguez, a spicy lamb sausage, in a savory tomato sauce for a hearty, filling meal. Ojja is served with a side of grilled bread in place of a spoon or fork.

YoYos

Tunisians take dessert seriously and they are routinely served after a large evening meal and accompanied with mint tea. Some local desserts include sweet cakes, fried almond pastries, and ice cream. But the Tunisian doughnuts, YoYos, are the favorite.

Mint tea

The melding of many cultures and flavors is apparent in Tunisia’s most popular drink, sweet mint tea. Served hot or over ice, this beverage is topped with pine nuts, a twist of flavor and texture, especially for those not accustomed to nuts in their tea.

Wine Regions

Muscat

Tunisia has seven distinct controlled designation-of-origin regions known locally as AOCs (for their French name, appellation d’origine controlee). The naming of wine regions is modeled after the French, with whom Tunisia shares many of the same grape varietals, such as Muscat.

Sidi Saad

Sidi Saad is a wine blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Produced using traditional methods in the Gran Cru Mornag region, Sidi Saad is corked in a distinctively shaped bottle.

Gris de Tunisie

Gris de Tunisie, or grey Tunisian wine, is the country’s most famous and unique wine. The wine is a dusky rose in color and tastes like a fruity rosé. It is best served on hot days paired with a spicy seafood dish.

Chateau Mornag Rosé

Chateau Mornag Rosé is the country’s most popular. Produced in the Mornag area in Northern Tunisia, it is light, crisp and tastes best with the region’s Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.

Make Some Tunisian Recipes At Home

Tunisian Harissa

Ingredients

100 g dried long red chilies, seeded
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Directions

Soaking time 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Place chilies in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Place a small plate directly on top of chilies to keep them submerged then set aside for 1½ hours or until very soft. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over medium-low heat, add the spices and fry, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Finely grind spices in an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Combine the drained chilies, spices, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the remaining ingredients in a small food processor. Process to a smooth paste, occasionally scraping down the sides. Push mixture through a food mill, extracting as much purée as possible; the solids should be dry. Transfer mixture to a sterilized jar and seal. Harissa will keep for up to 1 year stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)

Tunisian breakfast. Capers, chopped almonds, chopped olives, yogurt and some mint can all be added at the end, and the soup is commonly served ladled over cubes of day old bread. Tuna is often added also.

Ingredients

100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Large pinch saffron
1 tablespoon harissa
2 liters (8 cups) chicken stock
4 (400g) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tomatoes, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4-6 eggs (depending on the number of servings)

To serve

Large handful coriander leaves
Slices of baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges, to serve
2 tbsp baby capers, drained
2 tbsp chopped blanched almonds

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin and coriander and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. Stir in the harissa then add the stock and chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan then cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack each egg into a saucer then add them, one at a time, to the simmering water. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Carefully remove each using a slotted spoon to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain excess water.

Divide the hot soup among large bowls. Place an egg in each bowl. Scatter over the coriander, capers, and almonds. Serve with the baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges to the side.

Broiled Red Mullet with Celery Salad

Ingredients

4 red mullets, cleaned (each 340 g net)
12 g mixed fresh bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed using a mortar and pestle
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt

Lemon and Celery Salad

4 long, thin green capsicum (peppers), or 1 regular green capsicum (pepper) (140 g gross)
50 ml olive oil
1 lemon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 cm dice (35 g net)
3 tender celery stalks, cut into 1 cm dice (120 g net)
10 g tender celery leaves, finely chopped
15 g parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
30 g black olives, pitted
½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sumac

Directions

To make the salad, place the capsicum in a baking dish. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes ( or longer for regular capsicum), or until the skin is blistered and the flesh is soft. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 1 cm dice and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, the lemon, celery, and leaves, parsley, garlic, olives, chili flakes, and salt. Stir well and set aside.

Score the red mullet 2–3 times on each side in parallel lines at a 45-degree angle to the fish. Slice the bay leaves into fine strips and stuff into the incisions, followed by each of the other herbs. Place the fish on a baking tray lined with foil. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, olive oil and salt. Drizzle or brush this over the fish.

Preheat a broiler on high. Once hot, place the fish underneath and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the flesh is firm and cooked through. Serve the fish with the salad on the side, garnished with sumac.

Tunisian Doughnuts (yo-yos)

Ingredients

7 g sachet dried yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
60 ml (¼ cup) orange juice
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra, to deep-fry
300 g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted

Honey syrup

2 tablespoons lemon juice
110 g (½ cup) white sugar
360 g (1 cup) honey
2 teaspoons orange blossom water, optional

Directions

Place yeast, sugar and 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Add orange juice, zest, and 2 tablespoons oil, and stir to combine. Place flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture into the well and stir until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

To make the honey syrup, place the lemon juice, sugar and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Add honey and orange blossom water, if using, then reduce the heat to low–medium and cook the mixture for 35 minutes or until the consistency of a runny honey; watch syrup to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Transfer to a large bowl and cool.

Fill a deep-fryer or large pan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds). Working in batches, tear off a piece of dough about the size of a plum and flatten slightly with your hand. Tear a hole in the middle and stretch the dough to make a 12–15cm ring. Gently drop the dough into the oil and deep-fry, turning halfway, for 4 minutes or until crisp, golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Using a skewer, pierce yo-yos on both sides, then soak in honey syrup for 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

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Breakfast breads are comforting but they can be unhealthy. Keep them healthy by adding whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. A Healthy Doughnut? Healthy doughnuts do exist. These baked ones are the way to go to reduce the fat and calories. Don’t be put off by the fact that some of the treats are made with whole wheat flour. It adds great flavor, not density. Try baking with different grains and you will be rewarded with some great tasting breads.

Apple Flavored Baked Doughnuts With Maple Glaze

Makes 10

Doughnuts

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugars, applesauce, apple butter, orange juice, vanilla, apple pie spice, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill 10 of the wells of the doughnut pans to the rim; using a scant 1/3 cup of batter in each well.

If you have a little dough left add a little to each of the doughnuts.

Bake the doughnuts for 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

After about 5 minutes, remove the donuts from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze:

Mix together all of the glaze ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Place waxed paper under the racks holding the donuts.

Spread the doughnuts with glaze (or dip tops in the glaze); return to the rack until the glaze is set.

Pecan Banana Bread

Make 1 loaf. the recipe can be doubled to make 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 medium-size very ripe bananas, mashed (2 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions

Place the pecans in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Combine brown sugar, melted butter, bananas and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the pecans.

Pour mixture into a 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool on wire rack 2 hours or until completely cool.

Serve with cream cheese, if desired.

Barley Bread

Barley flakes are similar to oats and one of the oldest whole grains. Although barley may not be as popular as other whole grains like oats, wheat, or even the current favorite, quinoa, that makes it one of the best whole grain choices. The technique used below for helping the bread retain its shape during rising, works very well. Serve with homemade jam for breakfast or use it to make a sandwich, especially turkey.

Makes 1 boule

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
½ cup barley flakes
2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 package)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 – 2¼ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, plus extra for the top of the bread
1/2 cup barley flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Olive oil for the dough

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, soak the barley flakes in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes.

Put the olive oil, honey and baking soda into the bowl with the buttermilk and barley flakes ; stir well to combine.

Stir in 2 cups of bread flour, the yeast, salt, barley flour, wheat gluten, all-purpose flour and wheat germ.

With the paddle attachment mix the ingredients until they come together around the paddle. If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for five minutes, then let it rest for ten minutes.

Knead for another 5 minutes, or until the dough is supple and elastic. Drizzle the dough with a teaspoon of olive oil, roll the dough over to coat it entirely with oil.

Cover with a damp tea towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about an hour and a half.

Shape the dough into a flat ball to create a “boule”.

To keep it from spreading out as it rises, set the ball inside a 9 inch springform pan, on a piece of parchment, for the second rise.

Brush the shaped dough with some more olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is hot and the dough has completed its second rise, brush the dough with a bit more olive oil.

Remove the springform ring and slide a baking sheet under the parchment.

Slash the top of the loaf in diagonal cuts that are about ¼ inch deep and sprinkle the top with a little wheat germ.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and registers 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow the loaf to sit for at least an hour before slicing.


hanukkah

The first Jews began arriving in Rome as far back as 160 BC, creating one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe, and with over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas. Hanukkah 2014 begins in the evening on Tuesday, December 16.

Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days, with the dates being dictated by the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is lit on the nine-branched candle holder called the menorah until all eight candles are burning. The shamash; the ninth candle is raised above the eight others, its purpose being as a flame to light the religious candles below.  On Rome’s via Sacra, near the Coliseum stands the Arch of Titus, built in AD81, shows  a sculpture of a procession following the raid on the Temple of Solomon and, above the heads of the triumphant Romans, a menorah is held aloft. Today, a twenty-foot menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and this becomes the central focus for Rome’s  lighting ceremony.  In Milan the large public menorah is traditionally set in Piazza San Carlo with the hope that its light will reach the hearts of the people.

While in Venice, following the lighting of the menorah, the Cannaregio neighborhood is brought to life with music and dancing. Once the home of the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto, the five synagogues remain intact and are still used for worship by the local community. Florence’s past is also steeped in Jewish history with the Jewish museum on Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) where the city’s ghetto once stood. Nearby is Tempio Maggiore, built between 1874 and 1882, and is the  Synagogue of Florence where the city’s Jewish community gather to celebrate and light the Menorah before the feasting begins.

The fried foods that are served during the holiday commemorate the miracle of the one day’s supply of olive oil that burned for eight days after the destruction of the temple. The Jewish communities celebrate with traditional recipes, such as, chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon and nutmeg before being dredged in flour and fried, thin slices of fried eggplant and potato pancakes. Frittelle di Chanukah  (sweet fried dough fritters) are the traditional end to all Italian Hanukkah meals; balls of bread dough are stuffed with raisins and flavored with aniseed, fried and drizzled with hot honey.

hanukkah1

Fennel and Orange­ Scented Challah

By Joan Nathan (New York Times)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.

Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half.

Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12 ­inch loaf.

Repeat with the other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment ­lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.

Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half ­hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.

hanukkah4

Pollo Fritto

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg and the lemon juice in a measuring cup and beating the mixture well with a fork. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces, turn them to coat on all sides and let them marinate for about an hour, turning them several times.

When it comes time to cook, heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the egg and slip them into the oil. When they are well browned on all sides, remove them from the pot, drain them well, and serve them.

hanukkah5

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 6 cups grated butternut squash (1 3-pound squash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered fresh sage(more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons oat bran
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Place the grated onion in a strainer set over a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then wrap the onion in a dishtowel and squeeze out excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the squash, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper, oat bran and flour. Add the eggs and stir together.

Begin heating a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place a wire rack over another sheet pan.

Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill with 3 tablespoons of the mixture. Turn out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining latke mix. You should have enough to make about 30 latkes.

Add the oil to the pan and when it is hot, use a spatula to transfer a ball of latke mixture to the pan. Press down with the spatula to flatten.

Repeat with more mounds. Cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and turn the latkes over. Cook on the other side until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack set over a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Serve hot topped with low-fat or regular sour cream.

hanukkah3

Couscous With Olives, Lemon And Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) pareve margarine
  • 6 cups chopped onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted halved brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups couscous (about 13 1/2 ounces)

Directions

Melt margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; stir to coat. Cover pot and cook onions until very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Mix in ginger and turmeric.

Add broth, olives, basil, mint and lemon juice. Bring to simmer. Mix in couscous.

Cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour couscous into a bowl and serve.

hanukkah2

Honey-Glazed Doughnuts With Raisins And Pine Nuts

Ingredients

MAKES ABOUT 32

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center. Add raisins, pine nuts, egg and 1 tablespoon oil to well. Pour remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water over, then pour yeast mixture over. Stir until a smooth dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; cover bowl with plastic, then a towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour enough oil into large deep saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan and heat oil to 360°F to 370°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6 doughnuts, dip a metal tablespoon into the hot oil to coat and, without deflating dough, gently scoop up a rounded tablespoonful. Drop dough into the oil. Fry until deep golden, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to prepared sheet and drain.

DO AHEAD Doughnuts can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm on the same sheet in a 350°F oven about 15 minutes.

Whisk honey, 3/4 cup water and cinnamon in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrup comes to boil. Remove pan from the heat. Dip warm doughnuts into honey syrup and pile onto a serving platter. Pour remaining syrup into bowl. Serve doughnuts with remaining syrup.


fall fruits

Most people think of summer as the time for the best produce, but autumn is the season that gives us great fruit for baking. First of all, fall is apple picking season, and that means lots of muffins, pies, cakes and tarts all filled with sweet and tart apples. Then Bartlett pears arrive, followed by Bosc and Comice pears and Anjou pears in winter. Other fall fruits would be figs and cranberries, which are healthy and delicious.

This time of year the whole world seems to go pumpkin-crazy. Pumpkin ends up in almost every recipe, whether it’s drinks, breakfast, pasta or pastries. Besides pumpkin, other winter squash such as butternut and acorn are available for sweet as well as savory recipes.

There are some spices that are associated with fall recipes. Those spices are warm, nutty, slightly spicy and slightly sweet. They include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, chai, allspice, mace, star anise, cardamom, coriander, fennel and peppercorns.

Make your own Spice Blends

To make pumpkin pie spice blend, combine 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix thoroughly. Keep the mixture in a tightly sealed jar in your pantry.

To make apple pie spice blend, combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

All these delicious, healthy fruits are in season now.

  • Apple
  • Bananas
  • Dried Fruit
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate

apple crisp

Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 8 cups thinly sliced, peeled baking apples (8 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 2-quart rectangular baking dish combine apples, cranberries and apple juice.

In a small bowl stir together granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Sprinkle over fruit mixture; toss gently to coat.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle topping over fruit mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

Bread Dough

Use this recipe for the fig rolls.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2  cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions

In a 2-quart mixing bowl stir together the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved. Stir in flours, sugar, oil, and salt until combined. Cover with lid or plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Stir down. Cover and chill overnight. Before baking, let dough stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

fig rolls

Italian Fig Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pound bread dough, recipe above and made the day before
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil. Grease foil; set aside.

For the filling:

In a small bowl combine figs, snipped sage and honey; set aside.

Cut dough into 12 equal portions. Shape dough portions into balls.

Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten it to a 3-inch circle. Top with a rounded teaspoon of the filling and a few pieces of the cheese. Fold dough over filling; pinch edges to seal.

Place rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise until double in size (1 to 1-1/4 hours).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together egg white and the water; brush lightly over rolls. Gently press small sage leaves onto the tops of the rolls; brush again with the egg white mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

fall desserts

Mini Cheesecakes with Pear Topping

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 cups sliced fresh pears (4 medium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup broken walnuts,toasted
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line eight 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with foil or paper baking cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the crust:

In a small bowl stir together oats, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons of oat mixture into each prepared muffin cup. Using the bottom of a narrow glass, press down lightly. Bake about 8 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat just until combined. Stir in the 1/2 cup blue cheese and the sour cream.

Spoon 1 well-rounded tablespoon of filling into each muffin cup. Bake about 20 minutes or until slightly puffed and set. Cool about 30 minutes.

Remove from muffin cups. Place on a tray, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

For the pear topping:

In a large skillet melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cream. Cook and stir until bubbly; add pears. Cook about 5 minutes or until pears are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool slightly.

To serve:

Remove foil or paper liners from cheesecakes. Place cheesecakes in eight deep dessert dishes. Spoon pear mixture around cheesecakes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts and additional blue cheese, if desired.

donuts

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

12 doughnuts

Doughnuts

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, optional
  • 2 tablespoons REAL maple syrup, optional

donut pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans (see photo). If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

If you’re making muffins, fill each cup about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar.

If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with the cinnamon-sugar.

Optional: combine the powdered sugar with the maple syrup and drizzle the cinnamon coated donuts with the glaze.

Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

french toast

Apple French Toast Bake

Make ahead breakfast.

French Toast

  • 1 day old Italian bread, about 18″ to 20″ long (12 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 5 to 6 apples (1 3/4 to 2 pounds fresh apples), peeled and thinly sliced; such as Macoun, Empire, Cortland or Granny Smith
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Optional Garnish

  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or similar-sized casserole dish.

Slice the bread into 1 inch slices; you’ll need about 20 slices to fill the pan. Place the slices of bread into the pan. Be sure the entire bottom of the dish is covered with bread. You may have to cut some slices to fit.

In a medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.

Pour this mixture over the bread and let it soak in while you prepare the topping.

Peel and slice the apples thinly. Mix them with the remaining topping ingredients and spread them over the bread in the pan.

To bake immediately, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To bake up to 48 hours later, cover the pan, and refrigerate.

Bake the French toast in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the eggs set.

If it’s been refrigerated, remove the cover, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

Makes about 10 servings.


Botanically known as Myristica fragrans, the nutmeg tree originated in Banda, the largest of the Molucca Spice Islands of Indonesia. In the first century A.D., Roman author Pliny speaks of a tree bearing nuts with two flavors. Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome fumigated with nutmeg before his coronation. In the the sixth century, nutmeg was brought to Constantinople by Arab merchants. In the fourteenth century, half a kilogram ( a little over a pound) of nutmeg cost as much as three sheep or a cow.

Since the 1500s, several European countries sent people to retrieve this precious spice. The trip was so difficult that two out of three fleets of ships did not make it back and, those that did, often returned damaged. Despite the travel conditions, Holland, England and Portugal fought to dominate the nutmeg market. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac and have curative effects; people believed that it could cure the plague. The three European powers fought for a long time, until the Portuguese withdrew from the fight to concentrate their efforts in the South American colonies. The Dutch and British finally came to an agreement: the Dutch would have the exclusive rights to the sale of nutmeg and in exchange the English would be given a small island in North America, now known as Manhattan.

The Dutch waged a bloody war, including the massacre and enslavement of the inhabitants of the island of Banda, just to control nutmeg production in the East Indies. In 1760, the price of nutmeg in London was 85 to 90 shillings per pound, a price kept artificially high by the Dutch, who voluntarily burned full warehouses of nutmeg in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the Spice Islands until World War II. The British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and most notably Grenada, where it is the national symbol and is emblazoned on the country’s red, yellow and green flag.

The nutmeg tree is a tropical evergreen that grows to about 12 m (40 ft) and can reach as high as 20 m (66 ft)., with oblong egg-shaped leaves and small, bell-like light yellow flowers that give off a distinct aroma when in bloom. The fruit is light yellow with red and green markings, resembling an apricot or a large plum. As the fruit matures, the outer fleshy covering bursts to reveal the seed. The seed is covered with red membranes called aril, the mace portion of the nutmeg. The nut is then dried for 2 months, until the inner nut rattles inside the shell. It is then shelled to reveal the egg-shaped nutmeat which is the edible portion of the nutmeg. Second-rate nuts are pressed for the oil, which is used in perfume and in the food industry.

The bark of the tree is a dark grey-green which produces a yellow juice which oxidizes to red. It is thickly branched with dense foliage and tough, dark green leaves about 10 cm (4 in) long. It prefers the rich volcanic soil and hot, humid conditions of the tropics. Nutmeg is propagated by seeds in nursery beds and, after about six months, they are transplanted to the fields. It takes five years for the trees to flower. Fruit bearing occurs after 15 years and the trees continue to bear fruit for about fifty years. A single mature tree produces up to 2,000 nuts per year. The fruit is often collected with a long pole with a basket attached (resembling a lacrosse stick), to pick the fruit from the trees. In Indonesia this is called a gai gai. When the fruit is harvested the seed is removed, then the mace from the seed. The mace is flattened between boards and the seeds dried until they rattle, when they are shelled. Nutmeg is not one spice, but two. Mace is also derived from the nutmeg fruit.

In Western cuisine, nutmeg and mace are more popular for cakes, crackers and stewed fruits; nutmeg is sometimes used to flavor cheese sauces (fondue or Béchamel sauce). The combination of spinach with nutmeg is a classic and nutmeg is often found in Italian stuffed pastas, e. g., ravioli and lasagna.

nutmeg_1

Whole nuts are preferable to ground nutmeg, as flavor deteriorates quickly. Whole nuts will keep indefinitely and can be grated as needed with a nutmeg grater. Store both ground and whole nutmeg away from sunlight in airtight containers.

Tortellini en Brodo

(Traditional Filled Pasta in Broth)

Servings 4

6 cups homemade or store bought low sodium chicken broth

For filling

  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 7 oz ground lean pork
  • 7 oz finely chopped prosciutto
  • 3 ½ oz ground turkey breast
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • nutmeg

For pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the tortellini filling:

In a pan, melt the butter then add ground pork and turkey breast. Cook for about 15 minutes, then add chopped prosciutto and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Once cool, add the grated cheese and one egg. Mix until soft and smooth. Add a pinch of salt and nutmeg.

This is the classic tortellini filling, but there are many variations: you can use Mortadella instead of prosciutto, beef instead of pork or chicken instead of turkey.

For the pasta:

Prepare the pasta dough by thoroughly combining the eggs, flour, salt and olive oil. Let rest under a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes. Then roll out into a thin sheet on a pasta machine.

To shape the tortellini, cut the sheet of dough into horizontal slices and then cut them vertically, so that you have ¼ in squares. Place a tiny amount of filling at the center of each square and fold into a triangle, sealing the edges. (If the pasta is too dry, brush the edges with water.)

Squeeze the ends of the triangle together with the point facing upwards and place the corners on top of one another and press until they are sealed. Place them on a lightly floured kitchen towel. Repeat with the rest of the pasta. After the tortellini are shaped, let them rest for a couple of hours before cooking, so they harden.

In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Season the stock with salt and pepper, add the tortellini and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Ladle the tortellini and some stock into soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ricotta & Spinach Malfatti

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onions, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian whole, peeled tomatoes
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Malfatti:

  • 4 pounds spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

For Sauce:

In a large saucepan, the heat olive oil, then add the garlic and onions. Cook, about 3 to 4 minutes,. Next, stir in the celery and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 3 more minutes, then add the canned tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the flame and simmer until the carrots are tender. Mix the sauce with a hand (immersion)  blender or any appliance that can easily purée vegetables. Finish with chopped basil and season to taste. Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the malfatti.

For Malfatti:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in spinach and cook for about 2 minutes, until leaves turn bright green. Drain quickly and cool them in an ice water bath to preserve the color. Drain well. Spread over paper towels to dry. Once dried, finely chop and set aside.

Drain the ricotta in a sieve if liquid is present. In a large bowl, mash ricotta with a fork. Stir in the eggs, 3/4 cup of Parmigiano, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add chopped spinach to the mixture. Stir well.

Boil a large pot of salted water.

With a sieve or flour sifter, sprinkle the flour on a large cutting board. Form some roundish, walnut-sized or larger ovals of the spinach mixture and roll them briefly over the flour. Prepare the remaining malfatti. in the same manner.

Gently place the malfatti in the salted boiling water and as soon as they float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon to a warm buttered baking dish. If the first batch of malfatti are lukewarm by the time you are done boiling all of them, put the baking dish in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes.

Pour a plentiful amount of the warm tomato sauce on top of the malfatti, add some Parmigiano and basil to garnish and serve them on warm individual plates.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Butternut Squash in Butter and Nutmeg

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and seeded (about 1 large one)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut peeled and seeded squash into 1-inch cubes.

Spray a baking sheet or dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place squash on baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until very tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a serving dish or bowl.

Melt butter ina  small saucepan over medium-low heat, until butter turns a nut-colored brown, about 4 minutes– don’t burn it!

Pour over squash, toss to coat and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Chicken Tetrazzini

A traditional Italian baked pasta, with chicken, cheese, sherry and nutmeg.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/3 cups half-and-half
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 cups (1 pound) cooked boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with flour and toss to combine. Add broth and half-and-half; cook, stirring often, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in sherry, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat and stir in chicken.

Combine cooked spaghetti and chicken mixture; toss gently and spoon into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart baking dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Baked Italian Donuts

Recipe photo

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup drained ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • Powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar

Directions

Beat butter, egg and sugar together in an electric mixer. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter ingredients alternating with the milk and ricotta. Fill two greased donut pans, about 2/3 full (my pans were purchased from King Arthur). Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes depending on size.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar before serving.



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