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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: sorbet

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The province of Caserta is in the Campania region of Italy located 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Naples. It is an important agricultural, commercial and industrial area. The Roccamonfina Regional Park is the location of an extinct volcano whose eruptions shaped this region long ago. It is an ideal habitat for the chestnut forests, vineyards and olive groves that are found in the area.

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Festivals and fairs that marry both the sacred and the pagan recall the history, culture and traditions of Caserta Province – in particular, the Sagra delle Pallottole, a food festival held every year in San Leucio. The event features a historic procession in which participants wear traditional clothing and the local women prepare and serve potato croquettes. Exhibits, events, concerts and the famous float parade all enliven the streets in celebration of one of the most colorful times of the year, Carnevale.

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The cuisine of Caserta is made of simple recipes using local products.

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Buffalo mozzarella is produced with craftsmanship in this province. It is often made into different shapes: round, braided, knotted or small balls. The water buffalo milk is also used to make butter and other cheeses such as, burrino, burrata, smoked provola and fresh or dried ricotta. Salaprese is a sheep’s milk cheese that is not matured but eaten right after having absorbed the salt. It tastes fresh and sweet, with a strong hint of sheep’s milk.

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Local farms supply meat used to prepare cold cuts such as capicollo, prosciutto di Monte, pancetta tesa and the filet, Vairano Patenora. The province is also famous for its salsiccia, a sausage seasoned in special terra-cotta vases.

The Campanella artichoke, porcini mushroom, the many varieties of apple, the golden plum and the chestnut are all delicacies that distinguish the local cuisine.

Desserts consist of honey and walnut biscuits; pigne are glazed sweets and a pastry called serpentone that is stuffed with honey and walnuts.

The wine list is long as well and includes Asprinio di Aversa, Falerno del Massico and Galluccio, all labeled DOC.

Culinary Specialties of Caserta

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Mozzarella di Bufala Salad

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Ingredients

  • Buffalo mozzarella (1 large ball for every 2 servings)
  • Breadcrumbs
  • All purpose flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Mixed salad greens

Sauce

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small chili pepper
  • Handful of basil leaves, plus extra for garnish

Directions

Make the sauce first.

Grill the red pepper, turning it often until it starts to char evenly on all sides. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, cut open the pepper and clean out the seeds and any pulp. Cut the flesh into smaller pieces and place in a food processor along with the oil, chili pepper, garlic, basil, salt and mascarpone. Process until smooth. Taste and correct for salt. Place in the refrigerator to thicken while you prepare the other ingredients. Remove the sauce about 5 minutes before serving and give it a good stir.

Tip: You can make the sauce in advance to save time. It will keep for a few days. If you want a thicker sauce, leave out the olive oil.

Prep the mozzarella.  

Set out a plate for flour and another for the breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Drain the mozzarella and slice each ball in half. Gently pat both sides of the slices dry with a paper towel. Dredge each piece of cheese in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure to cover the cheese entirely; set aside on waxed paper. Repeat until all the cheese is breaded. Depending on how many cheeses you are using, you may need more breading ingredients.

You can serve all the cheese on one platter with the salad or as individually plated servings. Arrange the salad greens accordingly.

Heat the olive oil. You want at least an inch of cooking oil, so use a small pan and fry the cheese in batches. Gently slide the slices into the oil. They are ready to turn over after about 3 minutes, or when the bottom has turned golden brown and firm. Gently turn them and cook for another 3 minutes. When golden and crunchy on all sides, transfer the cheese to paper towels to drain and lightly salt them.

Let them cool slightly, but be sure to serve them warm-hot. You can also slice them in half. Drizzle the pepper cream sauce directly over the cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Linguine with Colatura di Alici and Erbe di Campo

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb (500 gr) linguine
  • 1 ½ lbs (700 gr) wild greens or broccoli rabe
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon colatura di alici (Italian anchovy sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes

Directions

Wash and clean the broccoli rabe and cut them into 2-inch pieces; set aside.

In a large pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden, add the broccoli and season with salt. Cook over medium heat until the broccoli is tender, then remove the pan from the heat.

Place a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan with the broccoli. Toss the mixture over low heat, add the colatura and chili; toss again to coat the pasta evenly.

Add a couple of ladles of pasta cooking water to create a creamier sauce. Serve hot.

Salt Cod Baked in Spicy Tomato Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (900 g) thick salt cod fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cans (each 12 ounces; 340 g) Italian plum tomatoes, pureed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Salt cod must be soaked overnight before cooking to remove the salt. Place it in a bowl with cold water to cover and soak for 24 hours, changing the water three or four times.

If you’re in a hurry, try the quick-soak method. Rinse the cod under cold running water for 15 minutes. Place it in a pan with cold water to cover and gradually bring to a boil. Drain the fish and rinse in cold water. Repeat the boiling and rinsing process two or three times.

Cut the cod into 4 x 1 1/2-inch (10 X 4-cm) pieces, then pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until golden. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the hot pepper flakes and parsley. Stir, then replace the skillet on the stove. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and oregano. Simmer 5 minutes and set aside. Remove and discard the garlic.

Heat the vegetable oil in another skillet over moderate heat. When a cube of bread browns in about 1 minute, the oil is ready for frying. Flour the cod fillets lightly and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange the cod fillets in a bake-and-serve dish and cover with the tomato sauce. Bake for 20 minutes.

Limoncello Sorbet Cups

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup limoncello
  • Lemon zest from two lemons
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Lemon cups (1 hollowed out lemon  per serving)

Directions

Bring the water and sugar just to a boil in a sauce pan, stirring frequently, until you have a thick, clear syrup. Turn off the heat and let cool.

Transfer the syrup to a bowl and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, limoncello and salt. Stir well and transfer to a ceramic baking dish or plastic container, cover and freeze for at least 3 hours.

Check the sorbet periodically and move it around with a fork. When ready, scrape the sorbet with a fork; then use an ice cream scoop to serve.

To make the lemon cups:

Slice ¾ of an inch off the stem side of the lemons. Using a paring knife and teaspoon, carefully cut and scoop out the lemon pulp. Do this over a bowl so you can save the juice. Slice about ¼ inch from the bottom of the lemons, so they will stand.

Freeze the cups along with the sorbet. When the sorbet is ready, fill the cups and place them back in the freezer until serving. You can make a batch of several sorbet cups in advance.

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heartcoverDesserts aren’t off-limits if you’re aiming for a heart-healthy diet. You just have to choose carefully. The high fat content of some desserts, particularly if made with saturated fat—can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body. Over time, elevated cholesterol can lead to heart attacks, strokes, sluggish circulation and kidney problems. If you stick with healthier recipes, have dessert only a few times a week and keep it to reasonable portions—you can have dessert.

Some tips in making good tasting, healthy desserts:

Paying a little extra for high-quality products, like premium chocolate and pure vanilla extract, can pay off. More-flavorful ingredients make lower calorie desserts taste better.

Use two egg whites or a quarter cup of refrigerated egg substitute in place of one egg and you’ll trim about 60 calories and six grams of fat from your treats. In my experience, baked goods turn out really well when using egg substitutes.

Most chocolate chip cookies are much larger than what is considered a healthy portion. Use a tablespoon to measure out the dough. For brownies and sheet cakes, cut them into two-inch squares before serving. Pie slices should be about one and a half inches across at the widest part.

Replacing one cup of white flour with white whole wheat flour adds 10 grams of heart-healthy fiber to your baked goods. Because whole grains are coarser than refined ones, it is better to use no more than a fifty-fifty mix in your recipe.

You can also make graham cracker crusts that will hold together without melted butter. Pulse 10 honey graham cracker sheets (six ounces) into fine crumbs in a food processor. Add two tablespoons of low-fat milk and process for another 30 seconds, or until the crumbs stick when pressed together. Press the mixture into a nine-inch pie dish and bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Sugar substitutes have a different chemical consistency and are often sweeter than sugar, meaning you’ll need less. For best results, use sweetener-sugar hybrids developed specifically for baking, like Domino Light or Truvia Baking Blend and follow the directions on the package.

You can use less fat and sugar in a recipe by substituting a portion of the fat and sugar with fruit or vegetable purees. They make desserts denser, so try a 25 to 50 percent trade to find the right combination.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Applesauce

The mild flavor of unsweetened applesauce works particularly well in muffins and cakes. Use an equal amount to replace butter, oil or shortening in your recipe.

2. Canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree

Substitute either one for fat in a one-to-one ratio in spice breads, spice cakes or chocolate desserts. You can also add a can of pumpkin to a box of brownie mix in place of the eggs and oil.

3. Prunes or dates

These add richness and deepen the color of gingerbread and brownies. Blend a half cup with six tablespoons of water until smooth, then use the puree to replace an equal amount of fat.

4. Bananas

Try substituting half the amount of the oil called for with the same amount of mashed banana.

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Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Raspberries or shaved chocolate for garnishing

Directions

Place chopped chocolate in a 2-cup glass measure or small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on 70% power (medium-high) for 1 minute; stir. Microwave on 70% power for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until chocolate is melted, stirring every 15 seconds.

In a food processor bowl combine ricotta cheese, half-and-half and vanilla. Cover and process until combined. Add melted chocolate while food processor is running. Process until well combined.

Spoon into small bowls or glasses. Serve immediately or cover and chill for up to 24 hours. If desired, garnish with fresh berries or chocolate shavings. Makes 4 servings.

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Fresh Orange Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 10 medium oranges
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium)
  • Grated orange rind
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Carefully remove the rind from 2 oranges using a vegetable peeler; discard the white pith. Cut rind into 1 x ¼-inch-thick strips. Set aside.

Cut peeled oranges in half and using a citrus press squeeze juice from the orange halves into a large measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from the remaining 8 oranges until juice measures 2 2/3 cups.

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and the sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Add reserved rind strips to the pan. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Strain sugar mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving the liquid; discard solids. Cool completely.

Add orange juice and lemon juice to the sugar mixture; stir well. Pour mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice-cream maker; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Garnish with grated rind and mint sprigs, if desired.

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Dark Chocolate Mint Bars

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup good quality dark or semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely crushed chocolate wafers (about 19 wafers)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon trans-free, fat-free shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons kale or parsley juice for a natural green color, optional

Directions

Line an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Coat foil with cooking spray. Set aside.

For the crust:

In a food processor pulse oats until fine.

In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup of the chocolate pieces and the butter; heat and stir until melted.

Stir in the processed oats, finely crushed chocolate wafers, cocoa powder and salt. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill for 15 minutes.

In the same saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate pieces and the shortening. Heat and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl beat together the powdered sugar, cream cheese, milk, peppermint extract, vanilla and kale juice, if using for a green color, until smooth.

Spread over the crust and drizzle with the melted chocolate mixture.

Chill about 1 hour or until set. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into 24 bars.

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Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk (2%)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Amaretto or almond extract
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the Panna Cotta:

In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 3 minutes to soften. Cook and stir over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Cook and stir just until the milk is heated through and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in Amaretto or almond extract. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups. Cover and chill about 8 hours or until firm.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan, combine blueberries, orange juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and the cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

To serve:

Run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold onto individual plates. Top with sauce. Makes 4 (1 panna cotta with 2-tablespoons sauce) servings.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting: Paula Deen

Red Velvet Cupcakes

For a red color without the artificial dye, use either sliced or whole canned beets, whichever costs less. An 8 1/4-ounce can yields slightly more than 1 cup. Look to be sure there is no sugar added or that they are pickled beets. You will not taste the flavor of the beets in the cupcakes. It is best to make these cupcakes the day before you plan on serving them.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned beets, drained
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon. baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon. baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil, chilled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, cold

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners into a 12-cup regular size muffin pan.

Coarsely chop beets and place in the blender with 1/4 cup buttermilk. Process until beets are finely chopped. Add remaining buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla and process until pureed, making sure no lumps remain.

In a small bowl, combine flour, 6 tablespoons of cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In medium bowl, combine cold oil and sugar. With hand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed, mix until the sugar is evenly moistened. Add cold egg and beat at high-speed until mixture resembles mayonnaise and sugar is almost completely dissolved, takes about 90 seconds.

Add  the pureed beet mixture and mix until combined. Sift dry ingredients into the bowl and mix, either on low-speed or by hand until combined with the wet ingredients.

Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full.

Bake cupcakes for 28-30 minutes, or until tops feel springy. Immediately transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

Cupcakes taste the best when stored overnight at room temperature in a covered container.Make the frosting as directed below and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, frost cupcakes, using about 1 tablespoon of the frosting for each. The frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In small bowl, work sugar and cream cheese together with wooden spoon or hand mixer until combined. Mix in vanilla.

This frosting is best when refrigerated 8 hours or overnight, loosely covered, before using. It keeps in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Makes a generous 2/3 cup.


herbs

If you are growing herbs in your garden, you’re already an expert at grabbing a handful of aromatic herbs, roughly chopping them and adding them to your favorite salads, sauces, soups and marinades. Your serving plates are garnished with greenery and your dips are made with fresh herbs instead of dried. As for pesto, you’ve made them all: basil, parsley, arugula, etc. But it’s late summer and after all that culinary creativity, do you still have an over-abundance of herbs? Before you even think about letting them go to waste, think about the following uses.

  • Branches of woody herbs such as rosemary can be used as garnishes in mixed drinks. Rosemary makes a great swizzle stick and delicate herbs like mint, coriander and lemon balm can also add a different taste to your summer cocktails.
  • Reserving a few of those sturdy rosemary branches to use as skewers for grilled kabobs. Fragrant thyme, sage or rosemary can also add flavor to barbecued food just by tossing a few dampened bunches of them directly on hot coals or in a grill box for a gas grill. The oils mingle with the smoke adding a smoky-herbal essence to whatever you’re grilling.
  • Next time you crave a cup of herbal tea, don’t search the cupboard for a stale teabag. Instead, check your garden for the most aromatic herbs you can find and steep them until you have a fragrant infusion.
  • Although herbs are usually used in savory recipes, they also lend themselves beautifully to sweet preparations. Herbs are excellent in sorbet, especially basil, lavender, rose and edible flowers such as scented geranium. Besides sauces and sorbets, simple baked goods can also benefit from the addition of herbs, for example, blueberry-sage corn muffins.
  • Make your own flavored vinegars. Start with good quality vinegars: red or white wine, or cider—but not balsamic. Then create several varieties of vinegars by using different herbs. Make sure the herbs are always covered by liquid and let it rest for a couple of weeks.

Make Compound Butters

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Lemon Herb Butter

Unsalted butter combined with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and sage makes a nice spread for rolls or to top a grilled steak or to use as a flavorful ingredient for cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Mash butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to use in a recipe.

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Herb and Walnut Butter

This is a great sauce to go with grilled fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 juniper berries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 16 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup watercress, leaves and tender sprigs only
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small skillet, toast the walnuts over moderate heat for about 3 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the butter, juniper berries, orange zest and lime juice. Scrape the nut butter onto a sheet of wax paper and spread into a 3-by-6-inch rectangle; wrap in the paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Put the garlic in a small saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain. Transfer the garlic and reserved water to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Scrape the garlic puree into a bowl.

Add the watercress, arugula, parsley, basil and dill to the blender and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup each of olive oil and grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Add the Parmigiano, lemon zest, lemon juice, the garlic puree and pulse to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Mix well.

Spoon a little of the sauce onto a plate and top with grilled fish or steak. Unwrap the butter and place 1 tablespoon on top of the fish or steak and serve.

Make Herb Sauces

1. Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

In Italy, salsa verde often accompanies poached chicken or fish and boiled meat. The tangy green sauce is also delicious on sautéed and grilled foods.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, 1 whole, 2 minced
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Put the parsley, capers, the whole garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times.

With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup oil in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree. Leave this mixture in the food processor; if necessary, pulse to re-emulsify just before serving.

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Herb-Nut Salsa

This is a great addition to grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 2 teaspoons minced tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon minced chervil
  • 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F and toast the hazelnuts in a pie pan for 12 minutes or until the skins are blistered. Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel; let cool slightly, then rub off the skins.

Finely chop the nuts and transfer them to a bowl. Add the parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil, anchovies, capers and shallot.

Stir in the vinegar, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well. Serve alongside grilled steak.

2. Artichoke

Smoked-Herb Mayonnaise

Serve with cooked whole artichokes or other vegetables as a dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • Hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, dill, capers, lemon zest and juice, salt and paprika. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and season the mayonnaise with pepper. Chill until serving time.

Make Something Sweet

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Pineapple and Basil Sorbet

Who knew basil paired so well with pineapple?

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple – peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves

Directions

Blend the pineapple, sugar, pineapple juice and basil in a blender until smooth; chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place mixture in an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions; pour into an airtight container and freeze 8 hours or overnight.

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Summer Berry and Rosemary Parfait

Ingredients

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

  • Juice from 1 large lemon, strained
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses

Parfait Layers

  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • 10 fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar, molasses, vanilla and rosemary. Bring to a boil; then allow to cool.

Parfait Layers

Place berry and fruit varieties in small bowls and evenly distribute rosemary infusion syrup over each. Mix well, until the fruits are coated in the rosemary syrup.

In a glass sundae/parfait dish, layer the infused berries and fruit with yogurt.

Top with your favorite granola.

Note: Recipe amounts given should yield 2 large parfaits. Adjust amounts to desired number of parfaits.

Make Drinks

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Rosemary Lemon Margarita

Ingredients

  • 8 Lemons (juice only)
  • 24 ounces club soda
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 ounces Tequila

Directions

Combine lemon juice, club soda, sugar and tequila in pitcher. Mix well. Refrigerate until cold. Place 1 rosemary sprig in each of the 4 serving glasses. Add margarita and serve cold.

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Basil Iced Tea

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 1 cup tightly packed chopped, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves completely)
  • Ice

Directions

Bring water to a boil and then steep tea bags and basil for one hour or until the liquid comes to room temperature. When cool, remove tea bags and strain out basil leaves.

Stir in lime juice and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Pour over ice and add simple syrup to taste.

VARIATIONS

Substitute  mint or lemon verbena in place of basil for a different taste.

Make A Rub

Food & Wine, Web shoot

Spicy Herb Salt

This mildly spicy salt is delicious rubbed over big cuts of meat or thick steaks, but it is also good sprinkled on buttered bread or corn on the cob.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rosemary leaves (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup thyme leaves and tender stems (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a food processor or blender, pulse the herbs and garlic until chopped. Add the salt and pulse until finely chopped. Add the crushed red pepper and pulse to blend.

Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand, stirring occasionally, until dried, about 2 days. Transfer the mixture to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

The herb salt can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year.


icecream

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

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Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

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Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

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Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

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Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

Note to my readers: I added a print friendly icon to the end of the share button row on the right. It follows the email icon but before the More box. When you click on the print friendly icon, a new window will open and you should be able to print the new page. Some of my readers said they had difficulty printing from my website with the regular print button on the left, so this is another option.


July

The Declaration of Independence was the name adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Times were much different when our founding fathers lived. They cooked over open wood fires and often had farms where they grew their own produce. Food was simpler for the,. but eating was a big part of their lives. What kinds of food did our founding fathers eat?

Thomas Jefferson was known for his culinary adventurousness. He was an avid gardener and trained his kitchen staff in French cooking techniques. Almost all of our founding fathers lived on large farms. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, had a deep love for farming and he published many books about it. In his Garden Book, he mentioned planting green beans often. Everyone knows the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree, but did you know that he actually had a cherry orchard on his property? Both he and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherry trees on their land.

Seafood in general was popular amongst the founding fathers. Most of them spent a lot of their working lives near large bodies of water. Even though they enjoyed all seafood, oysters were by far their favorites. Martha Washington, the first First Lady, included many recipes for oysters in her cookbook, The Martha Washington Cookbook.

Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he suggested it should be our national symbol. The bald eagle won that fight, but turkey continued to be popular. Dolley Madison, the fourth president’s wife, introduced ice cream to the United States in 1812, when she served it at her husband’s inaugural ball.

It’s common knowledge that George Washington had dental issues. For most of his life he wore dentures, so he often couldn’t chew foods properly. Because of this, he preferred soft, easy-to-eat foods. Cornmeal cake was one of his favorites. George Washington also brewed his own beer. He included molasses in his recipe.

John Adams, the second president, had a relatively simple palate. He preferred boiled meals with nothing too elaborate added. His wife, however, liked to cook more interesting meals. Each year, Abigail Adams would make apple pandowdy, which is very similar to apple pie, from the harvest from their orchard. Apple cider was John Adams’ drink of choice. It was also made from the apples that grew in his orchard and he drank at least one pint of cider before nine in the morning.

The colonists were not fond of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they were considered unappetizing. Most of the time, a lot of sugar was added to the cooking water to make the vegetables more palatable to their taste.

Today, Independence Day, a national holiday, is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States.

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

On each of 12 wooden appetizer skewers, alternately thread two tomatoes, one cheese ball and two basil leaves; place on a serving plate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the kabobs just before serving. Yield: 12 kabobs.

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium sweet red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) pitted ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet or a combination), sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 6-8 corn on the cob, husks and silk removed, each cob cut into three portions
  • 1/4 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 4 pounds shrimp, peeled if desired
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Place potatoes and sausage in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with 6 quarts cold water. Stir in the seafood seasoning, cover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and carefully add the corn; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Drain.
Arrange on a large platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper.
Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

This fat-free, all-fruit sorbet adds lemon for refreshing tartness. For a smoother texture, strain the blueberries through a fine-mesh sieve before freezing. For a blueberries-and-cream variation, substitute milk or cream for the juice, omit the lemon and add 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup organic honey
  • 36 ounces fresh blueberries (divided)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the juice and add the honey; stir until completely dissolved.
Combine with 6 cups blueberries in a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain, if desired.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add lemon juice and salt to the blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice-cream-maker canister, stir in all but 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, place one scoop in each serving dish and garnish with remaining lemon zest and remaining blueberries. Serve immediately.


Dinner For Two by Patrick J. Murphy

When you’re cooking just for two, learning what portion sizes to cook will make shopping easier and help you manage the food you buy. You’ll minimize waste and end up with only the leftovers you want.

Most recipes are written for four to six servings. So, how do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

This is where knowing your portion sizes can be extremely helpful. If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta and you know that a healthful portion is two ounces, then cook four ounces for two servings . Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce, or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements. A food scale is also helpful to have in your kitchen.

Keep in mind, though, that reducing some ingredients depends not on portion size, but on pan size. If a recipe calls for one tablespoons of oil to coat a pan, and you’re dividing the recipe by six, that doesn’t mean you should use half a tablespoon of oil. You need enough to coat the pan that you use. If you’re deglazing with wine or another liquid, you need enough to coat the pan and dissolve the drippings. Likewise, if you’re topping a gratin with breadcrumbs or cheese, the amount you need will depend on the size of your gratin dish.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts, especially if you’re not familiar with the techniques and ingredients. Sometimes, it is better to just cut the sauce for a dish in half. It may be more than you need, but it’s an easier reduction and the extra can be frozen or used later in the week for another dish.

Whether you’re looking for an easy weekend dinner or planning a special romantic Valentine’s Day meal, these healthy recipes for two will help you get dinner on the table without figuring portion sizes.

Dinner Menu 1

Golden Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of canola oil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed, or 2 cups cooked winter squash, mashed 
  • 1/2 cup of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of snipped fresh thyme
  • Plain fat-free Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Whole Grain Crackers

Directions

In a medium saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook until tender. Stir in squash, broth and turmeric. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Whisk in yogurt and thyme; heat through – do not boil.

Ladle soup into warm bowls. If desired, top with additional yogurt. Sprinkle with pepper and serve with crackers.

Beef Tenderloin with Marinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped, seeded plum tomato
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 4-5 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.

Trim fat from steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steaks; reduce heat to medium. Cook to desired doneness, turning once. Allow 7 to 9 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) to medium (160 degrees F).

To serve, spoon tomato vinegar mixture over steaks. Sprinkle with thyme.

Romaine Hearts with Blue Cheese

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a heart of romaine lettuce (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup of very thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Ground black pepper

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 oz fat free yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste

Directions

Dressing

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, vinegar and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt. Makes 1 cup.

Salad

Halve heart of romaine lengthwise. Trim core at ends. Place 1 half on each salad plate. Top with red onion and walnuts. Drizzle with blue cheese salad dressing and crushed black pepper.

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Tiramisu Cookies

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 teaspoon sugar (such as, Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of instant espresso coffee powder or 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/4 cup of light tub-style cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup of frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 6 chocolate wafer cookies
  • White chocolate curls and/or fresh raspberries (optional)

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the water, sugar and espresso powder; stir until sugar and espresso powder are dissolved. Add cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.

Spoon cream cheese mixture equally on top of each cookies. Chill for up to 4 hours.

To serve: top with white chocolate curls and/or raspberries, if desired.

Dinner Menu 2

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium grapefruit, peeled
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Divide lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Section the grapefruit over a bowl to reserve juice. Arrange grapefruit sections and avocado slices on lettuce.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and 1-½ teaspoons reserved grapefruit juice. Drizzle over salads.

Baked Almond Fish with Crispy Potatoes

Put the potatoes in the oven about 15 minutes before you put the fish in the oven.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) skinless cod fish fillets or any white fish fillets of choice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large baking potato or two small
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter or margarine

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick coating; set aside.

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut into two serving-sized pieces. Measure thickness of fish.

Place flour in one shallow dish. In a second shallow dish whisk together egg white and milk together. In a third shallow dish combine bread crumbs, almonds and thyme. Coat both sides of fillets with flour. Dip fillets in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumb mixture to coat.

Place fish in prepared pan. Drizzle with oil. Bake until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork (allow 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish).

For the potatoes:

Thinly slice 1 large russet potato about 1/8 inch thick. If you have one, use a mandoline or vegetable slicer to slice the potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Melt margarine or butter; drizzle over potatoes. Bake about 25 minutes or until browned.

Creamed Spinach

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot or red onion
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, tough stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot (or onion); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Heat butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Stir the spinach into the sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Mocha Cream Shake

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups of low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar-free chocolate-flavor syrup
  • 1/2 cup of ice cubes
  • Grated dark chocolate

Directions

In a blender combine frozen yogurt, coffee and chocolate syrup. Add ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Divide mixture between 2 parfait glasses. Top each serving with grated chocolate, if desired.

Vegetarian Dinner Menu 3

Pesto Pita Crackers

Here is my post for homemade pesto: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/21/two-sauces-for-everyday-meals/

This sauce freezes wel,l so divide it into portion sizes and freeze for future use.

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole pita bread (6 inches)
  • 3 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Split pita bread into two rounds. Spread with pesto and sprinkle with cheese. Cut each into six wedges.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Serve warm.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups cubed peeled potatoes
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Dash pepper
  • Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs

Directions

Place potatoes and carrot in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain potato mixture; cool slightly.

Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain and set aside.

In the saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add 1/2 cup milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Add the salt, thyme, nutmeg and pepper.

In a blender, combine the potato mixture, broccoli and remaining milk; cover and process until smooth. Add to the thickened milk mixture in the saucwpan. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with thyme.

Pasta with Garbanzo Bean Sauce

Makes: 2 Serving size: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 large tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces dried whole wheat linguine, fettuccine or rigatoni
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato (1 small)
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs 

Directions

For sauce:

In a large saucepan or skillet, cook onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper in hot oil about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in the 2 cups chopped tomatoes, half of the garbanzo beans, the salt and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture is boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Carefully transfer the tomato mixture to a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Return to saucepan. You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot if you have one. Stir in the remaining garbanzo beans. Cook and stir over low heat until the sauce is heated through.

Pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta.

To serve, toss cooked pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Divide mixture between two serving plates. Top with the 1/3 cup fresh chopped tomato and the feta cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Sorbet and Melon Parfaits

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of seeded watermelon balls
  • 2/3 cup of cantaloupe balls
  • 2/3 cup of honeydew melon balls
  • 1/2 cup of mango or lemon sorbet
  • 1/4 cup of champagne or sparkling grape juice, chilled
  • Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Arrange the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew balls in 2 wine glasses or goblets. Place scoops of sorbet on top of the melon. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the champagne over the sorbet and melon in each glass. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.

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The saying, “As American as apple pie,” is referred to as the symbol of America. The word “apple” comes from the Old English word “aeppel.” Apples probably have more symbolic value than any other fruit on earth, from the forbidden fruit of Adam and Eve to the offering of the Evil Queen to Snow White, the apple has always represented beauty, love and good and evil.

Carbonized remains of apples have been found by archeologists in prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland, dating back to the Iron Age. There is also evidence to show that apples were eaten and preserved by slicing and sun drying during the Stone Age in Europe. In China, Egypt, and Babylon records were found that mentioned man understood the art of budding and grafting fruit trees as long as twenty centuries ago.

When the English colonists arrived in North America they found only crab apples. Crab apple trees are the only native apples in the United States. European settlers arrived and brought with them their English customs and favorite fruits.

Johnny Appleseed

One of America’s fondest legends is that of Johnny Appleseed, a folk hero and pioneer apple farmer in the 1800s. There really was a Johnny Appleseed, however, his actual name was John Chapmen (1774-1845) and he was born in Leominster, Massachusetts. His dream was for the land to produce so many apples that no one would ever go hungry. Most historians today classify him as an eccentric but very smart businessman, who traveled about the new territories of his time, leasing land and developing nurseries of apple trees.

When covered wagons traveled over the Oregon Trail westward, they carried apple trees and “scion wood” for grafting as part of their cargo. Often the family orchard was planted before the ground was broken for their log cabin home. Josiah Red Wolf, a Nez Perce leader, planted apple trees at Alpowa Creek near the Snake River in southeast Washington. He is probably the first Native American to have had a European-style garden and orchard. Red Wolf’s trees lived for decades. America’s longest living apple tree was reportedly planted in 1647 by Governor Peter Stuyvesant in his Manhattan orchard on the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street. The tree was still bearing fruit when a derailed train struck it in 1866.

There are approximately 10,000 different kinds of varieties of apples grown in the world with more than 7,000 of these varieties grown in the United States. Apples are a member of the rose family of plants and the blossoms are much like wild-rose blossoms. There are between 25 to 30 kinds of wild apples grown throughout the world with seven kinds in the U.S. Most wild apples are crab apples with small, sour, hard fruit. 

Resource Information: Apples: History, Folklore, Horticulture and Gastronomy, by Peter Wynne, Hawthorn Books, New York, N.Y., 1975.

How To Care For Apples                                                                                                                                                        

Short Term Storage

Apples do best in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator, where they keep for up to 3 weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy after 2 days. Storing apples next to broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, greens or cauliflower could cause these vegetables to spoil faster, since apples give off ethylene gas, which causes faster ripening.

Long Term Storage

Almost any kind of apple will keep for three or four months, or even longer, if stored properly. It’s cheap and easy to do. All you need is newspaper, a box or basket, and apples. A root cellar is optional, but not necessary.

The main causes of apple spoilage are time, bruises, and contact with a rotten spot on another apple. Only perfect apples should be used for long-term storage. Even minor imperfections speed spoilage , so scan them and set aside any with bruises for immediate use.

Prevent contact between apples stored for the winter by wrapping them individually in sheets of newspaper. The easiest way to do this is to unfold a section of newspaper all the way and tear it into quarters. Then stack the quarters.

Place an apple on top of the stack and fold the top sheet of paper up around the apple, wrapping it in paper. Give the corners a slight twist—just enough to make them stay wrapped. If you twist them too hard, the paper will tear. It’s not necessary to exclude air. Just twist hard enough so the paper does not come unwrapped before the apples are boxed. The paper prevents contact between apples, so just one rotten apple won’t spoil the whole bunch. 

Boxed apples need to be kept in a cool, dark spot where they won’t freeze. Freezing ruptures all of an apple’s cells, turning it into one large bruise overnight. Keep wrapped apples in a cardboard box. It need not be airtight, just tight enough to impede air circulation. Store the boxed apples in an unheated basement, a pantry, an enclosed porch, an unheated attic or a root cellar

Apple Equivalents:

1 large apple = 2 cups sliced or chopped = 1 1/2 cups finely chopped =1 1/4 cups grated.

1 medium apple = 1 1/3 cups sliced or chopped = 1 cup finely chopped = 3/4 cup grated.

1 small apple = 3/4 cup sliced or chopped = 3/4 cup finely chopped = 1/2 cup grated.

1 pound apples = 4 small apples or 3 medium apples or about 2 large apples

1 (9″ or 10″) pie = 2-1/2 pounds (4 to 5 large or 6 to 7 medium or 8 to 9 small apples)

Peck = 10-1/2 pounds

Bushel = 42 pounds (yields 20-24 quarts of applesauce)

Below is a chart with some of the best baking and cooking apples in North America.

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristic, Appearance
Braeburn Sauce Tart, sweet, aromatic, tall shape, bright color
Cortland Pies, Sauces, Fruit Salad Tart, crisp, larger than McIntosh
Fuji Baking Sweet and juicy, firm, red skin
Gala Dried, Cider Mild, sweet, juicy, crisp, yellow-orange skin with red striping (resembles a peach)
Granny Smith Baking Moderately sweet, crisp flesh, green skin
Jonagold Pie, Sauce Tangy-sweet, Yellow top, red bottom
Jonathan Sauce Tart flesh, crisp, juicy, bright red on yellow skin
McIntosh Sauce Juicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh, red skin
Newtown Pippin Pie, Sauce, Cider Sweet-tart flesh, crisp, greenish-yellow skin
Rhode Island Greening Pie Very tart, distinctively flavored, grass-green skin, tending toward yellow/orange
Rome Beauty Baking, Cider Mildly tart, crisp, greenish-white flesh, thick skin
Winesap Sauce, Pie, Cider Very juicy, sweet-sour flavor, winey, aromatic, sturdy, red skin

 

Italian Apple Desserts

Italy is a major apple producer, one of the top five worldwide. The region most Italians associate with apples is the Val di Non, in Trentino. It’s not alone, however. Apples are also grown in Emilia-Romagna, the Veneto, Piemonte, and Campagna areas. The crop begins in August and continues on through spring. As is the case elsewhere, most of the commercial production concentrates on a tiny fraction of the roughly 7,000 known strains of apples, and if you visit an Italian market, you will likely find (depending on season) Granny Smiths, Goldens, Golden Delicious, Starks, Renettes, Gravensteins, or Galas.

In modern Italian cooking, apples generally appear at the end of the meal, either in a bowl of fresh fruit or in a cake prepared for a special occasion. Golden Delicious apples are favored eating apples, while the Red Galas are a more recent addition in Italy and have become extremely popular.

When one thinks of Italian fruit desserts, it is usually a dessert made with pears, figs, or nuts. Apples are not usually associated with Italy. Apples are typically American! However, I learned in doing research for this post that apples are plentiful all year round in Italy and apples are used in a variety of dishes.  A very common dessert in Rome, and other parts of Italy, is the torta di mele, meaning a simple apple cake.

Granny Smith Apple Sorbet With Muscat Wine and Grappa

Marcella Hazan writes in her book, Marcella Cucina, about this recipe:

This is the most deliciously fresh sorbet, I know, she says. What makes it so is the felicity with which the ingredients act upon each other. The Granny Smith apples and the grappa both have bite, but the grappa isn’t all bite. It is packed with the aromatic esters of the pomace, the grape skins left over after making wine, from which it is distilled. The honey is all suavity with its characteristically musky aftertaste. The Muscat brings its own soft touch and the scent of peaches and apricots. These qualities don’t stand apart, but coalesce to produce this sorbet’s unique, zephyr-like refreshment. If you have all the choices in the world, use the low-alcohol Moscato naturale d’Asti, a shyly sweet Muscat from Piedmont. Only slightly less desirable, but far more available, is Asti Spumante, which you must beat lightly with a fork to drive away some of the bubbles.

Grappa is one of Italy’s most popular alcoholic drinks, with somewhere in the region of forty million bottles of grappa being produced every year. It’s also a very Italian drink; since 1989 the name has been protected by the EU, meaning that the drink can only be called grappa if it’s sourced and produced in Italy. The main ingredient of grappa is pomace, which consists of the grape skins, seeds and stalks that are left over from the wine making process. These are taken through a second process of distillation, which extracts the remaining flavors from the pomace before the waste is discarded. The grappa is then either bottled at once, which creates white grappa (grappa bianca), or aged in wooden casks to create the yellow or brown-hued grappa known as riserva.

Muscat is the only grape to produce wine with the same aroma as the grape itself. Sweet Muscats have a rich nose of dried fruits, raisins and oranges. Muscat grapes range from white to almost black in color. Muscat vines and wines are found throughout Italy usually producing light wines with distinct aromas. The basic wine styles made are spumante (sparkling), frizzante (half-sparkling), and sweet dessert wines, some of which are fortified. (Fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) has been added).  This unique wine is often labeled simply as “Moscato” or if it’s grown and produced in Italy’s Northwest region of Piedmont, it’s labeled with its full name of Moscato d’Asti (named after the grape, Moscato, and the Italian town of Asti). A close relative of Piedmont’s Asti Spumante, Moscato d’Asti is generally produced in smaller quantities than Spumante.

Marcella Hazan’s Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 cup muscat wine or other sweet wine
  • 2 tablespoons grappa.

Directions:

1. Peel and core the apples and cut them into pieces about the size of a walnut.

2. Put the honey, sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil over low heat. Cook down to a syrup half its original volume.

3. Put the apples, the honey and sugar syrup, the juice from the lemon, the muscat wine and the grappa in a food processor and puree to a creamy consistency.

4. Freeze to a very firm consistency in your ice-cream maker. Serve when done or transfer to suitable containers and store in the freezer.

Yield: About 2 pints sorbet.

The following recipe is a typical method of preparing fruit for the end of an Italian meal. 

Apples Simmered in Wine

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds Golden Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup white wine, not too dry
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • The juice of a half a lemon

Directions:

Add the lemon juice to a bowl of cool water. Peel, core, and slice the apples, slipping the pieces into the bowl of water to keep them from discoloring. When you are done, drain the apples and transfer them to a pot with the wine, sugar, and butter. Cook them over medium high heat, stirring them occasionally, until they are just tender. Don’t overcook them or they will be mushy. Transfer them to a heated serving bowl, arranging the slices so they don’t appear jumbled, pour the cooking liquid over them and serve. A scoop of frozen yogurt is a nice addition when you serve this for guests.

How Did Strudel Get To Be Italian?

People generally think that strudel is an Austrian dish, however, this sweet is originally Turkish. In fact, the precursor to the strudel is baklava, a Turkish dessert stuffed with dried fruit and spices. The Hungarians and Austrians were introduced to baklava during the invasion of Eastern Europe by the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century. From 1526 to 1699, the Turks controlled Hungary and, during these two centuries, the Hungarians adopted many different aspects of the Ottoman culture, including various Turkish recipes.

In 1699, when the Turks lost their power over Hungary to the Hapsburgs, the recipe for baklava spread throughout Austria and became known as strudel. Unlike traditional baklava, strudel was made with the apples that grew across Europe. Then, during the Congress of Vienna in 1816, Austria gained control of Venice and the surrounding region and strudel spread throughout Northeastern Italy.

Italian Apple Strudel

Make the pastry and the filling the day before you want to serve it.

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions for the pastry:

Place all the ingredients in the work bowl of the processor. Mix until the dough forms a ball

If the mixture is too dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out on a floured board and knead a few times.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature 2 to 3 hours or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. (Remove refrigerated dough to room temperature at least 1 hour before rolling the dough.)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 2 lb. firm apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 1/4 cup raisins, golden is preferred
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Rum
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Powdered sugar

Directions for filling:

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a pan, add the bread crumbs and brown well. Set aside until you roll out the pastry.

Peel the apples and cut them into quarters. Cut away the seeds and cores and cut the apple quarters into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

Mix the apples with the pine nuts, raisins, grated lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon and the rum.

For best flavor, refrigerate the apple filling at least overnight. Filling will last in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container.

Assemble and Bake the Strudel:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pastry dough at room temperature.

  1. Flour the rolling surface and pin lightly as you work to prevent the dough from sticking.
  2. Roll out the dough from the center to the edges into a very thin rectangle that measures about 36 x 24 inches. The dough will relax more as you roll it. As it gets thinner, you should be able to pull and stretch it gently with your hands to coax it into the shape you want; it doesn’t have to form a perfect rectangle.
  3. Place the dough on a clean, dry kitchen towel. Arrange the dough with one of the longer sides facing you. (This will help you move the strudel to the baking sheet once it is formed.)
  4. Spread the bread crumb mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1 1/2-inch-wide border on all sides of the rectangle.
  5. Arrange the apple mixture in a long mound along the side closest to you. The mound of apples should measure about 4 inches wide and as long as the bread crumb mixture, remembering to leave the 1 1/2-inch-wide border.
  6. Using the towel for assistance, fold the pastry closest to you over the apples. Begin rolling the strudel into a fairly tight roll, starting at one end of the apple mound, giving it a half-roll and gradually working your way down the roll. Repeat as necessary, working your way down gradually down the roll each time.
  7. You should end up with a fairly even, lumpy looking roll that is centered, seam side down, on the kitchen towel.
  8. Use the towel to transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet, bending the strudel into a crescent shape, if necessary to fit it on the pan. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining half tablespoon of butter.
  9. Seal the ends of the strudel by folding the ends of the roll underneath and pressing them firmly with your fingers. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375º F. Bake 30 minutes. Check the strudel: the top should be a light golden brown. If deeper in color than that, reduce the temperature to 350º F.
  10. Rotate the baking pan in the oven so the strudel cooks evenly. Continue baking until the strudel is deep golden brown and the crust is firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the strudel from the oven and cool 30 minutes. With two metal spatulas, carefully lift the strudel to a wire cooling rack and let stand until completely cooled. Dust with powdered sugar.
The Second Fold

Use a kitchen towel to help roll the strudel.

Apple-Ricotta Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is perfect for a brunch and will keep for a couple of days, so it can even be made the day before you plan to serve it.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 firm cooking apples; peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 lemon                                                                                                                                                                   
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour plus more to dust cake pan
  • 3/4 teaspoon. baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/2 cup Smart Balance butter blend sticks for baking; at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar or light sugar alternative
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup skim milk ricotta cheese

Streusel Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons Smart Balance butter blend sticks for baking; cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.

Sprinkle the apple slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown, while you prepare the cake mix.

Streusel Directions:

Combine all the dry streusel ingredients (except butter and pecans) in a food processor.

Add butter in pieces. Pulse about 10 times then process for 5 to 10 seconds until there are no visible lumps of butter.

Cake Directions:

Mix together 1 and 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer beat the butter for about 30 seconds, then beat in granulated sugar and vanilla.

Add eggs, one at a time or 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Alternately add flour mixture and ricotta cheese to batter. Mix on low speed after each addition until combined. Note: this batter will be rather thick and stiff.

Assemble and Bake:

Spread 1/2 of the batter into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the filling mixture and half the pecans: then the diced apples. Spoon remaining batter over apples. It will not spread smoothly, so drop dollops of batter over the apples. Sprinkle with remaining topping and nuts.

Bake 45-50 minutes more or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool at least 1 hour on a wire rack.



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