The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46–33 in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown in size and popularity since then. Today, the NCAA basketball tournament has become the most popular sporting event, after the Super Bowl.
For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. Today, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.
The NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982. The women’s tournament started with 32 teams, but now the women’s format echoes the men’s, with play in four regions culminating in a Final Four held in a single location. The championship is played the day after the men’s, concluding the college basketball season.
Yesterday was Selection Sunday and the madness begins on Thursday. Here are some recipes to help you cheer.
4 large sandwiches
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Half a green bell pepper, finely chopped
8 very thin sandwich steaks (usually sirloin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices American cheese or your favorite cheese
4 long hoagie rolls, about 8 inches long (I like Martin’s for these sandwiches)
To make the toppings:
Heat a griddle or a large, heavy frying pan, over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and, when it begins to shimmer, add the garlic, onion and green peppers and stir to combine.
Cook, stirring every so often, until they begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove to a bowl and set aside.
To make the steaks:
Place the steaks between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until uniformly thin.
Turn the heat to high until nearly smoking. Season the meat aggressively with salt and pepper.
Place the steaks on the griddle, working in batches if necessary, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until well browned but very rare. Remove to a serving platter and allow to rest.
To make the sandwiches:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the sub rolls in the oven to warm.
Return sliced steaks to the griddle or frying pan, over medium heat, and place the onions and peppers on top of the steaks. Turn heat to low and cover each steak with sliced cheese.
Remove the rolls from the oven and fill each sub with a mixture of 2 steaks, vegetables and cheese. I usually cut these sandwiches in half and arrange on a serving platter.
If serving to guests, keep them warm on a hot plate.
Deviled Eggs and Smoked Salmon
6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz smoked salmon slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.
Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.
Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.
With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.
Place the eggs on a platter and chill.
Arrange the eggs and salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle chives over both and serve.
Let the package of fillo dough sit in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Any remaining dough can be kept in the refrigerator well wrapped in plastic for four weeks or be refrozen, so don’t worry that you are not using the entire package.
Makes about 16 triangles
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 scallions (green onions), minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
48 sheets Fillo Dough, thawed
Tzatziki, recipe below
In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the scallions, parsley, dill, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth.
Keep the fillo dough not being used, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying, while you work on the triangles.
Spread one sheet of the dough on a cutting board and brush with some olive oil. Place a second sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Repeat with a third sheet.
Cut the layered fillo in half lengthwise. Place one tablespoon of filling about 1″ from the corner of each strip. Fold one corner of fillo diagonally across to the opposite edge to form a triangle.
Brush lightly with oil. Continue to fold the triangle onto itself. Brush the outside of the triangle with oil and place the triangles seam side down on parchment covered cookie sheets at least 1” apart.
Repeat until all the filling is used up.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Rolls can be made ahead and reheated just before party time.
Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce.
1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place the chopped cucumber in a fine mesh colander and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Place the colander over a bowl and let the cucumbers drain for one hour.
Turn the cucumbers over on paper towels. Squeeze all the water out.
Combine the cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Quick and Easy Almond Bark
16 ounces slivered almonds
16 ounces high quality baking milk or dark chocolate (such as Valrhona )
Toast the almonds in a 9″x 13″ baking pan at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool.
Line the same baking pan with a piece of parchment and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl with a cover in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Uncover and stir the chocolate with a spatula until smooth.
Stir in the nuts, a little at a time, until they are all incorporated and covered with chocolate.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the mixture to the sides of the pan and press down with a spatula until smooth.
Cover with another piece of parchment and press down to flatten. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened.
Cut into serving pieces and store in a cool place.
During the holidays or for game events, I like to serve small plate foods. Guests can serve themselves and take what they like, when they want it. These plates look attractive and can often be prepared in advance. I set up a few hot plates and place the dishes on there so they stay warm for several hours. I often make Eggplant Parmesan and Greek spinach and Feta Pie and cut them into small squares as an option.
For Christmas, I received a Himalayan Salt block for a gift. As the name suggests, a Himalayan Salt Block is a large block of pink salt and mine came with a tray with handles that holds the block securely. The block can be frozen to keep foods cold and it can also be used on the grill. I used mine for a get together of friends on New Year’s Day and served smoked salmon and whitefish on the block. It looked very attractive and gave the fish a little salt flavor.
Other dishes that work well for small plates are Italian Sausage and Peppers, small sandwiches, celery stuffed with flavored cream cheese, shrimp salad and, of course, a cheese board.
Here are some recipes for small plates that I like to serve.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving
In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.
Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking lightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.
Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.
Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
For the bread crumb topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
For the calamari:
1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Make the bread crumb topping:
Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside
For the calamari:
Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.
Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.
Roast Beef Rolls
½ lb deli sliced roast beef, cut very thin
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into squares
3 cups baby arugula
Italian salad dressing
Fresh ground black pepper
Pour a little salad dressing over the arugula and mix well. You just want the leaves moistened not drowning in dressing.
Place the roast beef slices on a work surface.
Place a piece of roasted pepper on top. Then add a spoonful of arugula salad.
Roll each slice up tightly and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Chicken Pesto Sliders
12 small dinner rolls or slider rolls
½ lb deli sliced roast chicken, sliced very thin
2-3 plum tomatoes sliced thin
8 oz.fresh mozzarella, sliced
Spread a little pesto on both sides of the rolls.
On each roll place 2 slices of chicken, a slice of tomato and a slice of mozzarella.
Close the rolls and place them on a baking sheet.
Heat in a 325 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt.
Remove the sliders from the oven and place on a serving tray.
Lunetta, “Little Moon” in Italian, celebrates life’s small pleasures. Lunetta Prosecco is produced by Cavit, located in the northern Italian region of Trentino. It is the largest facility in Italy dedicated exclusively to producing world-class sparkling wines. Prosecco is fermented by a process known as the Charmat method. Unlike Champagne, there is no aging time. The Charmat process is particularly suited to producing sparkling wine whose most important characteristic is freshness.
I was selected to develop a post for Lunetta in conjunction with Honest Cooking Magazine that would feature a sparkling wine cocktail and an appetizer for the winter season. In planning for this post, Lunetta was very generous and sent me several bottles of Rose and White Prosecco.
White Prosecco is pale straw in color with greenish reflections and an apple and peach aroma.
Rose Prosecco is pale salmon in color with a berry aroma.
As a result of sampling the two excellent Proseccos, I decided to make two cocktails – not just one: one featuring the white Prosecco and one featuring the rose Prosecco. And, of course, each needed a great appetizer to enhance their flavors. I also wanted to make cocktails and appetizers that my readers and friends would want to make for their own parties. I invited several friends and family members for Thanksgiving Day and served the cocktails and appetizers featured in this post. They were all a big success. So, I know, you will want to make these cocktails and appetizers at your next party!
Lunetta Rose Prosecco and Crème de Cassis Cocktail
For 6 cocktails
6 teaspoons crème de cassis brandy, divided
3 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1 bottle chilled Rose Prosecco sparkling wine
Pour 1 teaspoon of crème de cassis and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice into each champagne glass. Stir.
Slowly fill each glass to the top with chilled Rose Prosecco.
Skewer three raspberries on each of 6 bamboo sticks and drop them into the glasses to serve.
Smoked Salmon Appetizer Rolls
6 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
6 tablespoons cream cheese with chives and onions
6 slices smoked salmon
Roll out the bread slices using a rolling-pin.
Spread cream cheese on each slice.
Add smoked salmon slices and roll up each slice
Cover with plastic wrap and let the rolls rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Cut into one-inch slices and arrange on a serving platter. Keep the rolls covered with plastic wrap until your guests arrive.
Lunetta Prosecco and Ginger Brandy Cocktail
For 6 cocktails
Coarse sugar crystals
6 teaspoons ginger brandy, divided
3 teaspoons agave syrup, divided
6 crystallized ginger cubes, divided
1 bottle chilled white Prosecco sparkling wine
Decorate the rims of 6 tall flute glasses by dipping them in a saucer of water then into a dish of the coarse sugar crystals.
Add one teaspoon of ginger brandy and ½ teaspoon of agave into each glass. Stir.
Fill each glass with Prosecco and add a cube of crystallized ginger to each glass.
Gorgonzola Thumbprint Appetizers Filled With Tomato Jam
Makes about 15
1 cup almond flour
3 tablespoons softened, salted butter
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Tomato Jam, homemade recipe below or use store-bought
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until a cohesive dough forms.
Scoop up 1″ balls of dough (a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here) and roll into a smooth ball.
Arrange the balls of dough about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart on the prepared baking pans.
Use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each ball of dough.
Bake the thumbprints for 8 to 10 minutes, until they start to turn light golden brown on top.
Remove the thumbprints from the oven and cool them on the pan for 10 minutes.
Transfer them to a rack to cool completely before serving. Fill with jam just before serving.
Homemade Tomato Jam
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
3 pounds Roma tomatoes, (plum), cored and quartered
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 ¼ and ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
2½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup dry red wine
In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes with the sugar, the 1¼ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and red wine vinegar until the tomatoes are finely chopped but not completely pureed and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 – two second pulses.
In a 12 inch skillet over medium, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallots, thyme and the ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, adjust the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a loose glaze, about 4-5 minutes. Add the processed tomato mixture.
Adjust the heat and simmer vigorously, stirring more often as the mixture reduces, is glossy and has a jam-like consistency, somewhere between a sauce and a paste, about 60-90 minutes (depending on how watery your tomatoes are).
Set the pan aside, off heat, to cool to room temperature.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and store. The jam can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks or frozen for six months.
Here is the Prosecco Spiced Cocktail recipe featured in the video:
Prosecco Spiced Cocktail
½ cup honey
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ oz spiced honey syrup
1 oz whisky
1 oz cider
Sprig of thyme
Lunetta Prosecco to top off
Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and cool down.
With ice, shake together honey syrup, cider, and whiskey. Strain into a glass, top with Prosecco and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
Apple Pecan Pancakes
Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted or vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Vegetable oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter or oil and buttermilk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and then add in the cider. Stir until just incorporated and a few lumps remain.
Stir in the apples and pecans. Let the mixture rest while the griddle heats.Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil.
Pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes, then turn carefully and cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes longer.
Brush the pan with oil as needed.
Note: If you want to keep the first batches of pancakes warm while you cook the others, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and place cooked pancakes on an ovenproof platter while working with subsequent batches.
Pasta with Oven Roasted Cauliflower Sauce
- Kosher salt
- One head of cauliflower, cored and cut into tiny florets
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 10 large fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 oz thin slices prosciutto di parma (about 8-9 slices) chopped
- 1 lb dried cavatappi pasta
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
Pour the olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and mix well.Add the cauliflower florets, grape tomato halves and the chopped prosciutto.
Mix well with a large spatula and spread out in a single layer. Roast, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Add the chopped sage and continue to roast for 10 minutes more.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Boil the pasta until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water.
Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture and enough pasta water to moisten. Heat the mixture and then add the cheese.
Pour onto a pasta serving platter and garnish with additional sage leaves for serving.
Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon with Braised Cabbage
Add some baked sweet potatoes to the complete this dinner.
- 1/3 cup apple jelly
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine apple jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk.
Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add salmon skin side up, and cook 3 minutes.
Turn salmon over; brush with half of the apple mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Brush with remaining apple mixture and serve.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ head green cabbage, cut into ½ inch thick slices
- 2 leeks
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Garnish with grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
In a skillet, over medium, heat the butter and when melted, add the leeks and cabbage.
Stir and let the leeks and cabbage wilt and soften. Add the salt and lemon juice; then stir in the cream. Reduce heat to low and let the cabbage braise for about five minutes.
Remove from the heat and pour into a serving dish. Grate some cheese over the cabbage before serving.
Homemade Pizza with Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese
- 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 8 large vine ripe tomato slices, 1/4-inch thick, each cut in half
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup torn fresh basil
Place the tomato slices on paper towels for about 30 minutes to reduce their moisture.
Adjust the oven rack to the bottom position; preheat to 450°F.
Coat a pizza pan with olive oil and press the dough with your fingers to the edges of the pan
Brush the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Place the tomato slices evenly on top of the ricotta and sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper.
Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with basil leaves and mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with oil and return the pizza to the oven for 5 minutes more. Let set 5 minutes before slicing.
Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds
French beans are smaller and younger than common green beans and have a softer pod.
Serves 6 to 8
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2/3 cup blanched almond slivers, toasted
- 1 lemon, quartered
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat the oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add shallots to the green beans in the serving bowl, along with the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the toasted almonds and toss gently.
Garnish with lemon quarters and serve.
Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.
Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery
- 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
- 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
- 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
- 1 teaspoon grated onion
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch salt
- Pinch ground cayenne pepper
- Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths
Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.
Scrape into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.
Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls
- 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed
- ½ cup shelled, fresh lump crab meat
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced celery
- 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
- 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
- ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the stuffing
Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.
For the salmon rolls
Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.
Refrigerate until time to grill.
Preheat the grill to medium hot.
Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.
Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.
To cook indoors
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..
Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce
- 4 oz spaghetti
- 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh ground black pepper
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.
Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.
Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad
- 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
- 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
- 2 scallions, finely diced
- 2 cups arugula
- Italian vinaigrette
Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately
Peach Frozen Yogurt
Makes about 4 1/2 cups
- 1 pound peaches, peeled
- 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Garnish with chopped mint leaves
Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.
(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.
Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.
Last week my fish market received its first seasonal shipment of Copper River salmon. It was gorgeous. Copper River salmon is bright orange or red with a firm texture and an excellent taste. It is also excellent cooked on a grill.
I purchased an 8 oz fillet and for dinner that night. I had also shopped for some seasonal vegetables to use for the week and thought a creamy spinach would make a perfect bed for the salmon. I wanted to flavor the salmon but not overwhelm it, and since I would be cooking it on the grill, I wanted to keep it moist. I like citrus flavors with fish, so I added citrus zest, chives (which are thriving in my garden right now), some truffle oil and wrapped the fillets in prosciutto. This turned out really well. I had leftover Pea Salad from last week, so that was a good side dish.
For dinner two, I made pork chops since I wanted to try a tip I had just picked up about soaking pork chops in buttermilk before cooking them to keep them tender. This works very well. The pork chops were delicious. I had leftover warm potato salad from earlier in the week to go with it and cooked fresh broccoli florets, also in season and on sale in my market, for a second side.
Hopefully you will like these recipes for two and, if you have a larger family, the recipes are easily doubled.
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
- 8 oz skinless salmon fillet, cut in half
- 4 thin slices prosciutto
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Zest from 1/2 lemon
- Zest from 1/2 lime
- Zest from 1/2 orange
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil or olive oil
Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil large enough to fit the salmon. Coat lightly with cooking spray and pierce a few holes in the foil with a fork. Place the foil on a tray.
(I like to place fish fillets on the grill with foil underneath, so that the fish doesn’t fall apart.)
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, parsley, chives and citrus zest and mix thoroughly.
Lay the salmon fillets flat on the foil and drizzle with the truffle oil. Season with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the citrus mixture. Wrap each filet in prosciutto. Place the salmon in the refrigerator until ready to grill.
Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high.
Slide the foil with the fish on it, onto the grill; close the lid and grill until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Serve the salmon over creamy spinach.
Easy Creamed Spinach
- 10 oz package fresh baby spinach
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons 1/3 less fat cream cheese, plain or with chives
- 2 tablespoons reduced fat milk
- Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a deep skillet and add the garlic; cook 1 minute.
Add spinach in batches, pushing it down with a wooden spoon or spatula to help it wilt.
Keep adding more spinach until all the spinach is wilted. Cook the spinach until it is dry, then lower the heat.
Make a well in center of the spinach and add the milk and then the cream cheese.
Heat and stir until the mixture is dissolved. Mix throughout the spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spring Pea Salad
You can find the recipe here.
Oven Fried Pork Chops
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup panko crumbs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the pork chops between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness.
Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce; add the pork chops and marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
Mix the flour with the slat and pepper. Dredge the pork chops in the flour, dip in the buttermilk again and then coat in the panko crumbs.
Heat the butter and oil in an ovenproof skillet add the pork chops to skillet and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the skillet with the pork to the oven. Bake until the pork chops are crisp on the outside and a meat thermometer inserted into the pork registers 150°F, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the pork chops to serving plates. Garnish with lemon wedges
Warm Potato Salad
You can find the recipe here.
Broccoli Sauté with Orange Zest and Almonds
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon toasted, slivered almonds
Heat a medium skillet and add the almonds. Toast to a light brown. Remove and set aside.
Add the olive oil to the skillet and heat.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.
Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with toasted almonds and mix well.
Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices for lunch and, for some, even dinner. They are quick, delicious, and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. But if you aren’t careful, a few ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories and make up more than half your daily limit of artery-clogging saturated fat. So make sure you know what hidden calories are hiding between those bread slices. If you make smart choices you’ll create a delicious and healthy sandwich for yourself.
Start with whole grain bread slices, a pita, an English muffin or a tortilla. Look for the words “whole grain” near the top of the ingredients list, not just “whole wheat.” Good choices have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some breads are fortified with extra fiber and contain as many as 12 grams of fiber per serving, helping you achieve the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber a day.
Good sandwich fillings include chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hummus and reduced fat cheese. Check the sodium levels in prepackaged and deli meats, since most of those products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium at the deli.
Vegetables add both nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, fresh greens (the darker, the better), red onion and peppers are all good choices. Roasted red peppers are especially good and it you like things spicy, sliced banana peppers can do that for you.
Condiments don’t need to be high in fat to have a lot of flavor. There are low-fat, healthful choices that will give your sandwich extra flavor, such as:
— Italian vinaigrette
— Light salad dressings
— Greek Yogurt flavored with herbs and lemon
Crispy Chicken Sub
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 4 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
- Four 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 thin whole-grain sandwich buns, toasted
- 2 cups arugula or shredded lettuce
- 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Season with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg whites, Dijon mustard and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.
Place panko crumbs in a shallow pan. Place flour in a second shallow pan.
Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg white mixture. Press cutlets gently into the panko crumbs and transfer to a baking tray or plate.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high and saute chicken until golden brown and fully cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
To assemble the sandwiches:
Split buns and spread yogurt-lemon mixture evenly onto cut sides of the bread, dividing evenly between the four sandwiches. Layer the bottom half of each bun with 1 chicken cutlet and even amounts of lettuce, cucumber slices and roasted peppers. Cover each with the top half of a the bun.
Smoked Salmon Flatbreads
- 4 ounces reduced fat tub cream cheese spread with added chives and onions
- 4 multigrain flatbreads or pitas
- 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded lettuce
- 6 ounces smoked salmon, sliced into strips
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
- Ground black pepper
Spread one ounce of cream cheese evenly on one side of each flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce. Add salmon strips, radish slices and capers to each sandwich; sprinkle with pepper. Fold in half and serve.
- 4 whole grain pita breads
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 (6-ounce) cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- 1 small garlic clove , minced
- 1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray.
Slice the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into small pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use.
Add the milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Combine the beef, onion, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.
With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from the pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard the milk.
Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined and form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning the meatballs over halfway through baking, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Combine the yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top and serve.
Mozzarella and Tomato Panini
- 8 slices whole grain country bread
- Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
- 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
Coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil cooking spray.
Place bread slices on a work surface, coated sides down.
Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on four of the bread slices. Cover with the remaining four bread slices, coated sides up; press together gently.
Preheat a panini grill or heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add sandwiches to the hot panini grill or skillet; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt, turning once if using a skillet.
Serve with balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.
Mediterranean Sloppy Joes
- 12 oz lean ground lamb or beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
- 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
- 2 tablespoons dry red wine
- 1 small bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- ½ teaspoon dried mint, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
- 3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
- Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, cucumber slices and chopped Kalamata olives
In a large skillet cook ground lamb or beef over medium heat until the meat is brown using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.
Drain off the fat and place the meat on a paper towel lined plate.
Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the browned meat, beans, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, oregano, mint, salt, thyme and marjoram.
Cover and cook on low-heat for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
To serve: spoon the sloppy joe mixture into the pita bread halves and add the toppings.