Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: grapes

When the weather heats up, take advantage of the all the fresh produce that is available during the summer months. Many recipes for creating salads or cold soups do not require any cooking. If an ingredient needs to be cooked, do it early in the day and serve it chilled. Below are a few ideas to keep you cool, including a delicious dessert.

Cold Appetizer Plate

Burrata Cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Olives, Roasted Peppers, Fresh Melon
Bread Sticks

Chicken Salad

The breasts can be cooked early in the day and the rest of the recipe can be prepared later. This makes enough so that there will be plenty for several meals. Serve over lettuce with sliced tomatoes and cut up veggies.

Cooking the chicken breasts

1 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer .

Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Remove the meat from the bones and save the skin and bones to make chicken broth.

Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.

For the salad

1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla) onion
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mix the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together in a mixing bowl with a cover.

Add the celery and onion; stir, Add the chicken and mix carefully to keep the chicken from breaking up.

Fold in the pecans and grapes. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and chill.

Triggerfish with Caper Sauce

Triggerfish were once ignored by commercial fishermen, however, they are now considered among the finest fish on the Gulf seafood menu. Their clean white meat carries a uniquely sweet flavor when cooked. Since this fish lives in warm waters, you might not find it in your area. Use any thin mild white fish fillets in the recipe below, if you cannot find triggerfish. If you do see it in your fish market, be sure to give it a try. I like to serve this dish with the tomato salad shown below.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 ounces butter, room temperature
1 lb triggerfish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces white wine
Hot sauce, to taste
Half a small onion, chopped fine or  one shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed

Directions

Add the butter to a saute pan or skillet and place over medium heat.

Season the fish with the salt and pepper and dredge the fillets in all-purpose flour.

Place each fillet in the skillet and saute until light golden brown.

Add a few drops of hot sauce to the pan as the fish browns.

After the first side is golden brown, turn the fish over and cook until the second side is golden brown.

Remove the fish from the pan to a plate. Reduce the heat to low and add the wine to the skillet.

Add the onion or shallot and stir slowly but continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers.

Continue to stir until a thin sauce forms. Return the fish to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the fillets.

Place the fish on serving plates and spoon any sauce in the skillet onto the fish.

Tomato Feta Salad

Serves 4

4-5 medium plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate.

In a mixing bowl combine the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and parsley and toss well.

Pour the dressing over the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate Tiramisu

Makes 12 squares

Ingredients

1 (3-4 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
Two 3-ounce packages ladyfingers, split
1/3 cup chocolate liqueur (Kahlua)
1/3 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
One 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Do ahead: Prepare the chocolate pudding mix according to the directions on the package. Chill in the refrigerator.

Mix the coffee and Kahlua together in a shallow dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form.

Add the chocolate syrup and mix until just combined.

To assemble the tiramisu:

Line the bottom of an 8 x 8 x 2-inch or 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish with some of the ladyfingers dipped in the espresso/Kahlua mixture.

Spoon a thin layer of chocolate pudding over the ladyfingers in the baking dish.

Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the chocolate pudding layer, spreading it evenly.

Sprinkle with grated bittersweet chocolate.

Top with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in espresso, followed by chocolate pudding and the mascarpone cheese mixture.

Cover and chill for 6 to 24 hours. Sift cocoa powder over the top before serving.

 

 

 

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

bellini

Bellini Cocktail

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

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

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

For the drinks:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

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Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

2black-grape-schiacciata

Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

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Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the sauce:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Course

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Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps

.Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sourdough Cheese Rolls

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course

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Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

peas

Italian Style Peas

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Dessert Course

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Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce

Cheesecake

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

Cherry Sauce

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

Directions

For the cake:

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

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

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the sauce:

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

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

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

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julydinneryellowwatermelon

Yellow Watermelon

 

Julydinnermelon

Crenshaw Melon

 

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July has an abundance of vegetables and fruits available, so I try to incorporate as many as I can into my weekly menu. I made a few dinners last week that utilize these seasonal fruits and vegetables and I hope you like them as much as we did.

Veggie Packed Frittata

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Serve with a mixed green salad and some hot biscuits.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb parboiled potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Half of a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • 6 asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat an oven broiler.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced sausage, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onion until the vegetables are soft, 3–4 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

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Stir in the sliced potatoes and salt and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until set and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil before serving.

Summer Melon Salad with Grilled BBQ Shrimp

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Last week my CSA had melons aplenty. I received two Crenshaw and one yellow watermelon. So I came up with a few recipes to make. The melon salad is in this post and next week, I will share the melon soup recipe I made. When you make the salad try to use two different types of melon for contrast. I also like the balance of the tangy grilled shrimp with the sweetness of the fruit salad. I also served this salad dinner with some homemade cornbread. See the recipe for Cheddar Cornbread here.

For the salad

  • 4 cups Crenshaw melon, peeled and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, peeled and seeds removed.
  • 2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted

For the shrimp

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup Peach BBQ sauce, see recipe here
  • Lemon quarters for garnish

Basil Honey Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a blender. Set aside in a serving bowl.

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For the melon salad

In a mixing bowl combine the two types of melon with the grapes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, mix the melon and grape mixture with the toasted pecans and a little of the basil dressing. Serve additional dressing with the salad.

For the grilled shrimp

Prepare an outdoor grill for medium hot heat or heat an indoor stove-top grill.

Thread the shrimp onto skewers and brush them lightly with BBQ sauce. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn the skewers and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove them to a plate and serve with lemon quarters, the melon salad and cornbread.

Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Basil Pesto Spaghetti

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Basil is so plentiful this time of year, so I try to think of different ways to use it in my summertime cooking. Of course, freezing basil pesto for the winter months is also another option. It is also a great addition to salad dressing and omelets, as in the recipes above.

2 servings

For the eggplant

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 link pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon dried Italian bread crumbs
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

For the spaghetti

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, see recipe here
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each zucchini. With a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon) remove most of the flesh from the zucchini without cutting into the outside. Chop the cut slice and the flesh.

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Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the chopped zucchini, chopped sausage and the garlic. Saute until the zucchini is completely cooked and has lost its moisture.

Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, cook until soft. Add enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together, about 2 tablespoons.

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Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and fill the hollowed out zucchini shells with the mixture.

Place the stuffed zucchini in a small baking dish. (The zucchini can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until baking time.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil.  Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the zucchini shells are tender.

For the spaghetti

While the zucchini are baking, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add the pesto with a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.

Add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix well and serve alongside the stuffed zucchini.


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Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.

Cold  Salad Plate For 2

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Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad

Cantaloupe:

Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.

Mix the tuna salad:

Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.

Make the deviled eggs:

Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.

Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.

Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.

Corn Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Chopped parsley
  • Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below

Directions

Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.

Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips

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Lay corn tortillas out on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with chili powder. Cut the corn tortillas into fourths.

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Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.

 Summer Chicken Salad

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Ingredients

  • 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.

Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.

Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.

To serve:

By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.

Corn Cakes

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Makes 9-10 cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below

Directions

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.

Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.

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Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
  • 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Directions

Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.

Fresh Fig Tart

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.

Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.

Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.

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Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.


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Easy Homemade Jam

This is a basic jam recipe and it works with any fruit (other than citrus). You can make jam with whatever fruit grows well where you live. In each season, use the best fruit you can find.

Work in small batches. Three pounds of fruit will yield close to 2 ½ pints of jam. If you want more jars, make two small batches rather than one double batch. The quality of the jam will be much better.

You don’t need to process the jars in a boiling water bath for this recipe. Just store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will last for weeks.

You can also store the jam in the freezer. The Ball Company now makes great containers to store the jam in for the freezer.

The unprocessed homemade jam will not make you ill, because most jams are made from high acid fruits which are not susceptible to botulism.

I made Blackberry Jam using this recipe. It is definitely worth making because the jam has such a fresh and distinct blackberry taste. Not at all like processed jam.

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For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe fruit, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon

Directions

Clean and cut the fruit as you would for making a fruit salad or fruit pie. For example: remove the caps from strawberries and cut into quarters; or peel, pit and slice peaches into pieces; or trim rhubarb and chop it into chunks.

Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot.

The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove the seeds before proceeding with the recipe.

For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one scant cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Stir to combine and taste. Very tart fruit (such as sour cherries, some plums or blackberries) might need a little more sugar. Very sweet fruit (such as white peaches) might need a little more lemon juice. Adjust to taste.

Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.

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Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute.

When ready, the cold jam will form a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through it and it will cling to the saucer when you tilt the saucer upright.

If the cold jam is too runny, bring the pot back to a boil for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then check the set again.

When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Fresh Strawberry  Syrup

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Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-pint strawberries, stems and leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat; stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add the syrup. Puree until smooth and pass through a fine sieve or colander.

Chop remaining berries; stir into the strawberry puree. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or freeze in small containers.

Blueberry Muffins

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

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries

Topping

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and either lightly grease 12 -15 muffin cups or use paper liners and spray the insides of the papers.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.

Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.

To make the topping:

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Summer Fruit Salad

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Use summer fruits that are in season. I used about 6 cups of cut fruit in this recipe.

Ingredients

Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes

  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Mint-Lime Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Directions

For the syrup:

Stir together the sugar and mint and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice, and cool 30 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container. Cover and chill syrup 4 hours.

For the salad:

Gently toss together the fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Mint-Lime Simple Syrup, and gently stir to coat. Taste to see if the fruit needs more syrup.

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

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This recipe makes one of the best tasting BBQ sauces I have made. It is especially good for grilled chicken.

Yields 4 cups.

  • 2 cups peeled and chopped very ripe peaches, about 4 medium peaches
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

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Process peaches in a blender 1 minute or until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Add all the additional ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.

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Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a few cubes at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate covered until needed.

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars


fruitdessertscover

Just because summer is over and the season for berries, peaches and melons has passed, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fruit desserts. Fall brings us apples, plums, pears, figs, grapes and pumpkins. No matter which fruit you pick up at the market, there are so many delicious desserts that you can make. A warm apple pie, a sweet plum tart or a delicious pear crisp are all terrific to enjoy on a cool fall night.

Apple Bars

fruitdesserts1

Makes 20 bars

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in apples and nuts. Add egg mixture in the well in flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick). Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely. If desired, top each serving with whipped cream or frozen yogurt

Plum Galettes

fruitdesserts2

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces light cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons low-sugar orange marmalade
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 recipe Galette Pastry, recipe below
  • 4 medium plums, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or walnuts, chopped
  • Milk, for brushing the pastry
  • 4 teaspoons honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed. Beat in egg yolk, orange marmalade and ginger.

Prepare pastry:

Divide the pastry dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a 7-inch circle. Spread each portion with one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with plum slices and almonds. Fold border up over the filling, pleating pastry as necessary to fit.

Place galettes on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops and sides of the crust with milk.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm. Cut each in half and drizzle with honey.

Galette Pastry

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Directions

In a small saucepan heat and stir 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until light brown; set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl stir together all-purpose flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and the browned butter until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cold water over part of the mixture; toss gently with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened (2 to 3 tablespoons total). Form dough into a ball.

Pumpkin  Cream Cheese Cupcakes

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24 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake Batter

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree, not pie mix
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 1 package (8 oz.) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place paper liners in 24 muffin cups.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.

Add the egg and beat on low just until combined.

For the cupcakes:

In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil and the 4 eggs until well blended.

In small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into the pumpkin mixture until blended.

Fill the muffin cups one-third full with batter.

Drop a tablespoonful of filling into the center of each cupcake and then cover with the remaining batter.

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the pumpkin portion comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Pear Crisp

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Topping

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Grape Cake with Wine Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup fine grind, yellow cornmeal, plus extra for dusting the pan
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 cups red and green seedless grapes

Wine Sauce

  • 4 cups fruity white wine, such as Riesling

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9-inch round baking pan with cooking spray and dust with the extra cornmeal. Shake the pan to evenly coat all sides and the bottom and tap out the excess.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Turn mixer to low-speed and slowly add in the olive oil.

Beat in the milk, vanilla extract and orange zest until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the wet mixture, a half cup at a time, while mixing on low-speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Using a spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Disperse the grapes evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden brown.

Remove the pan from oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5–10 minutes. Turn pan over and remove the cake. Let the cake cool completely, grape side up, on the wire rack.

Place the wine in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and allow the wine to simmer until it has reduced by half, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, slice the cake and drizzle the wine reduction over the cake.


FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov

FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov (http://afremov.com/cats.php)

There is plenty of cool weather produce available in the fall that you can make into delicious, seasonal salads.

Apples

Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.

Pears

It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities, such as Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice or serve them immediately after slicing.

Cranberries

Fresh cranberries are very tart and are usually sweetened before they go into a salad. Dried cranberries add beautiful color and sweet chewiness to salads.

Grapes

Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and mix them into your favorite salad.

Beets

Fall beets come in red, pink, orange, yellow and white varieties, as well as a range of sizes. Both the bulbous root and the leafy stalk are edible. For salads, select small to medium beets with firm, smooth skin and no soft spots or punctures. Those with stems and leaves still attached are best. The foliage should be green and fresh-looking. Store beets, greens and all, in a produce bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Use disposable latex gloves from the drugstore when peeling beets. They’re thin enough to allow dexterity while protecting your hands from stains.

Fennel

Fennel is available in the fall and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic plant is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The greenery can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even milder and softer than in its raw state.

Cabbage

The cabbage family is wide and varied: broccoli and cauliflower are members. Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

These vegetables are available year-round, but they are especially plentiful in the spring and fall. When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.

salads1

Fall Spinach Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped  pecans
  • 1/2 of an apple, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons grated carrot
  • 1/4 of an avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing, or to taste

Directions

Stir the balsamic vinegar and honey together in a bowl; slowly stream the olive oil into the mixture while whisking continuously. Season with salt and pepper.

Place spinach, cranberries, pecans, apple, onion, carrot and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

salad2

Wild Rice, Kiwi and Grape Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain excess liquid, cover and let cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, oil and honey in a small bowl until the honey is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper.

Place cooled rice in a salad bowl, along with kiwi, grapes and pecans. Add dressing, gently toss and serve.

salad3

Cabbage Salad – Waldorf Style

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 head savoy cabbage
  • 4 unpeeled apples, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Slice cabbage into thin pieces 1 to 2 inches long. Do not use the large ribs of the cabbage, as they are too strongly flavored for this salad.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the cabbage, apples, walnuts and celery.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, honey and salt. Mix with the cabbage salad  until evenly coated. Serve immediately.

salad5

Beet, Fennel and Apple Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetables

  • 1 medium cooked red beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 medium crisp tart apple such as Granny Smith, cored and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss together the beets, fennel, apple and parsley. Add the dressing and mix gently to coat all of the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. (If refrigerating, remove from the refrigerator and let stand 30 minutes before serving.

salad4

Fall Fruit & Nut Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cashew halves
  • 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium Bosc pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes

Directions

In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, cook bacon strips until crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Coarsely chop bacon.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the bacon, rosemary, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and toasted cashews.

In a small bowl, stir together white wine vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large salad bowl, toss half the dressing with the greens, pear slices, grapes and sprinkle with nut/bacon mixture.

Serve with the remaining dressing in case anyone wants additional dressing on their salad.


fallfruitcover

Apples
Look for apples that are firm, brightly colored and free of bruises. The skin should be clean and shiny; a dull finish indicates the fruit may be past its prime. Refrigerate apples up to two weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy. Apples are also good baked in pies, roasted or sautéed to accompany meat dishes.

Grapes
Look for grapes that are plump, unblemished and firmly attached to a flexible stem. Ripe white and green grapes should have a yellowish cast; red and purple ones should have no green. Refrigerate grapes in a ventilated plastic bag up to one week.

Pears
Pears ripen off the tree, so most of the fruit you’ll find at the market will need a few days to soften at home. Common varieties include: Anjou, which is egg-shaped with a green, rose-tinged green, or red skin; Bosc, which has a slender neck and a brown skin (Boscs are flavorful even before fully ripe so they are good for cooking); and Bartlett, which has a red skin or a green skin that yellows as it ripens. Let pears ripen at room temperature. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck of the fruit will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to five days. Cooking can really bring out their flavor, so try them baked or poached.

Pomegranates
This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades and the seeds can be mixed into salads to give them flavor.

Dates
This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, stuffed with cream cheese or almonds or baked into quick breads.

Kiwi
Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad or combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney.

fallfruit1

 

Apple-Date Cake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine milk, dates and salt; heat until steaming but do not boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in apple and vanilla; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in egg and oil and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter, the 1 teaspoon flour and the cinnamon; set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the 1-1/2 cups flour, the baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

fallfruit3

Italian Grape Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh, seedless purple grapes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F

Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Cut the cake into thin wedges.

fallfruit2

Pear Quick Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pears (not too ripe – more hard than soft)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Mix together molasses, honey, egg white, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.

Mix flour, bran, sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and add the wet mixture all at once.

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

Pour into a 9 x 5-inch lightly greased baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread tests done (cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean). Makes 1 large loaf.

fallfruit4

Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled

Directions

In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and melted butter. Pour mixture all at once into the well in the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2 1/2-in.-wide) or 24 (1 3/4-in.-wide) buttered mini muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with granulated sugar.

Bake in a 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for the large muffin pan or 13 minutes for the small muffin pan. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.

fallfruit5

Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (about 3 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs or biscotti crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 15 oz. (1 2/3 cups) ricotta cheese
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 kiwi fruit (about 1/4 lb. each)

Directions

Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger and melted butter. Pat crumb mixture evenly the over bottom of a removable-rim 8-inch cheesecake pan.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the crust is lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, egg whites and lemon juice until very smooth.

In a mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Add ricotta mixture and stir until well blended (the mixture is thin). Pour into the (hot or cool) crust.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 50 to 55 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim.

Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until cool, at least 2 1/2 hours. (If making ahead, wrap airtight when cool and chill up to 2 days.)

Remove pan rim. Peel kiwi fruit and slice crosswise. Arrange fruit in a ring in overlapping slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining ginger. Cut cake into wedges.


 

beachcover

One of my favorite things about living near the Gulf is that the beach is so close to us. There is nothing better than relaxing in the sun, digging your toes into warm sand and spending the day with friends. Beach trips require an adjustment in thinking about what foods to pack for a lunch, however. That means you don’t want snacks that will wilt in a cooler on a hot day or use food containers that will let sand inside. And you don’t want to have to deal with a lot of utensils or dishes.

Hands-down the most obvious beach must-have is bottled water. Without adequate hydration, you run the risk of heat stroke. Do not forget the sunblock, either. I have seen too many people turn lobster red before the end of the day.

By bringing snacks like nuts and dried fruits, which are packed with protein and carbohydrates, you’ll have delicious and easy snacks that will give you energy all day long. Pita, pretzels and chips are all delicious with dips like hummus or salsa, but dips are not the best idea for a snack at the beach. One gust of wind and you may get more sand in the container than you want. The less exposed your food is to the elements, the better.

Mayonnaise does not hold up once it leaves the refrigerator. Instead, opt for a vinaigrette or use sandwich condiments, like pesto, to add flavor. Dairy products are best left at home, as they are highly unstable if not kept at the right temperature.

Think of healthy, but filling food to take to the beach.

Choose pita bread or wraps for sandwiches instead of bread slices that may get soggy.

Keep all condiments separated from other food. Use small Tupperware containers for sauces or dressing.

Pack light and non-salty snacks for kids in individual ziplock sandwich bags. Prepare chopped fresh vegetables, like carrot slices, red, yellow and green pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, celery, crackers and raisins that can be enjoyed as a small snack.

Go with light meats, such as turkey slices or grilled chicken. They are excellent choices to place in a sandwich wrap.

Try to create snacks that are based upon finger foods. Fruit that can be eaten out-of-hand, like grapes, apples, pears and peaches along with cheese that isn’t too melty — cheddar, Swiss and Gouda, for example, are best for the beach. Cookies and brownies are best for dessert.

How to pack the cooler.

Start with a great insulated cooler. Make sure it’s size appropriate for your entire family. It gets pretty tiring lugging lots of bags from the car to the sand.

Food and drinks that are going to be used last should go on the bottom of the cooler. You don’t want to be digging through the ice or other items just to get one thing.

Place the heaviest and biggest items on the bottom, while the lightest and smallest items should be placed on the top.

Always add ice cubes or ice packs to the cooler after the items have been added to act as a buffer between the food and the heat.

Bring cleaning supplies.

Baby wipes are recommended to take with you to the beach. Unlike napkins, baby wipes help to moisturize the skin and they remove sand more efficiently than dry cloths or paper napkins.

Take extra plastic bags with you. To minimize trash blowing away and litter in general, you can easily place your trash in the plastic bag. Toss the entire bag in a nearby trash barrel on your way out.

beach6

Sunset Beach BBQ

Be sure you wrap up raw meats and pack them with individual ice packs. Make sure your cooler can keep any raw ingredients cool enough, long enough.

Marinate meat the night before, since the marinade will help preserve the meat.

Bring vegetables, like bell peppers and corn on the cob, to give you some variety on the grill. This will satisfy any vegetarians in your group and it will also free up space in the cooler since veggies don’t need to be kept cold.

Frozen fruits serve double duty. As an alternative to ice cubes, freeze grapes or berries, then add them to your cooler when you head to the beach. Not only are frozen fruits refreshing, but they will also help keep the temperature down in a cooler.

Beach Friendly Food

Gullible: those who believe they can have a picnic at the beach.

 

Crunch Mix

beach3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cinnamon-flavored oat square cereal
  • 2/3 cup dried baked apple pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled lightly salted pistachio nuts or coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

Directions

In medium bowl combine cereal, apple pieces, nuts and raisins. Divide evenly into 6 sandwich bags.

Chicken and Hummus Pitas

beach1

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (8 to 12 ounces)
  • 2 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved
  • 1 cup homemade of store-bought hummus
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

Directions

In a small bowl combine oil, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper.

Place chicken on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Brush both sides of chicken with the oil mixture. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 7 minutes. Turn chicken; broil 5 to 8 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink. Cool slightly; cut into strips.

Carefully open pita halves and spread each with a ¼ cup of hummus; add sliced chicken, tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt.

Wrap each sandwich well in aluminium foil. The foil will help hold the sandwich together while you eat it.

Cucumber and Apricot Sandwiches

beach2

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 8 slices firm-textured whole wheat bread
  • 2 large apricots or 1 nectarine, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup arugula leaves

Directions

Peel cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Thinly slice cucumber; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the cream cheese, basil and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Spread about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on one side of each bread slice.

Top four bread slices with cucumber, apricot and arugula.

Top with remaining bread slices, cream cheese side down.

Cut each sandwich in half diagonally. Wrap well in foil.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

beach4

40 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine peanut butter and butter; beat with the electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add sugar, egg, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined.

Add flour; beat until smooth. Stir in oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate chips into the oat mixture.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Pack into sandwich bags for individual servings at the beach.

Don't forget the frozen grapes.

Don’t forget the frozen grapes.



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