Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: raspberries

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You really don’t have to eat boring chicken. Try new ways of preparing chicken and serve it with new and different garnishing ingredients.

Dry chicken isn’t appealing.  To avoid this:

  • Don’t overcook chicken – 155 to 160 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer is perfectly safe.
  • Cooking chicken for most of its grilling time over indirect heat keeps it tender and juicy and it does not burn.

When I grill chicken, I always make extra because it is so delicious and there are so many other dishes you can make with the leftovers.

I also add vegetables to the grill, if I am grilling the main dish. Saves lots of time and clean up.

Ingredients

  • 2-4 bone-in chicken breasts or 2-4 boneless breasts or/and 2-4 bone-in thighs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Turn all burners to high and heat the grill with the lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape the grate clean with a grill brush.

Dip a wad of paper towels in oil; holding the wad with tongs, wipe the cooking grate. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off the other burner(s).

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Grilling bone-in breasts:

Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of the grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 4 to 6 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill, with the thicker side of the breast facing the hot side of the grill.

Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.

Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.

Grilling bone-in chicken thighs:

Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.

Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.

Grilling boneless breasts:

Place chicken on the cooler side of the grill, smooth-side down, with the thicker side of the breasts facing the direct heat. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and cook until the bottom of the chicken just begins to develop light grill marks about 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and rotate it so that the thinner side faces the hot side of the grill. Cover with the foil and continue to cook until the chicken is opaque and firm to touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 140 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes longer.

Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill and cook, without the foil, until dark grill marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over and cook until dark grill marks appear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let rest, tented with foil, 5 minutes.

With just a change of a sauce, you can create a totally different taste every time. Serve the grilled chicken topped with one of the sauces below.

Spinach Pesto

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I made this sauce last week and it was on my blog for Earth Day. (see recipe here)

Creamy Herb Vinaigrette

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs that are in season
  • 1/2 small shallot, minced

Directions

Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, tarragon and shallots to a small bowl and whisk until smooth and emulsified.

Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce

BBQsauce

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons all natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

In a large saucepan combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Seasonal Fruit Sauce

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I used raspberries because that is what is in season and I had them in my refrigerator. Come summer, peaches would be very good in this sauce. Don’t be afraid to try this sauce, it was delicious on the chicken.

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries, or any fruit in season (peaches, berries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft. Serve warm over grilled chicken or pork chops.

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/4 inch shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and saute the zucchini pulp, celery, bell pepper, garlic and onion until the vegetables are soft.

Add bread crumbs; cook and stir.Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, seasoning and salt.

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Spoon the filling into the zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place the zucchini on the cool side of the grill while the chicken is cooking on the hot side.

Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until the zucchini are tender and the tops are crispy.

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fortwocover

Are you planning on going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day this year?

You might want to reconsider. My husband and I prefer to have our special dinner at home because years ago we would go out and we were always disappointed. The restaurant charges were higher than normal and the food was not always up to expectations. The restaurant was crowded, they had lots of reservations, the staff were exhausted and we were rushed through dinner. Got to turn those tables! Some advice. Instead, stay home, cook a great meal and enjoy a romantic evening at home. Below is a special dinner you can make at home and, even with beef tenderloin and lobster on the menu, you won’t spend anything like what a restaurant meal will cost you on Valentine’s day.

First Course

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Lobster Risotto

For 2 divide the finished risotto in half and serve half for dinner with the lobster. Save the other half for another dinner or some great arancini. I am not in favor of making half a recipe for risotto because I think the taste is affected.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen lobster tails (about 2 medium), thawed
  • 5 cups salt-free chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the lobster meat turns white.

Drain and set aside to cool.

When cool, remove the lobster meat from the shell and chop it into 1-inch pieces; set aside.

Warm the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep it hot over low heat.

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion and cook, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.

Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, half of the lobster meat and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve:

Place in a serving dish and top with remaining lobster pieces; garnish with parsley.

Second Course

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Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Tomatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (each about 4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

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

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once.

Allow 7 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) and 9 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).

To serve:

Spoon the vinegar tomato sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with thyme.

fortwo4

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Shallots

Ingredients

  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the green beans and season with salt and ground pepper.

Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and serve.

Dessert

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Chocolate Crepes with Raspberry Sauce

12 servings

For the sauce:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Place water and 3 1/2 cups of the raspberries in a blender; cover and process for 3 minutes until smooth. Strain the raspberry puree and discard the seeds.

Place the puree in a small saucepan along with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.

In a blender, blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.

Heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with cooking spray to coat bottom of pan.

Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe mixture into the pan, swirling the pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottom of the crepe is light golden brown.

Turn the crepe over and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and crepe mixture.

This should make 12 crepes. You can freeze the extra crepes for another time.

To serve:

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce into the center of each crepe. Fold into quarters, top with some of the remaining sauce, a few of the remaining fresh raspberries and dust each with powdered sugar. Serve warm.


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Thinking of grilling fish this weekend? Certain types of fish are trickier than others, but almost any type of seafood can be grilled — shellfish, whole fish, steaks and fillets. Meaty fish are ideal for grilling because they hold together well and are easy to handle. For salmon, use lower heat because salmon has a high fat content and the fat will melt and cause flare-ups if the heat is too high.

Delicate, flaky fish pose more of a challenge on the grill because they fall apart easily. A grill basket solves that problem because it encloses the fish on both sides. Just be sure to oil the grill basket or spray with nonstick spray to prevent the fish from sticking. If you do not have a basket, you can use a wide metal spatula for turning the fish.

Be sure to oil the grill grates well. Grilling times and temperatures will vary depending on the type of fish, its density or flakiness and its thickness. Meaty, dense fish (tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, swordfish) will take longer to cook than lighter, flakier fish (cod, halibut). Start by cooking the fish over high heat, but if the fish is browning too fast, lower the heat to medium-high.

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Grilled Shrimp Pitas

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 6 pitas, about 6-inch diameter
  • 3 cups lettuce
  • Sliced red onion and plum tomatoes

Directions

For the Sauce

In a medium-size bowl, stir together yogurt, crumbled feta, cucumber and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Shrimp

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, mint, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Add shrimp, seal bag and shake to coat shrimp with marinade. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal grill with medium-hot coals. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place shrimp in a grilling basket and grill for 3 minutes. Baste once with the remaining marinade. Turn shrimp and grill for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink.

To serve, equally divide the lettuce, sauce and shrimp over each pita. Add onion and tomato.

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Grilled Hazelnut Salmon

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 six-ounce skinless salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
  • 1/3 cup finely ground hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut oil
  • 2 ½ cups arugula
  • 1 cup yellow or red tiny pear-shape or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Brush one side of the  fillets evenly with the 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil. In a 9-inch pie plate stir together ground hazelnuts, flour and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Dip the oil brushed side of the salmon in the nut mixture; coat well.

For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Place fish, coated sides up, on the greased grill rack over the pan. Cover and grill for 14 to 18 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Place fish, coated sides up, on greased grill rack over the burner that is turned off. Grill as directed.)

For the dressing

In a small bowl combine vinegar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; whisk in the 1/4 cup hazelnut oil. Reserve 1/4 cup of the dressing; set aside. In a large bowl toss arugula, tomatoes, cheese and chives with the remaining dressing. Divide evenly among serving plates.

Add a grilled salmon fillet to each plate. Drizzle salmon with reserved dressing.

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Tuna with Fruit Salsa

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 5 ounce tuna steaks, 1-inch thick
  • 2 fresh ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

Lightly brush tuna steaks and peach halves with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat grill and oil the grates.

Grill tuna and peaches over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove peaches; set aside to cool. Coarsely chop peaches.

Turn tuna and cook 6 to 7 minutes more or until it flakes easily when tested with a fork. Transfer tuna to a platter; cover to keep warm.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl heat apricot preserves on 100 percent power (high) for 15 seconds. Stir in vinegar; gently fold in raspberries and chopped peaches.

Serve fruit salsa with tuna steaks and sprinkle with green onions.

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Mustard-Glazed Halibut Steaks

Save time and grill a vegetable or two alongside the fish.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Four 4-5 ounce halibut (or any white fish) steaks, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons finely snipped fresh basil

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels.

In small saucepan heat butter, lemon juice, mustard and basil over low heat until butter is melted. Brush both sides of the fish steaks with the mustard mixture.

For a gas grill: cook fish steaks on greased rack over medium for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish begins to flake easily when tested with a fork, turning once and brushing occasionally with additional mustard mixture.

For a charcoal grill: arrange preheated coals around a drip pan in a covered grill. Heat to medium and place fish on the greased grill rack over the drip pan. Cover and grill for 8 to 12 minutes or just until fish begins to flake easily when tested with a fork, turning once and brushing occasionally with the mustard mixture.

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Grilled Scallops With Salsa Verde

Choose scallops that are “dry” (not stored in liquid preservatives). Large sea scallops are better for the grill; small bay scallops could overcook before browning or fall through the grates. Make sure to coat them thoroughly in an oil based marinade before grilling, so they don’t stick to the grate.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 metal skewers
  • Salsa Verde, recipe below

Directions

Prepare grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. Mix scallops with oil and season with salt and pepper. Thread scallops on 4 metal skewers and place them on the grill, flat side down. Grill, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve scallops with Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde

This sauce is delicious with shellfish.

Ingredients

Makes About 1 Cup

  • Half a lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Directions

Squeeze juice from the half lemon after the peel is removed and set aside. Combine the lemon zest, shallot and garlic in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 5 minutes. Add oil, parsley, basil and chives. Stir in reserved lemon juice.


summer fruit

You think fruit, then dessert: fruit pies, fruit crumbles, fruit crisps, fruit compote on spongecake, fruit in ice cream or fruit on its own. When it’s hot and you need something refreshing, summer fruit fills the need– from tart blackberries to sweet strawberries to juicy peaches. However, there’s a savory side to summer fruit, that definitely deserves your attention.
Fresh fruit, summer fruit in particular, can really add something special to your recipes. When combined with the right ingredients, summer fruit can take on a savory flavor that’s far from a dessert — and just as good. I have included both desserts and savory dishes in the recipes in this post.
These summer fruits celebrate the freshest flavors of the season:

  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Passion Fruit
  • Melons
  • Lemons
  • Limes

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Vegetable Salad With Blackberry-Shallot Vinaigrette

Chopped salads add a splash of color to a meal. If you’re making this salad in advance, keep the salad and dressing separate and hold off adding the tomatoes and avocado until just before serving. You can substitute vegetables that are in season for some of the ones listed in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped green beans or asparagus, steamed just until tender
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/2 head radicchio, chopped
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 10 blackberries, halved

Dressing

  • 10 whole blackberries
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In large bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, green beans, bell pepper, radishes and radicchio. In a separate small bowl, toss avocados with lemon juice to coat and then fold into the salad.

For the dressing:

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and place whole berries for the dressing in the strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash berries through the strainer to separate the juice from the pulp and seeds. Discard pulp and seeds. Whisk together the blackberry juice, shallot, olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle desired amount over the salad. You may not need to use the entire amount of dressing. Top with pine nuts, the halved blackberries and serve. Serves 4.

summer fruit 3

Summer Fruit Soup

Makes about 4 cups; (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ripe cantaloupe chunks (about 1 inch)
  • 3-4 ripe peaches (1 lb), peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup white Zinfandel wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries, rinsed and drained
  • Mint sprigs, rinsed

Directions

In a blender or food processor, puree cantaloupe, peaches, white Zinfandel and lemon juice until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired.
Pour soup into a container, cover, and chill until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. To chill faster, nest container in a bowl of ice water and stir soup often until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour the soup into shallow bowls. Scatter raspberries on top. Garnish with mint sprigs.

summer fruit 4

Mozzarella, Basil and Nectarines with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients

  • 4 large nectarines
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 thick round slices
  • 1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

Combine vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is slightly syrupy. Remove fromthe  heat and pour the vinegar into a glass measuring cup. Set aside to cool and thicken.

Cut the nectarines into ¼ inch thick circles, going around the pit and keeping the slices whole.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sear both sides of the nectarines for 1 minute or until warmed, but still firm. Alternately, you can grill the nectarines directly on the grill. Keep the nectarines warm while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the panko crumbs, flour, parmesan, salt, pepper and cayenne, mixing thoroughly to combine.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Take each slice of fresh mozzarella and coat it in the beaten egg, then dredge it through the bread crumb mix, pressing on both sides to adhere. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and when hot, saute the coated mozzarella slices, turning carefully once, until golden and the cheese starts to melt but still retains its shape, about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble: place one nectarine slice on a plate, top with 1 slice of mozzarella and then a basil leaf. Repeat the layer one more time and finish with a nectarine slice. Garnish with basil and freshly grated pepper. Drizzle on the balsamic glaze.

Food 52

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

Plum Sauce

  • 1 pound pitted, chopped plums 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 minced hot pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • Salt & Pepper

Pork

  • 2 boneless pork tenderloins
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

To make the sauce:

Bring all ingredients except the plums to a boil. Stir in the chopped plums. Reduce the heat and simmer very slowly until thick and syrupy, about 45 minutes. Depending on your preference for consistency, either puree in small batches in the blender, blend with an immersion blender or mash with a potato masher. The sauce may be made two days in advance.

To prepare the pork:

Heat an outdoor grill. Bank the coals on one side, so that one half is very hot and one half can be used for indirect cooking. If you have a gas grill, turn off one burner after the grill heats. Brush the hottest part of the grill with a little oil so the pork won’t stick.

Pat pork tenderloins dry with paper towels. Lightly salt and pepper them on all sides. Sear the pork on all sides over the hot side of the grill. Move the pork to the indirect heat, brush liberally with some plum sauce and cover the grill for about 8-10 minutes. Total cooking time, including searing is 15-18 minutes. If you have a thermometer, cook to 155 degrees F.

Heat some plum sauce in a small saucepan on the stove or the grill. Remove the pork from the grill and tent with foil, allowing the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Slice the tenderloins. Pool the plum sauce on the plate and serve with the sliced tenderloin fanned out on top. This dish goes well with garlicky, sautéed greens.

summer fruit 2

Creamy Rice Pudding with Peaches

Ingredients

  • 5 cups whole milk (or any combination of whole and 2 percent reduced-fat milk), divided
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled and mashed

Directions

Combine 4 cups milk, rice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Whisk egg yolks and about 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture together in a small bowl. Whisk back into the pan and add the remaining 1 cup milk. Place over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool and chill at least 2 hours before serving. Top with mashed peaches.

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Blackberry or Blueberry Crumble

Blackberries were plentiful this year where I live. I had more than enough to use in fruit salads and decided to make this dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur clear gel for fruit pies or cornstarch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar,the  1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and oats. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your hands cut in the butter. Keep mixture cold until ready to use.

In a large bowl combine berries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and clear gel or cornstarch; toss to coat. Pour the blackberry mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Top with the crumble topping. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.


spring fruit

Now that spring has finally arrived, the focus on food shifts to lighter recipes, with fresh flavors and colors. We crave lighter main dishes and fresh salads. So there are also dessert recipes that are appropriate for spring.

Whether you’re searching for a dessert for Mother’s Day or a shower or birthday, seasonal fruits can often provide spring dessert inspiration, as these ingredients are likely to be of the highest quality because conditions are optimal for their growth. Berries, stone and tropical fruit, as well as some citrus, such as limes or Meyer lemons, can be found in the produce section or farmer’s markets. Choose one or two main ingredients to feature for a dessert that highlights the fruit’s natural flavors. For instance, a berry medley does well with little more than a dash of rum, sugar and chopped mint garnished with a little whipped cream.

Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup also changes a dish’s texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind but want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be effective.

Presentation can substantially affect the appearance of spring desserts. Garnishing with fresh, seasonal flowers or displaying desserts on mismatched antique dishes add color, fragrance and character to your dessert presentation. Simple and sleek dishes can give a gourmet touch and pieces with elaborate designs or patterns can bring to mind homemade and comfort food. Spring colors and motifs also add seasonal flare to the presentation.

Here are some recipes for healthier springtime desserts.

Berry Ginger Shortcakes

shortcakes

Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg product or 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream

Directions

In a small bowl combine the berries and the crystallized ginger. Set aside.
Heat oven 425 degrees F.

For the shortcakes:

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough with a floured 2-1/2-inch star-shaped or heart-shaped cookie cutter or a round biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary.

Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.

To serve:

In a small bowl combine the whipped cream and sour cream. Split the shortcakes in half. Place the bottoms on dessert plates. Divide the berry mixture among the bottoms. Top each with some of the topping mixture. Replace the shortcake tops.

Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

panna cotta

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

For the panna cotta:

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

For sauce:

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

Run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta; unmold onto individual plates; top with sauce.

Raspberry-Mint Swirl Cheesecake

Raspberry cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 5 cups plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 cup fresh red raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Raspberry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions
.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle 2 1/2 teaspoons of the gelatin over the milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Bruise mint sprigs by pressing with the back of a spoon; add to the saucepan. Heat and stir milk mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard mint sprigs; set aside.

For the raspberry layer:

Place the 1 cup raspberries in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer raspberry puree to another small saucepan. Stir in the 3 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/4 teaspoons gelatin over raspberry mixture; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir raspberry mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; cover and chill for 15 minutes.

For the cheese layer:

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in Greek yogurt, the 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the milk/gelatin mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture to the raspberry mixture; stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Spoon half of the white cream cheese mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Spoon half of the raspberry mixture into mounds over the white cream cheese mixture in the pan. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl raspberry mixture into white mixture. Repeat layering remaining white cream cheese mixture and raspberry mixture. Cover and chill for 24 hours.

For the raspberry sauce:

Place 2 cups fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Press mixture through a fine mesh sieve; discard seeds. Add honey and mix well. Heat the sauce in the microwave, if you would like to serve it warm.

To serve:

Using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from the side of the springform pan; remove pan side. Cut cheesecake into wedges.
Drizzle some of the Raspberry Sauce on dessert plates. Place cheesecake wedges atop sauce on plates. Garnish with fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

Lemon-Thyme Cookies

lemon cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice and cardamom. Add in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Knead until smooth; form mixture into a ball.

Divide dough into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6×4 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface.

Cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares with a scalloped-edge pastry wheel and sprinkle cutouts with coarse sugar. You can make the cookies into any size you would prefer.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are just lightly brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Place cookies in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 36 cookies.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

crumble

Ingredients

For The Fruit:

  • 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
  • 8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or healthy butter alternative (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Garnish:

Fresh basil leaves and frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Transfer to a greased 8-inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, melted butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until combined and slightly crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake until juices are bubbling in the center and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Garnish with basil and serve with a scoop of frozen yogurt.

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Apple_coffee_cake

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake, as we know it today made with refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast, arrived on the scene. The Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book [London, 1894] contains a recipe for a layer cake. Butter-cream frosting (using butter, cream, confectioners [powdered] sugar and flavorings) replaced traditional boiled icing in the first few decades of the 20th century. Coffee cake (also sometimes known as Kuchen or Gugelhupf) was not invented. It evolved from ancient honey cakes to simple French galettes to medieval fruitcakes to sweet yeast rolls to Danish cakes to mass-produced pre-packaged treats.

Food historians generally agree the concept of coffee cake [eating sweet cake with coffee] most likely originated in Northern/Central Europe sometime in the 17th century. Why this place and time? These countries were already known for their traditional sweet yeast breads. When coffee was introduced in Europe these cakes were a natural accompaniment. German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants brought their coffee cake recipes with them to America. Italian coffee cakes are usually filled with fresh seasonal fruit and are eaten for breakfast.

The first coffee cake-type foods were more like bread than cake. They were simple mixtures of yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, dried fruit and sweet spices. Over time, coffee cake recipes changed. Sugared fruit, cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings are often used in today’s American coffee cake recipes.

Coffee cakes are a class of cakes intended to be eaten alongside coffee as part of a breakfast meal or that may be eaten during a “coffee break” or offered to guests as a gesture of hospitality on or around a coffee table. They are typically single layer cakes that may be square or rectangular like a Stollen or a loaf-shaped cake or they may be ring-shaped. Coffee cakes may be flavored with cinnamon or other spices, seeds, nuts and fruits. These cakes sometimes have a crumb topping called streusel and/or a light glaze drizzle. The hole in the center of many coffee cakes is a relatively recent innovation—it became popular in the 1950’s. The “bundt pan” was invented to allow heavier batters to get cooked all the way through without any dough left unbaked in the center.

Enjoy one of the following cakes with your next cup of coffee.

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake

Oatmeal_Cake_9008

For the cake

  • 5.25 ounces (1 cup) steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cupsevaporated whole milk
  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter or butter substitute (such as Smart Balance), room temperature
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) packed brown sugar
  • 3.5 ounces (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 7 ounces (about 1½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping

  • 2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter or butter alternative
  • 2 ounces (¼ cup) packed brown sugar
  • 2 ounces (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3.5 ounces (1 cup) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 ounces (½ cup) chopped pecans

Directions

Make the cake:

Heat the milk in a small saucepan over high heat until it just starts to boil. Pour the milk over the oats and cover the bowl. Allow the oats to rest for 30 minutes; in this time they should have absorbed much of the milk and softened considerably.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray an 8-inch square metal cake pan with cooking spray. Line it with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil cut to fit into the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan with ample overhang on either side. Spray the foil lightly. (If you have no interest in serving the cake outside of the pan, don’t bother with the foil. Instead, sprinkle flour generously on the inside of the sprayed cake pan, tilt to coat the bottom and sides and remove the excess flour.) Set the pan aside.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add the sugars, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and aerated, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Crack the eggs into a measuring cup. Add the vanilla and beat lightly with a fork until combined.

With the mixer running on low-speed, add the beaten eggs, then add the dry ingredients and the oats with any liquid remaining in the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake until the cake is golden brown, has shrunken slightly from the sides and tests clean with a toothpick, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Make the topping:

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugars and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugars have dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk and salt, bring to a boil, and boil until the mixture is thickened slightly, about 3 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Stir in the coconut, pecans and vanilla and set aside, covered, until ready to use.

Finish the cake:

After removing the cake from the oven, position the oven rack about 6 inches below the heating element of the broiler and preheat the broiler.

With a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke ½-inch-deep holes at regular intervals into the top of the warm cake. Spread the topping over the cake, coaxing it to the sides and corners.

Broil until the topping is light brown and bubbly, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the intensity of your broiler. Remove from the broiler and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.

To unmold the cake:

Run a metal spatula along the sides of the cake that touch the pan directly. Gripping the foil overhang on both sides, carefully lift out the cake and transfer it to a cutting board or serving plate. Press a long metal spatula flush against a side of the cake with a foil overhang and gently pull out the foil from under the cake.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

blueberry-sour-cream-coffee-cake-recipe-rp

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3/4 cup butter or butter alternative, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar or sugar alternative
  • 4 eggs or equivalent refrigerated egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, if frozen do not thaw

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl; add to creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream.

Spoon a third of the batter into the prepared pan.

Combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle half over the batter. Top with half of the berries. Repeat layers. Top with remaining batter.

Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over the top of the cake.

Hazelnut Coffee Cake

Hazelnut

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted, see tip below
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 9x 2-inch stone or metal loaf pan; set aside.

For the nut topping:

In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. With your fingers mix until mixture is crumbly. Stir in toasted hazelnuts. Set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, combine egg, sour cream, the water and oil and add to the flour mixture; stir just until combined.

Place 1/2 cup of the batter into a clean small bowl. Stir in cocoa powder, milk and vanilla until smooth.

Spoon the light-color batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly (batter will be shallow in the pan).

Drop chocolate batter in small mounds over batter in the pan. Using a thin metal spatula, slightly marble batters. Sprinkle with the nut topping.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; serve warm. Makes 12 servings.

Tip:

To toast hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Remove from the oven. Let nuts cool for 5 minutes. Rub hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel until skins loosen and fall away.

Raspberry Cheese Coffee Cake

raspberry

Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar alternative
  • 3/4 cups cold butter or light butter alternative, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Filling:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cups low sugar or sugar-free raspberry jam, warmed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds

Directions

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Remove 1 cup and set aside.

To the remaining mixture, add the baking powder, baking soda and salt, sour cream, milk, egg and almond extract and mix well. Spread in the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon over batter. Top with the warm raspberry jam. Sprinkle with almonds and reserved crumb mixture.

Bake at 350°F for 55-60 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 12 servings.

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Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you suddenly start counting calories, checking your cholesterol or monitoring your sodium intake. It means making better food choices. More whole grains, less white flour; more leafy, hardy greens; more heritage-breed pork instead of plastic-wrapped supermarket meat; more sustainable fish and organic chicken. When we build our meals around these ingredients, we don’t think “health,” we think “delicious.” Celebrate what good food has always been about: the best possible ingredients, prepared well and consumed with portion restraint. For many of us, learning to develop healthy eating habits takes a little more discipline than it does for others. By making small changes with every meal, you can start developing healthier eating habits in no time.

Here are a few small steps that can lead to giant leaps for you and your family’s health.

Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruit and healthier choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. For instance, have three types of fruit (apples, oranges, grapes) to replace some of the small bags of chips or candy bars. Start replacing unhealthy snacks with alternative choices, such as oatmeal bars, granola bars or peanuts and yogurt.

Easy snacks:

  • Toss sliced apples, berries, bananas and a tablespoon or two of whole-grain cereal on top of fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • Put a slice of low-fat cheese on top of whole-grain crackers.
  • Make a whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
  • Pop some low-fat popcorn.
  • Microwave or toast a soft whole grain tortilla with low-fat cheese and sliced peppers and mushrooms to make a mini-burrito or quesadilla.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk (blend it with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a smoothie).

When shopping at the grocery store, spend more of your time in the outer aisles. That’s where you’ll find the healthier foods, such as fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, which are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol and do not have added sugar, salt and other preservatives that add on the pounds.

A better choice because these chips contain just corn, oil and salt and less than 150 calories per serving.

Begin reading the labels of the foods that you eat. Foods that are labeled “low in fat,” or “light,” are not always the healthiest choice. Many times, if a product is lower in fat, it may be higher in sodium, or, if it’s lower in sugar, it may be high in fat. Read the “Nutrition Facts” chart on the back of the box, can or bag, so you know what you are eating. Reading the label of every food item while you’re shopping is not easy. A better way to start is with your favorite packaged foods and snacks at home. Notice the differences in the amounts of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and calories per serving between the different foods that you have in your pantry. The next step is to slowly begin making adjustments in your shopping choices by looking for alternatives with fewer calories, sodium and fats.

Don’t get caught up in the calories. Instead look at the portions and calories per serving. Most consumers read the number of calories and assume that’s the number of calories for the entire package, rather than the number of calories per serving – buyer beware.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
Spaghetti
w/meatballs
1 cup sauce
3 small
meatballs
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
meatballs
1,020
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
Blueberry
muffin
1.5 ounces 210 5 ounces 500

Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, then, in most cases, the amount of food you’ve chosen is too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. Some people use the size of their fist as a measurement. The size of your fist, or a cupped hand, is about the same size of one measuring cup. You can also use the Healthy Eating Plate pictured at the top of this post as a guide to portion control.

Retrain your taste buds and attitude toward better food choices. The natural sweetness of an orange or apple can’t compete with the sugary taste of a candy bar. You can retrain your palate to like foods that are good for you. Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks or as replacements for some of the fats that you would tend to add onto your lunch tray or dinner plate and your taste buds will get used to it.

The more color on your plate, the better. Not only does this keep things interesting and exciting for you and your taste buds, but it’s healthier. The nutrients that create the different colors in our fruit and vegetables, represent different nutrients for your body. Feed your body as many varieties as possible. The fight against the common cold, cancers and other illnesses can be prevented by having variety in your diet. Don’t skip meals (especially breakfast). Skipping meals, or starving your body will cause it to go into a starvation mode – it will start to hold on to fat rather than burn it. In fact, allow yourself to snack a little more, just make them healthy snacks. Your metabolism will actually pick up steam and start to burn more of what you’re giving it – especially with an accompanying daily exercise program.

Basic alternatives to fattening foods.

  • Choose mustard instead of mayo (mustard naturally has less calories/fat).
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat, rye or oat bread over white bread (brown foods don’t have extra fats added to them to change their color).
  • Choose the white meat of turkey or chicken over dark meat, red meat or pork (most of our fat intake comes from animal fat; white meat contains less fat).
  • Choose baked or broiled instead of fried, battered or breaded.
  • Choose water over juice and soda. Some juices contain just as many carbs and calories as a small bag of potato chips. Try slowly weaning yourself off caffeinated soda with tea or water – have two glasses of water or cups of tea for every can of soda you drink. (Also, don’t drink your calories – those 100 calories of juice could be two pieces of fruit or a cereal bar, a more filling feeling for you and your stomach.)
  • Choose low-calorie sauces and ask to have sauces and dressings served on the side when dining at a restaurant. (Usually more sauce is poured on than is needed. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. This will give you the flavor with every bite, but without the extra, unnecessary fat.)
  • Choose fat-free milk and skim milk cheese, as opposed to whole milk (again, most of our fat intake comes from animal fat).
  • Choose vegetables as side orders over fries and chips. Oven roasted or stir fried veggies are preferable over creamed veggies (vegetables naturally carry less fat).
  • Choose to pack fruit and nuts to hold you over to the next meal, rather than opting for fast food or snacks from a vending machine. Fruit snacks will help you get to the next meal without the extra fat intake). Fruits like bananas and oranges are convenient and have their own protective packaging.

Italian Sausage Soup

This soup stores well in the refrigerator for easy reheating. If you use a slow cooker, combine everything together except the cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes; add those during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. Serve with rustic bread.

10 servings

Ingredient

  • 1 (20-ounce) package pre-cooked, all-natural Italian chicken or turkey sausage, sliced diagonally
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups low-sodium stock or broth (chicken, beef, or a mixture)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 cup peeled, chopped carrots
  • 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 3 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, tough center stems removed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions

Brown sausage in a Dutch oven or large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes more. Drain off any fat in the pot.

Add stock or broth, potatoes, carrots, fennel, fennel seed, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.

Stir in cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and crusty bread.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash

This vegetarian dish can be prepared up to three hours ahead and reheated just before serving time.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tablespoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice, divided
  • 1 red onion, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place halves, cut side down, in a lightly greased, large baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, until just tender.

Turn cut side up, brush each half with olive oil and place 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth into each of the eight cavities. Season tops with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon allspice. Return squash to the oven and bake until browned on the edges, another 5–10 minutes. Remove from oven and drain any broth from the squash into a bowl with the unused broth. Set baking dish and bowl with broth aside.

Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add onions. Stir until they begin to soften and then reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, cranberries, remaining salt, pepper and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for another 5–10 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add cooked quinoa and reserved broth; mix well.

Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in nuts, mint, parsley and salt to taste. Divide mixture among squash halves. Return to the oven and warm through.

Chicken and Gnocchi with Squash Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 small acorn (or butternut) squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Tiny whole sage leaves
  • Grated nutmeg

Directions

Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Cover and keep warm.

While the gnocchi are cooking, place squash, cut sides down in a microwave-safe baking dish with 2 tablespoons water. Cook in the microwave, covered, on high (100 percent power) 7 to 10 minutes; rearrange once. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In large skillet cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat 4 minutes on each side, until no longer pink. Remove; cover, keep warm.

Scrape flesh from the squash; mash. Transfer to the hot skillet where the chicken was cooked; stir in broth and chopped sage. Bring to boiling; simmer 1 minute. Stir in milk. Add gnocchi and stir carefully.

Spoon gnocchi with sauce into 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken and sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese, sage leaves and nutmeg.

Creamy Spinach Lasagna

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 (26-ounce) jar or 3 ½ cups homemade marinara sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.

Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Add 2 cups of the milk mixture to the spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture and set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce; top with half of the spinach mixture.

Top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1 cup marinara sauce and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Layer 3 more lasagna noodles, remaining spinach mixture and remaining 3 lasagna noodles.

Top with remaining marinara sauce. Pour reserved milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley.

Raspberry Tiramisu Parfaits

2 Servings (recipe is easily doubled)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 ounce ladyfingers, cubed (6 halves)
  • 2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
  • Fresh mint sprigs and additional raspberries for garnish

Directions

Divide half of the ladyfinger cubes between two 5- to 6-ounce dessert dishes. Drizzle ladyfinger cubes with half of the espresso. Set aside.

In a medium bowl stir cream cheese to soften. Stir in sour cream, sugar and vanilla. (Beat smooth with a wire whisk, if necessary.) Stir in the defrosted raspberries with a spoon, mashing slightly.

Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfinger cubes. Add remaining ladyfingers and drizzle with remaining espresso.

Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and a few raspberries before serving.

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