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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: rhubarb

springcover

As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.

Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.

What spring foods are you most looking forward to?

spring1

Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia

Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)

8  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 8 ounces  mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

spring3

Spring Onion Soup

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
  • 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.

Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.

Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before  serving.

spring4

Spring Shrimp Salad

Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).

4 servings

Ingredient

  • 1  lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
  • 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions

From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.

In a large bowl, toss lemon  peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.

Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.

In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.

spring5

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb

TOPPING:

  • 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

spring2

Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese

Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.

Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.

spring6

Spring Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions

Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

spring7

Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.

spring8

Herbed Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.

spring9

Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.

spring0

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.

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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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farmers-market-local-produce-520

For centuries all food was farm to table. People grew most of their own food or bought it from nearby farmers. The food that they put on the table was fresh, local and literally farm to table. During the early part of the twentieth century more people moved into urban areas and, along with improved transportation and refrigeration, made it possible for foods to be transported from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. Food was no longer picked on the farm and served within just a day or so. The longer the time between harvest and your dining room table, the more quality is lost. Nutrients and flavor dissipate quickly.

As we become more concerned with where food comes from and how it is prepared, the term “farm-to-table” has become more prominent. Farm-to-table is more of a movement than a particular cuisine. The focus is on eliminating as many steps as possible between where the food is grown and where it’s eaten. Getting food straight from the farmer cuts out the middleman – like packaging and processing plants and commercial vendors – and assures consumers that their food is fresh, nutritious and locally produced. When you buy locally produced foods, you are being more environmentally friendly, keeping business in the community and supporting the local economy.

Farm-to-table food offerings encompass any type of whole food imaginable, as long as it’s in season. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, nuts and even baked goods; just not anything processed – like a bag of potato chips or packaged chicken nuggets. A common fallacy is that the farm to table label means that the ingredients are organic. Sometimes the farmer uses organic techniques but can’t afford to meet the procedures that the government requires for the certified label. Other times the farm may use non-organic fertilizers or pesticides.

Wondering where the nearest farmers markets are to you?

The USDA launched a searchable Farmers Market Directory that includes over 6,000 locations in the United States: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/default.aspx

In Canada: http://www.farmersmarketscanada.ca/ and in England: http://www.localfoods.org.uk/local-food-directory

After the long winter months of scanty crops, root vegetables and tubers, the farmers markets are reawakening and brimming with bright-colored vegetables, enticing baked goods and delicious jams that make for a full sensory experience. Strolling by the colorful stands of produce, you’ll find fresh field strawberries, crisp green beans, plump artichokes and bright green asparagus. Following are some facts about the spring produce that is emerging and some recipes on how to make use of them.

Asparagus

asparagus

Perhaps because it’s only harvested during a brief six to seven-week period between April and June, asparagus is the one vegetable we most associate with the arrival of spring.

When picking asparagus at the farmers market or at your local store, look for bundles with firm spears whose tips are closed, plump and green. Avoid dry, brownish looking spears. Once you’ve made your pick, it’s very important to store your asparagus properly to keep them fresh, as it is a rather fragile vegetable. Wash asparagus repeatedly in water until clean, pat dry, and cut off the hard stem ends. Then wrap a moist paper towel around the stems and place them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Or, even better, stand them upright in a couple of inches of cold water. If stored properly, asparagus will keep for 2 or 3 days.

Blanching

To blanch asparagus, drop whole or cut, into a large pot of simmering water and cook for 3 minutes. Then, drain and shock the asparagus by running it under cold water or putting it in an ice bath. When blanched, the texture of asparagus becomes a little softer, but it is still crisp and the color brightens.

Steaming

Steaming is the perfect cooking method for a health-conscious diet because it utilizes very little or no fat. In a large deep pot bring 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Fasten the asparagus stalks in a bundle with a string and place the bundle upright in the water. Cover and steam for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Alternatively, use a wide pan or Dutch oven, add a thin layer of water and place a single layer of asparagus at the bottom. Cover and steam.

Stir-frying

Stir-frying is a very quick cooking technique that uses relatively low amounts of fat and very high heat. The secret is to keep the food in constant motion in a wok or sauté pan. Once you’ve cut the asparagus spears in the desired shape (cutting them on a slant is typical for stir-fry dishes), blanch them, then heat a small amount of oil in the pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot enough, add the asparagus and stir constantly until tender but still crisp on the surface, about 2- 3 minutes.

Sautéing

Sautéing asparagus is fairly similar to stir-frying. While stir-frying is more often used in Asian-inspired recipes, sautéing is typical of Western cuisines. It’s the cooking method most often used to prepare asparagus as a side dish to meat or fish entrees or in sauces for pasta. With sautéing, as well as with stir-frying, it’s preferable to use blanched asparagus. In a skillet, heat oil or butter, add the asparagus and cook, tossing occasionally until tender but still firm and crispy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

healthy-for-life2

Roasted Asparagus

This is my favorite way to serve asparagus.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Half a lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Snap off the bottoms of the stalks. On a large baking sheet, toss asparagus in the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15-20 min (depending on the thickness of the stalks). Squeeze the lemon juice over the asparagus and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not yams and vice-versa. They are two totally unrelated botanical species, although the roots can be similar in shape. What’s the difference? The true sweet potato is related to the morning-glory vine and is native to South America; the yam is native to Africa and Asia. All of this is especially confusing because orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have been traditionally referred to as “yams” in parts of the US. In general, true yams have a drier texture, are starchier in taste and are much lower in beta-carotene (but higher in protein) than sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are number 38 out of 53 on the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The roots are susceptible to a number of different pests and diseases that are controlled with insecticides and fungicides, so check with your local sweet potato farmer, if you’re concerned about this.

Sweet potatoes are in season in most parts of the US from fall through spring and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most are large and football shaped, with a fat middle and tapering ends, although some heirloom varieties are quite small and slender. Their skin can be russet, tan, cream, light purple or red. Sweet potato flesh is just as colorful: it may be orange (like the common Jewel sweet potato), yellow, creamy white (like the Japanese sweet potato) or even purple-magenta (as seen in the Okinawan sweet potato). Sweet potato varieties can also be divided into “dry” varieties (better for frying or boiling, because they hold their shape better) and “moist” or “baking” types. Look for sweet potatoes that are firm, with no bruises, shrivel-y spots (especially common on their tapered ends) or brown bits. Avoid sweet potatoes that have begun to sprout.

Sweet potatoes can be stored for several weeks under the right conditions: cool, dry and away from light. Don’t store them in the refrigerator, as this accelerates their decline — they don’t like to be too cold or too moist. Sweet potatoes that get too warm tend to sprout and become shriveled and mushy.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, boiled, fried, grilled, mashed or pureed. They are commonly paired with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and other warming spices, along with brown sugar or maple syrup. They also are delicious paired with oranges (juice or zest) and apples. They can be mashed and added to any number of baked goods, like muffins, biscuits and cakes. Cook sweet potatoes in their skin to retain the most nutrients. You can peel them after cooking. An enzyme in sweet potatoes that converts starch to sugar is most active between 135 – 170 degrees (Fahrenheit), so cook sweet potatoes for a longer period of time at a lower temperature to get the sweetest sweet potatoes. Baking sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees or lower will achieve this.

sweet-potato-soup-sl-l

Sweet Potato Soup with Apples 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small, tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 8 small sage leaves or Italian parsley
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 ½ cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

In a medium Dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter on medium-high heat until the butter is just melted. Add the onion and cook until translucent (but not browned), about 5 minutes. Add the diced apple, carrot, celery and sage and cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn the heat to low. Simmer until the carrots and celery are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked sweet potatoes, cayenne, nutmeg and salt to taste. Stir to combine.  Puree the soup in batches with an immersion blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice to taste and swirl a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt on top of the soup. Garnish with parsley.

Kohlrabi

kohlrabi (1)

Kohlrabi is a member of a group of vegetables that include kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, horseradish, mustard, arugula and rapeseed. The kohlrabi “root” is actually the swollen stem of the plant that grows above ground, topped by leaves resembling kale or collards. Fast growing and easy to cultivate, kohlrabi is becoming more popular in the US, but its strongest foothold is in Germany, Eastern Europe and India.

Kohlrabi are susceptible to the same diseases and pests as other members of the cabbage family, so pesticides to control fungi and insects may be applied. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is ask your local kohlrabi farmer about his or her growing practices.

Kohlrabi are available in most US markets from late spring through late autumn. In many areas, the vegetable can only be found at farmers’ markets, CSAs and smaller grocery stores (like food co-ops). Kohlrabi prefers cooler weather, so summer-harvested kohlrabi may be woodier than those grown in the spring and fall. In warmer climates, kohlrabi may be available in the winter and may even have two growing seasons. The kohlrabi bulb should be firm with no spongy bits and no visible brown spots. If leaves are still attached, they should be firm, green and free of wilt or mold. Younger kohlrabi are more tender and you can differentiate between young and old primarily by size — younger kohlrabi are smaller, usually between 2-3 inches in diameter. Kohlrabi should be spherical in shape; stay away from kohlrabi that are tapered, as they also tend to be woodier.

Kohlrabi will keep in your refrigerator’s veggie drawer for several weeks. Note that the bulbs tend to become woodier the longer you store them. Remove the leaves before storing. The biggest barrier to frequent kohlrabi consumption is peeling the bulb. The little knobbly bits make using a vegetable peeler virtually impossible, so you’ll have to use a paring knife to get the skin off. The bulb can be quartered and roasted like potatoes, pureed, steamed, grilled or simply thinly sliced raw and tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Kohlrabi also makes a delicious slaw, grated or cut into thin matchsticks.

slaw

Apple and Kohlrabi Slaw 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tart apples, cored and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 4 small kohlrabi, peeled and grated or julienned on a mandolin
  • 2 shallots, diced (or 1/2 an onion)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above together and chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Rhubarb

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A relative of buckwheat, rhubarb is native to Siberia, and it grows best outdoors in similar climes such as northern Michigan, Washington state, Ontario and Yorkshire in the north of England. Rhubarb can only be harvested several years after planting, as it needs time to develop an appropriate root system. While not as popular as it was in the first half of the 20th century, rhubarb is receiving renewed interest in the U.S. as a local, seasonal plant.

Rhubarb is typically harvested in early spring while the plant is at its maximum flavor. Choose medium-sized ruby colored stalks that are firm and crisp. Greener stalks are usually a sign of sourness, while a thick stalk will be stringy. Rhubarb keeps for about a week wrapped in the refrigerator. Rhubarb freezes very well, so stock up during the spring season. I cut the stalks into one inch pieces and freeze 2 cups per ziplock freezer bag. Frozen rhubarb is great for making a fruit pie.

Just like celery, rhubarb has strings. To remove, use a paring knife. The strings will likely break down during cooking, but cooked rhubarb has a smoother texture without them. An easy way to cook rhubarb is to slice the stalk into inch-long chunks, remove all leaves, add sugar and boil until tender, adding a little bit of lemon zest to the mix. As rhubarb is quite sour, it pairs well with foods and ingredients that balance out the acidity. This sauce is good served over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup oats, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts; with your fingers squeeze into large crumbles and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Mix 2 pounds chopped rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

Scatter the crumbles on top and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberries

strawberries

Locally grown strawberries are available only from Spring to the middle of Summer. Look for glossy fruit without visibly bruising, softness or moldy spots. Strawberries range in size from tiny wild-like, or alpine, varieties, to the fairly enormous Tri-Star type. The berries start out white on the plant, so look for strawberries that are deeply red colored without traces of white at the stem. Strawberries are labor-intensive to cultivate and are susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests. The seedlings must be planted by hand and the berries are still harvested by hand, even in large industrial operations.

Strawberries rank a super high number 3 out of 53  on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide. The EWG recommends buying organic due to the high pesticide use in conventionally grown strawberries. Unfortunately, the pesticides used in conventional strawberry production are some of the very worst – including methyl bromide, which sterilizes the soil and acts as an insecticide. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methyl bromide is categorized as a “powerful ozone depleting substance.” It was “phased out” in 2005 in the US’s attempt to comply with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, but the US lobbied for — and won — “exemptions” that include strawberry production, both for seedlings and fruit. In addition to its effects on the ozone layer, methyl bromide is a highly toxic pesticide that can cause neurological, lung and kidney damage and an increased risk of prostate cancer. And it’s not just methyl bromide — a variety of other pesticides are also used in conventional strawberry production. The environmental and health-related impacts of conventional strawberry growing are high, so if you are concerned with these issues, look for locally grown strawberries and ask your local farmer about his or her production methods.

Fresh strawberries deteriorate fairly quickly after purchase. You can keep strawberries fresh by waiting to wash them until just before eating and by storing them in the refrigerator in a paper-towel lined basket or bowl without a cover.

Strawberries are a versatile fruit and perform well under a multitude of cooking methods — they can be roasted (try tossing with a tiny bit of sugar, roast just until caramelized and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar), stewed, baked into a pie, made into jam, churned into ice cream or frozen into an icy sorbet. But strawberries really shine when eaten raw, either completely unadorned or sliced and tossed with a little sugar, orange juice, red wine or balsamic vinegar.

jam

Quick Refrigerator Strawberry Jam

Unlike other jam recipes, refrigerator jams don’t require canning equipment or techniques. The sugar and acid in the jam preserves the fruit, although refrigerator jam keeps for far less time than classic strawberry preserves — only about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. This jam will also be a bit looser than regular strawberry jam, as there is no pectin (a thickening agent commonly used in canning) involved. Adjusting the amount of sugar will also affect the looseness of the jam (more sugar equals less liquid).

Makes about 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 1 quart ripe, organic strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Place a small plate in the freezer.

Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the strawberry mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon and mashing the strawberries slightly. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Put about a teaspoon of jam mixture on the cold plate from the freezer and swirl it around on the plate. If the jam runs, cook for 2-5 minutes longer and repeat the process. (The jam should firm up when it hits the cold plate and should no longer run.)

Transfer to clean glass jars and cool. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.

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Crumbles, Crisps and Cobblers are simple old-fashioned desserts that offer the comfort of fruit pies but without the work of making a pie crust. Cobblers have a softer biscuit-like topping and texture, while crumbles and crisps have a crunchy, streusel-like topping that provides a contrast to the soft fruit in the filling.

Early settlers of America were very good at improvising. When they first arrived, they brought their favorite recipes with them, such as English steamed pudding. Not finding their favorite ingredients, they used whatever was available. That’s how all these traditional American dishes came about with such unusual names. Early colonists were so fond of these fruit dishes that they often served them as the main course or even for breakfast. It was not until the late 19th century that they became primarily desserts.

Cobblers originated in the early British American colonies. English settlers were unable to make traditional suet pudding due to a lack of ingredients and cooking equipment, so instead, they covered a stewed filling with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits or dumplings. The origin of the name cobbler is uncertain, although it may be related to the now archaic word cobeler, meaning “wooden bowl”.

In the United States, varieties of cobbler include the Betty, the Grump, the Slump, the Dump, the Buckle and the Sonker. Grunts, Pandowdy and Slumps are a New England variety of cobbler, typically cooked on the stovetop in an iron skillet with the dough on top in the shape of dumplings.

The Sonker is unique to North Carolina: it is a deep-dish version of the American cobbler. In the South, cobblers most commonly come in single fruit varieties and are named as such, blackberry, blueberry or peach cobbler. The Deep South tradition also gives the option of topping the fruit cobbler with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

Some of these terms are more universal than others, but here are the most generally accepted definitions:

Crisp : baked fruit topped with a mixture of some combination of flour, nuts, cereal (especially oatmeal), butter and sugar. The topping ranges in texture from streusel to granola and usually completely covers the fruit. It is sometimes called a crumble.

Cobbler : baked fruit topped with a batter or biscuit crust. The topping is often “cobbled” rather than smooth; the topping is generally dropped or spooned in small clumps over the fruit, allowing bits of the filling to show through.

Grunt or Slump: as the biscuit-topped fruit cooks on the stove, it supposedly makes a grunting noise‚ likely the result of the steam from simmering fruit escaping through the vents between the biscuits.

A Buckle is made with yellow batter (like cake batter), with the fruit mixed in with the batter.

Betty consists of fruit, usually apples, baked between layers of buttered crumbs. Betties are an English pudding dessert closely related to the French Apple Charlotte. Betty was a popular baked pudding made during colonial times in America.

Pandowdy is a deep-dish dessert that can be made with a variety of fruit, but is most commonly made with apples sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The topping is a crumbly type of biscuit, except the crust is broken up during baking and pushed down into the fruit to allow the juices to come through. Sometimes the crust is on the bottom and the desert is inverted before serving. The exact origin of the name Pandowdy is unknown, but it is thought to refer to the deserts plain or dowdy appearance.

These desserts are such a simple way to use the abundance of fresh, seasonal fruits found on farm stands and in produce aisles. Unlike pies, crisps and cobblers are forgiving with exact measurements. Butter alternatives, such as Smart Balance, are an easy substitute that can reduce calories and saturated fat in the nutrition content of these dessert. It is easy to scale up for large picnics or down for dinner for two. Crisps and cobblers are at their best when highlighting the colors and flavors of summer fruit. With two basic recipes, buttermilk biscuit dough or a crisp topping, you can transform the fruits of summer into dozens of fantastic fresh-baked desserts. The processor can also make quick work of mixing the topping ingredients.

Juicy cherries, berries, sliced peaches, nectarines or plums are piled into a buttered baking dish, tossed with a bit of sugar and sprinkled liberally with streusel topping to become a Summer Fruit Crumble. Those same fruits can be placed in the same buttered baking dish and topped with sweet biscuit dough, then cooked until bubbly and brown. Now you’ve made cobbler.

A crisp or cobbler can be cooked in any type of oven proof baking dish. Ramekins, pie pans, Pyrex casseroles or  decorative gratin dishes are all fine choices. Plan for about a cup of uncooked fruit per serving and room for a topping or base. Make extra topping to keep in the freezer and you can have a fruit crisp or crumble oven-ready quicker than it takes to preheat your oven.

The art of perfecting a crisp and cobbler requires consideration of fruit size, flavor, texture and juiciness. Balance sweet and tart, crunchy with soft. Fresh, frozen and dried fruit are all possible sources for the fillings. A few dried cherries mixed in with fresh or frozen berries will absorb juices and thicken the mixture. Tart rhubarb is well paired with chewy dried apricots for a more toothsome filling than rhubarb can offer on its own. When cutting fruit:  large strawberries are best halved or quartered and stone fruits (peaches, etc.) cut into chunks rather than thick slices.

Most fruits need some sweetening in addition to the topping. Tart fruits such as sour cherries, rhubarb and raspberries always need some added brown or white sugar or honey in the fruit layer. In all of the recipes below sugar alternatives, such as Truvia for Baking, will work perfectly. A deep layer of juicy fruits can be thickened during baking with a tablespoon of cornstarch or flour mixed in with the sugar in the fruit layer. For textural variety mix soft berries with stone-fruit chunks, such as, strawberry-apricot or blueberry-peach. Or plan for color. A blush-hued cobbler with red plums, raspberries and rhubarb will evoke an evening sunset.

Nuts, spices, herbs and zests are also welcome additions to expand the basic ingredients. Sprinkle a few sliced almonds in with the topping or add some minced orange zest to the fruit. Blueberry crisp can be enhanced with a few chopped walnuts in the topping and some lemon zest in the filling. Culinary herbs more familiar in savory preparations are sophisticated additions to these homespun desserts. Try a few leaves of thin-sliced fresh basil as garnish on a peach crisp or add a little rosemary and black pepper to the sweetened whipped cream served with the cobbler. A scant teaspoon of cardamom in the biscuit dough is an unexpected flavor that blends nicely with most fruit.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

To ensure that the filling is thickened and fully cooked, bake the cobbler until it bubbles in the center.

For the filling:

  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 1 large lemon, finely grated to yield 1/2 teaspoon zest, squeezed to yield 2 tablespoons juice
  • 1/2 cup mild honey (such as clover)
  • 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or sugar alternative equivalent
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 oz. (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance)
  • 2/3 cup canned evaporated whole milk or regular whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Sugar to sprinkle on the top, optional

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Make the filling:

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all of the filling ingredients; set aside.

Make the topping:

In another large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work the cold butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the milk and stir just until the mixture comes together.

Prepare the cobbler:

Butter a shallow 2-quart dish. Transfer the filling to the dish.

With a tablespoon drop tablespoons of dough on top of the filling. Sprinkle the dough lightly with sugar, if desired.

Bake until the topping is deep golden-brown on top and the filling is bubbling in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. If the dough browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Pear Crisp with Amaretti Topping

Look for Italian Amaretti cookies at specialty stores or gourmet grocers. And choose slightly under-ripe, firm pears.

Ingredients:

  • 6 peeled Anjou or Bartlett pears, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 amaretti cookies (Italian almond macaroons)
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place pears in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 6 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, lemon juice and salt; toss well to coat.

Transfer mixture to an 11×7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place cookies in a food processor; process until finely ground. Combine remaining flour, cookie crumbs and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in nuts.

Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over pear mixture. Bake for 50 minutes or until pears are tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Peach Blueberry Crumble

Bake the crumble on a parchment paper or foil-lined baking sheet to catch any fruit juices that may bubble over.

Ingredients:

  • 7 large peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minute tapioca
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, cut into small squares

Directions:

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Spoon mixture into a greased 8 1/2- x 11-inch baking dish.

Stir together dark brown sugar and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture forms pea-size pieces.

Spoon topping evenly over filling, and bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and top is golden.

Blueberry Crisp

Fresh blueberries are best for this crisp recipe, though frozen berries will also work. Keep them frozen and bake the blueberry crisp 10 or 15 minutes longer. Thawed berries are too fragile to use and give off too much liquid.

8 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts or almonds
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Coat an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornstarch evenly in the dish.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, vanilla and blueberries in a large bowl; toss. Place in prepared baking dish.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cinnamon) in the bowl of a food processor; pulse twice to combine. Add butter; pulse 5 times or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Spoon topping evenly over blueberries, packing down lightly. Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.

Plum Cobbler

This low calorie dessert can be prepared as one large cobbler or in individual ramekins.

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds plums, peeled, pitted, and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 6 ounces chilled 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour; toss. Arrange mixture in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine remaining flour, remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 3 times. Add butter, lemon rind and cream cheese; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; pulse until blended.

Drop dough by spoonfuls over plum mixture; sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden.

Grilled Peach Crisps

A perfect finish to a summer barbecue.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 small to medium peaches, halved and pitted
  • 2 cups reduced-fat vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat granola

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over cut sides of the peaches. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Heat grill to medium. Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack.

Place peaches cut side down on the grill grates. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until peaches are tender and begin to caramelize.

Place 2 peach halves in each of four dessert bowls. Top each with 1/2 cup ice cream and 2 tablespoons of granola.

 


Holidays with traditional family meals as part of the celebration often result in lots of leftovers. When you get tired of leftover ham or turkey or egg salad sandwiches, its time to get creative.

Here are a few ideas for Easter dinner leftovers, using some of the most common foods served at Easter time.

Leftover ham? Slice it, chop it and freeze it in plastic bags to mix into future omelettes, soups or hash browned potatoes.

Leftover asparagus? Make an asparagus omelette. Chop the already cooked asparagus and add to beaten eggs, add a little grated cheddar or American cheese and make an omelette for a quick lunch or dinner.

Leftover turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes? Make a quick Shepherd’s pie. Slice the turkey meat, then layer it on the bottom of a greased baking pan, pour leftover turkey gravy over it, layer leftover stuffing on top, layer any leftover veggie over that and, lastly, layer leftover mashed potatoes on top. Press everything down firmly and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 35-40 minutes or until heated through and the potatoes brown. Cut into squares and serve hot.

Leftover pork roast? Make a great panini sandwich. Cut leftover roast into 9 thin slices. Drain a 7 oz jar of roasted red peppers and cut into 6 slices. Spread 2 teaspoons of pesto sauce on each of 6 slices of country bread. Top 3 slices of pesto covered bread with 3 slices of pork, 2 slices of red pepper, 1 slice of cheese of choice and a slice of pesto covered bread. Cook in a panini press according to machine directions. Makes 3 sandwiches.

Just a few recipes below, but don’t let your leftovers go to waste. Think of a way to use them.

Ham and Asparagus Frittata

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
8 eggs
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped ham
Leftover asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. In an ovenproof skillet on the stovetop, heat olive oil and sauté onion until barely softened.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs then add cheese. Pour into hot pan. Top with ham and asparagus. Turn heat to low and cook 2—3 minutes to seal bottom.

Place skillet in the oven and cook an additional 20 minutes or until puffed and barely set. Remove and cool slightly.

Serve with a salad and whole wheat biscuits.

Cobb Salad

4 servings

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 10 cups mixed salad greens
  • 8 ounces shredded cooked beef, chicken, turkey, ham or seafood
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (dyed Easter Eggs work here)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 avocado, diced or use leftover vegetables
  • 2 slices cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, (optional)

Directions:

Whisk vinegar, shallot, mustard, pepper and salt in a small bowl to combine. Whisk in oil until combined.

Place salad greens in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat.

Divide the greens among 4 plates. Arrange equal portions of meat, egg, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, bacon and blue cheese (if using) on top of the lettuce.

Drizzle the salads with the remaining dressing.

Mediterranean Deviled Eggs

Makes 12 deviled eggs

Ingredients:

  • 6 colored hard boiled eggs leftover from Easter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, more for garnish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped, rinsed capers
  • 3 anchovy fillets, cut in half
  • 1/2 a lemon zested, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Ground black pepper to taste

 Directions:

Peel and slice eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place them in a medium bowl. Arrange egg white halves on a serving plate.

To prepare the filling: add parsley, capers, lemon zest and juice, mayonnaise, mustard and 1 tablespoon water to yolks and mash. Add pepper to taste. Scoop filling into egg white halves. Top each with an anchovy half and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Variation: mash anchovies and add to the yolk mixture when adding the other ingredients.

Leftover Roast Beef Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into small wedges
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs leftover cooked beef, chopped
  • 64 ounces low sodium beef stock or beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces uncooked egg noodles or pasta of choice

Directions:

In a large pot, cook onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in oil until onions are golden.

Stir in the cooked beef.

Add the beef broth, Italian seasoning and the Worcestershire, stirring to mix and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper Bring mixture to a boil and stir in uncooked egg noodles.

Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until noodles are tender.

Leftover Dinner Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash white pepper
  • 3 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups diced fully cooked ham or ant leftover meat
  • 2 cups leftover vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, peas, spinach etc.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in the onions, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce.

Spread a fourth of the white sauce in a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish. Layer with three noodles, half of the ham and vegetables, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1 cup cheddar cheese and a fourth of the white sauce.

Repeat layers. Top with the remaining noodles, white sauce and cheeses.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting. Yield: 12 servings.

Lamb Ratatouille

Ingredients:

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound cooked lamb or beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, peeled (if desired) and cut into 1 inch cubes, tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup white wine or all stock can be used
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • A sprig each of fresh thyme, parsley and basil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for about 2 minute; then add the eggplant. Mix and let the eggplant brown slightly, then add the wine. Cook until the wine is reduced, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock. When the chicken stock has reduced add the zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes. Stir everything together and add herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Add another 1/4 cup chicken stock and let it reduce and continue adding the remaining stock, 1/4 cup at a time. Simmer until the eggplant is cooked to the desired texture and mixture has thickened. Stir in the leftover lamb and heat.

Parmesan Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pizza dough, store bought or homemade, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded roasted chicken breast or any leftover meat
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onions
  • 1/3 cup diced green or red bell pepper
  • Shredded basil for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Stretch dough out to fit your pizza pan (about 14 inches round or a 9 x 13-inch rectangle).

Spread 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the dough and arrange chicken on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, bell pepper and onions over the top.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly. Top with shredded basil before serving.

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

Use up leftover bread for a dessert. Any fruit can be substituted for the rhubarb in this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices bread without crusts, toasted and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 5 eggs or egg substitute equivalent
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar or sugar substitute for baking
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F .

Place bread cubes into a buttered 2 quart casserole dish.

Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat just to the boiling point. Pour over the bread cube and let stand for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in rhubarb. Pour over the soaked bread and stir gently until evenly blended. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the top is brown and a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 



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