Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Jam

 

I make freezer jams because they are easy to make, don’t need packaged pectin and last a long time in the freezer. The secret ingredient is lemon. Lemon has natural pectin in it, but it needs sugar to gel. I also use a natural sugar substitute because we try not to eat sugary foods and it works just fine in the jam.

Freezer Blueberry Jam

Ingredients

4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Mix blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a large saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half, about 30 minutes. Using a potato masher crush the berries several times during the cooking process. Pour the jam into clean freezer jars. Cool to room temperature. Store the jam in the freezer. When ready to use a jar, place in the refrigerator overnight.

Strawberry Preserves

Preserves are cooked the same way jam is, however, the only difference is that the fruit in preserves is cut into chunks, whereas with jam, the fruit is crushed. The texture of preserves is not as stiff as jelly or jam. It is easy to spread and makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes.

Ingredients

1 quart of strawberries
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 long strip of lemon zest

Directions

Fill 4-pint jars with boiling water and place the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you make the preserves.

Wash the strawberries and remove the leaves. Cut them in half and place the berries in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Stir well.

Bring the mixture to a boil and stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes or a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the heat. Empty pint jars and remove the lids from the water.

Fill the jars with the preserves and place the lids on the jars. Cool for a few hours at room temperature. Store the jars in the refrigerator for a few weeks or freeze them for future use.

Fig Jam

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

Directions

Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith. Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. (If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.

Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.

Blackberry Jam

For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe blackberries
2 cups sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot. The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove seeds before proceeding with the recipe. For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.
Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled
When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Easy Homemade Peach Jam

4 cups

Ingredients

4 cups (1 kg) fresh peaches, pureed
2 cups (400 grams) white sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Using a sharp knife, peel the peaches and remove the pits. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. You can do this in batches.
Pour the peach puree in a large and deep pot and add the sugar and one tablespoon of the lemon juice. Bring to a light boil and cook for about 20-25 minutes stirring very frequently. The jam will be ready when it reaches 221 °F/105 °C or when it’s thick enough when dropped onto a cold plate. Add the rest of the lemon juice, stir, and remove the pot from the heat.

Transfer the hot jam into pasteurized jars, making sure not to fill them all the way to the rim. Using thick gloves or a towel, secure the lids, invert the jars upside-down, and let them cool. Refrigerate or freeze.


Blueberry Cobbler

For low carb or gluten-free use almond flour

Filling
4 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch or 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (to thicken)
3 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Topping
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, thickener, sugar, and lemon juice and mix well until the blueberries are coated.
Pour the blueberry mixture into a greased 9-inch pie pan.
Melt the butter in the microwave in a glass bowl. Stir in the almond flour, sugar, and lemon zest until a crumbly dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble the dough over the blueberries in pea-sized clumps.
Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling. Serve warm or cold.

Small-Batch Fresh Blueberry Jam

Two cups of berries will make a half cup of jam.

With this recipe, I was able to fill two pint-sized freezer jelly jars three-fourths of the way to the top. This recipe can be doubled but you will need a longer cooking time.

Ingredients
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Mix blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a large saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half, about 30 minutes.

Using a potato masher crush the berries several times during the cooking process.

Pour the jam into clean freezer jars. Store the jam in the freezer.

Blueberry Muffins

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

Ingredients

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

Topping
2/3 cup packed brown sugar or brown sugar substitute for baking
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and either butter a 12-15 muffin cup pan or use paper liners.

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

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

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

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

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

To make the topping:

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

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

 


Here are a few more popular recipes from the past. The Flounder recipe is one we like a lot.

Salisbury Steak 

4 Servings

Ingredients

Burger Steak

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
2 teaspoons oil
Salt and pepper

Gravy

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, breaking it up as you do.

Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and parsley over the beef. Add the breadcrumbs and cream. Mix gently.

Divide the seasoned ground beef into 4 even portions and form into patties.

Season the outside with salt and a good amount of coarse black pepper. (Lots of pepper gives the hamburger steak great flavor.)

Place a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the 2 teaspoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan.

Add the burger steaks and cook for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the burger steaks from the pan to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Turn the heat down to medium.

Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute the mushrooms in the same pan as the meat, until brown, about 5 minutes.

Add butter, the onion, thyme and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour.

Add broth, slide meat back into sauce, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

Flounder Almondine

Ingredients

5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 flounder or sole fillets (about 1 pound)
All purpose flour
2 eggs beaten to blend
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Dip fillets in flour then in beaten eggs.

Add the fillets to the skillet and cook until browned and just cooked through 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter, keep warm.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet. Add the almonds and cook until heated through about 1 minute.

Add wine and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Jelly Roll Cake

Servings 10

Ingredients

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar
About 2/3 cup of lemon curd or your favorite jelly

Directions

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with parchment paper. Coat the paper and pan sides lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.

Beat in water and vanilla on low-speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Immediately loosen cake from the sides of pan and turn upside down onto a kitchen towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the paper.

Trim off stiff edges of the cake if necessary. While the cake ¡s hot, carefully roll the cake and towel from the narrow end into a cylinder.

Cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.

Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Beat jelly slightly with a fork to soften and spread over the cake. Roll up the cake.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch slices to serve.

Easy Lemon Curd

If you do not have access to Meyer Lemons, you can use regular lemons. Because Meyer Lemons are larger, you will need more regular lemons to get 1 cup and more sugar because regular lemons are less sweet than Meyer.

Ingredients

1 cup Meyer Lemon juice (2 large)
6 large organic eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and continuously whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken – it only takes a few minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking. The lemon curd will thicken – all at once.

Remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir with the whisk for one minute more. Pour into a clean container and let cool to room temperature.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Jello molds from the 50’s and 60’s.

 


Fig Tree

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for education about environmental issues. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In honor of this idea, our family likes to add a new plant or tree in our garden every year. In the past, we have added a redbud tree, a palm tree, a star magnolia tree, a cypress tree, a lemon tree, a maple tree and, this year, a fig tree.

Cypress

Redbud

Star Magnolia

Palm

Meyer Lemon Tree

Maple

Figs are self-fruiting, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can grow be 15 to 30 feet tall. I don’t think I will see this in my lifetime, though. Figs can vary in size, shape, flavor, texture and time of harvest and can be black, green, brown, violet, yellow or purple in color.

Fig trees thrive in the heat of the southern US and Europe. Plant near a wall with southern exposure in the Middle South so they can benefit from reflected heat. In the areas with colder temperatures, plant cold-hardy selections, such as Brown Turkey and Celeste. You can grow figs in big pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. During the first year, as the plants become established, water regularly and mulch. Once established, figs can be very drought tolerant. Fertilize with Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) in late winter and early spring.

Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins K and B6.

Figs must be allowed to ripen completely on the tree before picking. They can be enjoyed fresh or dried.

Figs can be eaten whole without any seasonings. They are an excellent addition to salads, cakes and ice-cream. Dried figs can be added to soups, stews or to enrich poultry, venison, lamb dishes.

I am looking forward to making my favorite fig recipes with my own home grown figs in the future.

Fresh Fig Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

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

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

Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.

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

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

Fig Scones

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces dried figs, diced small
2 cups heavy cream, cold
¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Small-Batch Fig Jam

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

Directions

Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.

Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

To test for jam stage, place a small amount on a chilled plate. Tilt the plate and the preserves should move sluggishly.

(If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.

Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.


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Easy Homemade Jam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh Strawberry  Syrup

IMG_0009 (2)

Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Blueberry Muffins

IMG_0007 (2)

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

Ingredients

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

Topping

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make the topping:

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

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

Summer Fruit Salad

IMG_0001

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

Ingredients

Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes

  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Mint-Lime Simple Syrup

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

Directions

For the syrup:

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

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

For the salad:

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

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

IMG_0010

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

Yields 4 cups.

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

Directions

IMG_0006

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

IMG_0008

IMG_0009

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

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars


breakfast 1

Americans tend to eat the same thing when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with Starbucks or cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds of cereal with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat corn flakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American as strange.

In Australia –  a bowl of cold cereal

In Brazil –  ham, cheeses and bread, served with coffee and milk

In China – Dim Sum

In Cuba – cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with a tostada

In England –  eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and mushrooms.

In France – croissants and coffee

In Germany – cold meats, local cheeses and fresh-baked bread

In India – fermented black lentils and rice served with chutney and sambar

In Japan – miso soup, steamed white rice and pickles.

In Morocco – bread, jam and cheese

In Nigeria – moi moi, a ground bean paste that is wrapped in leaves and steamed

In Russia – sirniki or baked farmers cheese pancakes and hot oatmeal

In Turkey – bread, cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam or honey

In italy – a cappuccino and sweet roll or biscotti

While the benefits of eating breakfast are well-known —  it can prevent weight gain, boost short-term memory, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and even make us happier — most of those health rewards depend on choosing the right foods. You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein. Good choices include eggs, whole grains, fruit, peanut butter and yogurt.

Some Quick Fix Options

  • For a portable breakfast: Place in a ziplock bag: a cut up apple, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese cubes and ¼ cup of fiber and protein-rich walnuts.
  • Instead of dousing a whole-grain toaster waffle in syrup, cut the sugar and boost the protein and fiber by spreading it with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  • Take a slice of crusty bread, spread it with 3 tablespoons of low-fat ricotta and add sliced plum tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) and a little salt and pepper. Place under the broiler for a minute or two.
  • Slice a hard-boiled egg, then roll it in an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla with a slice of lean ham and a slice of cheese. Add a tablespoon of salsa for a shot of flavor.

Feel like trying something different for breakfast, check out these recipes:

breakfast 2

Mini Spinach Frittatas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 24 – 1/8 inch thick slices of fully cooked Italian chicken sausages

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Place a sausage slice in each of 24 greased miniature muffin cups. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full with the spinach mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until completely set. Carefully run a knife around the sides of the muffin cups to loosen the frittatas. Serve warm. Yield: 2 dozen.

breakfast 5

Fruit Crumble

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon almond meal or almond flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toppings

  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar for garnish – optional
  • 1 teaspoon slivered almonds
  • Additional fresh fruit, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the fruit and the 2 tablespoons of almond flour. Toss until well coated.

Place in a 6” oven safe bowl leaving about 1 inch at the top for the crumble topping.

Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of almond meal, butter, oats, vanilla and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Garnish with almonds, additional fresh fruit and confectioners’ sugar.

breakfast 4

Creamy Breakfast Polenta

If crème fraîche is unavailable, use lightly sweetened sour cream.

Makes about 6 cups; 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat (2%) milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons blackberry jam
  • Lightly sweetened  crème fraîche

Directions

In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pan over high heat, bring 3 cups water and the milk to a boil. Reduce heat so liquid is barely boiling. Stirring constantly, pour in polenta in a thin, steady stream, pausing occasionally to break up any lumps. Stir in sugar and salt.

Simmer, stirring often, until polenta is soft and creamy to the bite, about 20  minutes (if heat is too high, bubbles may “spit” hot polenta out of the pan).

Ladle polenta into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon blackberry jam and a dollop of crème fraîche.

breakfast3

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Serve with a slice of baguette for dipping.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (divided)
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

In a wide, deep skillet, heat oil on medium. Add bell pepper, onion, oregano, coriander and cayenne and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes, orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Crack 1 egg into a small bowl or cup. Gently slip the egg into the sauce without breaking the egg; repeat with the remaining eggs, leaving 1-inch between each egg. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle remaining  salt ove rthe top. Cover and simmer gently until egg whites are opaque and yolks are firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully ladle sauce and eggs into serving bowls and top with chopped parsley.

breakfast 6

Mini Pancakes with Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Makes 10-12 depending on the size of your muffin cups.

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond-milk or low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries or fruit in season, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite jam

Directions

Pre­heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place all of the batter ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.

Pour batter into greased or lined muffin cups, filling half­way.

Bake for 15 ­to 18 minutes or until puffy and brown. The pancakes will deflate when you remove them from the oven.

Place a few sliced peaches on top of the pancake. Spoon on a tablespoon of yogurt followed by a teaspoon of jam. Decorate with berry slices, if desired.

 


 happy-holidays-christmas-trees

Italian Fig Cookies

A sweet dough is filled with fruits, nuts and jam, almost like a Fig Newton. Making them is time-consuming, but the dough and filling can be made in stages and refrigerated for several days before the cookies are assembled and baked. Using a stand mixer and food processor takes some of the effort out of the process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Up to 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups dried figs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Make the Dough 

Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add them to the butter mixture. Mix well. Switch to the dough hook and knead at the low setting for 5 minutes, adding milk as needed to make a slightly sticky, soft textured dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into four pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

Put the figs in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, marmalade and walnuts.

Form and Bake the Cookies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2- by 3-inch rectangles. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of the rectangle.

Fold both of the longer edges toward the center of the cookie and pinch the seam together. Put the cookie, seam side down, on an ungreased baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

Make two slits in the cookie with a sharp knife. Start at each open, unpinched side and cut toward the center the cookie, being careful not to cut the cookie in half in the process. The cookie will bake into the shape of an X. (See picture)

Work in batches, keeping dough refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice the cookies after they cool with 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar mixed with just enough milk to make a smooth consistency. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies                    

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see Tip)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl.

3. Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

4. Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tip: Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Espresso Crinkles                                                                        

Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar-coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. Serve with coffee to enhance the espresso.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites

Directions:

1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso granules to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are cracked and almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes; remove from pan. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Yield: 2 dozen

Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup softened Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Fig Jam or Jam of Choice

Directions:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until light.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the mascarpone cheese, and beat until smooth.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients, and fold them into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Place sheets of parchment paper or silicone baking liners on two cookie pans.
  8. On a lightly floured counter or board, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls.
  9. Using a blunt round object like the end of a wooden spoon, create an indentation in the center of each cookie.
  10. Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or just as the cookies begin to color.
  11. While still warm, use the spoon to redefine the circle, and then carefully spoon a little jam into each cookie.
  12. Let sit at room temperature until the jam is set.
  13. Store in an airtight container.

Nutmeg Bites                                                                                                   

Cookie Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Rum Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rum

Directions

1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all ingredients and blend on medium speed until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 2 minutes.

3) Wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour. Towards the end of the chill time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Drop tablespoon-sized dough balls onto the baking sheet. A teaspoon scoop makes this job easier. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges will be slightly browned and the cookies will be round and domed.

5) Cool the cookies completely. Prepare the icing by blending the softened butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add rum one tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Top each cookie with a dollop of icing and a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: Approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches                                                     

4 dozen sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Granulated sugar
  • White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can. Stir in any remaining flour mixture and the nuts by hand. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets. With the bottom of a glass, flatten balls to about 1-1/4-inch circles.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until tops are just firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  5. Spread bottoms of half of the cookies with a rounded 1/2 teaspoon White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling. Top with remaining cookies, bottom sides down.

Makes 48 cookie sandwiches.

White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling:

In a small saucepan, heat and stir 6 ounces chopped white chocolate and 3 tablespoons whipping cream over low heat until just melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.


puglia-italy

Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.

The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.

Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.

Puglia 6

Dinner Party Menu For Six

Antipasto

Puglia 1

Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.

Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.

When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.

puglia 5

Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)

Ingredients

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm water

Directions

Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.

Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.

Heat the oven to 400° F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.

Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.

First Course

Puglia 2

Tubettini con le Cozze

(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)

Directions

Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.

Second Course

Puglia 3

Roasted Striped Bass

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled 
  • 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.

Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.

Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.

Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Dessert

puglia 4

Baked Zeppole

Ingredients for the pastry dough

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large eggs

Ingredients for the custard filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Jam

To make the pastry:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.

Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.

To make the custard:

In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.

To serve:

Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.


Cliff_at_Tropea,_Italy,_Sep_2005

Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy – lapped by the crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, the classic flavors of local foods and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place in both winter and summer. The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.

With farmland sparse in Calabria, every viable plot is cultivated to its greatest advantage. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, beans, onions, peppers, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, grapes, olives, almonds, figs and mountain-loving herbs grow well in the area. Calabrians tend to focus on the high quality of their ingredients, so that virtually everything picked from a garden is useable and worthy of praise.

download (1)

Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking.

Fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod and sardines and shrimp and lobster are common on their tables. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation has become a fine art in Calabria. Oiling, salting, curing, smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce and the local pancetta pairs perfectly with plump melons in summer.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal, so the fact that the organ meats are so prized by locals comes as no great surprise. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is both a complex and singularly unusual flavor. Made from pig’s fat and organ meats mixed with liberal local pepperoncinis, this salami-style delicacy is a testament to the Calabrian patience in waiting until foods have reached their perfection. In this case, waiting for the salami to cure for an entire year. Other salamis such as capicola calabrese and soppressata di calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads, cheeses and Calabrian wines.

Spelinga_Nduja

Nduja

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking. Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Pane del pescatore (“fisherman’s bread”) is a local specialty rich with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, due to Greek and Arabic influences. Greek influence still pervades in eggplant, swordfish and sweets by incorporating figs, almonds and honey into the preparations. Similarly, special pastries and desserts take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts, like ricci di donna (or “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (or “hairs of the priest”), belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are scilateddri, lagane, cavateddri and maccheroni.

Wine is not produced in huge quantities in the region, though the small batches are excellent in flavor and heavily influenced by Greek varieties. Ciró wines are produced using the same ancient varieties of grapes, as wines produced in antiquity for local heroes of the Olympic games. The grapes are still grown primarily in the Cosenza province of Calabria and Ciró wines often take up to four years to reach maturity. Calabria also turns out sweet whites, such as Greco di Bianco.

hot peppers

Calabrian hot pepper is found in many Calabrian dishes – toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines, pork sausages, pasta sauces and fish dishes will have hot pepper added.  A fondness for spicy food shows in the popularity of all types of peppers and, unusual for Italy, the use of ginger (zenzero), which is added to spice up sauces (along with hot pepper). Some Calabrian chicken and fish recipes also include ginger.

Antipasto

stuffedmush1

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

  • One dozen mushroom caps
  • 1 cup well-drained skim milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for garnishing

Directions

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and set the caps side. Use the stems for soup or other recipes.

Thoroughly combine the next five ingredients -ricotta through pepper- in a mixing bowl.

Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the 12 mushrooms with olive oil cooking spray.

Stuff each cap with ricotta filling. Sprinkle the tops lightly with breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees F  20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

First Course

pasta_alla_calabrese

Calabrian Sugo – Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

This is a basic Calabrian sauce that is the foundation of many dishes. It can be served on its own with any pasta shape. It can also be the starting point for the addition of many other ingredients. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned.

Ingredients:

  • 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in their juice or 3 ½ cups of peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh or dried hot red pepper or a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound rigatoni

Directions:

If you are using canned tomatoes, break them up by hand. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Second Course

tuna

Trance di Tonno alla Calabrese (Tuna Steaks Calabrese Style)

Ingredients

  • 4 tuna steaks (about 2 pounds and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Place the tuna in a large large dish in a single layer, sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours, occasionally turning the tuna.

Remove the tuna from the marinade.

Heat a large skillet until very hot and cook the tuna together with the lemon wedges, for approximately six minutes depending on thickness of the fillets or until the fish done to your likeness.

Sprinkle with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil before serving.

sauteed-escarole-with-raisins-pine-nuts-and-capers-104912-ss

Sautéed Escarole

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • One head of fresh escarole, washed thoroughly
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.

Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt or more hot pepper.

Dessert

crostata light marmellata

Devil’s Tart (Crostata del Diavolo)

Sweet and hot are popular combinations in southern Italy, as evidenced by this tart. Chile jam is readily available from mail order sources. You can also roll the top crust out and fit it over the filling instead of making a lattice top.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces soft butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 11 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 4 ounces red chile jam (Marmellata di Peperoncino)
  • 4 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, egg and lemon peel.

In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the butter-sugar-egg-mixture.

Divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough on a floured surface to fit a tart or pie pan and fit the dough into the pan.

Spread the fruit jam evenly over the dough in the pie dish and, then, spread the chile jam evenly on top of the orange jam. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Roll the other half of the dough to the size of the top of the tart pan on a floured surface. Cut the dough into one inch strips and lay the strips on top of the filling in a lattice pattern.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

marmellata-di-peperoncino

Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes (frombootlewithlove.wordpress.com)
Mangia! Mangia! (mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com)
Calabria: An Ideal Holiday Spot (gateawayblog.wordpress.com)
A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/11/11/plan-a-venetian-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/09/23/a-fall-neapolitan-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/10/22/a-fall-bolognese-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/01/09/make-a-roman-inspired-winter-dinner/

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The benefits of giving homemade holiday food gifts are numerous. They are easy on the budget and ideal for those people on your holiday gift list who have everything. The receiver appreciates the personal touch and effort you’ve put into the gift and, for you, the creative act of putting together a homemade gift is rewarding.

What many people may not know about the benefits of homemade gifts is that they can actually be better for the planet than the standard store bought gifts. Many mass-produced gift items are things that your gift recipients actually do not need. How many times have you received an off-the-shelf Christmas gift that you simply tucked away in a corner of your closet? With homemade gifts, you get to customize your gifts to what your gift recipients might like or use. Homemade gifts can also be less energy-consuming to produce, since you get to cut out the shipping process.

Homemade gifts also have the benefit of giving materials, originally headed for the recycling or trash bin, a new lease of life. For example, a piece of leftover ribbon can now be reused as part of the gift-wrap for a homemade gift. The process of hand-making your gifts can help to contribute to less waste, especially if you seek to reuse materials as much as possible. In the process of making homemade gifts, you might have to purchase some materials. Try to minimize that if you can. Be innovative, find alternatives that already exist at home. Because you have a choice over the type of materials, you can choose the environmentally more friendly or biodegradable versions.

What could be easier than baking a batch of your favorite cookies or mixing mocha drink ingredients or making a container of pickles and giving it as a gift in a fancy jar, complete with recipe and instructions? It is best to use a recipe that has your own special ingredients. Give the recipient a gourmet food jar or container that they might not find anywhere else. The best part about this step is that you can use a variety of jars in different shapes and sizes, adding to the uniqueness of your homemade food gift. Print the recipe and attach it to the food gift. Be sure to include all of the directions and a list of the ingredients the gift recipient will need to finish the recipe.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Toffee

Yield: about 20 pieces

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (about 4 oz.)
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a shallow pan; bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking pan halfway through. Remove to a bowl to cool, then chop.

Line a 15-by-10-inch baking sheet with foil; mist with cooking spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer on sheet, breaking crackers as necessary to fit.

Bring butter and sugar to a boil in a small pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Spread mixture evenly over crackers. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove sheet from the oven; add peanut butter in dollops. Return to oven until peanut butter begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack.

Spread peanut butter evenly. Sprinkle both types of chocolate chips over the mixture on the baking sheet; let stand until chips soften, about 1 minute. Spread chips over peanut butter. Sprinkle with almonds. Let stand for 30 minutes. Place sheet in the refrigerator; chill until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into approximately 20 pieces. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

As A Gift: Fill a decorative coffee mug with toffee pieces.

Peppery Peach Sauce

Yield: 8 half-pint jars

Ingredients

  • Three 16-ounce packages frozen unsweetened peach slices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 15 1/2 ounce can peach or apricot nectar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 fresh hot red chile pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed and chopped

Directions

Place half of the frozen peaches in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until peaches are very finely chopped. Transfer chopped peaches to a 6-quart pot. Repeat with remaining peaches. (You should have 5 cups pureed peaches.)

Add sugar, nectar, vinegar, lemon juice, chile pepper, salt and garlic to the pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in raspberries.

Immediately ladle peach sauce into hot, clean half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Remove jars from canner; cool on racks.

As A Gift: Tie a ribbon around a filled jar, then slide a basting brush underneath the ribbon. Add a sprig of rosemary to the top of the jar for a festive touch.

Sweet Potato Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed cooked peeled sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In one bowl, combine flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, sugar, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir in sweet potatoes. Add sour cream mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in dates and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely.

As A Gift: Wrap the loaf in cellophane or a pretty dish towel and tie with ribbon.

Parmesan Grissini

Yields: 25 to 30 grissini

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups bread flour
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warmed milk
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan

Directions

In a bowl combine bread flour, yeast, sea salt, fennel seeds and red pepper; make a well in the middle.

Pour olive oil and warmed milk into the well. Stir until dough comes together. Add Parmesan and mix until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (You can prepare the dough in a mixer with a dough hook, if desired.)

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Lightly flour work surface again, then turn dough out and knead lightly for 1 minute.

Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a 12- by 15-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into strips just under 1/2 inch wide. Lightly flour hands, then quickly roll strips until they’re slightly rounded.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving space between each strip. Set aside to rise again, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle shelf until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, turning bread sticks halfway through. Let cool completely.

As A Gift: Bundle in wax paper or parchment and seal with gold stickers.

Homemade Spice Mixes

Combine the individual mixtures and package in decorative containers. You can purchase decorative tins or spice jars from any kitchen supply company or use some of your empty spice jars.

Poultry Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt free chicken bouillon granules

Fish Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Steak Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons coarse-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

Italian Seasoning

  • 4 tablespoons dried basil
  • 4 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage

Gluten Free Flour Blend

If you have friends with gluten intolerance, they will appreciate having this baking mix handy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely ground rice flour
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions

Combine all ingredients in large bowl; stir very well. Store mixture in a container with tight-fitting lid in the freezer; stir before using.



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