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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Nuts

For me, holiday baking doesn’t just include what would be served on the holiday itself, but it also includes breakfast breads and desserts for the days surrounding the holidays. That is because I usually have family or house guests visiting for several days over a holiday. So I plan ahead and bake several breakfast items that can be heated and served and have at least one or two desserts on hand. Here are recipes for a few favorites that are all easy to make.

Lemony Ricotta Pie

Ricotta pie or cheesecake are very popular in our family.

Crust
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish
Candied lemon and orange peel

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven.

For the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and honey and whisk. Add the ricotta, salt and lemon flavoring.

Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pie pan over the baked crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for about 60 minutes until the filling is completely set.

Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Decorate the top of the pie with pieces of candied lemon and orange peel.

When cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until serving time.

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Sticky Syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup large pecan halves

Dough
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup heavy cream

Cinnamon Filling
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a glass 9″ round cake pan or pie pan.

To make the syrup:

Melt the butter in the glass pan in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Stir well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place the pecan halves over the syrup in a single layer.

To make the dough:

Stir together the flour and cream to make a smooth dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Gently roll the dough into a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.

To make the cinnamon filling:

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans in a small mixing bowl.

Spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough.

Roll the dough into a log. Position it so the seam is facing down.

Slice the log into 10 pieces, and place them in the prepared pan.

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until they’re bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Remove the buns from the oven, and immediately turn them out onto a serving plate.

Scrape any leftover syrup from the pan onto the buns.

To serve later, cool completely, then wrap well and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days.

Reheat in a 325 degree oven. Freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from a King Arthur recipe.

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour (lightly scoop, don’t pack down)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts and coarse sugar for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Spray a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and whisk.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. Avoid over mixing. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and coarse sugar.

Bake at 425 F degrees for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F degrees and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean when placed into the center of the muffins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool.

Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 3 months.

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I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.


Garlic Chicken with Peppadew Salsa

2 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup plain fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bone-in chicken breasts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a baking dish that will just fit the chicken breasts.

Combine the butter and garlic in a small microwave bowl. Heat on high for a minute or until the butter melts.

Pour into a shallow bowl and cool.

Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper in another shallow bowl.

Dip each chicken piece, one at a time, into the melted garlic butter.

Transfer to the bread crumb mixture and turn until coated on all sides.

Arrange the chicken in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle on any of remaining melted butter over the breaded chicken.

Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes.

Peppadew Salsa

Peppadews are sweet peppers from South Africa and are usually found in the mixed olive section near the deli in a supermarket.

Serves 2

6-8 Peppadew peppers, cubed
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for at least ½ an hour before serving.

Sautéed Escarole with Toasted Pine Nuts

Ingredients

1 large head escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Sea salt to taste

Directions

After the core is removed, slice escarole into ribbons just over an inch thick. Wash escarole in several changes of water.

Dry well in a salad spinner.

Heat a large, deep frying pan, add the pine nuts and toast in the dry pan until the nuts start to brown, shaking the pan all the time the pine nuts are toasting. Pour onto a plate and reserve.

Add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and heat for a minute.

Add escarole, a handful at a time, turning the leaves over each time you add more.

Saute the escarole. turning every few minutes, until it is wilted and soft.

Season to taste with sea salt and sprinkle pine nuts over. Serve immediately.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients

8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

In a medium bowl, cream together butter, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar. Add pecan flour and mix until a dough forms.

Scoop the mound of dough into the center of a sheet of plastic wrap.

Using your hands, roll dough into an approximate 2-inch diameter cylindrical log; wrap and refrigerate dough until chilled and firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated for several day.)

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the chilled dough into approximate 1/3-inch thick slices and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until light brown around the edges.

Cool on the baking pans for 15 minutes, then slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to finish cooling (cookies will firm up as they cool).

 


Mediterranean Syria

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This series continues with the country of Syria.

Burj Safita (AKA Chastel Blanc), a landmark in the town of Safita

Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.

Beach in Latakia

Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة‎‎), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.

One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.

For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.

Syrian Recipes To Make At Home

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
1 lemon

Directions

Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.

Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.

Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.

This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.

To fill the grape leaves:

Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.

Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.

Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,

When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.

Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.

Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.

Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.

If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.

Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot

Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.

Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.

Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.

Ingredients

3 aubergines(eggplant)
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
Salt
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.

Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.

Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.

In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.

Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.

Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)

Serves 2

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.

Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)

This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/​200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)

Directions
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.

Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.

Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.

Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.

Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.


It is that time of year! Sports and more sports. We love to invite friends over to watch some of our favorite teams and small bite appetizers are the best foods to have on hand. Folks love them. Here are a few of our big hits.

Asian Meatballs

To make this ahead: cook the meatballs and prepare the sauce separately. Refrigerate separately until serving time. Then reheat the sauce, add the meatballs and cook until the meatballs are hot. Pour into a serving bowl.

For the Meatballs

1 lb organic ground chicken or pork
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup almond flour
1 egg
Peanut oil

For the Sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
4 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon Gochujang (red chili paste)
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions

To make the meatballs:

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

Using a cookie scoop form into 21-22 one inch balls and saute in peanut oil over medium heat until cooked through and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

To make the sauce:

Combine the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces, chili paste, water, sugar and arrowroot in a small saucepan. Reserve the scallions.

Whisk until combined and bring to a boil.

Simmer for five minutes until thickened.

To serve:

Add the cooked meatballs and scallions to the thickened sauce and stir to coat. Heat for a few minutes. Pour into a shallow serving dish.

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and bake before serving.

Ingredients

15 large mushrooms cleaned and stems removed

Spinach filling

1 scallion, minced
1 small garlic, grated
1 pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil

Directions

Hollow out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stems for another use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a glass baking dish and put the dish in the oven while the oven preheats.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stuff the caps with the filling and place in the hot prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.Place on a serving platter.

If the Mushrooms have been in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature for an hour before cooking.

They may need to be baked a little longer.

Mini Crab Puffs with Remoulade Sauce

The crab puffs can be baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated just before game time.

Ingredients

1/2 pound fresh crab meat
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crab seasoning (recommended Old Bay)
2 tablespoons almond flour or all purpose flour

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the crab in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then fold in the crab meat.

Cover the bowl and chill the mixture until ready to bake.

Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a cookie scoop, fill 15 openings to the top of the muffin cup with the crab mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden brown.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to a serving platter.

Serve with

Remoulade Sauce

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a serving dish. Whisk until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

 


We have salmon for dinner on a regular basis because we like and appreciate that it is a healthy food option. I am not a fan of cooking something the same way all the time, so I am always trying new ways to prepare this fish. I experimented with some different spices and seasoning, added nuts and came up with the recipe below. We really liked this version. We are also trying to incorporate more seasonal vegetables in our meals and trying to prepare them in healthier ways. Oven baked zucchini fries were delicious and turned out crispy with the Parmesan coating. Spaghetti Squash is in season and makes a delicious side dish with Italian flavors.

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

For 2

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each
Seafood seasoning ( such as Old Bay)
4 tablespoons finely chopped raw pecans
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mayonnaise

Directions

Thaw salmon overnight in the refrigerator, if it is frozen.

At least 30 minutes before you plan to cook, take the salmon out of the refrigerator.

Coat a small baking dish with olive oil cooking spray, place the fish in this dish and let the fish come to room temperature.

Sprinkle the fish lightly with the seafood seasoning.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to reach a 425F/220C temperature a half hour before you plan to cook.

Mix together the Dijon mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl and use a rubber scraper to spread it over the surface of the salmon.

Press the pecans onto the top of the fish with a little pressure so they stick to the topping.

Roast the salmon for about 15 minutes. (Don’t overcook; the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes when you take it out of the oven.)

Zucchini Parmesan Oven Fries

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini
Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Directions

Cut each zucchini in half and each half into quarters.

Place the zucchini in a plastic zip-lock bag and add a little salt. Seal and shake the bag to coat the zucchini pieces.

Place them on paper towels to drain for several hours. Reserve the plastic bag.

Oil a large baking sheet with sides. Use the same oven temperature as the salmon.

Place the egg in a shallow dish and the Parmesan cheese in the bag that held the zucchini quarters.

Dip the zucchini in the egg and place in the bag with the cheese. Shake the bag and place the zucchini on the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat with all the zucchini.

Place the pan in the oven 10 minutes before the salmon will need to go in the oven.

Bake 10 minutes and turn the squash over when you place the salmon in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes more or until they are crispy.

Spaghetti Squash Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti squash makes an excellent substitute for thin noodles. It is best to cook the squash earlier in the day or the day before.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash, about 3 lbs.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and halve the squash lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of each half.

Arrange the squash in a baking dish, cut sides down. Pour 1 cup of water into the dish and bake until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands. Turn them into a storage container.

When ready to cook:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and add 2 crushed garlic cloves.

When the garlic turns golden, remove it from the pan and discard.

Add the spaghetti squash and toss in the oil. Add crushed red chili flakes, black pepper and salt to taste. Serve immediately.


Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and the agave nectar. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

 



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