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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: noodles

World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. Experts from all over the world came together to promote the importance of spreading knowledge of the world’s numerous types of pasta. This organization uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.

Everything from encouraging consumers to try new pastas to providing important health information is part of their mission. Every country is encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way, while sharing the logo of the official organization and participating in the global strategy of World Pasta Day. One of the best ways to celebrate World Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite pasta at home. Here are a few of mine.

Stuffed Shells

3-4 stuffed shells per serving.

Ingredients

6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21-22 shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound (2 bunches) fresh spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce

Directions

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the leaves into thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.

Add the greens, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted.

Cover the pan and simmer until the leaves are very tender, about ten minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooled, cooked greens.

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the dish with foil.

Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.

Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

8 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ cups pasta water
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise the heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl.

Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Serves 2-3

Salt to taste
8 ounces penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large zucchini, about one pound
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.

Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.

Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.

Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.

Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or Ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the Burrata cheese.

Pasta Roll-Ups

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Two 28-oz containers whole tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 dried lasagna noodles
Two 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Two 15-oz containers ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add the ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink.

Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from the thawed spinach and place in large bowl.

Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up.

Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

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I remember my years living up north and the wonderful Asian restaurants we had in our area. Missing those dishes, I have been tinkering with recipes and sauces to create some of the tastes I remember. This recipe turned out with the taste I was looking for, especially with the combo of grilled meat and deliciously seasoned vegetables and noodles. Give it a try. It has great flavor.

Asian Grilled Pork Kebabs

4 servings. This recipe may be doubled.

Ingredients

1 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
Marinade
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon sweet Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon Sambal owlet chili paste

Directions

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a glass dish.

Add the pork and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to grill, thread the pork onto two 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Reserve the marinade in the dish.

Spray both sides of the meat generously with vegetable oil spray.

Turn all grill burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off the other burners.

Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the skewers on the hot side of the grill and cook the pork until well charred, 3 minutes.

Turn the skewers, brush with the reserved marinade mixture, and continue to grill until the second side is well charred and the meat registers 140 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer, 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the pork to a platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while the stir fry vegetables are prepared

Stir Fry Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions

Combine ingredients for the stir fry sauce in a jar and shake to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Asian Stir Fried Vegetables and Noodles

Ingredients

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups Chinese fresh noodles
Stir Fry Sauce, recipe above
2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
12 oz broccoli florets, cut into smaller florets
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
3 scallions, sliced

Directions

Place the noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let sit in the hot water until ready to add to the stir fry.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger followed by the broccoli.

Stir fry until the broccoli florets are tender. Add the shredded carrots and stir for a minute or two.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Drain the noodles and add them to the skillet. Stir in the stir fry sauce and water.

Return to the heat, gently toss for 1 minute to heat through the noodles and for the sauce to thicken. Add the scallions. Stir.

Pour onto a serving platter and top with the grilled pork to serve.


I know my kitchen is primarily Italian but every once in a while other cuisines find their way there.

I was inspired to consider making a Korean dish after reading a recipe for BBQ Korean Steak on a blog I follow, Back Road Journal. I decided on BBQ pork ribs and a stir fry noodle dish after assessing the ingredients I had in the pantry and freezer.

To make a Korean BBQ sauce, you need gochujang. Gochujang or red chili paste is a fermented sweet and spicy sauce made from red chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder and salt. Traditionally, it has been naturally fermented over years in an earthenware pot on an elevated stone platform, called jangdokdae, in a Korean family’s backyard. The making of gochujang at home began tapering off when commercial production came into the mass market in the early 1970s. Now, most Koreans purchase gochujang at grocery stores or markets, just like we can.

Gochujang Paste and Stir Fry Sauce

Korean Spicy Glazed Pork Ribs

4 serving

Ingredients

1/4 cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 pounds baby back pork ribs

Directions

Whisk gochujang, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and oil in a glass dish until smooth.

Cut the ribs into smaller pieces, about two bones per piece.

Toss the ribs in the marinade. Cover the dish and chill at least 4 hours or up to 1 day ahead.

Place ribs in a baking dish to fit that has been lined with heavy-duty foil (for easy cleanup). Cover with foil.

Reserve any marinade in the glass dish.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake ribs, covered, for 1 hour. Uncover and increase oven temperature to 450°F.

Roast, turning occasionally and brushing with reserved marinade, until the ribs are deeply browned, glazed and fork-tender, 30 – 35 minutes longer.

Stir Fried Noodles with Vegetables

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
10 oz package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
2 cups fresh Asian noodles
2 cups thinly shredded cabbage
Stir Fry Sauce (recipe below)
4 scallions, chopped

Directions

Heat oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir fry for about 10 seconds.

Add the broccoli and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cabbage, the noodles and the Stir Fry Sauce.

Return to heat, gently toss for 1 minute to heat through the noodles and for the sauce to thicken. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Stir Fry Sauce

This sauce is fantastic and very authentic tasting in stir fry dishes. Make a double batch and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick dinner.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese wine (or sherry)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions

Combine ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.


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Where I grew up in the US, one could get authentic, great tasting Chinese food. Where I live now – not so much. So I have taken to making my own. Most of the time I can recreate the flavors I remember and make some delicious tasting Chinese food – like the dishes below. Yes, I know, it is not Italian but every once in a while change is good.

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Corn & Chicken Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients

4 cups chicken stock
One 5 oz boneless chicken breast
2 cups corn
1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 eggs, whisked
Salt and white pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chives, chopped
Sesame oil

Directions

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the chicken breast and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the chicken for about 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into small pieces or shred it.

To the broth in the saucepan add the corn, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, ginger, garlic and cornstarch mixture.

Bring to boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Adjust the seasoning with salt, turn off the heat and slowly whisk in the eggs so it cooks in “ribbons” throughout the soup. This also helps to thicken the soup.

Add the chicken and chives and season with white pepper. Heat until hot throughout but do not boil. Drizzle with a little sesame oil before serving.

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Beef & Broccoli

Ingredients

½ pound beef tenderloin, sliced very thin
Salt and pepper to taste
10 -12 oz fresh broccoli florets
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups fresh Chinese noodles
1 tablespoon peanut oil

Sauce

1 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon chili paste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1 ½ teaspoons regular soy sauce
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Sprinkle the sliced beef with salt and pepper and set aside while you make the sauce.

Place the noodles in a medium bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover the noodles. Let sit while you prepare the stir fry.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk all the sauce ingredients together. Set aside.

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Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the garlic and ginger, stir and then add the beef slices. Stir fry for about a minute and then remove the beef from the pan and place on a plate.

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Add the broccoli florets to the skillet and stir fry for about three minutes. Pour in the sauce, mix into the broccoli and stir fry for another minute.

Drain the noodles and add them to the skillet. Add the browned beef and stir fry for about two minutes. Serve immediately.

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Chinese Almond Cookies

Makes 32, if you measure with a cookie scoop.

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups almond flour, lightly packed
1 cup of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
Pinch of kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Thinly sliced almond

Directions

Place the almond flour, salt and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for three minutes.

Add one of the eggs, reserving the other for later, and the almond extract. Mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Sift together the flour, sugar and baking soda then add to the butter mixture at low speed. Mix until just combined.

Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for two hours to chill.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the second egg into a small bowl and beat it.

Divide the batter into 1 inch balls. This is very easy to do with a cookie scoop. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten the balls of dough with the bottom of a glass dipped in flour.

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Brush the top of the cookies with the beaten egg and sprinkle almond slices on top of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes or until the cookies begin to turn golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to cook completely before storing in an airtight container.


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This is a busy time with all the holiday preparations and the refrigerator has lots of leftovers from last week. As you know, I am not a fan of just heating up the leftovers. I have to do something different with them. Nothing too involved though at this time – just a few different additions. The leftovers include Beef Cacciatore, Cheese Stuffed Meatloaf and Spaghetti Squash. Here are some recipes to change them a bit.

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Beef Pasta Bake

Ingredients

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the ricotta cheese, mozzarella and salt.

Oil an 11×8 baking dish. Spread ½ cup marinara sauce in the baking dish

Layer half of the beef cacciatore and noodles in the dish.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the pasta and cover with the remaining beef and noodle mixture.

Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the top of the pasta and beef.

Cover the dish with foil and bake the casserole for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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Meatloaf Pizzaiola

Make extra sauce because it is delicious on pizza.

Sauce

Directions

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Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook until tender.

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Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the marinara sauce and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes. Add parsley and remove the pan from the heat.

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Warm slices of meatloaf in the microwave and pour some hot pizzaiola sauce over each slice to serve.

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Spaghetti Squash Cakes

Ingredients

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour and beaten eggs with a whisk. Add the spaghetti squash, cheese, onions and ¼  teaspoon salt. Mix very well, until all the mixture has a uniform consistency.

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Heat a large skillet on high-medium heat until very hot. Then add the olive oil. Add ¼ cup of the batter to the hot skillet. Repeat with as many ¼ cups as will fit in your skillet.

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Cook until the bottom side of each cake is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Using a spatula, turn the cakes over and cook 1-2 more minutes.

Repeat with any remaining batter and add more oil if needed.

Serve as is or with sour cream or Greek yogurt.


Can pork be a healthy choice?

Pork has a poor reputation as a healthy food for some very good reasons. The only exposure many people get is in salt filled slices of ham or fattening strips of greasy bacon. When people are asked to rank meats from “most healthy” to “least healthy” pork routinely ranks at the bottom of the list. How things have changed. The pork that’s available today is quite a bit different from what was available 30, 20, even just 10 years ago.

In 2006 several different cuts of pork were analyzed by the Agricultural Research Service for the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) nutrient data set. When the results were compared to tests conducted a decade before, researchers found all but one were leaner than cuts previously measured. Six common cuts of pork saw their fat levels fall by 16% and their saturated fat levels by an  27%, all because of selective breeding programs farmers took to provide the buying public with leaner cuts of meat. In fact, over the last 20 years the fat levels in pork haven fallen by an unbelievable 31%.

It’s especially surprising when you compare pork tenderloin to skinless chicken breast, one of the ideal low fat meats. A three ounce serving of lean pork tenderloin has 102 calories, 2.9 grams of fat and 17.9 grams of protein. A three ounce serving of roasted, skinless chicken breast has 141 calories, 3 grams of fat and 26.4 grams of protein. The pork has 25% fewer calories and it’s lower in total fat! An added bonus is that pork has no artery-clogging trans fat. Who could have predicted a day when some pork cuts would be a healthier option than chicken?

The key of course is choosing the right cut. You should avoid spare ribs, ground pork, sausage and bacon (although, there are healthier alternatives for sausage and bacon these days). They have 20 to 38 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. Cuts like tenderloin, loin chop, sirloin chop or lean ham have only 2 to 9 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. A good rule to follow is that the leanest cuts tend to come from the loin. It’s true for beef, bison, lamb and pork. So when you shop, the words you’re looking for are “loin” or “round” for the lowest fat options.

Antibiotic – free pork is available in supermarkets and other venues.  Be sure to check the packaging for this label “No antibiotics (with the USDA Processed Verified Label)”. See Related Articles below for more information.

Which cuts of pork are leanest?                                                                                                                                                         

  • Pork tenderloin
  • Pork chops and pork steaks
  • Pork roasts
  • Pork leg (or ham)
  • Pork cutlets/scaloppine
To help you the next time you’re buying pork, use the following chart. It shows the major cuts of meat along with the fat, calories and protein per 3 oz. serving. Cuts in GREEN are the healthiest options, YELLOW indicates caution while those in RED should be avoided or saved for a special occasion.

There is a downside to the new leaner pork. In the old days, a piece of pork had so much fat that even when it was cooked longer than it should, it remained tender and moist. The leaner pork is easy to overcook and can end up tough or dry. You can avoid that by using a thermometer and cook it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but no higher. The meat will be slightly pink on the outside and remain tender inside.
If you’re cooking a larger cut of meat like a roast, only cook it to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Then take the pork out of the heat, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil and let it sit about 10 minutes before you cut it up. During those few minutes the temperature inside the roast will keep rising to 160 degrees and the juices will spread out evenly, so it’ll be more moist.

Pork is a good alternative to chicken and can be used as a substitute in many poultry recipes. A serving of pork without fat contains under 200 calories and provides nearly half of the recommended daily allowance for protein. By preparing pork chops in a healthy way, you can create a meal that tastes good and that fits with your healthy eating goals.

Step 1 : Trim the pork of visible fat. This will reduce both calories and fat grams in your pork chops, automatically making them healthier. It also controls the amount of cholesterol present in the pork chops by getting rid of the part of the meat that contributes to unhealthy cholesterol intake.

Step 2: Season your pork chops with herbs. Using herbs in place of salt or butter and cream sauces creates flavor in your dish, but helps you control your sodium, fat and calorie intake. Many herbs enhance the flavor of pork chops and helps keep them moist and juicy. Try rosemary, garlic, or poultry seasoning.

Step 3: Use healthy cooking methods. Rather than frying your pork chops, try grilling, roasting or braising them. These techniques cut the amount of fat needed to prepare the chops while still preserving flavor. Pork chops can also be baked, however, use a meat thermometer because an overcooked pork chop is dry and lacks flavor. Using non-stick cookware is another good way to reduce the amount of fat needed to cook pork chops and will create a healthier dish.

Step 4: Pair pork chops with fruits and vegetables. Pork chops are enhanced by fruits, such as, raspberries, cherries and apricots, which add a little sweetness to the flavor of the meat. Onions, sauerkraut and potatoes also go well with pork chops and can bring out the taste of the pork.

Step 5: Choose the right side dishes. All your good intentions “go out the window” if you serve your healthy pork chops alongside foods that aren’t healthy. Pair your pork chops with brown rice, steamed or roasted vegetables or a salad to keep the meal healthy while still making the pork chops center stage.

Step 6: Keep your portions in check. A serving of boneless pork is 3 oz., so be sure you don’t serve yourself up a huge pork chop that ends up being several servings, derailing your healthy intentions.

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Pepper and Onions

  Serves 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


For the pepper side dish:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into 3 thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for brushing on the onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

For the chops:

  • 4 pork chops, bone-in
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

Make the peppers and onions:

Heat a grill to a high flame.
Grill the peppers until the skin is blackened all over and the flesh is soft, about 15 to 30 minutes, turning every few minutes with tongs to cook evenly. The peppers should be nearly collapsing when done. Remove to a bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Set aside for 30 minutes; the steam that will be created in the covered bowl will help loosen the skin from the flesh of the peppers.

Brush the onion slices with olive oil.  Grill a couple of minutes until char marks show. Flip with a grill turner (so the onion rings don’t fall apart). Cook the other side until marks show. Again, this takes only a couple of minutes. Cut the onions into long strips.

Uncover the bowl with the peppers and slip the skin off the peppers with your fingers; don’t be tempted to run the peppers under cool water to remove bits of clinging skin because you would be rinsing away the smoky flavor.
Cut the peppers in half, scoop out the seeds, stem, and any membrane, and cut into long, thin strips. Toss the pepper and onion strips with the garlic, oregano, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a clean bowl. Set aside. 

Make the chops:

Rub the chops with the olive oil, salt, fennel, thyme, and rosemary, coating well. Set aside 30 minutes at room temperature (or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.)
Grill the chops until browned on one side, about 5 minutes.
Turn and grill until browned on the other side and cooked all the way through, about 5 more minutes.
The total cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chops, the strength of the flame, and how far the chops are from the flame.
Distribute the pepper and onions among 4 plates and place 1 chop on top. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Smashed New Potatoes with Garlic and Chives

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds new potatoes or Yukon Golds
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance or olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives or green onion greens

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the whole potatoes in a medium oven-proof baking dish with a cover and add the 1 tablespoon of the butter, cut into pieces. Cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the dish out of the oven and mix the potatoes so they’re coated with butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with garlic and salt. Return to the oven, cover, and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how large the potatoes are.

When the potatoes are soft, remove the dish from the oven and, using a potato masher, crush each potato. Don’t pound them, just crush them.  Add salt to taste. Sprinkle chives on the potatoes to serve.

Pork Chops Shepherd Style

6 servings

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2  cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium red onions, halved, sliced ½ inch thick (about 4 cups)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 ounces provolone in one piece, preferably imported from Italy
  • 1 cup white wine

Directions:

Trim excess fat from the pork chops, leaving only a thin layer on the edges. Season both sides of the chops with 1 teaspoon of salt. Spread the flour on a plate, and dredge the chops, lightly coating both sides with flour.

Meanwhile, pour the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet, and set it over medium heat. Shake excess flour from the chops, and lay them all in the skillet in one layer (depending on the size of your pan, you may have to squeeze them in). Gently brown the pork on the first side, about 4 minutes; turn the chops over, and brown the second side, another 4 minutes. Remove the chops to a plate and keep warm.

Scatter the onions and garlic in the skillet, stir them around the pan, season with the remaining salt, and cover. Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, and scraping the pan bottom to mix the browned bits with the onion juices.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and heat it to 400 degrees F.  Slice the provolone in 6 or more thin slices about the size of the pork chops.

After the onions have cooked for 15 minutes or so, and are quite tender and colored with the pan scrapings, uncover, and push them all to one side of the skillet. Lay the pork chops back in, one at a time, spooning a layer of soft onions on the top of each chop. When they’re all in the pan, lay the provolone slices over the onions.

Raise the heat, and when the meat is sizzling again, pour the wine into the skillet (in the spaces between the chops, not over them). Swirl the pan so the wine flows all through it, and bring to a boil, then carefully move the skillet from the stove to the oven.

Bake the chops for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese topping is bubbly. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, and let chops rest in it for a few minutes. To serve, lift out each chop with a spatula, keeping the cheese topping intact, set it on a dinner plate, and spoon some of the skillet juices and onions around it.

Sauteed Spinach with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large bunches of fresh spinach, ends trimmed, washed and drained
  • About 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until warm. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant about one minute. Stir often, being careful not to let it brown.
Stir the beans into the garlic and oil and cook until heated through – about 1 minute. Be careful not to cook too long or the beans will turn mushy.
Add the spinach and sea salt – about 1/2 teaspoon. Cook the spinach, turning with tongs,  until wilted – about 2 or 3 minutes.  After wilted, remove from the heat.
Add in the lemon zest, additional salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper.

Pork Chops with Creamy Marsala Sauce                                                                                                                                   

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Marsala (see Note), divided
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 thin boneless pork loin chops (about 1 pound), trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto (2 ounces), chopped
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat milk

Directions:

Mix 2 tablespoons Marsala and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the pork chops. Cook until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add prosciutto to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until browned, about 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons Marsala, oregano and 1 1/2 teaspoons chives and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add milk and the reserved cornstarch mixture to the pan; adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly, 4 to 6 minutes.

Return the pork chops and any accumulated juice to the pan and simmer, turning to coat, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the chops topped with the sauce and garnished with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons chives.

Note: Marsala, a fortified wine from Sicily, is a flavorful addition to many sauces. Don’t use the “cooking Marsala” sold in many supermarkets—it can be surprisingly high in sodium. Instead, purchase Marsala that’s sold with other fortified wines in your wine or liquor store. An opened bottle can be stored in a cool, dry place for months.

Side Dishes:

Whole Grain Noodles  

Cook whole grain yolk free egg noodles according to package instructions, serve with the pork chops and drizzle some of the Creamy Marsala sauce over them.

Whole Grain Yolk Free Egg Noodles

Sautéed Butter-Thyme Mushrooms

Serves 4
Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook 1 minute or until tender. Add salt and mushrooms to pan; cook until mushrooms are brown and liquid evaporates. Add broth to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir in thyme, and cook for 30 seconds.

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops                                                                                                                                                      

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 pork rib or loin chops, cut 1-inch thick
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian Panko Crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Pomi tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Cut a slit in the side of each chop, forming a pocket. Fold and stuff prosciutto and cheese into pockets; press lightly to close pocket.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Beat egg substitute and milk another in shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl. One at a time, lightly coat chops in flour mixture; then dip in egg mixture and dredge both sides in Panko crumbs, patting to coat.

Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add chops; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to baking sheet.
Bake in preheated 375° oven 10 minutes or until desired doneness.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes to same skillet; cook 3 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil; season with salt and pepper. Transfer chops to serving plates and  top with tomato mixture.

Skillet Cauliflower

Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 large whole cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Tear or cut off the outer leaves attached to the base of the cauliflower, then cut out the bottom core. Separate the head into big florets. Cut the big florets into 1-inch chunks or thick slices, so you have 6 cups or more of roughly equal-sized cauliflower pieces.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium-low heat. Scatter the garlic slices and red pepper on the oil, and pile in all the cauliflower. Sprinkle with salt. Sweat the cauliflower, about 4 minutes. Toss and cook for another 3 minutes. The edges of the cauliflower pieces should have started to brown. Cover the pan, lower the heat and let the cauliflower continue to caramelize slowly, tossing the pieces every few minutes for 12-15 minutes.

Pork Chops Braised in White Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 4 center-cut loin pork chops
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine sage, rosemary, garlic, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix into a paste.

Press small amounts of mixture firmly onto both sides of each pork chop and let sit for at least five minutes.

In a heavy large skillet with a cover melt the butter with the olive oil over moderate heat. Place the chops in the hot oil and butter and brown for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Use tongs to turn the meat. You don’t want to pierce the meat with a fork. You will loose the natural juices.

Add 1 cup of wine to the skillet. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the chops 30 to 35 minutes, turning occasionally. When chops are tender, remove from pan to a serving platter.

Add the remaining wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan. Pour sauce over chops and serve.

Sauteed Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage (2 pounds), halved, cored, and cut crosswise into 1-inch strips, thick ribs removed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or Smart Balance Blend, cut into small pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place cabbage in a large skillet with 1 cup water (skillet will be very full). Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover skillet; simmer until cabbage is very tender, tossing occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes. Pour out any water remaining in skillet. Add butter and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook a minute or two and toss gently to combine.

Beet and Tomato Salad

This is an unusual salad but very good. Slices of roasted beets and fresh beefsteak tomatoes are dressed with shallot vinaigrette and fresh oregano to create a colorful and flavorful side dish.
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium beets (about 1 pound total), scrubbed
  • 2 teaspoons plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 medium beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. Top with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold foil around beets and crimp ends to form a packet. Roast beets on sheet until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove beets from foil and let cool, then peel and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  This can be done early in the day and set aside the beets at room temperature.

Tip:  I use surgical gloves to remove the skin from the beets, so my fingers do not turn purple.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 teaspoons oil, shallot, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. On a large platter, arrange beets and tomatoes in an alternating pattern, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fresh oregano leaves.



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