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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Basil pesto

Gnocchi are Italian dumplings and they should be light and fluffy when you serve them. Store bought gnocchi can be a little dense and heavy. How do you get the lightness in the dough? By not using too much flour and using flavor ingredients that are not heavy. I never just use just flour and potato in the dough. I like to add ricotta cheese and alternate the potato with other vegetables, such as butternut squash, pureed carrots, sweet potatoes or spinach. They are not difficult to make at home, so give gnocchi a try.

Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

2 medium baking potatoes, cooked and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups 00 (Italian) flour or all-purpose flour

Directions

Dice the cooked potatoes and place them in an electric mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes.

Add the salt and pepper.

Mix the egg and ricotta together in a small mixing bowl. Add to the potatoes in the mixer along with the flour.

Mix until thoroughly combined and the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a floured board and knead a few minutes until smooth.

Divide in half. This recipe usually comes out to weigh about 2 lbs.

Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to cut the gnocchi.

Wrap the other half in plastic and place in a freezer zip-lock beg. Freeze the dough for another time.

This dough freezes well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.

To shape the gnocchi:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before making the gnocchi.

Spread some flour on a large work surface and cut the dough into four equal pieces.Take one piece and cut it in half.

Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into 1 inch pieces.

Dust the gnocchi with a little flour and push the tines of a fork into one side of the dumpling.

Place the gnocchi on a waxed paper tray dusted with flour and cover with a dry kitchen towel.

To cook the gnocchi

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add enough salt to it so that the water tastes salty.

Place a pasta bowl close to the stove.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top of the boiling water.

You may have to do this in batches, so as not to crowd the pan.

Remove the gnocchi with a spider, allowing the water to drain and place the gnocchi in the bowl.

Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Sauces for Gnocchi

Tomato and Fresh Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled, tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the herb sprigs and basil and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
3 cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
3/4 cup freshly grated hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese, or a combo of the two
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the oil and cheeses in a food processor. Pulse until the pesto is blended into a slightly coarse paste.​

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oil and cheeses.​

To serve with pasta, you can toss the cooked pasta directly with the pesto. Or, if you want to thin out the pesto sauce a little, add a spoonful or two of the hot pasta water to the pesto, then toss with the cooked pasta and serve right away.

Mushroom Cream

Ingredients

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to desired taste
Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter, swirl to coat the skillet.

Add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper; sauté 20 minutes until mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid.

Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat.

Add hot cooked pasta another sprinkling of salt, half & half and Grana Padano to the skillet, tossing to combine.

Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until desired moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley.

Gorgonzola Cheese

Ingredients

1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
6 ounces dry miniature ravioli
3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 teaspoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Directions

Place a heavy skillet over medium heat. Pour cream into skillet, bring to a simmer, and cook cream until it reduces by half, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Pour dried ravioli into boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, 16 to 18 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water.

Gently fold cooked ravioli into cream sauce and turn heat to low. Mix in Gorgonzola cheese, stirring gently until melted. If sauce is too thick, thin it with a little pasta cooking water.

Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with diced apple, walnuts, and 1 teaspoon parsley.

Primavera 

Ingredients

2 cups penne pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, cut into strips
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, about 11 minutes. Drain.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat-high heat; saute asparagus and carrots until tender yet firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic; saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir Parmesan cheese, cream, and black pepper into vegetable mixture until cheese melts and sauce is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat.

And Our Favorite

Butter Sage

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Black pepper to taste
12 sage leaves, sliced

To make the sauce:

Heat the butter and sage together in a small skillet. Pour the melted butter over the cooked gnocchi, add the cheese and mix well. Garnish with black pepper and serve immediately.

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Sometimes you don’t want to spend several hours in the kitchen fixing dinner but you want something really good. This dinner fits that description – quick to make and great taste all together.

Swordfish In Pesto Cream

2 servings

Ingredients

1 swordfish fillet, about 12 oz
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup rice cooked according to package directions

Directions

Season both sides of the swordfish with salt and black pepper. Cut the fish into two equal pieces.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, pesto and lemon zest. Add mixture to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Transfer the cooked rice to a serving platter. Top the rice with the fish and spoon the sauce over the top.

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Green Beans With Tomato

2 servings

Ingredients

½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed
¼ cup water
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until the shallot softens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add the green beans, tomatoes, oregano and water. Cook until the beans are crisp-tender, stirring and tossing occasionally, about 10 minutes.


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Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

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Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

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Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

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Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

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Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

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Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

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Summer Cooler Dolan Zolan’'s painting 2011

Summer Cooler – Dolan Zolan’s painting 2011

Getting together with friends doesn’t need to be something that’s planned for days. Keep it simple and enjoy the evening. You also want to cook easy, but delicious food with a minimum of fuss. I try to make up menus that do most of the cooking on the grill and much of the preparation in advance. That way I can spend time with my guests. Make dessert easy by serving fresh fruit. It is much more refreshing than a heavy dessert and add a little frozen yogurt, if desired.

Menu One

Serve this dinner with a tray of vegetables and a creamy dip.

Pesto Flounder Packets

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This recipe is easy to adapt to seasonal ingredients. When basil is not available, use a spinach or red pepper pesto. Baking in parchment during cold weather is quite successful, but use the grilling method when the weather cooperates.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets or any white fish fillets available in your area
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lime slices

Directions

Prepare  an outdoor grill.

Cut aluminum foil into 4 pieces large enough to enclose the fillets. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each piece of foil. Place fish on top of the oil.

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Lightly spread 1 tablespoon pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and lime slices.

Seal foil packets and place on the grill. Grill 8-10 minutes or until fish are cooked.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

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This casserole can be prepared in advance and cooked when the guests arrive or cooked in advance and reheated. Tastes just fine reheated.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the bell pepper, squash and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 cups corn kernels, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Stir together for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the remaining 1 cup corn kernels in a blender and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Combine with the vegetables in the skillet.

Add the parsley and the cheese, and stir together. Pour into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Menu Two

Add some crusty bread to this dinner and you are all set.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

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4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 8 oz rigatoni or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves

Directions

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

In the same pan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the onions from browning.

Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

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Add the lemon zest, juice and crushed red pepper. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta cooking water. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Turn into a serving bowl and place tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top and scatter the basil over all. Serve immediately

Garden Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Sliced radishes and black olives to taste
  • 4 cups torn garden lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Vinaigrette, recipe below

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and add a little more dressing, if necessary.

Italian Vinaigrette

Yields: ¾ cup

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk the first seven ingredients together. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Menu Three

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Add a Tomato Salad to complete this menu.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Grill the sausage over indirect heat and the potato packets over direct heat. Saves lots of cleaning up in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs Italian Sausage
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil. Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve with the potato mixture

Potatoes, Bell Peppers and Onions

5-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges, boiled until barely tender
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the mixture on a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Fold foil around the potato mixture and crimp the edges to seal.

Grill directly over high heat, rotating the packet several times, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes


june

This is the season of abundance. Now cherries, apricots, plums, summer squash, watermelon and tomatoes, etc.,  start showing up at the markets – and they’re not being shipped here, unripe, from Mexico, Guatemala or Chile. This is truly the hallmark of the beginning of the season of abundance. There is so much to choose from, you have to stop yourself from buying more than you can use in a week. I try to incorporate as many of these vegetables and herbs into my recipes to get full benefit from them. I also freeze some produce for the winter, when these items are not available.

Macaroni Salad

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I don’t like a lot of mayonnaise in my salads, but feel free to add additional mayonnaise if ½ cup is not enough for you. Use seasonal vegetables in the salad whenever possible.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup spicy cherry peppers, diced or pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch black pepper

Directions

Make the dressing by combining the ingredients and set aside while you cook the macaroni. Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water, drain and add the dressing while the pasta is warm.

Add the chopped vegetables and mix well. Add salt to taste, but I find this type of salad doesn’t need salt. The mayonnaise, pasta cooked in salted water and seasonings add enough.

Chill the salad for several hours before serving.

Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken

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The marinade used for this chicken recipe makes the chicken really delicious.

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 pound chicken, wing tips removed

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh herbs ( I used oregano, basil, sage, parsley, rosemary, chives and thyme because that is what is growing in my garden.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

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Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl or measuring cup.

Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the chicken backbone; remove the backbone (Save it for broth).

Turn the chicken, breast side up, and press down firmly on the breast bone to crack and flatten it. Tuck the wings under the back.

Transfer the flattened chicken to a medium glass baking dish. Loosen the skin a little and rub the marinade under and over all the skin of the chicken.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.

Heat an outdoor grill to high with all the burners on, then, turn one or two burners to the lowest setting to create a low heat area.

Grill the chicken, skin side down over the hot side of the grill, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and move to the low heat side of the grill.

Cover and grill over low heat until cooked through, about 20 – 30 minutes. Internal temperature should be around 170 F.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Internal temperature should rise to 180 F. Carve the chicken and serve.

Big Batch Basil Pesto

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Pesto freezes well. I don’t add Parmesan cheese to basil pesto until I am ready to serve it.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash basil well and drain in a colander.

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In the bowl of a processor, place the garlic, salt, pepper and walnuts. Process until ground. Add the basil leaves and return the top with the spout removed.

While the machine is running slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a refrigerator container or into freezer containers.

Drizzle a layer of olive oil on the top of the pesto to keep it from turning dark.

Green Beans and Potatoes with Pesto

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes,  cut into thick slices
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Basil Pesto, recipe above
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Add the green beans to the potatoes in the steamer and continue to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Drain

Transfer the vegetables to a large serving bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pesto, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Stir to coat evenly.

Leftover Grilled Chicken Salad Plate

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • Leftover grilled chicken, sliced (see recipe above)

Any combination seasonal vegetables, such as :

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cooked corn on the cob, shucked
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Sliced bell pepper
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Cooked green beans
  • Slices of ripe cantaloupe melon
  • 3 cups fresh lettuce
  • Homemade Ranch Dressing, (see recipe here)

Directions

Line a serving platter with the lettuce. Arrange the chicken slices and vegetables over the lettuce in an attractive pattern. Drizzle with the Ranch dressing before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Topping

  • 2 1/2 cups cappuccino chips or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • Chocolate sprinkles for garnish, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a  9″ x 13″ pan cake pan with cooking spray and lightly dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Squeeze the shredded zucchini dry in a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, butter and oil until well blended and light.

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Add the egg and continue beating. Beat in vanilla, buttermilk and applesauce.

Stir in the flour-cocoa mixture. Fold in the grated zucchini and mini chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the  prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

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To make the topping:

Heat the chips and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Pour into a  bowl and chill.

When ready to frost the cake, whisk the topping and spread on top of the cake. Add the chocolates sprinkles, if using.

Store the cake in the refrigerator.

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maydinnerschicken

In the US, we waste roughly 40 percent of all the food we produce. Food production is a resource-intensive process, requiring water, energy, land, soil, human labor and an elaborate web of production, processing and distribution. When we throw away food, all these resources are squandered.

Fortunately, the food waste dilemma is solvable. While the problem must be addressed at every sector of the food system, as individual food consumers, there are plenty of ways we can all help reduce waste – especially since there’s so much room for improvement. If you are interested in embracing a more sustainable lifestyle, eliminating food waste is an important and easy way to start. Reducing your food waste is actually very simple; all you need to do is buy what you need and eat what you buy.

If you buy more food than you can eat, you’ll eventually have to throw some away. Avoid waste by shopping smarter. Make a plan of what to cook for the next week based on what is available seasonally. Write a shopping list based on that plan.

Make a conscious effort to keep track of the food you have – and then remember to eat it.

Learn to store foods properly to keep them fresh as long as possible. Use this chart to learn this information: http://www.savethefood.com/food-storage

The dinners this week will highlight my frugal nature. If you recall last week, I made several toppings for grilled steak and those leftover toppings can become the star in a new dish.

The leftover topping recipes can be found here.

Pizza with Peppers and Onions

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 cup leftover Tomatoes, Red Onion and Balsamic Sauce (see link above)
  • 2 cups leftover Peppers and Onion Topping (see link above)
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven.

Spread the pizza dough to the edges in a greased pizza pan.

Top the dough with the mozzarella slices.

Spread the tomato sauce over the cheese. Top with the peppers and onions and then with the oregano. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese.

Place the pizza on the bottom oven rack and bake 15-20 minutes.

Chicken Cutlets with Mediterranean Salad

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2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 thin chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Salad

  • 1/2 cup leftover olive topping (see link above)
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce, sliced
  • Half a cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the chicken

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

Set up the dredging stations: one rimmed plate for the beaten egg, one plate for the flour and one plate for the bread crumbs.

Using a fork, coat the chicken first in the flour (shaking off any excess), then in the egg, then in the crumbs, pressing the chicken into the crumbs to thoroughly coat.

Saute each breast in the oil for about 2 minutes on each side. The cutlets are cooked when chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard.

Remove and drain the chicken on a paper-towel-lined dinner plate.

For the salad:

In a large salad bowl, combine the Romaine with the other salad ingredients.

Whisk together the olive oil, oregano, lemon juice and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss and serve alongside the chicken cutlet.

Grilled Sausage

maydinnerssausage3

Extra sausage may also be used for pizza or as an addition to pasta. See recipe below.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian pork sausage
  • 1 cup leftover cooked peppers and onions (see link above)

Directions

maydinnerssausage

maydinnerssausage1

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal.

When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes.

On a charcoal grill, spread the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, turn off all but one burner. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

Rotini Pasta with Creamy Pesto and Zucchini

maydinnerspasta2

We planted basil last week and within a few days I had enough leaves to make pesto for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
  • 2 grilled Italian sausage links, diced, if using
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

maydinnerspasta

Boil a pot of water and add salt and rotini. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil and add the diced zucchini and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes and add the diced sausage. Cook another 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the pesto and half & half. Stir well. Add the grated Parmesan cheese and cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.


april-2

The chart shows what is in season where I live in the south on the Gulf Coast area of the US. We are about two months ahead of the northern states in when crops mature. For example, strawberries are in season here from February until the beginning of May, while in the north, the peak season is June.

This week I am cooking what is in season and sharing the recipes with you for stuffed artichokes, spring peas, golden beets, leftover spring vegetables from the holiday week and strawberry pie. Rhubarb is available mid-April here. The veggie dishes are a little different – time to make a change in flavoring these traditional spring vegetables. We enjoyed the changes.

april1

Pasta with Spring Vegetables

I grow so much basil during the summer that I have pesto sauce in the freezer all winter long. I had small amounts of vegetables left from the meals I served during the holiday. As a frugal cook, I do not throw anything away. These leftover vegetables can add much flavor to a simple pasta dish without a lot of preparation. I served this pasta with grilled shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought  basil pesto
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup cooked leftover spring vegetables (carrots, zucchini, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli)
  • 1 /2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

In a medium skillet, combine the pesto with enough cream to thin out the sauce. Add the leftover vegetables and warm over low heat.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until combined. Cover the skillet and heat on low until the mixture is hot. Add cheese and black pepper. Toss and serve.

peasalad

Spring Pea Salad

This salad goes well with BBQ meat or roasted salmon.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an orange, peeled and fruit segments diced
  • 1/4 of a fennel bulb, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound green peas, blanched (if fresh) or thawed (if frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a medium serving bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the red onion, peas, fennel and oranges and toss gently. Let marinate for an hour and serve at room temperature.

artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 2 large artichokes, cleaned
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Italian sausage link, casing removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1/4 cup marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place cleaned artichokes, cut sides down, in a bowl with the water. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the artichokes and place the squeezed lemon half in the bowl.

Thinly slice the other half of the lemon and set aside.

While the artichokes are soaking, prepare the stuffing:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the sausage meat with a wooden spoon until crumbly.

Add the minced garlic and marinara sauce and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the bread crumbs and red pepper flakes. Stir for 1 minute while the bread crumbs absorb the sauce.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Take the artichokes out of the water bath and drain.

Spread the leaves of the artichokes open and fill each with the stuffing mixture.

Place the artichokes in a deep pot with water 1/4 of the way up the side of the pot. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the artichokes.

Place the lemon slices on top of the artichokes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook on low for 45 minutes or until tender. (The size of the artichoke will vary the cooking time).

Remove from the heat and serve hot or at room temperature.

goldenbeets

Golden Beets in Walnut Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 golden beets, trimmed of greens
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash beets well. While still wet, wrap them individually in foil and place the packages on a cookie sheet or roasting pan. Bake the beets, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife pierces each with little resistance. (They may cook at different rates; remove each one when it is done.)

Place oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. When it is warm, add the garlic and cook until it begins to soften. Add walnuts and continue to cook until they begin to color, about another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the beets have cooled, peel off the skins. Thinly slice the beets and arrange them in a serving dish. Pour the walnut sauce over the sliced beets and garnish with parsley.

strawberry rhubarb

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Until rhubarb is in season where you live, you can make the pie with all strawberries.

My family’s favorite pie.

  • Two 9 inch refrigerated pie crusts or you favorite pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Granulated sugar for the topping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In large bowl combine:

  • 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups of rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other thickener
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

Fit one pastry sheet into a 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cut the top crust into 10 even strips on a floured board. Place the strips on top of the fruit and weave them to form a lattice top.

Brush the top crust with 1 tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.

Let the pie cool on the baking sheet (to catch drips).



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