The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46–33 in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown in size and popularity since then. Today, the NCAA basketball tournament has become the most popular sporting event, after the Super Bowl.
For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. Today, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.
The NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982. The women’s tournament started with 32 teams, but now the women’s format echoes the men’s, with play in four regions culminating in a Final Four held in a single location. The championship is played the day after the men’s, concluding the college basketball season.
Yesterday was Selection Sunday and the madness begins on Thursday. Here are some recipes to help you cheer.
4 large sandwiches
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Half a green bell pepper, finely chopped
8 very thin sandwich steaks (usually sirloin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices American cheese or your favorite cheese
4 long hoagie rolls, about 8 inches long (I like Martin’s for these sandwiches)
To make the toppings:
Heat a griddle or a large, heavy frying pan, over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and, when it begins to shimmer, add the garlic, onion and green peppers and stir to combine.
Cook, stirring every so often, until they begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove to a bowl and set aside.
To make the steaks:
Place the steaks between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until uniformly thin.
Turn the heat to high until nearly smoking. Season the meat aggressively with salt and pepper.
Place the steaks on the griddle, working in batches if necessary, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until well browned but very rare. Remove to a serving platter and allow to rest.
To make the sandwiches:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the sub rolls in the oven to warm.
Return sliced steaks to the griddle or frying pan, over medium heat, and place the onions and peppers on top of the steaks. Turn heat to low and cover each steak with sliced cheese.
Remove the rolls from the oven and fill each sub with a mixture of 2 steaks, vegetables and cheese. I usually cut these sandwiches in half and arrange on a serving platter.
If serving to guests, keep them warm on a hot plate.
Deviled Eggs and Smoked Salmon
6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz smoked salmon slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.
Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.
Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.
With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.
Place the eggs on a platter and chill.
Arrange the eggs and salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle chives over both and serve.
Let the package of fillo dough sit in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Any remaining dough can be kept in the refrigerator well wrapped in plastic for four weeks or be refrozen, so don’t worry that you are not using the entire package.
Makes about 16 triangles
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 scallions (green onions), minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
48 sheets Fillo Dough, thawed
Tzatziki, recipe below
In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the scallions, parsley, dill, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth.
Keep the fillo dough not being used, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying, while you work on the triangles.
Spread one sheet of the dough on a cutting board and brush with some olive oil. Place a second sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Repeat with a third sheet.
Cut the layered fillo in half lengthwise. Place one tablespoon of filling about 1″ from the corner of each strip. Fold one corner of fillo diagonally across to the opposite edge to form a triangle.
Brush lightly with oil. Continue to fold the triangle onto itself. Brush the outside of the triangle with oil and place the triangles seam side down on parchment covered cookie sheets at least 1” apart.
Repeat until all the filling is used up.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Rolls can be made ahead and reheated just before party time.
Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce.
1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place the chopped cucumber in a fine mesh colander and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Place the colander over a bowl and let the cucumbers drain for one hour.
Turn the cucumbers over on paper towels. Squeeze all the water out.
Combine the cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Quick and Easy Almond Bark
16 ounces slivered almonds
16 ounces high quality baking milk or dark chocolate (such as Valrhona )
Toast the almonds in a 9″x 13″ baking pan at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool.
Line the same baking pan with a piece of parchment and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl with a cover in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Uncover and stir the chocolate with a spatula until smooth.
Stir in the nuts, a little at a time, until they are all incorporated and covered with chocolate.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the mixture to the sides of the pan and press down with a spatula until smooth.
Cover with another piece of parchment and press down to flatten. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened.
Cut into serving pieces and store in a cool place.
Brindisi, a province in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy, is dominated by vineyards, artichoke groves and olive trees. The province is also a major sailing port for the southern part of Italy and seafood plays a big role in its cuisine. In dining tn the area’s restaurants, you will notice an abundance of dishes from the sea. Mussels, white fish, prawns and octopus are just some of the items you can expect to find on the menu.
The region is well-known for orecchiette. A type of pasta whose name comes from its shape which resembles that of a small ear and is usually served with a simple (often spicy) red sauce. Fresh vegetables, tomatoes and peppery olive oil are easily the most common local ingredients. Fava beans, eggplants and bell peppers all find their way into pastas, gratins and stews. Stuffed aubergines, lamb and pea stew and turnip greens are a few popular dishes.
Great produce markets are plentiful and you will find, daily, fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood just waiting to be cooked. Olives are another essential food in the Brindisi area. You see them everywhere. Running wild along the dry countryside roads, the olive trees grow to massive sizes.
Some of the best values in Italian wine come from this sunny, dry region. Most of the wine is red, full-bodied and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Producers have focused on making great red wines from local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Bombino Nero. The two most popular and widely available wines from the province are Salice Salentino and Primitivo.
Half of Italy’s olive oil is produced in the dry heat of the area. The warm climate and fertile soil make it easy to grow almost anything. It is surrounded by water on three sides allowing cool breezes off the Mediterranean to moderate vineyard temperatures.
Located in the province is Torre Canne, a famous health spa. Several streams feed into a small lake that, over the ages, has deposited mud that is now used for therapeutic purposes. Its water springs are touted to be good for kidney and liver illnesses While you enjoy the spa treatment, you can stay in a luxury hotel and visit the stunning local beaches.
Brindisi Fish Soup
- 1 1/2 lbs whole fish, large bones removed
- 3/4 lb squid
- 1/2 lb cuttlefish or octopus
- 1/2 lb mussels
- 8 oz clams
- 1/2 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- Chili pepper, diced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices rustic bread, stale
- Parsley, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
Thoroughly wash all the fish and seafood. Cut the fish into large pieces and the squid and cuttlefish into small pieces.
In a large soup pot, saute the onion and celery in a few tablespoons of oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cuttlefish and squid and, after 10 minutes, the remaining fish and shellfish.
Add the chili pepper, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle a handful of parsley and finely chopped garlic onto each serving.
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely minced, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 small eggplant
- 3/4 cup burrata cheese, cut into small pieces
In a small bowl, combine the oil, basil, shallots and vinegar.
In another small bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the basil mixture. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Trim the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place them on a tray or a plate. Brush both sides of the eggplants with the remaining basil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Place the eggplant on the grill. Cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn.
Using a metal spatula, carefully transfer the eggplant to warmed plates. Divide the cheese among the eggplant halves and spoon the tomato mixture over each. Garnish with extra basil leaves
Cardoons are members of the thistle family, as are artichokes, and bear a strikingly similar taste to them. Cardoons are quite fibrous and the fibers run lengthwise, like those in celery stalks, and must be stripped off. Once they have been cut, they darken quickly (like artichokes) unless put in water with added lemon juice.
- 2 pounds cardoons
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped oil cured black olives
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons capers in salt, well rinsed
- 3 anchovies packed in oil, minced
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Bread crumbs
- Salt to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
Wash and peel the outer layer of the cardoons, then cut them into 5 inch lengths. Cook them in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the olives, parsley, capers and anchovies.
Place the cardoons in an oiled casserole baking dish and top with the olive and parsley mixture. Sprinkle enough grated cheese and bread crumbs over the top to cover.
Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.
- 12 oz (350 gr) orecchiette pasta
- 1 lb (500 gr) plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 hot chili peppers, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the garlic and chili peppers for one minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with two tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until a sauce consistency is reached.
Add the chopped oregano with salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for a few minutes more.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.
Sauces have more than one function in a recipe. A sauce can add moisture to naturally lean foods, such as fish and chicken breasts, or when using cooking techniques that tend to have a drying affect, such as grilling or broiling. A sauce can enhance a dish’s appearance by adding eye appeal. Pooling a bit of sauce beneath grilled fish or steak gives the dish an element of color. Many sauces include a garnish that adds texture to the finished dish.
It is often difficult to find a really good store-bought sauce to accent your food. In the summer when fruits, vegetables and fragrant herbs are in abundance, homemade sauces are so much better drizzled over just about anything. The homemade sauces below are perfect served with grilled beef, chicken, pork or fish, tossed with beans or pasta or drizzled over vegetables and grains. Just let your imagination run with it. These sauces come together quickly and easily and are great to keep on hand. And just a little bit goes a long way.
Fresh Pickle Relish
This relish is easy to make and is good on hot dogs, burgers and grilled sausage.
- 1-2 cucumbers (1 pound), peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
- 1 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Kosher salt
Place the chopped cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit 10 minutes, then squeeze well to remove as much moisture as possible (do not rinse).
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook, stirring, just until they begin to pop, about 1 minute. Add onion and cook 3 minutes. Mix in ginger and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes longer. Mix in cucumber; transfer to a small bowl and season with additional salt, if needed. Let cool. Cover and chill. Relish can be made 1 week ahead.
A cooling, garlicky yogurt sauce that’s great with grilled meats and vegetables.
Makes 3 Cups
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, very finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh mint for garnish
Mix cucumber, garlic, yogurt, dill, lemon juice and oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Cover and let sit at room temperature until flavors meld, at least 1 hour.
Garnish with mint. Tzatziki can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.
Grilled Tomato Salsa
This salsa is especially good on grilled meats and fish.
Makes 2 Cups
- Grilled Tomatoes (see recipe below)
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 4 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped oil-packed anchovies
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped rinsed capers
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chop grilled tomatoes and add garlic, basil, oil, anchovies, capers and lemon zest. Break up the tomatoes to release their juices as you mix the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature until serving time.
- 2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes on the vine (such as Sun Gold, Black Cherry or teardrop; about 24 oz.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix tomatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until tomatoes are charred and blistered, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Summer Herb Sauce
This sauce is delicious drizzled over grilled vegetables.
- 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
- 1 small clove garlic
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons water, or more if necessary
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- Pinch of salt
Puree basil, parsley, marjoram, garlic and oil in a food processor or blender. With the motor running, add water and process until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, stir in capers and season with salt.
Serve this sauce over grilled swordfish. A classic Italian dish.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 each Italian frying pepper and orange and yellow bell peppers
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled or unpeeled according to taste
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and peppers; sauté 2 minutes or until soft. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds until aromatic. Add eggplant and, stirring often, cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce, cover; reduce heat and simmer, stirring twice, about 12 minutes, or until the eggplant is very tender.
Add vinegar and capers to caponata. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to develop flavors. Serve at room temperature.
Simple Fruit Sauce
Use this sauce to pour over fresh cut melon, grilled peaches, plain cake or ice cream.
- 2 cups fresh fruit in season
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4-5 tablespoon sugar or honey, to taste
- Pinch of cinnamon
Puree the fruit in a blender with the lemon juice. Blend in the sugar by the tablespoonful, tasting after each addition, until the desired degree of sweetness is reached. Add cinnamon.
Strain through a fine strainer, pressing with a rubber spatula. Chill sauce until serving time.
What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.
For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.
This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.
Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.
Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:
Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.
It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.
Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.
Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.
Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.
For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.
Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.
Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.
Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.
Good on a vegetable tray.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 large pitted green olives
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
- 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.
Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
- 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Chicken broth
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 2 Granny Smith apples
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish
Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.
Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)
Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.
Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.
Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.
Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce
This recipe is easily doubled.
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely minced
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the broiler.
To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.
To make the shrimp: Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.
Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.
- One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.
Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.
Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..
The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.
Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.
Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.
Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.
Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches
This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.
- 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
- 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
- 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
- 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
- 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 6 small leaves basil
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.
Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.
Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 4 whole grain pita breads
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
- 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce
- 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.
Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.
Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.
Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup
This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic, minced
- 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
- Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
- Grated parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.
Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.
Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..
A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.
Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.
Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)
Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.
Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)
Loosenthe edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.
Italian Tuna Salad
- 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
- 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
- Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)
Prepare the Salad:
In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.
In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette. Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.
- Healthy Options For Kids (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Black Bean Burgers with Parsnip Fries and Avocado Cilantro Cream (balancingactfoodie.wordpress.com)
- Homemade Pita and Smoky Red Pepper Hummus (georgiapeachonmymind.com)
- Bell Pepper Pita Pizza Recipe (mysillylittlegang.com)