Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: celery

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While most peppers start out green, depending on the variety, they will mature into a variety of colors, such as red, orange, yellow and sometimes even purple. Bell peppers are abundant in the summer and these colorful vegetables have a sweet flavor. When choosing bell peppers, make sure to pick those with shiny, blemish-free skin. No wrinkles or soft spots either. Their size and shape will vary greatly so don’t use that as an indicator of age or taste. Packed with vitamins and low in calories, bell peppers can be added to a variety of dishes to bring both color and flavor to your diet. Use them raw or roasted or grilled. Freeze them if you end up with more than you can use. Here are some ideas for using bell peppers:

Add peppers to your favorite kebabs for late summer grilling. This is when it’s a great idea to get one of each color.

Add chopped pepper to your favorite tuna or chicken salad for extra crunch.

Make a colorful pepper slaw. Thinly slice peppers and toss with green onions, cider vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to coat the mixture. Let sit in the refrigerator for several hours to soften the peppers slightly.

Make a bell pepper pizza. Brush a rolled out pizza crust with extra-virgin olive oil. Top with thinly sliced red, orange and yellow peppers and add tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and bake. Add fresh basil leaves just before the pizza finishes cooking.

Bell peppers make excellent appetizer dippers. Cut wide strips and use for hummus, salsa or other dips.

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Grilled Stuffed Italian Peppers

This appetizer recipe is a healthy, fresh alternative to the popular breaded and fried versions.

Yield: 10 peppers

Ingredients

10 Italian (long) frying peppers

Filling

  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese with chives and onion, softened
  • 2 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

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Cut a thin slice off the top of the peppers. Carefully remove the seeds so you not tear the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine. Using a small spoon fill the peppers. Coat the outside of the peppers with olive oil cooking spray.

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Place the peppers on the grill, close the cover and grill the peppers 5 minutes. Turn the peppers over and grill for 5 more minutes.

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Southern Style Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients for every 2 peppers

  • 2  whole bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons diced sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tomato
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cups grated Cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking dish deep enough to stand the peppers upright.

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Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.  Save the tops.  Lightly salt the inside of the peppers.

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with black pepper. Stuff the peppers with the filling, packing it in tightly. Place 1 teaspoon of butter on top.

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Replace the pepper tops and set them in the prepared dish. Add water to the dish, about one inch deep, cover, and bake until the peppers are completely cooked, about 45-50 minutes.

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Sautéed Peppers and Onions (Peperonata)

Peperonata recipes come in many versions; some get stewed, some are cooked with potatoes or with tomatoes. I prefer to lightly saute them, so they retain a slight crunch. This dish is perfect to serve with grilled steak, chicken cutlets, sausage or fish. They are also good in a sandwich, especially an Italian pepper and egg sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 sweet bell peppers or 20 Italian frying peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
  • 2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, the peppers, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until crisp tender.

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Variations:

Add 4 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced with the peppers in the skillet

Add ½ cup sliced basil leaves, instead of oregano

Add 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar with the peppers to the skillet

Add 2 boiled potatoes, sliced, to the onions in the skillet

Steak Pizzaiola with Peppers and Onions

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Beef Loin

The loin is actually two subprime cuts—the strip loin and the tenderloin—and contains the most tender and prized cuts of meat. The strip loin, the larger of the two, is a cylindrical muscle running along the spine. The tenderloin is a smaller, snake-shaped muscle running parallel to and beneath the strip loin. Steaks cut from the boneless strip loin are known as New York Strip Steaks. The tenderloin may be sold in roast-sized chunks for Chateaubriand, or sliced into individual steaks known as filet mignon. A steak cut that includes both the strip and the filet separated by a t-shaped bone between them is called a T-bone steak. When a T-bone steak is cut from farther back on the short loin, where the tenderloin is thicker, it is known as a porterhouse. Loin is not as marbled (fatty) as the rib eye, nor is it among the leanest cuts. All loin cuts are best dry-heat cooked.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless strip loin steak, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Half of the sautéed Pepper and Onion recipe – from above
  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon salt on the steaks and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the steaks and sear them on one side for 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over.

Top each steak with about 1/2 cup of the sautéed peppers and onions. Cover the peppers and onions on each steak with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce. Sprinkle each with some red pepper flakes, black pepper and herbs.

Cover the skillet and cook until warmed, about 5 minutes on medium heat.

 


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It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers ­– all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.

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Italian Cantaloupe Salad

This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 12 Italian green olives
  • 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

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Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad

Good side for grilled meats or fish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
  • 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.

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Spaghetti Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
  • 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
  •  2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • Basil leaves, sliced thin

Directions

In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,

Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.

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Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad

Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below
  • Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below

Directions

Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.

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Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.

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Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.

Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.

Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.

Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.

Summer Peach and Corn Salad

Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salad

  • 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
  • 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.

Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese. 

You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.

 


july

At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.

Stuffed Cucumbers

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These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons relish
  • Sweet paprika for garnish

Directions

Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.

Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.

Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Eggplant Rollatini

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Ingredients

Eggplant

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • Olive oil

Filling

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Rollatini

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.

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Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.

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Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.

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Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.

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Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder

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Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.

Ingredients

  • 12 ears fresh corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups southern field peas
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

Directions

Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.

Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.

Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.

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Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.

Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.

Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.

Tomato Tart

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan.  You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.

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Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.

Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.

Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake

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The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.

Ingredients

Simple Sponge Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour

Gluten-Free Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling

Ingredients

2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers

1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)

6 strawberries, cut into thin slices

1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin

12 whole small strawberries, stems removed

Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light rum

Directions

Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions for making the simple sponge cake:

Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:

Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.

Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the whipped cream topping:

Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.

Directions for assembling the cakes:

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.

Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.


						
						
					
		

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Father’s Day can be a great day for the whole family. Plan a family event, getting everyone in the family together for a fun day. Since the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not celebrate Dad’s special day outdoors with a delicious family BBQ?  Of course, you will want to choose foods your Dad enjoys. The recipes I picked for this menu are easy to do and most of the preparation can be done a day before, so you have plenty of time to spend with Dad.

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Beef & Shrimp Kebabs with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 – Recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound filet mignon (beef tenderloin), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons steak seasoning, divided (I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 wooden or metal skewers 6 inches long

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using.

Place the shrimp in one bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 3/4 teaspoon steak seasoning and toss again.

Place the beef in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add  1 1/4 teaspoons steak seasoning and toss again.

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Thread the beef and shrimp on the skewers, alternating beef and shrimp.

Prepare an outdoor grill for moderate heat. Oil the grill grates. Place skewers on the grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until the steak is cooked medium rare and the shrimp turn pink, turning the skewers over once.

Italian Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

To prepare the salsa verde: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside to let the flavors develop.

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Summer Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ lbs small to medium red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice from the jar
  • 1/4 cup minced pickles
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot of water.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices. Place in a bowl and pour the pickle juice over the warm potatoes and let sit for one hour.

Add the pickles, celery, onion and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add salt if necessary. Add the parsley and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for a few hours.

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Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ears corn, husked and cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the uncooked corn kernals, tomatoes, onion, celery, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the salad to marinate. Serve chilled.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • Refrigerated pie crusts (or your favorite pie crust mix) for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Sugar

In large bowl combine:

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

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

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

Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.

Cover with the top crust and flute the edges. Make several slits in the crust with a knife.

Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with sugar.

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

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


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

IMG_0024

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.

IMG_0018

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.

IMG_0020

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.

IMG_0019


grilledchicken8

You really don’t have to eat boring chicken. Try new ways of preparing chicken and serve it with new and different garnishing ingredients.

Dry chicken isn’t appealing.  To avoid this:

  • Don’t overcook chicken – 155 to 160 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer is perfectly safe.
  • Cooking chicken for most of its grilling time over indirect heat keeps it tender and juicy and it does not burn.

When I grill chicken, I always make extra because it is so delicious and there are so many other dishes you can make with the leftovers.

I also add vegetables to the grill, if I am grilling the main dish. Saves lots of time and clean up.

Ingredients

  • 2-4 bone-in chicken breasts or 2-4 boneless breasts or/and 2-4 bone-in thighs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Turn all burners to high and heat the grill with the lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape the grate clean with a grill brush.

Dip a wad of paper towels in oil; holding the wad with tongs, wipe the cooking grate. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off the other burner(s).

grilledchicken5 grilledchicken6grilledchicken7

Grilling bone-in breasts:

Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of the grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 4 to 6 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill, with the thicker side of the breast facing the hot side of the grill.

Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.

Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.

Grilling bone-in chicken thighs:

Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.

Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.

Grilling boneless breasts:

Place chicken on the cooler side of the grill, smooth-side down, with the thicker side of the breasts facing the direct heat. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and cook until the bottom of the chicken just begins to develop light grill marks about 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and rotate it so that the thinner side faces the hot side of the grill. Cover with the foil and continue to cook until the chicken is opaque and firm to touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 140 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes longer.

Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill and cook, without the foil, until dark grill marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over and cook until dark grill marks appear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let rest, tented with foil, 5 minutes.

With just a change of a sauce, you can create a totally different taste every time. Serve the grilled chicken topped with one of the sauces below.

Spinach Pesto

eathday3

I made this sauce last week and it was on my blog for Earth Day. (see recipe here)

Creamy Herb Vinaigrette

grilledchicken3

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs that are in season
  • 1/2 small shallot, minced

Directions

Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, tarragon and shallots to a small bowl and whisk until smooth and emulsified.

Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce

BBQsauce

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons all natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

In a large saucepan combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Seasonal Fruit Sauce

grilledchicken4

I used raspberries because that is what is in season and I had them in my refrigerator. Come summer, peaches would be very good in this sauce. Don’t be afraid to try this sauce, it was delicious on the chicken.

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries, or any fruit in season (peaches, berries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft. Serve warm over grilled chicken or pork chops.

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

grilledchicken2

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/4 inch shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and saute the zucchini pulp, celery, bell pepper, garlic and onion until the vegetables are soft.

Add bread crumbs; cook and stir.Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, seasoning and salt.

grilledchicken1

Spoon the filling into the zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place the zucchini on the cool side of the grill while the chicken is cooking on the hot side.

Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until the zucchini are tender and the tops are crispy.

grilledchickencartoon


hamcover

So do I. There are many possibilities for using up this holiday classic. I rarely make baked ham – only when I have company and I know they like it. This year, I made Italian Baked Ham for Easter dinner. You can see the recipe here. I had plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches during the week before my visitors went home. My grandson also likes to just snack on ham. I also had plenty of leftover ham to make the following three meals that we will have in the upcoming week.

hamgratin

Ham and Potato Gratin

I served this with a green vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes or 1 lb, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan heat 1 tablespoon butter and saute the onion and garlic until they are golden. Remove to a small bowl.

In the same saucepan melt the remaining butter on medium heat. Add the flour to it and stir constantly with a whisk for about 2-3 mins until the roux is well toasted.

Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Add the salt, black pepper and pepper sauce. Continue mixing until bubbly and thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted.

Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish; top with 1/2 the ham, then 1/2 the onion mixture and half the parsley. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of paprika.

Make another layer with 1/3 of the sliced potatoes, the remaining onion mixture, parsley and ham. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon paprika.

Top with the rest of the potato, cheese sauce and the remaining paprika.

Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

hamsoup

Split Pea Soup

This soup is hearty enough for dinner with some good bread, especially pumpernickel.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups dried split peas
  • 2 quarts good quality vegetable broth or water
  • Leftover ham bone
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, diced

Directions

In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Return the peas to the stock pot and add the broth, ham bone, onions, garlic, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bone; cut off the meat, dice and return the meat to the soup. Add the salt, celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender Remove the bay leaves before serving.

hamreuben

Ham Reuben Panini

Adding a salad makes this a complete meal.

For each sandwich you will need:

  • 2 thick slices sourdough bread
  • 4 oz leftover, thinly sliced baked ham
  • 2 oz sauerkraut, drained
  • 2 slices swiss or provolone cheese
  • Russian Dressing, recipe below
  • Pickles, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the ham with a little water, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Take the ham out of the oven and unwrap it. Spread each slice of bread with Russian dressing. Layer one slice of bread of the slices of ham, sauerkraut and slices of cheese, then top the sandwich with the remaining slice of bread (dressing-side down).

Brush the bread with a little olive oil.  Place the sandwiches in a panini press and cook according to directions

Or cook on a stove top pan

Put the sandwiches in the pans and weight them with a lid or heat proof bowl topped with something heavy. Cook until the first sides are crisp and golden about 7 minutes then turn the sandwiches. Cook until the second sides are also well toasted and the cheese is melted. Lift the sandwich onto a cutting board. Cut each in half diagonally and serve with pickles.

Russian Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix well and refrigerate until needed.



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