Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: celery

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This is a perfect dinner to have on a lazy weekend when you don’t feel like doing much or there is a great game on TV in the afternoon. This dinner is easy to fix in the morning and put it into the refrigerator until it is time to bake. Another advantage is that all the dishes go into the oven and bake together – so no extra pots or last-minute cooking.

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Normally, I make recipes for two servings, but there are some things I like to double up on for extra meals and leftover creations. Chicken and salmon are often two of those ingredients. In this post I am doubling up on the amount to chicken and stuffing, so I can use the extra for other meals and the stuffing can be divided into smaller portions and frozen to serve at another time, You will see later in the week how I use up some of my leftovers.

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Roasted Chicken Breasts

If you like dark meat chicken by all means substitute chicken leg quarters.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4- bone in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Distribute the lemon slices, the onion and garlic in a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken. Dry the chicken pieces well with paper towels.

Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with oil and sprinkle with half of the herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up and brush it all over with oil and the remaining herb mixture.

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Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and roast for another 15 – 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the chicken with the pan juices, cooked lemon and onion. Reserve remaining broth for leftovers.

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Italian Bread & Sausage Stuffing

Reserve one-third of the stuffing for this meal and set aside the remaining stuffing for other meals. I assembled this recipe a few days ahead and set aside some for this meal.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups Italian bread, like ciabatta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, diced
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaved
  • 1 teaspoon. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and sausage. Cook until light brown, about 5 min. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl with the cubed bread.

In the same skillet, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are tender about 8 minutes.

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Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and pepper, cook 1 minute and then add the mixture to the bread. Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

This stuffing can be baked at a range of oven temperatures, depending on what else you are cooking.

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For this dinner, I put the stuffing in the oven with the chicken and let it bake for the same amount of time.

Place the stuffing in a casserole dish or baking pan and bake it covered until heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. For a crunchy top, uncover it for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Roasted Broccoli Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If baking this dish with the chicken, place the broccoli in the oven after the chicken has roasted for 30 minutes and you are going to add the wine.

Wash the broccoli and cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalk, leaving some of the stalk attached. Pull the florets apart. You don’t want the pieces too small.

Place the broccoli florets in a single layer in an oiled baking pan. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.

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Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.


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All summer long, I save the bones from grilled steak and keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Come the fall I have plenty of bones to make a rich homemade beef stock.

The stock can be used for soup or freeze it in smaller containers to use over several months, whenever you need beef broth for a recipe.

Rich Brown Beef Stock

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Ingredients

  • 4-6 pounds beef  bones
  • Beef seasoning ( I use Penzey’s)
  • Half a sweet onion
  • Handful of celery tops
  • 1 whole large carrots, halved
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 large garlic clove, unpeeled and halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the bones in a baking dish and sprinkle them with beef seasoning. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

If using uncooked bones increase the baking time to an hour. The bones should be nicely browned.

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Place the browned bones in a large Dutch Oven. Add the remaining ingredients and cover all with water. Bring to a boil and simmer partially covered for 3-4 hours.

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Strain the broth in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Reserve some of the broth for the soup and discard the bones and vegetables.

Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup

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Ingredients

Olive oil cooking spray

  • 1 ½ lbs beef stew meat, trimmed and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and add the diced beef; cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Add the leek, carrot and garlic. Saute 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add broth, water, thyme, pepper and bay leaf.

Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Add the mushrooms and barley; cook another 45 minutes or until the beef and barley are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the parsley.


 

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Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad

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Serve this salad with grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti

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This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin

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Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


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The holidays will be here soon and these veggies will be just right for entertaining. Pickled vegetables are a great accompaniment to a cheeseboard. 

Just about any vegetable — and some fruits — can be pickled. All you need is vinegar, water, sugar, salt and some dry seasonings and herbs.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Even unusual veggie choices — like Brussels sprouts, green beans, fennel, pearl onions and okra — are surprisingly good pickled.

You can enjoy them as an appetizer, a light snack or as a side to an entrée. But if you’re looking for different ways to use them, here are some suggestions:

  • In Bloody Marys
  • On pizza
  • As a bed for grilled fish
  • For an omelet side
  • On a sandwich
  • In a salad

What is your favorite way to serve pickles and relish?

Pickled Mixed Vegetables

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I prefer to use firm vegetables for pickling.

  • Cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Bell Pepper (all colors), cut into chunks
  • Carrots, cut into diagonal slices
  • Celery, cut into diagonal slices
  • Fennel, cut into small chunks
  • Green Beans, trimmed but left whole
  • Radishes, cut into thick slices

To Make 2 Quarts

Fresh raw vegetables from the list above to fill 2 quart size mason jars (about 6-7 cups). For this batch, I used carrots, cauliflower, fennel, green beans and celery.

  • 4 cups vinegar (White Distilled or Apple Cider)
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thickly

Directions

Prep the vegetables.

Bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil in a small pot.

Divide the garlic and whole spices among the jars and then add the vegetables, packing them in. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.

Using a funnel, carefully pour the hot liquid into the jars, making sure to submerge all the vegetables, pressing down on them with the end of a wooden spoon.

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You may be able to add a few more veggies at this point, just make sure the liquid completely covers the vegetables by at least a half-inch.

Cover and turn the jars over on the counter covered with a kitchen towel for about 30 minutes to seal the lids. Turn the jars upright and let sit on the counter to cool for an hour or two.

Place the jars in the refrigerator. These will taste good after 6-8 hours, but much better after a couple of days. Keeps for several months.

Cucumber Pickle Relish

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Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 6 small cucumbers (about 2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cucumbers and onion and return to a boil.

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Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the relish to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or freeze for future use.

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That mound of apples and that mound of pears looked so beautiful at the market, so who could resist bringing them home. Now what to do with all this delicious fruit before it goes bad?

Here are a few ideas.

Apple Cinnamon Scones

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Makes 12 scones

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups Self-Rising Flour (flour that contains baking powder and salt)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 2 apples, peeled, in 1/2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • Topping: milk and cinnamon sugar

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and apple pie spice.

Work in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender just until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon chips.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and applesauce.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the mixture holds together.

Line two  baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sprinkle flour on the work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and divide it in half. Gently pat and round each half into a 5″ to 5 1/2″ circle about 3/4″ thick.

Stir together the coarse sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the topping.

Using a bench knife, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

Carefully place each wedge on the parchment lined pans, at least a 1 inch  apart.

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Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Rotate the pans after 10 minutes.

Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.

Apple Crunch Bagels

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Ingredients

Bagels

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups bread flour  
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar  
  • 1 teaspoon salt  
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice  
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples, about 2 medium apples

Topping

  • 1 egg 
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

In a medium saucepan, warm cider and butter just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine two cups of bread flour, the brown sugar, the cooled cider mixture, salt, apple pie spice, apples and yeast with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Keeping the mixer on medium, add the remaining bread flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough comes together and is just barely sticky.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and “knead” the dough for about 6 minutes or until the dough is elastic.

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Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Cover 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down and separate into 12 equal sized balls. on a well floured surface.

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Roll and stretch one ball into an 8 inch-long rope and don’t taper ends.

Wrap the rope around your fingers, overlapping the ends by 2 inches, to create a ring. Pinch the ends together.

Once the bagels are shaped, place them on a kitchen towel to rise for another 10 minutes.

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil and heat the oven to 425 degrees F

To prepare the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, spice mix, salt and butter in a small bowl and mix until it is crumbly. Beat the egg with one teaspoon of water.

When the water comes to a boil, drop 4 bagels in at a time and boil for about 30 seconds per side. Remove with a slotted spoon to a kitchen towel.

After boiling, place the bagels on the parchment covered pans and brush with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the bagels.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bagels are golden brown, rotating the pans after 12 minutes.

Pear & Celery Salad

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe pears, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 large leaves romaine lettuce, shredded

Directions

Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk vinegar, honey and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper.

Divide the lettuce leaves among 4 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pork Chops with Pear & Ginger Sauce

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2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium ripe pear, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 shallot, trimmed and sliced

Directions

Season the pork with salt and pepper and coat in the cornstarch. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the pork and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the sliced shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the vinegar and honey; stir to dissolve. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, stirring.

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Add the pears and ginger. Cook, uncovered, stirring the pears occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan; turn to coat with the sauce and heat through. Serve with a side of roasted acorn squash.

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vegan-diet

My blogger friend and artist, Wendie, asked me to consider creating some vegan dishes for my blog. I told her I would consider it, if I could come up with ideas that did not use processed vegan foods. To me a true vegan dish should be made from plants without the addition of meat substitutes or processed dairy substitutes and dressings.

Note: If you are making a vegan dessert then the sugar you use must not have been processed with animal products, as most regular sugar products are. Did you know that? Here is some information on how sugar is processed. Look for brands that say organic, fair trade or vegan on the label.

Of course, the recipes in my menu must be Italian and I did include some olive oil. I consider olive oil to be a healthy oil and part of the vegan diet, since it is a plant-based food.

If there are health issues, then leave it out and use vegetable broth for sautéing, but for most of us olive oil is needed to create a flavorful dish.

Here is my take on a great tasting vegan dinner using all natural, easy to find ingredients. Try it for your next Meatless Monday dinner.

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Pureed Celery Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, light green and white sections, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery (stalks & leaves), diced
  • 2 medium baking potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (for homemade vegetable stock see my recipe here)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the broth and potato and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the parsley leaves and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.

Use a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth (a hand immersion blender or a food processor does not get the soup really smooth).

Stir in the lemon juice and taste to adjust the seasoning, if needed.

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Crusty Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of a round cloche baker or dutch oven with a lid and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the oven has reached 450 degrees F, place the baker pan in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Place the dough on the prepared parchment and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise while the baker is heating.

Remove the hot baker from the oven and transfer the dough with the parchment to the baker. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the top of the dough. Cover and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Slice and serve with olive oil for dipping.

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Eggplant Olive Pasta

Serve a mixed green salad with the pasta.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 ounces dried rigatoni pasta (Check the ingredient list to be sure the pasta is vegan. Good Italian dried pasta should never contain eggs.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.

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Turn the heat down and simmer the sauce, while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked pasta and pasta cooking water in the skillet with the eggplant sauce and heat for about 2 minutes.

Pour into a pasta serving bowl and garnish with basil.

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Vanilla Almond Biscotti

After experimenting with different ingredients to create a vegan biscotti, I decided this recipe had the right combination to form an authentic tasting biscotti.

They are more fragile than traditional biscotti, so handle gently. And, believe me when I say, this is a great tasting biscotti.

Makes about 15 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the almond milk and sliced almonds. Once mixed, slowly add the milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Fold in the 1 cup sliced almonds.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Form the dough into a log with wet hands, about 10 x 4 inches.

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Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the center is firm (about 30 minutes); remove from the oven and place the log on a cutting board to cool for about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the log on the diagonal into 1-inch thick cookies and place them back on the baking sheet.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the biscotti over and bake for 15 minutes more. Move to a wire rack to cool completely. These go very well with coffee for dessert.

Note: If you would like to decorate the biscotti with a drizzle of frosting for a better presentation, then mix together 1 cup of organic powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of almond milk.


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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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