Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: fennel


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


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


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.


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


Makes 2 cups


  • 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


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.


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.




It’s harvest time and the last of summer’s fresh fruit and vegetables are coming to market. Salad ingredients, beets, cucumbers and peppers are all still available. And there should still be plenty of zucchini, green beans, spinach and corn to play a supporting role on your dinner plate.

The first autumn/winter vegetables are putting in an appearance now in the shape of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, pumpkins and mushrooms,

Apples and pears are plentiful, too. It’s also time to enjoy the last of the berries, plums and tomatoes. Comfort food is back.

Spinach Bacon Quiche



  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Half a sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups leftover cooked spinach or frozen and defrosted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided


Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the bacon until crisp in a medium skillet. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Crumble when cool.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and saute the chopped onion in the remaining bacon fat. Add the spinach, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.

In a measuring cup, combine the eggs and half & half.

Take the pie shell out of the refrigerator and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese evenly on the bottom of the pie crust. Then sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Spread the spinach onion mixture over the bacon.


Slowly pour the egg mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake the quiche for about 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and puffy and the quiche does not “wobble” in the center when gently moved

Let the quiche rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Fall Beet Salad


2 servings


  • Olive oil for coating the beets
  • 3 golden beets
  • 1 Valencia orange, peel removed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, coarsely chopped


  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Make the dressing: Whisk the orange zest, raspberry vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper together in a small  mixing bowl. Set aside.

For the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the beets on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool. Peel and cut into thin rounds.

Arrange the beets, orange slices and sliced fennel on a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped shallots. Drizzle with half of the dressing of the dressing and reserve the remaining dressing to serve with the salad,

Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

Chicken with Corn Salsa


2 servings

Corn Salsa (see recipe link here)

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (see recipe link here)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Combine to make a paste
  • Rub the paste over both sides of 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

For grilling on a gas grill:

Prepare a gas grill for indirect heat: Turn all burners to high and close the lid. When the temperature inside the grill reaches 400°F, lift lid and turn off one of the burners.

The area over the turned-off burner is the indirect heat area.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Place chicken skin side down over the indirect-heat area; close the lid and cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, close the lid and cook another 10 minutes.

Move chicken over direct heat and cook, turning once, until skin is well browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Watch carefully; dripping fat or any added oils catch fire easily (a small spray bottle filled with water is handy for taming flames).

Place the cooked chicken on individual plates and place corn salsa on the side.

Zucchini Vegetable Kebabs


The kebabs go well with any grilled meat or fish.

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small measuring cup.

For the Kebabs

  • 2 skewers
  • Vegetables cut into one inch pieces:
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup red bell peppers
  • 1 cup red onion


Combine the marinade and vegetables in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Remove vegetables from the marinade and thread on skewers, alternating the vegetables. Place the skewers on the grill and cook 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until tender.

Mac & Cheese


This makes a wonderful side dish for grilled meat or fish.


  • 1 lb dried short pasta (mezze penne, elbows)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup butter, diced
  • ½ cup instant flour (Wondra)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz 2% milk Velveeta processed cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 oz mild cheddar, shredded
  • ½ cup dried plain breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot mix the cold milk with the instant flour; add the butter and place the pan on medium heat.

Stirring often, bring the sauce to boiling, reduce heat and cook until thickened, whisking often. Add the salt, mustard and cayenne. Add the velveeta cheese and heat until melted.

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

Mix the breadcrumbs and shredded cheddar together and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

(The casserole can be made ahead to this stage and refrigerated until baking time. Add 15 minutes to the baking time if the casserole is refrigerated.)

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until heated through.



Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper



Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers


For 2 servings


  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings


  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below


Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.



Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing


This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup


  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock


In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.




This coming weekend is Memorial Day and the official start of BBQ season. That means lots of ribs, burgers, steaks, kebabs and corn on the cob. If you are going to invite friends over, it will take some planning. What if you are not in the mood for cooking for lots of folks this weekend? Well don’t. You can still have that BBQ shindig, but for just 2 or 3. This is what we will be having at our Memorial Day BBQ.

Grilled Ham Steak with Pear Topping


For Two

I am not a huge fan of ham steak, but my husband is, so over the years I have worked on making ham steaks taste good. I learned that to make the meat tender, it is important to marinate the steaks overnight. To avoid a dry end result, cook them quickly on the grill and make a flavorful topping. Here is my recipe and it works for us.

Ham Marinade


  • Juice of one orange – (save the orange rind for the braised carrot recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 fully cooked boneless ham steak (1- 3/4 pounds)

Pear Topping

IMG_0002 (2)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup of pecans


In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the marinade ingredients. Add ham; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat an outdoor grill. Brush the grates with oil

On a sheet of heavy-duty foil large enough to hold the diced pears, place the diced pears and pecans in the center of the foil. Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the brown sugar and ginger.

Close the foil into a package and place on the grill  Cook for 10 minutes before placing the ham on the grill.

Drain the ham from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Rotate the pear packet on the grill.

Grill the ham steak over medium-hot heat for 3 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.

Remove the pear packet and spoon the pear sauce over the ham.

Cheddar Cornbread



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and pepper; make a well in center of flour mixture.

Whisk together the  buttermilk, honey and eggs. Add to the flour mixture and gently incorporate the dry ingredients. Mix in the cheese.

Place the butter in an 8-inch baking pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove the pan from oven and tilt to coat bottom and sides.

Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cornbread cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Braised Carrots and Fennel


Serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ lb carrots (1 fresh bunch; about 6 or 7) – cut into matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb – ends trimmed, bulb cut in half, each half cored and cut lengthwise in 1/8″ slices
  • 2 strips of orange zest – 1″ x 4″ long
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
  • 5 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill



Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the butter, olive oil and honey. Stir well and add the carrots, fennel, orange zest and fennel seeds.

Toss until the slices are well coated with the oil. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the fennel starts to soften, tossing occasionally.

Add the orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss quickly and reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high and fast-simmer until the juices have all evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove orange zest and stir in the dill.

Lemon Coconut Cupcakes


20 cupcakes



  • 18.5 oz pkg. Lemon Supreme cake mix
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and very soft
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cupcake liners

Coconut Topping

This frosting is very stable and does not melt or weep at room temperature like many standard whipped cream frostings or change in any way under refrigeration.

  • One 8 oz pkg low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 cups cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • Sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Coat muffin cups with cooking spray and place a cupcake liner in each.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake ingredients. Then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.


To make the frosting

Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and coconut extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.

Spread each cupcake generously with the frosting and top each with sweetened coconut. Press the coconut lightly, so it sticks to the frosting. Chill until serving time.


Winter, spring, summer and fall each offer their own unique fruits and vegetables for distinct seasonal flavor. The recipes below can be adapted by whatever ingredients are in season without changing the recipe. In the summer you can make the quiche and fish packets with summer squash, corn and/or peppers. In the fall, use kale, butternut squash and/or Brussels sprouts. In the winter, use broccoli, cauliflower and/or celery.

Easy Quiche



1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make this easy, healthy 9″ no-roll pie crust.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons oil: (canola, vegetable, olive, peanut, your choice)
  • 1/4 cup cold water


Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.

Whisk together the oil and water in a measuring cup and then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened.

Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup or glass helps smooth the bottom.

Crimp the edge or flatten with the tines of a fork.

Follow directions below for completing the quiche.

Quiche Filling:

  • 2 1/2 cups of sliced seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus or spinach for spring, zucchini and corn for summer, etc.
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated cheese (Swiss, Parmesan, Asiago, Cheddar or a combination)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or half & half


For the crust:

After shaping the pie crust in the pan, prebake the crust for 10 minutes at 425°F.

When you take the pie shell out of the oven, turn the heat down to 375°F.

For an asparagus filling:

While the pie crust bakes, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal.

Set aside 12 asparagus tips.

Beat together the eggs, salt, flour and buttermilk or half & half.

Pour ¼ cup of the egg mixture onto the bottom of the prebaked crust to seal it.

Over that, arrange the asparagus pieces and chives.

Sprinkle the cheese over the asparagus. Pour the remainder of the egg mixture over the vegetables.

Arrange the asparagus tips, in spoke fashion, around the outside edge of the quiche.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the custard is firm and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool about 10 minutes before cutting.

Fish Fillets Baked with Spring Vegetables


Use any vegetables and herbs that are in season with the fish.

Serves 4


  • 1/4 of a fennel bulb, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, each half cut lengthwise into matchstick-size strips
  • 4 fish fillets, 4 ounces each and 1 inch thick, patted dry
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 thin slices of lemon
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cut eight 15-inch-long sheets of cooking parchment or aluminum foil.


Divide the fennel, carrot and leek equally on each of four of the parchment sheets. Place the fish on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.

Top each fish fillet with 1 tablespoon of chives and a slice of lemon. Top with 1 teaspoon of olive oil on each piece of fish.

Place one of the remaining four sheets of parchment on top of each fish fillet.IMG_0004

Fold all the edges toward the center and fold several times to seal securely. Transfer the packets to a large rimmed baking sheet.

(The packets can be made up to 6 hours in advance. Refrigerate until baking time.)


Bake for 12-15 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, carefully open a packet away from you (to prevent steam burns). If the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, carefully open the remaining packets and serve.

If the fish isn’t cooked enough, reclose the open packet and bake for 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve the fish and vegetables in the packets.


Eating seasonally means buying produce that can be grown locally, in their natural weather and climate conditions. Less energy and less transit time means a cheaper price tag. Eating seasonally also means that every few month or two, we’re trying something new, and that’s a good thing for our taste buds and our health.

Looking for seasonal food ideas or some new spring recipes? Now’s the time for fresh vegetable soups; crunchy green salads using fennel, peas, parsley, asparagus and new potatoes. Rhubarb and berries are in season for some delicious desserts.


Here is a handy interactive chart to see what produce is in season in your area.

Breakfast or Lunch Crostata


This is a great brunch recipe, also.


  • 1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • I tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2/3 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Roma (plum) tomato, diced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Heat the olive oil in 7-8 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers; saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, cream cheese and chives.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the chopped spinach for the topping and stir the remaining spinach, salt and pepper into the eggs.

Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and allow to cook, over medium heat, just until the eggs are set. Remove the skillet from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes.


Unroll the pie crust and place it in the center of the prepared baking sheet. Using a spatula, slide the omelet onto the center of the crust. Sprinkle the cheeses over the filling.

Fold the edge of the crust over the filling forming pleats as you go around the filling, press down slightly.

Bake about 25-30 minutes or until the crust is light golden brown. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with reserved spinach and the diced tomatoes.

Blueberry Cinnamon Banana Bread



  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana, about 2 medium
  • 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries


  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour.

Whisk buttermilk, eggs, mashed bananas, sugar and oil in a large bowl until well blended.

Combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl.

Stir flour mixture into the buttermilk mixture, mixing just until combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake about 1 hour, or until browned and crackly on the top and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Braised Spring Vegetables


These vegetables look beautiful served on this Tuscan platter given to me by my friend, Nancy. This is a terrific way to cook vegetables. They taste fantastic after simmering in olive oil.

Serves 4-6.


  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound (4-5 oz) carrots, each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1/4 pound (4-5 oz) medium potatoes, cut into thick slices
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed & cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 scallions, trimmed, each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and each cut into 1 inch pieces on the diagonal
  • 1 lemon, cut into eight wedges, de-seeded
  • 1 large fresh thyme sprig


Pour the olive oil into a large, deep skillet (with a cover) and heat over medium-low heat. Layer the vegetables in the order of how long they cook.

On the bottom place the potatoes in one layer, followed by the fennel and then the carrots.


Add salt to the pan; reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables after 10 minutes.

Add the asparagus, scallions, black pepper, half of the lemon wedges and the thyme to the pan. Cook just until the vegetables are tender, about 5 – 10 minutes more; avoid overcooking.


Remove the pan from the heat and remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Serve with the remaining lemon wedges.

Note: save the oil and any leftover vegetables to add to pasta for another meal. See recipe below.

Spring Pasta Salad


This pasta salad is delicious for lunch.


  • 12 oz orecchiette or small shell pasta
  • Leftover spring braised vegetables, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Leftover olive oil from the spring braised vegetables
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, chopped


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well.

Whisk together the leftover oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add pasta, leftover vegetables, celery, tomatoes and basil and toss to combine.

Serve at room temperature or chilled; refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Italian Style Asparagus Soup


Servings: 4-6


  • 2 ¼ lbs asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock or low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Truffle oil or olive oil


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

Cut the tips off the asparagus spears and set them aside. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces and add them to the pot, along with the stock, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low.

Simmer for about 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Turn off the heat.

Purée the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth and return the soup to a simmer. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for a few minutes until tender-crisp.

Stir in the lemon juice, basil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil before serving.

Lemon tree we planted for Earth Day 2015.

Lemon tree we planted for Earth Day 2015.

Maple tree we planted for Earth Day 2016

Maple tree we planted for Earth Day 2016

The Earth Day movement, that was started in the 1970′s by John McConnell, has since seen billions take part in planting trees, cleaning up local neighborhoods and pushing government officials to enact more progressive environmental laws. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was instrumental in raising awareness about protecting the environment. On April 22, 1970, rallies were held in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles, as well as, on numerous college campuses across the country.


The mission of Earth Day was formally established by the Earth Society Foundation in 1976. Its mission was:

“Conduct educational programs and seminars and promote research and investigation throughout the world for the purpose of providing data to all individuals and institutions who are joining in the movement to promote and implement the Earth care ethic: namely, that the stewardship and care of earth requires action to produce and use materials and services that help nurture, conserve and recycle, without destructive pollution, the organisms and nutrients of Earth’s web of life. Coordinate or assist the work of like-minded organizations for the purposes of minimizing unnecessary duplication of energies and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of the earth care movement.”

Triggered by Earth Day awareness, the United States government has enacted many environmental programs, such as the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Improvement Act, Endangered Species Act, Toxic Substance Control and the Surface Mine and Reclamation Act.

Botanic gardens are natural resources for Earth Day events and their focus varies from being educational to just enjoying nature. Master gardening and children’s programs are a wonderful way to get families involved in gardening. There are bird watching and identification programs at gardens, since the birds are naturally attracted to the large variety of plants and flowers. Zoos also offer educational programs for patrons as a way to connect with nature through the animal world.

Earth Day is the perfect time to reflect on our food footprint (the environmental impact related to the production of food). The less processing your food sees the better. Eat locally and fill your market basket with in season produce. Eat local, sustainable fish. Eat less meat but, when you do, eat locally raised, grass-fed meat. Don’t waste food. Look for products that have minimal packaging or packaging and are made from recycled materials or with materials that can be recycled after use.

Eco-Friendly Menu


Grilled Redfish with Spinach Pesto

2 servings


  • 8 oz redfish fillet, cut in half or any fish fillets available in your area
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Spinach Pesto, recipe below


Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, lighting fresh coals if you are using a charcoal grill. If you are using a gas grill, preheat the grill by turning all burners on to high for about 10 to 15 minutes, then reduce one burner to a medium-high temperature. You may also cook the fish on a greased indoor grill.

Brush the redfish fillets with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

Cut a sheet of heavy duty foil large enough to hold the fish and poke a few holes in it. Spray the foil with cooking spray and place the fish on top of the foil. Place the foil on a tray or plate to carry it out to the grill.

Slide the redfish fillets on the foil onto the grill and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. Top the fish, while on the grill, with Spinach Pesto after 4 minutes of cooking time and continue to grill until the fish is cooked to your liking. My redfish fillets only took 6 minutes to cook, so watch the cooking time carefully.


Spinach Pesto

This sauce is also delicious over grilled chicken.


  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1’2 teaspoon salt and
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Combine the spinach leaves, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add the salt and pepper. Pulse.

Pour into a serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste.


Green Beans with Toasted Pecans

Pecans are locally grown in my area and fresh thin green beans are now in season where I live.


  • 6 ounces blanched green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Heat a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pecans and toast them. Set aside on a plate.

Heat the oil in the same pan and add the red onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is tender.

Add the green beans and salt and pepper to taste. Saute the beans until hot. Add the pecans and serve.


Fennel and Potato Casserole


  • 2 lbs new or red potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
  • 1 cup firmly packed fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible and put them in a large bowl of cold water to keep them from browning.

Cut the fennel in half lengthwise. Slice the fennel crosswise as thinly as possible.

In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, parsley and garlic.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Without draining the potatoes, use your hands to lift out about one-third of the slices and arrange them in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. (The water clinging to them will generate steam as they bake.)

Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle the potatoes evenly with 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Top the potatoes with half of the sliced fennel, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the fennel with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup of the breadcrumb mixture and 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Repeat this layering process, ending with a top layer of potatoes. Season the top layer with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and some more pepper.

Top with the remaining breadcrumb mixture and the final 2 tablespoons oil.


Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Uncover and continue baking until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork and the top is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Earth Day - No Year


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