Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: potatoes

Strawberry fields in bloom in February near where I live.

Strawberry fields in bloom in February near where I live.

Making healthy breakfasts can be good for you and they can taste really good. Pancakes are always special on the weekend and you can keep them healthy by using a variety of grains and flours. The same with muffins and replace some of the oil with healthy ingredients like applesauce or fruit juice and add plenty of fruit. Eggs are always a good choice but skimp on the fat that is used to cook them and add vegetables, so then they a great choice. Don’t forget fruit. Use whatever is in season. Strawberries are in season here where I live, so they were my choice for the muffin recipe.

Oat & Wheat Pancakes

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Makes about 8 four-inch pancakes

Ingredients

2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Combine the oats and buttermilk. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

Combine the egg, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir into the oat mixture.

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Pour the oat mixture into the flour mixture and stir well.

Heat a grill or large skillet. Lightly grease and drop ¼ cupfuls of batter on the grill. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another minute.

Serve with maple syrup.

Eggs and Potato Hash

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The potatoes can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated until it is time to cook the hash.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup each chopped onion and green pepper
4 eggs
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. When hot, add the olive oil, and then add the potatoes in a single layer.

Lower the heat to medium and cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are crusty and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the onion, pepper and cook until the onions brown slightly, about 2 minutes.

Off the heat, make 4 small evenly spaced wells in the hash. Break each egg into a small custard cup and then pour the egg into one of the wells. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Sprinkle the oregano and the cheese over the hash.

Transfer the skillet to the oven (or place in individual baking dishes) and bake until the eggs are cooked to your taste, about 5 minutes for firm whites and soft yolks. Serve immediately.

Fruit Muffins

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12 Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cup diced strawberries (or other fruit that is in season)
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds or other nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 12 muffin tin cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir to mix evenly. Stir in the chopped fruit and the nuts.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, oil and orange juice. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until moistened but still lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each cup almost to the top. Bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffin, about 25 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.

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When the children come for a visit, they are not interested in experimental dishes. So, I don’t make recipes that I am testing, when they are here. Tried and true – old favorites –  is what they look for. I have shared some of their favorites in the past and here are a few more. Hope you like them, also.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

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Serve this dish with a green vegetable or salad.

Ingredients

Chicken

4 chicken breast halves, bone-in and skin removed
1 slice sandwich bread
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Potatoes

1 pound medium baking potatoes, cut into ¼ inch rounds
One lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a roasting pan or baking dish, combine the sliced potatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Set aside.

Place the slice of bread in the food processor and process until bread into crumbs.

In small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder and tarragon.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brush the mayonnaise mixture on top of the chicken breasts and spread evenly to coat.

Sprinkle each breast with 1/4 of the bread crumbs, pressing them to adhere to the chicken.

Place the chicken on top of the potatoes in the baking pan. Place the pan in oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

Oven Fried Fish with Tartar Sauce

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I have found that heating the baking pan in the oven before placing the fish on it, will make the fish extra crispy.

Serve this dish with broccoli or spinach and macaroni and cheese.

For every 2 servings, you will need:

Ingredients

1 lb white fish fillets
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 drops hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for the baking pan
Tartar Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Spread the olive oil in a baking pan and place the pan in the oven when you turn it on.

Dry the fillets with paper towels. Combine the lemon juice, buttermilk, hot pepper sauce and garlic in a shallow dish.

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Combine the white pepper, salt and onion powder with panko crumbs and place in a second shallow dish.

Let fillets sit in the buttermilk mixture for a few minutes. Then coat the fillets on both sides with seasoned crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto the fish.

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Place the coated fish on a plate and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to cook, place the fillets on the hot baking sheet and bake 12 minutes on the middle oven rack. Using a wide spatula, turn the fillets over after 6 minutes. Serve with tartar sauce, if you like it.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced capers
Few drops of hot sauce
½ teaspoon agave syrup

Directions

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Refrigerate until serving time.

Italian Sausage, Tomato and Ricotta Pasta

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage
1 clove garlic, minced
Half a medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh (or canned) seeded, diced, plum tomatoes or roasted red peppers
4 large basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper

Directions

Brown the entire sausage on the grill or in a skillet. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When cool enough to touch, slice the sausages into ¼ inch slices.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes to soften the onion. Add the wine and cook over medium high for a few minutes.

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Lower the heat and add the sausage, tomatoes, basil, the red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 6 to 10 minutes.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water, stirring frequently until al dente, about 11 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain well.

Return the pasta to the pot, add the sausage/tomato sauce, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 1 minute so the sauce and pasta combine.

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Add some of the reserved pasta water to moisten.

Combine the ricotta with the parsley, ¼ cup of the Pecorino cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl. Drop tablespoons of ricotta on top of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino cheese.

Italian Sourdough Bread

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Some Italian dinners need bread to finish off the meal. This bread is one of the family’s favorite.

Ingredients

3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 cup sourdough starter
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes. Then, knead again for 5 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 60-90 minutes.

Place the dough on a floured board and divide in half (about one pound each).

Shape each piece into an 18-inch long loaf and place the loaves, at least 4 inches apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a lightly greased baguette pan.

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Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they’re puffy and twice the size. Cut slits across top.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray the loaves with water and bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.

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img_0015No reservations needed for this dinner! Sometimes it is just nice to have a special dinner with your partner in your own home. I try to have this special kind of evening every once in a while. Come up with a menu that is elegant but easy to make and the evening will be memorable. The salad and main dish recipes below are easy and come together quickly. The dessert takes a bit longer but eclairs and cream puffs are not difficult to make. You can certainly make anything you like for dessert, as long as it is special to you. Keep romance alive.

Blue Cheese and Dried Cranberry Tossed Salad

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Ingredients

1 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 of a cucumber, sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Dressing

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

For the dressing: Whisk vinegar and honey in a small bowl until blended. Whisking continuously, slowly add oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer the romaine lettuce with the cucumber, onion, almonds, cranberries and bleu cheese on two individual salad plates. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.

Filet Mignon with Leek Sauce

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Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Filet Mignon steaks, about 7 oz each and 2 inches thick
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 large leek, finely chopped white and light green sections of the leek
1/4 cup red wine (such as Cabernet)
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the grill or broiler. Lightly oil the grill rack or broiler pan. Rub the steaks with the salt, then press the pepper into both sides of the steaks.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the leeks for 6 minutes, or until very soft. Add the wine, capers and tarragon.

Simmer for 3 minutes, or until well blended and heated through. Keep warm.

Grill or broil the steaks about 5-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 135°F for medium-rare. Place the steaks on individual serving plates.

Top with the leek sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl.

Mash the potatoes, adding the buttermilk until moist. Add the chives, cover and keep warm.

Chocolate Filled Eclairs

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Makes 12 medium-sized eclairs

Pastry

3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use an eclair pan.

Put the butter in a saucepan with the salt and water; bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the butter is melted.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour; continue to cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture pulls away from sides of the pan and forms a ball, about 30 seconds.

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Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the eggs to the slightly cooled flour mixture one at a time, beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition — the batter will come apart after each egg is added but will reunite as you stir.

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Mound dough about 1 inch high and 1 to 2 inches in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between each one. If using an eclair pan simply fill the indentations.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and pierce the bottom of each puff once with a skewer, to keep them from getting soggy.

Return to the oven; prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon and let the puffs crisp up for about 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.

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Chocolate Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

Place cream, vanilla extract, sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and chill the bowl and the beaters for at least 30 minutes.

When chilled, beat until stiff peaks form.

Glaze

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until the chips are melted and the mixture is smooth; then add the vanilla.

To assemble the éclairs:

Cut the eclairs in half lengthwise. Pipe or spoon the filling into the pastries, then dip the tops of each one into the glaze.

For best results, serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within several hours.

Note: Puffs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days; freeze unfilled eclairs for longer storage. If the eclairs soften in storage, they can be crisped up in the oven before filling and serving. To re-crisp; bake uncovered in a 300°F for about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.


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The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article on how we waste food in America. They noted that the average four-person family spends about $2,000 a year on food that ultimately ends up in the garbage. Throwing away leftovers or unused produce that goes bad in the refrigerator is very wasteful. Being frugal and using what you have is smart and will certainly save you lots of money.

Keeping to my theme from last week of planning meals so food is not wasted, I wanted to share with you how I came about making this dinner for us. I don’t always recycle leftovers into new dishes as I have written about in earlier posts, but I do sometimes think about what will go well with the leftovers that I have on hand or how I can use produce that is still in my refrigerator.

A few weeks ago my market had a special on white/red/purple baby potatoes – buy one 3 lb. bag and get one free. I always try to take advantage of these deals, if I like the produce or product.

I had some of the baby potatoes left after making the Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/01/11/what-is-in-season-in-january/) and the Easy Skillet Potato recipe: (https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/) that I wrote about in earlier posts.

Last week, I made Carrots Agrodolce and we had about half of the recipe leftover. (See link: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2017/02/01/what-is-in-season-in-february/).

The next step was to plan what would go well with the potatoes and the carrot dish.

I shop at a Publix market and every week they email me their circular. I use it to plan my shopping list and meals for the week. I saw a great buy this week on organic chicken – buy one package and get another free. Don’t see that too often. So chicken was on the menu and I decided it should be buttermilk oven fried chicken – one of my favorites.

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Potatoes keep awhile but not forever. I separated the baby purple potatoes from the others because I thought they would make an attractive salad to go with the chicken.

Purple Potato Salad

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Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds small (baby) purple potatoes
3 scallions, sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the potatoes until fork tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the scallions, celery and remaining ingredients and mix well.

Drain the potatoes. Rinse in cold water and cut into thin slices.

Place the warm potatoes in the bowl with the dressing and toss well. Chill until serving time.

Oven Fried Buttermilk Chicken

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Ingredients

5-6 pieces skinless chicken, bone-in or boneless
1 cup buttermilk
2 dashes hot sauce
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten or ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Paprika for sprinkling on the breaded chicken

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a zip lock bag. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and add to the bag. Marinate for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Turn the bag occasionally to evenly distribute the buttermilk.

In a shallow bowl, blend the flour with the seasonings. Place the eggs in a second shallow bowl and the Panko crumbs in a third shallow bowl.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and drain.

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Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mix to coat all sides, shaking off any excess flour. Next, dip each piece in the eggs. Then in the bowl of Panko crumbs, gently press the crumbs into the chicken to coat evenly.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place each chicken piece on a greased rack set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the breaded chicken pieces with paprika.

Bake boneless chicken for 30 minutes and bone-in chicken for 45 minutes or until the chicken is crispy and a meat thermometer registers 165°.

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This past week my husband celebrated his birthday. It is tradition in our family that the person celebrating their birthday gets to request their favorite foods for dinner. My husband asked for ham, one of his favorites, that I rarely make because I am not a fan. But it was his birthday. Friends who were celebrating with us, were happy with his choice. We were so busy celebrating that I forgot to take photos of the dishes when they came out of the oven. You will just have to use your imagination. The birthday menu is below and includes his favorite cake.

First Course – Celery Bisque

You can view the recipe in a previous post – see the link.

Glazed Ham

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Place an 8 lb. bone in, spiral cut ham in a roasting pan.

Score shallow cuts in a diamond pattern the fat on the top of the ham. Place whole cloves in the ham where the diamond cuts intersect.

Bake the ham for one hour.

Mix 1/4 cup of orange marmalade with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in a small mixing bowl.

Remove the ham from the oven. Attach pineapple slices to the outside of the ham with toothpicks. Brush the glaze on the ham and pineapple.

Return the ham to the oven and cook for another hour or until the internal temperature of the ham registers 140 degree F. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.

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Scalloped Potatoes

Place the potato casserole in the oven with the ham, after the ham has baked for 30 minutes.

Ingredients

4 (about 2 lbs) baking potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups half & half or cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
8 oz grated Gruyère cheese

Directions

Use the butter to grease a 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Place a half of the sliced potatoes into the dish. Top with all the sliced onion. Sprinkle the potatoes and onions with half the salt and pepper.

Top with half the cheese. Repeat with a second layer of potatoes, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Pour in the cream. Sprinkle with some paprika for color. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake covered at 350°F. for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake the casserole for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender

Orange Broccoli Sauté with Almonds

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
4 cups broccoli florets
2 teaspoons orange zest and 1 tablespoon orange juice from 1 orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Directions

Heat a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and toast lightly. Remove to a plate.

Add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.

Remove from the skillet, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

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Italian Rum Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat the bottoms of two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray and cut parchment paper into circles to fit the bottom of the baking pans. Spray again. Set aside.

Ingredients

For the layer cake:

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature and soft
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk
1 cup finely ground hazelnuts (almonds or pecans can be used if you cannot find hazelnuts)
1/4 cup light rum

For the cake filling:

1 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread or other chocolate cake filling)
8 oz. Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

For the topping:

2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup rum
Shaved chocolate

Directions

For the layer cake:

In an electric mixer beat together the sugar, butter and vanilla for 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture alternating with the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are incorporated; end with flour.

Stir nuts in on low-speed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Do not over-bake or the cake will be dry. Cool 10 minutes and remove layers to a cooling rack and carefully peel off the paper. Cool thoroughly.

Drizzle each of the layers with the rum and let sit for a while to absorb the rum.

For the filling:

Beat together the Nutella and the Mascarpone cheese until very smooth.

For the topping:

Whip the cream until very stiff. Add powdered sugar and blend. Add rum on low-speed until incorporated.

To assemble:

Cover one cake layer with filling and place on a cake plate. Place the unfrosted layer on top. Completely cover the cake with the whipped cream mixture.

Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Just before serving, decorate the cake with chocolate shavings.


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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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january-blog-background-004Think there isn’t much? Not so – there is plenty.

Root Vegetables, Citrus Fruit, Leeks and Onions, Greens, such as kale, Potatoes and Beets are all available in January and make great tasting meals.

Purchasing seasonal foods is a healthy and cost-effective way to approach food shopping. Grocery stores tend to stock up on these items in bulk because they are plentiful, making them less expensive for you—especially when they go on sale or offer buy one; get one free.

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Celery Bisque

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of celery, diced including leaves
1 large onion, diced
1 bunch scallions (green onions) or use a leek, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup half & half (cream and milk)
Garnish with chopped chives and sour cream

Directions

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 30 minutes.

Add the broth, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

Return the pot to the heat. Stir in the cream and heat on low. Garnish individual servings with chopped fresh chives and sour cream, if desired.

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Lemon Basil Roasted Chicken Breasts

Use any herb you like. When cold nights come in, I bring my herb pots indoors, so I always have fresh herbs on hand.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 whole fresh basil stalk, leaves removed and sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
2 bone-in, medium chicken breast halves, skinned
Salt and ground black pepper
6 very small potatoes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
¼ of a fennel bulb, sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a shallow baking pan with olive oil.

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with the lemon zest and juice.

Scatter the potatoes, fennel, carrots and garlic around the chicken.

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Bake, uncovered, spooning the pan juices over the chicken once or twice, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the chicken with the basil and return the pan to the oven.

Bake 10-15 minutes more or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken registers 170°F and the juices are clear.

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Beets, Red Onion & Orange Salad

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
4 small, cooked beets, sliced
1 navel orange
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cup washed, dried, whole Bibb lettuce leaves

Directions

Soak onion slices in cold water for 10 minutes; drain.

With a sharp knife, peel the orange, removing white pith. Slice the orange between the membranes over a mixing bowl to catch the oranges and any juice.

Pour any juice in the bowl into a measuring cup. Add more orange juice to equal ¼ cup.

Whisk together the orange juice, oil, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in the measuring cup.

Place lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Arrange beets, onions and orange slices on top. Drizzle with some of the dressing and serve.



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