Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: sweet potatoes

fallflavorsheadWhat flavors do you associate with fall? For me the ones that immediately come to mind are apple cider, cinnamon, caramel, ginger, cranberry, pumpkin and nut flavors. Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate these flavors into your cooking.

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Apple Cider Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Put the potatoes, apple cider and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring once, until the potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes).

Mash the potatoes with the cider until it is smooth. Add the butter and the pepper and heat just until the butter melts. Garnish with parsley.

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Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 1/3 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the crumbs for a topping.

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one.

If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling:

Beat together with an electric mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice.

Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch.

Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving.

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Apple Bars

Makes 20 bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted or cinnamon chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan; set aside.

In a very large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in the apples and nuts.

Add the egg mixture to the well in the flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be thick).

Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 hour to serve slightly warm, or cool completely.

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Pear Crisp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups thinly sliced pears
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Topping

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the sliced fruit with the granulated sugar and place in the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the nuts.

Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.

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Cranberry Pecan Bread

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).

Coat an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, oats, applesauce and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and thoroughly combine them.

Mix in the cranberries and pecans. It should have a consistency a little thicker than pancake batter.

Pour the dough into the loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the loaf’s center comes out dry or an instant read thermometer registers 190 degrees F at the center of the loaf.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool before slicing.

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november

A new month as turned the corner and you will start to find less of the warm weather foods and more of the items that grow well in cooler weather at your market. The produce that seemed most abundant to me at the market this week were carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, leeks and broccoli. Here are a few ideas on how to serve them.

Sweet Potatoes

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Purchase sweet potatoes that are a uniform in size so that they cook evenly.
Scrub them under water and dry them with a paper towel.
Spray or rub them with oil.
Use a metal fork to poke a few holes in each potato. (This keeps them from exploding when they cook. Don’t do this too far ahead of baking or the fork holes will oxidize and turn dark.)
Put them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 50-60 minutes, until soft.

Toppings:

Cheese: shredded cheddar/jack, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, ricotta.
Fresh herbs and seasonings: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, chives or dill.
Meats: chili, taco meat, fajita chicken or beef, pulled pork, bacon, chopped ham, salami, mini meatballs.
Vegetables: chopped scallions or red onions; steamed broccoli, green beans, snow peas or asparagus; grilled corn; chili beans; chopped fresh tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes; sauteed spinach, mushrooms or onions; roasted red peppers; jalapenos; thawed frozen peas; chopped avocado or guacamole; coleslaw
Sauces & dressings: salsa; barbecue sauce; gravy; nacho sauce; ranch salad dressing;  peanut sauce, marinara sauce; pesto.
Sweets: brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
Toasted Nuts: sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts.

Tuna, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 small head Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 pears – cored and diced
  • 6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 12 ounces tuna, packed in water, drained
  • ½ cup peeled, grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

For the dressing: blend the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, blue cheese, tuna, carrots and onions. Pour dressing over the salad and toss, Sprinkle with pecans and serve the salad with a slice of the carrot bread (recipe below).

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Creamy Shrimp and Vegetable Pasta

I prefer to saute the vegetables separately, so that they do not overcook before adding them to the sauce.

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz short pasta, like rotini or penne
  • 12 large shrimp (16-21 size)
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts, sliced thin
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of butter, add the leeks and garlic and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the leeks and garlic to a bowl and set aside.

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Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the diced zucchini and cook until tender, about 3-4

minutes. Remove the zucchini from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the leeks.

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Add another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes.

Remove the tomatoes from the skillet and add them to the bowl with the leeks and zucchini.

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Add the remaining teaspoon of butter to the skillet, add the shrimp and saute them just until they turn pink, turning them over once, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and Italian seasoning.

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Bring to a simmer. Add the cooked vegetables and heat gently.

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When the water boils, cook the pasta al dente. Drain and add it to the skillet with the shrimp mixture.

Add the grated cheese and stir gently. Serve immediately

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Carrot and Spice Quick Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup butter softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar, beating well. Beat in the milk, egg, vanilla and orange extracts.

Stir in the carrots and walnuts.

Add the reserved dry ingredients. Mix well.

Spoon the batter into 2 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 375 degrees F for 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.


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Are you concerned about how much food we waste? I know I am and a good way to stop the waste is to come up with ways to use leftovers that are not boring. Another way to not be wasteful, is to keep track of your food purchases that you keep in the refrigerator and the pantry. The bell peppers that looked so beautiful at the market won’t look that way when you find them in the back of the refrigerator vegetable bin two weeks later.

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Recently, I roasted a pan of winter root vegetables and served them with slices of leftover turkey meatloaf. You can see the recipe for the Apple, Sage and Turkey Meatloaf on the post link:

Healthy Weeknight Meat Entrees

The meatloaf and the roasted vegetables went very well together. Of course, there were plenty of roasted vegetables leftover and I decided to make a Roasted Vegetable Galette with the leftover vegetables for another meal later in the week.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 4 medium golden beets peeled and quartered
  • 6 medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 2 bunches fresh carrots, tops removed and cut into thirds
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, core removed and cut into eighths
  • 6 large cauliflower florets cut from one head
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Several thyme stalks and sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together the oil and honey on a large baking sheet with sides. Add the vegetables and garlic and mix until all the vegetables are coated in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and distribute the herbs evenly over the vegetables.

Bake for an hour or until the vegetables are tender and browned. Stir the vegetables after about 30 minutes to prevent sticking.

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Roasted Vegetable Galette

Tip: Make 2 Galettes – one for dinner and one to freeze. The extra Galette will come in handy on a night you do not feel like cooking. All it needs is a salad. I made a cucumber salad to go with our dinner and it was just right.

One Galette serves 4

Ingredients

  • Two prepared 9 inch pastry rounds
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 6 cups diced roasted root vegetables, divided

To assemble the Galettes:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place parchment paper on two large baking sheets with sides.

Place one pastry round on each baking sheet.

Place 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese in the center of each pastry round and top each with 3 cups of the diced roasted vegetables, leaving a 1 ½ inch pastry border.

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Brush the uncovered pastry with water.

Fold the border up and over the filling to form a rim, pleating as you go. See photo above.

Bake the Galettes until the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm.

Wrap the second Galette in heavy duty foil, place in a freezer ziplock bag and freeze.

When you are ready to use the second Galette, place the foil wrapped Galette on a baking sheet in a 400 degree F oven and heat for about 45 minutes. Open the foil and expose the top of the Galette during the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Dilled Cucumber Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 English cucumbers
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup Greek low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, finely chopped or 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

Directions

Halve cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick pieces.

Toss the cucumbers with 2 teaspoons salt and place them in a colander set over a bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.

In a medium serving bowl, combine the yogurt, dill, vinegar, agave and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Remove the cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with paper towels. Add to the bowl with the yogurt dressing; toss to combine. Chill until serving time.


Kate Hackett Ceramics

Kate Hackett Ceramics

There are many motivations for sticking with a healthy diet. Eating more of the good stuff (and less of the junk) can help you prevent cancer, extend your lifespan, protect your heart and manage your weight. But one thing we don’t always remember is that your diet affects not just your weight, but your body from the inside to the outside. Your body transforms the foods you eat into the cells that make up your hair, nails, skin and bones, along with your brain, heart and joints. You literally are what you eat.

Add lean meats and beans to your diet to help keep your body in hormone balance and prevent hair loss. B-vitamins from leafy greens, peas, tomatoes and carrots also support cell growth for healthy hair.

Essential fatty acids (named “essential” because your body cannot make them) help you grow brain cells and stay sharp, so feed your brain with regular doses of fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil.

The antioxidants for brain health also help the eyes, so include foods with lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants, found in spinach, collard greens and kale, protect the retina from macular degeneration.

Most adults need between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, almonds, spinach and soybeans are all good sources of dietary calcium.

Boost your vitamin C intake with fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries, oranges, pineapple, cauliflower and green peppers to keep your joints healthy.

Fiber is also essential. Whole grains, especially oats and bran, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables can help you get your daily 20-35 grams of fiber.

Maintain disease-free and healthy looking skin with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). This antioxidant is more powerful than vitamins C and E and protects your skin cells from damage and many of the elements it’s exposed to each day. ALA can be found in spinach, broccoli and beef. Vitamins C, E, K, and A, as well as B-vitamins, are also important for nourished skin. Enjoying a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can help you reach the recommended amounts.

Winter comfort foods can be good for you. Sweet potatoes are filled with vitamin A and anything filled with green vegetables will give you a vitamin C boost. Switching up some ingredients for healthier ones in your favorite casserole dishes can improve a recipe’s nutrition. Also, be careful about the amount of cheese, bread and cream in a recipe.

The next time you look forward to making a comforting dish, try out one of the healthy recipes below instead of your usual go-to casserole. Another bonus is that all of the recipes below are between 300 and 350 calories per serving. That leaves some room for a healthy dessert.

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Meatballs and Bean Casserole

6 servings

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil for the baking pan

Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced celery (1 stalk)
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 2 ½ cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (marinara sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Two 15 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion tops

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

Mix all the ingredients, except the oil,  together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery; cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add green beans. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato sauce and oregano. Stir in beans and meatballs.

Cover the pan and transfer the mixture to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes. Uncover. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until heated through. Sprinkle with green onion tops just before serving.

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Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • ¼ cup fat-free milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces uncooked ground turkey breast or a mix of white and dark meat or lean ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 ¼ cups coarsely diced zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (2 medium)
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn
  • ¼ cup water
  • One 8 ounce can low salt tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, cook sweet potatoes and garlic, covered, in enough lightly salted boiling water to cover for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

Mash the sweet potatoes and gradually add milk and salt, mashing the potato mixture to make a light and fluffy mixture. Cover and keep warm.

In a large skillet cook turkey or beef and onion over medium heat until meat is brown, stirring to break up the meat as it cooks. Drain, if needed.

Stir in zucchini, carrots, corn and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sage and pepper to the meat mixture; heat through.

Spoon mixture into a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish, spreading evenly. Spoon mashed potato mixture on top of the pie mixture.

Bake, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until heated through.

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White Bean and Kale Casserole

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shredded kale (stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • Two 19 ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • One 14 1/2 ounce can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small saucepan cook kale in a small amount of boiling water for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain well in a colander.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook for 4 minutes or until tender.

In a large bowl combine cooked kale, onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the oregano, garlic and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish.

In a small bowl combine the remaining 2 tablespoons bread crumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over the bean mixture.

Sprinkle with diced prosciutto.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until heated through and the prosciutto is crispy.

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Vegetable Pasta Bake

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 ½ cups cauliflower florets (1/2 medium head)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 12 ounces spinach, stems removed, leaves torn
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large Dutch Oven, cook pasta al dente according to package directions; add cauliflower during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook just until carrots are tender. Add spinach; cook just until wilted. Stir in pasta mixture and peas.

For the cheese sauce:

In a small saucepan melt butter; stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; add cheddar cheese. Cook and stir until melted.

Stir sauce into pasta and vegetables.

Transfer to a 2 1/2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 5 minutes more.

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Pizza Casserole

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 2 yellow, red and/or green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium zucchini (8 ounces), halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 fully cooked chicken sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lb package pizza dough
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers; cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, sliced sausage, half of the Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper to the mixture in the skillet. Bring to boiling; boil gently, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates.

Place pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut pizza dough into 16 strips.

Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon mixture into the prepared dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

Arrange pizza dough strips  on top of the casserole in a lattice pattern. Sprinkle with remaining Italian seasoning. Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


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Just because you’re trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert. You just have to choose carefully. High fat ingredients contain saturated fat and they can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body. Desserts and sweets don’t have the nutritional value that other foods do, but if you stick with healthier recipes and less-frequent, reasonable portions, desserts can fit into your healthy eating plan. Make fruit a part of your dessert menu as much as possible, whether it is the dessert itself or is part of a recipe. Although fruit is high in carbohydrates, it’s also filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you crave something more, try adding fruit to sugar-free gelatin or mixing up a quick fruit salad. You will be amazed at how delicious these healthy dessert recipes taste.

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Almond Brown Rice Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped slivered almonds

Directions

Place dates in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup boiling water over them. Let soak 15 minutes, then transfer dates and water to a blender and puree until smooth to make a date syrup.

Bring rice and almond milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the almond milk, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir date syrup, raisins, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and almonds into the cooked rice and serve warm or cold.

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Pumpkin-Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates (6 ounces whole dates)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine peanuts and oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 25 times to create a coarse meal. Add cocoa and salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

Put pumpkin purée and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the peanut butter and pumpkin are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla and dates and mix until combined, about 1 minute. On low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until completely combined, forming a dense dough.

Scoop up tablespoons of dough and roll them into balls. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press down on the balls with the back of a fork first in one direction and then in the other to form a checkerboard design on each cookie.

Bake until the cookies are firm and dried, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 1 week.

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Carrot-Almond Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups grated carrots, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups almond flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, make the crumb topping by combining 1 cup carrots, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups almond flour and the 1 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a second large bowl, whisk together sour cream, vanilla, eggs, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and remaining oil. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and whisk again until incorporated; fold in the remaining 2 cups carrots.

Transfer to the prepared pan and scatter crumb topping over the top. Bake until the cake springs back in the middle when pressed, and is deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.

Set aside to let cool until warm, then remove from the pan and transfer to a plate, discarding the parchment paper. Cut into squares or wedges and serve.

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Sweet Potato Apple Pie

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 (9 to 9 1/2-inch) unbaked pie shell
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 1 hour or until very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Line pastry shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the lower rack of the oven about 15 minutes or until just starting to set. Remove the weights and continue to bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and transfer flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Discard skins. Process until potatoes are puréed. Transfer 1 1/4 cups purée to a large bowl. Add milk, sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt and whisk until combined and smooth.

Layer apple slices in concentric circles in the bottom of the cooled crust. Pour sweet potato filling into the crust over the apples. Bake about 50 minutes or until just set in the center of the pie.

Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Serve or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

dessert5

Pear Crumble

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 medium pears, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until combined. Add the butter and work it in with your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture begins to form clumps.

In a large bowl toss the pears with the water, lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Transfer pear mixture to a 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the pears.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the pears are tender. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Tip
To make individual servings, prepare as above, except divide the pear mixture among six 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins. Sprinkle with oat mixture and bake about 35 minutes or until the pears are tender. Serve as above.


sidescover

Make Vegetables Taste Good

1. Use seasoning

  • Salt and pepper vegetables as they cook. Add herbs.

2. Use olive oil

  • Fat carries flavor and provides fat soluble vitamins which tend to be lacking in vegetables.

3. Don’t boil your vegetables

  • One of the easiest ways to make vegetables taste bad is to boil them. Boiling is also problematic because your vitamins end up down the drain.

4. Roast, saute or stir fry

  • Unlike boiling,  dry heat methods of cooking help add caramelized flavors to your vegetables and remove excess moisture.

5. Use good quality vegetables

  • Buy what is in season and, if possible, locally grown.

6. Use tasty condiments and garnishes

  • Add condiments to make vegetables more palatable, such as chili powder or hot sauce, honey or agave, soy sauce, lemon or orange juice, Parmesan cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, bacon, pesto, tahini sauce, yogurt sauce, spices, fruit, mustard sauce, toasted nuts or salsa.

Try some of the recipes below that are easily managed on a weeknight and offer lots of flavor.

sides1

Carrot and Sweet Potato Bake

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the carrots and sweet potatoes to the baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes.

Stir together cranberries, walnuts, orange juice, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt.

Drizzle over the partially cooked carrots and sweet potatoes. Gently stir until evenly coated.

Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices halfway through cooking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Roasted Cauliflower Florets

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2-1/2 pounds), cut into florets about 1-1/2″ wide*
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Place cauliflower florets into a Ziploc gallon bag, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake to coat well and pour out onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove foil and continue roasting another 10 minutes until florets are golden on one side. Carefully turn the florets over, sprinkle with cheese and roast an additional 10 minutes or until golden all over.

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

sides3

Broccoli with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring 1″ of water to a boil over high heat in a 4-quart saucepan. Place a small rack or steaming basket in the bottom of the pot.

Place broccoli on the rack in the saucepan; cover and steam over medium-high heat until bright green, about 3 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer broccoli to a serving bowl. Add pine nuts, vinegar, oil, tomatoes, salt and pepper and toss to combine.

sides5

Braised Cabbage 

Serves 6 -8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups shredded savoy cabbage (about 1 normal-sized head)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add onion, cabbage, garlic and brown sugar to the pan.

Sauté until the cabbage is limp, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and thyme. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover the pan.

Cook, stirring a few times, for approximately 20 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

sides4

Sautéed Kale with Cannellini Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 large bunch kale (about 1 pound), stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed pepper; stir until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute.

Add kale by large handfuls; stir just until beginning to wilt before adding more, tossing with tongs to coat with the oil.

Add broth, cover and simmer until the greens are tender. Add beans; simmer uncovered until the beans are heated through and liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Stir in sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


sidedishescover

Once you determine your holiday main course, the next decision focuses on side dishes to accompany your meal. As we sift through family favorites and long forgotten recipe books, we mentally calculate how long each dish will take to prepare and do we have enough oven, stove and refrigerator space to cook and store everything. Delicious side dishes do not need to be complicated or expensive. In fact, with a little planning, most side dishes can be made with 5 or 6 common ingredients and prepared in a short amount of time.

Choose recipes that call for in season fruits and vegetables. These generally cost less than out of season produce. Winter favorites include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, rapini, collard greens, spinach, fennel, cabbage, sweet potato, squash, yams, parsnips, kale, spinach, pomegranates, pears, clementine oranges, cranberries and apples. This way your side dishes will taste fresh.

Don’t select side dish recipes that require an oven, if you are also roasting meat at the same time. If oven space is limited, choose recipes that can be prepared on the stove top.

Create dishes that mix red, green, yellow and orange-colored fruits or vegetables to form a medley of vibrant colors. You don’t need lots of ingredients to create delicious side dishes. You need ingredients that combine well together and offer a variety of flavors such as sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Try adding fruit to bitter greens for an interesting taste sensation, or spicy chilies to sweet squash. Often, one or two different spices or herbs are all you need to bring out the flavors in your dish. If you plan to have several side dishes available, try to select dishes that are different from one another in flavor, texture and overall presentation. Create one sweet, one spicy, one sour. Your guests will love the variety.

All these side dishes will be good accompaniments for the main dishes from Monday’s post.

sidedishes1

Chunky Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Heat a pan with a lid or cover on medium; add diced onion and garlic; simmer until onions have turned slightly transparent (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile chop sweet potatoes into approximately 1 x 1 x 1 inch/cm chunks; add to the pan when the onions are ready, as well as the salt and cover the pan.

Allow potatoes to cook covered, for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. Uncover and mix every 5-10 minutes in between. Add rosemary, cumin and cinnamon to the pan 10 minutes after adding potatoes.

sidedishes2

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Broccoli Rabe
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, lightly smashed, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded & cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe and dry on paper towels. Remove the large tough leaves, leaving just the tender leaves and flower buds.  Cut off and discard the lower part of the stems, leaving the broccoli about 8-inches long and slice into 3 or 4-inch lengths.

Add olive oil and garlic cloves to a large heavy frying pan. Over low heat, slowly sauté garlic until golden on all sides. This can take about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, tossing to coat with garlic and oil. Add tomatoes and toss for a minute or so to remove excess water from the tomatoes. Add chicken stock and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add lemon juice, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, salt & pepper.Taste for seasoning; adjust if necessary.

sidedishes3

Italian Rice & Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) Vialone Nano or other short-grained rice, e.g. Arborio
  • 1 pound (450 g) Savoy cabbage
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (40 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (1 liter) beef broth, stock, or water, simmering
  • ¾ cup crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Strip off and discard any blemished outer leaves the cabbage may have. Separate the rest, rinse them and shred them.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pot and sauté the chopped onion and celery. Add the cabbage leaves and continue cooking, stirring them about with a spoon, until they have wilted. Add a cup of hot broth to the pot, cover and simmer over a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice, add the remaining hot broth and crushed tomatoes, add seasoning and simmer until the rice reaches the al dente stage and the broth is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir the cheese into the rice and check the seasoning.

sidedishes4

Leeks & Spinach Saute

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium leeks, white and lightest green parts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a large pinch
  • 4 cups (packed) washed and stemmed fresh spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Trim the ends from the leeks. Slice the leeks across into thin rings (about 1/8-inch thick), discarding any woody stem in the center. Put the sliced leeks in a bowl and cover them with tepid water. Swish them around a bit and let them sit. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse the sand from the bowl, return the leeks to the bowl and cover again with tepid water. Lift, drain and repeat one more time, leaving the leeks in the water with the last wash.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pan with whatever water is clinging to them. Season with the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are limp and all of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very lightly golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and fold or gently stir them in with the leeks until they are wilted, about 1 minute. Add the fresh thyme and the cream and remove the pan from the heat.

Gently stir until the cream is mostly absorbed into the dish and the thyme is well-distributed. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for salt and serve.

sidedishes5

Creamy Fettuccine With Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat, add salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Prior to draining the pasta reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter melts add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and salt and pepper to taste; sauté 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until the liquid evaporates.

Remove the pan the from heat.  Add the hot cooked pasta, half & half and cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.  Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until needed for moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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