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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Baja California Tacos

Baja California is an 800-mile-long peninsula, known for its varied geography, beautiful beaches and delicious cuisine. Baja California, about 15 miles from downtown San Diego, is south of the California border and is part of the country of Mexico.

A few years ago we visited the area and had some of the best fish tacos I have ever had. While Baja is part of Mexico, Baja cuisine is distinct from mainland Mexican cooking. Since virtually all points on the peninsula are no more than 50 miles from a body of water, seafood plays a starring role in many dishes. Also, its physical separation from mainland Mexico has allowed Baja cuisine to develop independently.

Many ethnic influences helped shape Baja’s culinary point of view. Sixteenth-century Spanish explorers went to colonize Baja because they believed it was an area rich in jewels. Both Asian and European seafarers visited Baja on fishing and trading expeditions. So, eventually, a cuisine of Mexican, Spanish and Asian influences emerged and that eventually led to tacos.

In its simplest form, a taco is a tortilla wrapped around a filling. Most food historians speculate that the fish taco emerged when Asians introduced Baja natives to the practice of deep-frying fish. When this battered fried fish was combined with traditional Mexican toppings, the fish taco was born.

Modern fish tacos emerged in the 1950s in the Baja city of either Ensenada or San Felipe; it’s an ongoing debate, with both cities claiming to be the “home” of the fish taco. From their tiny stands, street vendors in these cities produce simple, inexpensive fare fast. The fish taco is hot, fresh and delicious — the perfect combination for hungry workers and market goers.

While I do not deep fry the fish in my recipe, these tacos are delicious and come close to what I remember eating in my visit there.

Baja California Style Fish Tacos

2-3 servings

Ingredients

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup dark beer
12 ounces firm fillets of mild, white fish, cut crosswise into 1-inch wide strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4-6 small corn tortillas, warmed
Tomato Salsa, recipe below
White Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Combine flour, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk in beer to create a batter.

Coat fish in the batter.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Letting excess batter drip back into the bowl, add the fish to the pan; cook until crispy and golden, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Tomato Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Ingredients

2 medium tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped
1/4 cup minced red onion
1 scallion finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
1 small clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, red onion, scallion, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, oregano and lime juice.

Season with salt and pepper and chill until serving time.

White Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons milk

Directions

Whisk all ingredients together in bowl.  The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.

Assemble The Tacos

Serve the fish in warmed tortillas topped with salsa and drizzled with white sauce.

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Simple Dinner For Two

Cook an easy, elegant, restaurant quality dinner at home. Make the meal special by placing a bouquet of flowers on the table and getting a good bottle of wine. This picture just says – relax!

Salad With Roasted Beets, Blue Cheese and Pistachios

Vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, grated
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

Salad

1 bunch small golden beets, trimmed of leaves and washed well
4 cups romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
¼ of a red onion, sliced very thin
4 ounces blue cheese, cut into cubes
1/3 cup shelled, toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Homemade croutons, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the beets on a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and seal the ends to create a package.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until tender. Cool; peel and slice or cut into ½ inch pieces. Transfer to a small bowl.

Make the vinaigrette:

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined

Toss the beets with 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette. Set aside until ready to prepare the salad.

Place the romaine and onion in a salad bowl and toss with some of the remaining vinaigrette.

Add the beets, pistachios and blue cheese and toss gently. Top with croutons, if using.

Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon

Ingredients

Serves 2

2 filet mignon steaks, (5 to 6 ounces each, about 1 1/2 inches thick)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 teaspoons olive oil

Red Wine Sauce
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
Coarse salt to taste

Directions

For the beef:

Season the beef filets very generously on both sides with the salt and pepper, patting it firmly. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Move the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving the steaks, until a dark brown crust has formed, about 3 minutes.

Using tongs, turn the steaks over and cook until well browned on the second side, about 3 minutes.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast the steaks 5 minutes for rare or 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium.

Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the sauce.

For the red wine sauce:

Place 1 cup red wine in a small saucepan; boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the pan from the heat and add the butter. Stir the sauce until the butter is melted and the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.

Season with salt according to taste, if needed.

What To Cook Next Week

Looking for a few ideas on what to cook for dinner on busy weeknights? Here are a few recipes for you to try. The codfish, pork kabobs and Parmesan chicken come together fast. For the pasta dish, roast the broccoli in the oven while the pasta is cooking. Just a few minutes more are needed to pull it all together with some delicious results. Use seasonal vegetables for the sides.

Lemon Breadcrumb Topped Codfish

Pacific cod is a sustainable fish. Serve with a pasta or rice side dish and a vegetable.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil mayonnaise
Two 6 oz center cut Pacific cod fillets

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Make the lemon-zest breadcrumbs: In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, oil, salt and pepper to taste and the lemon zest.

Mix well. Set aside.

Place the cod fillets in a small baking dish coated with olive oil.

Spread the non skin side of each fillet with some of the mayonnaise and then press on a layer of breadcrumbs.

Put the pan in the oven and roast until the fish is cooked through, 18-20 minutes.

Grilled Pork Kabobs

Serve with potato salad or baked beans.

4 servings

Ingredients

3 (1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick) boneless pork loin chops (1 lb), trimmed of fat
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ of a red onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
Half a medium bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup Peach BBQ sauce

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Sprinkle both sides of each pork chop with salt and pepper; cut each chop into 1 inch pieces.

Alternately thread pork pieces, zucchini, onion and bell pepper evenly onto metal skewers. .

When ready to grill, place the skewers on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals.

Brush with the BBQ sauce. Cook 5 minutes. Turn kabobs; brush with more sauce.

Cook an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the pork is cooked through.

Creamy Broccoli Pasta

Serve with an Italian mixed green salad or a tomato salad.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 lb dry rigatoni pasta
1 large bunch broccoli florets
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 cup grated Parmigian0-Reggiano cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt, pepper and olive oil
6 slices of Prosciutto di Parma

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl mix the broccoli with enough of the olive oil to coat generously, add salt to taste, and a few grinds of pepper.

Turn the broccoli out onto the baking sheet and arrange the pieces so that they are evenly spaced.

Roast until the florets begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir the broccoli pieces and add the slices of prosciutto to the pan,

Continue to roast until the broccoli is tender and the prosciutto is crisp, about 10 more minutes.

Boil a large pot of water to cook the pasta. When it reaches a full boil, add salt and the pasta and cook according to package instructions for al dente.

When the pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and then drain the pasta in a colander.

Mince the garlic and cook it over medium heat in the empty pasta pot with the butter until the garlic has softened slightly (3-5 minutes).

Add the flour, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Whisk in the milk.

Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, whisking constantly, until the milk mixture comes to simmer.

As soon as it reaches a simmer, it will thicken and should be able to coat a wooden spoon.

Turn the heat off and whisk in the cheese. Add freshly cracked black pepper, nutmeg and salt to taste.

Return the drained pasta to the sauce in the pasta pot and add the reserved pasta water, tossing the pasta to loosen it up.Stir in the roasted broccoli.

Top the pasta with broken pieces of the crispy prosciutto and serve.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Cutlets

Serve with a light pasta and a green vegetable.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 ounces each)
Table salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a lemon , cut into wedges

Directions

Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound to even 1/4-inch thickness.

Pat dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Set up three shallow bowls: one with the flour, one with the egg and one with the cheese.

Using tongs and working with 1 cutlet at a time, coat chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

Transfer chicken to the egg; coat evenly and let excess run off.

Coat chicken with shredded Parmesan mixture, pressing gently so that cheese adheres.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the cutlets in the skillet and reduce heat to medium.

Cook until cheese is pale golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Carefully turn the cutlets over and continue to cook until the cheese is pale golden brown on the second side, about 3 minutes.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Good Tasting Lunches

Eating a healthy lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources. Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters, if you leave out the processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.
When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. When you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

Falafel Sandwich with Tomato Gazpacho

Patties
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed or 2 cups homemade dried beans
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
Olive oil for the pan
Olive oil cooking spray

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup pure tahini paste (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if necessary
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Large pinch cumin
Large pinch cayenne pepper

Sandwich
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
4 whole-wheat pita pocket breads, sliced open

Directions

Combine all falafel patty ingredients, except the parsley, in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds.

Stop motor and scrape down sides of bowl, then pulse for another 10 seconds, until all ingredients are well incorporated but the mixture is slightly coarse. Stir in the chopped parsley

Refrigerate the mixture in a covered bowl for a few hours before making the patties.

For the tahini sauce:

Whisk all of the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth in a serving bowl. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour a little olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread it to cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven while the oven is preheating.

Form mixture into 8 or 9 balls and flatten into patties.

Place the patties on the hot pan and spray the tops with a little olive oil cooking spray.

Bake the patties for 10 minutes, turn the patties over and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and browned.

Wrap the pita breads in foil and heat them in the oven for 5 minutes while the patties are baking.

Fill each pita with some of the lettuce, falafel patties and tahini sauce.

Tomato Gazpacho

2 servings

Ingredients

3 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeds removed
2 scallions, trimmed
1 celery stalk, trimmed
Half a green bell pepper, seeds removed
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agave syrup
Celery and cucumber sticks for garnish

Directions

Chop all the vegetables and place in a processor or blender and process until smooth.

Pour into a covered container and chill. Serve in 8 oz glasses and garnish with stalks of celery and cucumber.

Asparagus Quiche with Heirloom Tomato Salad

8 servings

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch scallions (green onions). trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 eggs
1/2 cup half & half (milk/cream)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread the asparagus and scallions on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Roast until the vegetables until tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one-inch pieces.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.

Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.

Arrange the roasted asparagus and scallions over the bottom of the crust.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper.

Whisk together until well combined.

Pour over the vegetables and top with the cheese.

Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Salad 

Ingredients

1 pint miniature heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-3 tablespoons Italian Vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, vinaigrette, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Serve over butter lettuce, if desired.

Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup finely diced feta cheese
½ lb small cooked shrimp, optional
Salt and pepper
1 lb short pasta

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp, pasta and the salt in a large bowl. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Carefully scoop the pasta out of the pot with a large spider or slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the vegetables.

Add the shrimp, if using, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

If made ahead, refrigerate covered overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 

Southwest Tonight

Isn’t this dinner Mexican, you say?

Southwest or Tex-Mex is a style of food that evolved from what the nomadic ranchers in northern Mexico and (what is now) the southwestern US ate. If you were driving cattle across a vast area of land, what do you eat? Easily stored/canned things like beans, unleavened breads (i.e., tortillas) salsa or pico de gallo. They are the core ingredients that you get in what most of the country calls a “Mexican restaurant” (but which is really Tex-Mex).

True Mexican food is highly varied and regional, but it contains a lot of corn grain and more sophisticated meat preparations than just the ground beef and grilled chicken common in Tex-Mex food. In Mexico, tortillas are made from corn and, in the southwest, tortillas are usually made with wheat. Mexican cheese is white, while Tex-Mex cheese is yellow. Taco shells are practically unknown throughout Mexican. South of the border fresh coriander, parsley, oregano and epazote are the usual spices. While north of the border, cumin is the spice most often used along with hot chile peppers.

There is nothing Mexican about sweet corn (which is a common ingredient in many Tex-Mex dishes). It is an American addition. In Mexico, corn is mostly used in the form of grain. Tamales and moles are probably the most common and the most true of Mexican dishes. Tamales are made with a dough made from corn (hominy) called masa and with lard. Tamales are generally wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves before being steamed, depending on the region from which they come. They can have a sweet or savory filling. The most common fillings are pork and chicken and they are served with either a red or green salsa or mole.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I used some of the leftover BBQ chicken for the stuffing that I made earlier in the week.

Ingredients

1 cup homemade or store-bought salsa
1 jalapeño chile (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat), minced
1 large scallion, chopped
1 minced garlic clove
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, finely diced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 large poblano chiles, a thin slice from the top, ribs and seeds removed
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat an 8 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the salsa, jalapeno, scallions, garlic, cheese chicken, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the filling evenly among the poblano peppers, pushing the filling in as much as possible without breaking the sides of the peppers.

Place them in the baking dish. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake until the poblanos are tender, about 45 minutes. Serve over the bean and corn saute.

Pinto Bean and Corn Saute

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 scallions, diced
1 jalapeño chile
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
1 cup cooked pinto beans
1 cup corn
1 large plum tomato diced
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.

Saute the scallions and jalapeno for 2 minutes, until they are softened.

Add the garlic, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for 1 more minute.

Add pinto beans, corn and tomato and cook for about 3 minutes. Add lime juice, stir until combined and serve.

BBQ Chicken Tonight

Who can resist BBQ chicken? Sweet, savory and smoky flavors are what summer grilling is all about and when barbecued chicken is done right, it is delicious. For many of my northern readers, summer grilling will be over in a few months, so don’t let the summer go by without making this dish. Using a rub gives the chicken flavor and cooking it over indirect heat is important so that the chicken does not dry out or become burned. Finishing the chicken with a tasty sauce just adds to the overall flavor. Make your favorite sides and you have dinner. Oh, and don’t forget an easy homemade dessert.

BBQ Chicken

The rub and BBQ sauce can be made in advance, even several days ahead, to save time.

Ingredients

7 to 8 lbs bone-in chicken, cut into 6 or 8 parts

Spice Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Peach Barbecue Sauce

4 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Half an onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/3 cup cider vinegar
One bottle tomato ketchup (about 31 oz.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

To make the spice rub:

Combine all the ingredients for the spice rub in a jar or mixing bowl.and blend well.

To make the barbecue sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter.

Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated. Set aside

To prepare the chicken:

Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle on the rub generously and let rest while the grill heats.

I have a three burner gas grill. When a recipe calls for indirect grilling, I like to heat all the burners on the highest setting.

Then I turn off the middle burner. Brown the chicken pieces over the direct side of the grill and them move to the center, indirect area.

Cook the chicken pieces for 20 minutes and turn the chicken over.

Cook for 15 to 20 more minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F in the meatier part of the thigh or breast.

When the chicken is cooked, pour some of the barbecue sauce into a separate container (to avoid contaminating the whole batch) and brush it onto the chicken.

Cook the chicken  pieces an additional few minutes so that the sauce adheres to the chicken in a sticky glaze; watch the chicken carefully at this point and pull it off the grill if the sauce starts to burn.

Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and serve with some of the barbecue sauce on the side.

Potato Salad

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs whole medium-large red skinned potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pickle juice
¼ cup minced bread and butter pickles.
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
½ cup olive oil mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large pot with a lid. Cover the potatoes with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook the potatoes with the lid ajar until tender, about 15 minute.

Drain the potatoes and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes. Slice the potatoes into a storage bowl.

Add the pickle juice and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.

Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and taste to see if the salad needs salt. Add black pepper to taste.

Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator.

Italian Fried Peppers

These peppers are in season and we never get tired of them.

Ingredients

12 Italian frying peppers, washed and dried
¼ cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions

Heat a large saute pan over medium to high heat and add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn the peppers over a few times to coat in oil.

Add the fennel and Italian seasoning and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Serve at room temperature.

Almond Chocolate Pudding Dessert

Ingredients

Pudding

Two 3.4 oz packages of Cook & Serve chocolate pudding
4 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
½ teaspoon almond extract

Topping

1 cup heavy(whipping) cream
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Chocolate shavings

Directions

Put all the ingredients for the pudding in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles a little and thickens.

Immediately pour the pudding into an 8 inch glass pan (or a similar size dish) and let cool on the counter for about 20 minutes.

Refrigerate the pudding until cold and set.

For the topping

Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate shavings in a medium bowl and beat the mixture until whipped and soft peaks form.

Spread the whipped cream over the chocolate pudding. Grate chocolate shavings over the cream and chill until serving time.

Treats For Breakfast

Breakfast breads are comforting but they can be unhealthy. Keep them healthy by adding whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. A Healthy Doughnut? Healthy doughnuts do exist. These baked ones are the way to go to reduce the fat and calories. Don’t be put off by the fact that some of the treats are made with whole wheat flour. It adds great flavor, not density. Try baking with different grains and you will be rewarded with some great tasting breads.

Apple Flavored Baked Doughnuts With Maple Glaze

Makes 10

Doughnuts

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugars, applesauce, apple butter, orange juice, vanilla, apple pie spice, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill 10 of the wells of the doughnut pans to the rim; using a scant 1/3 cup of batter in each well.

If you have a little dough left add a little to each of the doughnuts.

Bake the doughnuts for 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

After about 5 minutes, remove the donuts from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze:

Mix together all of the glaze ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Place waxed paper under the racks holding the donuts.

Spread the doughnuts with glaze (or dip tops in the glaze); return to the rack until the glaze is set.

Pecan Banana Bread

Make 1 loaf. the recipe can be doubled to make 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 medium-size very ripe bananas, mashed (2 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions

Place the pecans in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

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

Combine brown sugar, melted butter, bananas and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the pecans.

Pour mixture into a 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool on wire rack 2 hours or until completely cool.

Serve with cream cheese, if desired.

Barley Bread

Barley flakes are similar to oats and one of the oldest whole grains. Although barley may not be as popular as other whole grains like oats, wheat, or even the current favorite, quinoa, that makes it one of the best whole grain choices. The technique used below for helping the bread retain its shape during rising, works very well. Serve with homemade jam for breakfast or use it to make a sandwich, especially turkey.

Makes 1 boule

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
½ cup barley flakes
2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 package)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 – 2¼ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, plus extra for the top of the bread
1/2 cup barley flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Olive oil for the dough

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, soak the barley flakes in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes.

Put the olive oil, honey and baking soda into the bowl with the buttermilk and barley flakes ; stir well to combine.

Stir in 2 cups of bread flour, the yeast, salt, barley flour, wheat gluten, all-purpose flour and wheat germ.

With the paddle attachment mix the ingredients until they come together around the paddle. If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for five minutes, then let it rest for ten minutes.

Knead for another 5 minutes, or until the dough is supple and elastic. Drizzle the dough with a teaspoon of olive oil, roll the dough over to coat it entirely with oil.

Cover with a damp tea towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about an hour and a half.

Shape the dough into a flat ball to create a “boule”.

To keep it from spreading out as it rises, set the ball inside a 9 inch springform pan, on a piece of parchment, for the second rise.

Brush the shaped dough with some more olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is hot and the dough has completed its second rise, brush the dough with a bit more olive oil.

Remove the springform ring and slide a baking sheet under the parchment.

Slash the top of the loaf in diagonal cuts that are about ¼ inch deep and sprinkle the top with a little wheat germ.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and registers 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow the loaf to sit for at least an hour before slicing.


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