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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Holiday Baking

For me, holiday baking doesn’t just include what would be served on the holiday itself, but it also includes breakfast breads and desserts for the days surrounding the holidays. That is because I usually have family or house guests visiting for several days over a holiday. So I plan ahead and bake several breakfast items that can be heated and served and have at least one or two desserts on hand. Here are recipes for a few favorites that are all easy to make.

Lemony Ricotta Pie

Ricotta pie or cheesecake are very popular in our family.

Crust
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish
Candied lemon and orange peel

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven.

For the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and honey and whisk. Add the ricotta, salt and lemon flavoring.

Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pie pan over the baked crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for about 60 minutes until the filling is completely set.

Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Decorate the top of the pie with pieces of candied lemon and orange peel.

When cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until serving time.

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Sticky Syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup large pecan halves

Dough
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup heavy cream

Cinnamon Filling
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a glass 9″ round cake pan or pie pan.

To make the syrup:

Melt the butter in the glass pan in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Stir well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place the pecan halves over the syrup in a single layer.

To make the dough:

Stir together the flour and cream to make a smooth dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Gently roll the dough into a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.

To make the cinnamon filling:

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans in a small mixing bowl.

Spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough.

Roll the dough into a log. Position it so the seam is facing down.

Slice the log into 10 pieces, and place them in the prepared pan.

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until they’re bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Remove the buns from the oven, and immediately turn them out onto a serving plate.

Scrape any leftover syrup from the pan onto the buns.

To serve later, cool completely, then wrap well and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days.

Reheat in a 325 degree oven. Freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from a King Arthur recipe.

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour (lightly scoop, don’t pack down)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts and coarse sugar for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Spray a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and whisk.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. Avoid over mixing. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and coarse sugar.

Bake at 425 F degrees for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F degrees and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean when placed into the center of the muffins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool.

Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 3 months.

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Comforting Foods

Pot Roast, the ultimate comfort food, when leftover, makes a delicious pot pie. Here is the link to my pot roast recipe. Chicken is a favorite with me, so I have lots of quick and easy ways to fix it. Take advantage of all the fall vegetables in season and add them to your recipes whenever you can. I tried to do that in the recipes below.

Beef Pot Pie

2 servings

Ingredients

1 box of refrigerated (2) pie crusts, at room temperature

Filling
1 cup leftover pot roast gravy
1/2 cup leftover green beans, cut into one inch pieces or use frozen (defrosted)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup diced leftover pot roast
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Divide the mixture between two individual baking dishes.

Unroll the pastry on a cutting board.

Cut a circle from the center of the pastry sheet to cover one of the individual baking dishes with a one inch overhang.

Place the circle on the baking dish. Repeat with the second baking dish and pastry.

Use the leftover pastry for decorations on top of the beef pie or to make cinnamon sugar rolls.

Seal the pastry to the edges of the baking dishes and flute. Cut slits in several places in the crust to allow steam to escape.

Cover a sheet pan with foil and place the baking dishes on top.

Bake 15 minutes. Cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning; bake 15 to 30 minutes longer or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Chicken Cacciatore Over Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

2 – 4 chicken cutlets (depending on how many servings you want), about 5 oz each
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the squash
1 spaghetti squash,about 2 lbs, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

For the squash:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish that is big enough to hold the squash halves with olive oil.

Place the squash, cut side down in the prepared dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

With a fork, scrape the squash strands into a large platter.

For the chicken:

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saute pan and brown the cutlets for 1-2 minutes per side to brown slightly. Remove to a plate and set aside.

For the sauce:

Add the mushrooms to the saute pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Add the sliced onions, peppers and celery to the pan and cook until soft; about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.

Reduce the heat and add the marinara sauce, seasonings and herbs to the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken cutlets. Simmer the cacciatore for about 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf.

Warm the spaghetti squash in the microwave. Serve the chicken and sauce over the cooked spaghetti squash strands.

Stir Fried Cabbage With Smoked Sausages

Cornbread goes very well with this dish.

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
½ cup diced onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 oz natural fully cooked smoked sausage, hot dogs or kielbasa, thinly sliced on a bias
1 small head green cabbage
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage, then immerse the whole head in the boiling water until the outer leaves begin to loosen.

Remove cabbage from the water and carefully peel away as many outer leaves as will come off easily, usually 8 to 12 leaves are large enough for stuffing. Reserve those leaves for stuffing. Thinly slice the remaining cabbage.

In a large skillet over medium, heat the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté until onion is soft.

Add the cabbage, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss to mix all ingredients together and coat the cabbage with butter and seasonings.

Cover the pan and cook the mixture until the cabbage is tender.

Add sliced sausage to the pan, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the sausage is hot and the cabbage becomes creamy.

Top with fresh parsley before serving.

Chicken Cutlets In Mushroom Sauce

2 Servings

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast, about 8 oz cut in half lengthwise
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
One quarter of a medium onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Season the chicken breasts with sea salt and black pepper on both sides.

In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, pan-sear the chicken breasts in 1 tablespoon butter.

Sear the chicken breasts on both sides until they are a golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate.

Using the same pan, reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining butter and the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the sliced onion and mushrooms. Saute for 3-4 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Using a rubber spatula, scrape up any brown bits in the pan. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low to simmer. Let simmer 2-3 minutes.

Add heavy cream and allow to simmer 5-10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Mix in Parmesan cheese, sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the chicken back to the pan. Finish cooking the chicken in the sauce over low heat, for about 10 minutes.

Time for Fall Flavored Biscotti

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.

Baked Ham Dinner With Fall Vegetables

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

1 medium cooking pumpkin, about 3 ½ – 4 cups roasted pumpkin flesh
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped leeks
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 ½ cups whole milk
1-2 teaspoons honey
Chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet with sides.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Fill the pumpkin wells half way with water and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Place in the oven and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool and then scrape out the pumpkin into a bowl. Set aside,

Pour the olive oil into a Dutch Oven and heat over medium-high heat.

Add leeks, celery and garlic; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the pumpkin, broth, pepper, salt and spices. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Process with a hand immersion blender in the saucepan or transfer half of the pumpkin mixture to a blender or food processor; cover and blend or process until smooth. Repeat with the remaining half of the pumpkin mixture. Return all of the pureed mixture to saucepan.

Stir in the milk and heat through, but do not boil. Stir in enough of the honey to sweeten the mixture to taste.

Serve warm garnished with chopped chives. Makes 6 (3/4-cup) servings.

Glazed Ham

Don’t forget to save the bone for soup.

Ingredients

6 lb ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (NOT spiral cut), shank end or butt end
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon country whole seed mustard

Directions

Heat the oven to 325° F.

Place the ham, fat side up, in a roasting pan.

Bake the ham for about 20 minutes per pound, about 2 hours for a 6 lb ham, or until an instant read meat thermometer registers at least 140° F (60° C), the safe minimum temperature for a fully cooked ham.

In a medium bowl whisk together the apricot preserves, brown sugar, apple cider, mustard and thyme.

About 30 minutes before the ham is done, spoon the glaze over the entire ham.

Cover the ham loosely with foil and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Rutabaga Gratin

You can also put this dish in the oven with the ham at the lower temperature to cook the two dishes at the same time. Put the gratin in the oven when the ham has an hour and a half of cooking time remaining.

Servings: 6-8

ingredients

2 pound rutabaga (peeled, thinly sliced)
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Coat a 7×11 or an 8×12 baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the sliced rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.

Cook for 3 minutes in the boiling water, drain and set aside.

Combine the cream, garlic powder, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper with a whisk.

Pour one-third of the cream into the bottom of the baking dish.

Place a layer of rutabaga slices on top, followed by one-third of the cheese. Dot with one-third of the butter.

Continue to layer ending with a layer of cheese.

Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sautéed Green Cabbage Steaks

Ingredients

1 small head green cabbage
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
Celery seed for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water until the outer leaves begin to loosen.

Remove the cabbage from the water and drain. Cut the stem end off and carefully peel away as many outer leaves as will come off easily, usually 8 to 12 leaves will be large enough for stuffing. Reserve those leaves for another use.

Cut the remaining cabbage in half and cut two half-inch thick slices from the cabbage halves.

Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage steaks, sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.

Turn the cabbage steaks over with a wide spatula, sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes more.

Sprinkle lightly with celery seed and serve.

What To Cook For Dinner In October

Cod Pomodoro

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Half of a small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, plus a few fennel fronds
Half of a small onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
Two 4-ounce skinless cod fillets
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat.

Add minced garlic, sliced fennel, onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add spices and cook, stirring, until spices are absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add marinara sauce to the skillet; bring to a simmer and cook to meld the flavors, about 5 minutes.

Season fish with salt and pepper and place the fillets in the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the fish.

Place the pan in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the fish is firm when touched with a fork.

Remove the pan from the oven and top the fish with the mozzarella cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese melts.

Serve the fish with the sauce.

Baked Eggplant Slices

Place the eggplant into the oven about ten minutes before you place the fish in the oven.

2 or more servings

1 small eggplant, peeled
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for the baking pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a baking pan with oil. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg with 1 tablespoons water. In another shallow dish mix the Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs.

Cut the eggplant into thin slices. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off.

Dredge the slices in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down gently to coat well. Transfer the breaded slices to the baking pan.

Bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Turn the slices over and continue to bake until lightly browned on other side, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven, serve plain or drizzle with a little marinara sauce, if desired.

Swiss Chard Sautéed with Garlic and Lemon

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large bunches Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2” pieces (about 12 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Wash Swiss chard well and place in a colander.

With some water clinging to the leaves, immediately transfer the washed chard to a large, deep skillet.

Cook the chard over low heat until almost wilted, 3-4 minutes. Drain the chard in a colander.

In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing often, until completely softened, about 4-5 minutes.

Add lemon juice and cook, tossing, about 1 minute; adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.

Today is World Pasta Day!

World Pasta Day was brought into existence as part of the World Pasta Congress on the 25th of October in 1995. Experts from all over the world came together to promote the importance of spreading knowledge of the world’s numerous types of pasta. This organization uses World Pasta Day to promote the eating of pasta, along with its cultural and culinary importance.

Everything from encouraging consumers to try new pastas to providing important health information is part of their mission. Every country is encouraged to celebrate the day in their own way, while sharing the logo of the official organization and participating in the global strategy of World Pasta Day. One of the best ways to celebrate World Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite pasta at home. Here are a few of mine.

Stuffed Shells

3-4 stuffed shells per serving.

Ingredients

6 ounces jumbo pasta shells (21-22 shells)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white and light green portion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for salting the water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound (2 bunches) fresh spinach or Swiss chard, stems removed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 16 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 cups Marinara or Basic Tomato Sauce

Directions

Wash the spinach or chard well, drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove most of the water. Cut the leaves into thin strips.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the leek is softened.

Add the greens, oregano, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing with tongs, until completely wilted.

Cover the pan and simmer until the leaves are very tender, about ten minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta shells, stir, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

Place a colander in the sink and drain the shells. Transfer the shells to a kitchen towels on the counter and set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the cooled, cooked greens.

Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Evenly spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oiled 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Fill the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture and place in a single layer, open side up, in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the shells and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the dish with foil.

Tip: I always spray the side of the foil that will touch the food with cooking spray to keep the food from sticking to the foil during baking.

Bake the shells until the sauce just starts to bubble around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce is bubbling vigorously and the edges of the pan have started to brown, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

8 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 bunch broccoli rabe
½ cups pasta water
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Reserve 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water to the cooked sausage and raise the heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl.

Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Creamy Zucchini Pasta

Serves 2-3

Salt to taste
8 ounces penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 large zucchini, about one pound
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or a combination of herbs you like

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Slice the zucchini into ½ inch circles and then cut each circle into little logs.

Cut the onion in the same manner, so that the pieces are about the same size as the zucchini.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir and, then, add the zucchini.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender. Do not let it brown.

Add the chile flakes and stir. Add the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook on low heat until thickened a bit.

Stir the basil into the sauce, add the cooked pasta and let the pasta cook in the sauce for a minute or two.

Turn off the heat. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or Ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the Burrata cheese.

Pasta Roll-Ups

8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs lean ground turkey, beef or pork
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
Two 28-oz containers whole tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
16 dried lasagna noodles
Two 10-oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Two 15-oz containers ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add the ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink.

Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from the thawed spinach and place in large bowl.

Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.

Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up.

Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.

Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Beef Teriyaki And Stir-Fry Vegetables

A few weeks back I shared with you my initiation into spiralizing vegetables as part of my goal to add more vegetables to my family’s diet. I made an Italian Scampi dish then, and tried a few more Italian dishes after that. All good. This week, I am thinking Asian – Japanese style – and created a teriyaki beef tenderloin steak and stir fried vegetable combination. Give it a try. this recipe is for two servings. It can be doubled or tripled.

Zucchini Noodle Stir Fry

The sauce really needs the heat from the red pepper flakes to make a rounded sauce. Try not to leave it out.

Ingredients

Stir-fry Sauce
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Vegetables
2 medium zucchini, spiralized
Half of a large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into very thin strips
Half yellow onion, sliced thin
1 small carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon peanut oil

¼ cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the stir-fry sauce ingredients and set aside.

Whisk together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet or wok. Add ginger, bell peppers, carrot and onion.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Add the cornstarch mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened, about 30 seconds.

Add zucchini noodles and stir just until hot.

Teriyaki Beef

Ingredients

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese wine)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (dissolved in ¼ cup water)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust sweetness according to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 onion (small, don’t chop)

Steak

2 beef tenderloin steaks (1 inch thick about 4 oz each)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup store-bought or homemade teriyaki sauce (recipe above)

Directions

Teriyaki Sauce

In a saucepan mix together water, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, brown sugar, black pepper, ginger, garlic, onion (don’t chop) and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add cornstarch mixture, simmer until the consistency is thick.

Remove ginger and onion from the sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.

When cool, pour ¼ cup teriyaki sauce over the steaks and let marinate for about one hour..

Beef Tenderloin

In a small heavy skillet, heat the sesame oil.

Cook the beef steaks for 3 minutes on each side.

Place on a plate and let the steaks rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the stir-fry vegetable dish.


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