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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: breakfast

breakfast 1

Americans tend to eat the same thing when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with Starbucks or cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds of cereal with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat corn flakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American as strange.

In Australia –  a bowl of cold cereal

In Brazil –  ham, cheeses and bread, served with coffee and milk

In China – Dim Sum

In Cuba – cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with a tostada

In England –  eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and mushrooms.

In France – croissants and coffee

In Germany – cold meats, local cheeses and fresh-baked bread

In India – fermented black lentils and rice served with chutney and sambar

In Japan – miso soup, steamed white rice and pickles.

In Morocco – bread, jam and cheese

In Nigeria – moi moi, a ground bean paste that is wrapped in leaves and steamed

In Russia – sirniki or baked farmers cheese pancakes and hot oatmeal

In Turkey – bread, cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam or honey

In italy – a cappuccino and sweet roll or biscotti

While the benefits of eating breakfast are well-known —  it can prevent weight gain, boost short-term memory, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and even make us happier — most of those health rewards depend on choosing the right foods. You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein. Good choices include eggs, whole grains, fruit, peanut butter and yogurt.

Some Quick Fix Options

  • For a portable breakfast: Place in a ziplock bag: a cut up apple, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese cubes and ¼ cup of fiber and protein-rich walnuts.
  • Instead of dousing a whole-grain toaster waffle in syrup, cut the sugar and boost the protein and fiber by spreading it with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  • Take a slice of crusty bread, spread it with 3 tablespoons of low-fat ricotta and add sliced plum tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) and a little salt and pepper. Place under the broiler for a minute or two.
  • Slice a hard-boiled egg, then roll it in an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla with a slice of lean ham and a slice of cheese. Add a tablespoon of salsa for a shot of flavor.

Feel like trying something different for breakfast, check out these recipes:

breakfast 2

Mini Spinach Frittatas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 24 – 1/8 inch thick slices of fully cooked Italian chicken sausages

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Place a sausage slice in each of 24 greased miniature muffin cups. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full with the spinach mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until completely set. Carefully run a knife around the sides of the muffin cups to loosen the frittatas. Serve warm. Yield: 2 dozen.

breakfast 5

Fruit Crumble

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon almond meal or almond flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toppings

  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar for garnish – optional
  • 1 teaspoon slivered almonds
  • Additional fresh fruit, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the fruit and the 2 tablespoons of almond flour. Toss until well coated.

Place in a 6” oven safe bowl leaving about 1 inch at the top for the crumble topping.

Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of almond meal, butter, oats, vanilla and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Garnish with almonds, additional fresh fruit and confectioners’ sugar.

breakfast 4

Creamy Breakfast Polenta

If crème fraîche is unavailable, use lightly sweetened sour cream.

Makes about 6 cups; 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat (2%) milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons blackberry jam
  • Lightly sweetened  crème fraîche

Directions

In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pan over high heat, bring 3 cups water and the milk to a boil. Reduce heat so liquid is barely boiling. Stirring constantly, pour in polenta in a thin, steady stream, pausing occasionally to break up any lumps. Stir in sugar and salt.

Simmer, stirring often, until polenta is soft and creamy to the bite, about 20  minutes (if heat is too high, bubbles may “spit” hot polenta out of the pan).

Ladle polenta into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon blackberry jam and a dollop of crème fraîche.

breakfast3

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Serve with a slice of baguette for dipping.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (divided)
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

In a wide, deep skillet, heat oil on medium. Add bell pepper, onion, oregano, coriander and cayenne and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes, orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Crack 1 egg into a small bowl or cup. Gently slip the egg into the sauce without breaking the egg; repeat with the remaining eggs, leaving 1-inch between each egg. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle remaining  salt ove rthe top. Cover and simmer gently until egg whites are opaque and yolks are firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully ladle sauce and eggs into serving bowls and top with chopped parsley.

breakfast 6

Mini Pancakes with Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Makes 10-12 depending on the size of your muffin cups.

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond-milk or low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries or fruit in season, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite jam

Directions

Pre­heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place all of the batter ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.

Pour batter into greased or lined muffin cups, filling half­way.

Bake for 15 ­to 18 minutes or until puffy and brown. The pancakes will deflate when you remove them from the oven.

Place a few sliced peaches on top of the pancake. Spoon on a tablespoon of yogurt followed by a teaspoon of jam. Decorate with berry slices, if desired.

 

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Author – Graycie Harmon

What Does Mother’s Day Mean To You?

I recently read an article in Forbes Magazine about how commercial Mother’s Day has become and how the inventor of the holiday, Anna Jarvis, became disillusioned by how this special day evolved. Miss Jarvis’ image of Mother’s Day was very specific. It was to be a singular Mother’s Day — not a general Mothers’ Day. She didn’t see it as a holiday. She saw it as an intimate day between children and their mothers. Miss Jarvis wanted a national observance day, writing leaders in every state and around the world. Her persistence paid off. In 1914, President Wilson, her longtime friend, signed a proclamation stating, “The American mother is the greatest source of our country’s strength and inspiration.”

However, her triumph was short-lived, as Miss Jarvis watched the florist, card and candy industries cash in on Mother’s Day. In her mind, they were twisting heartfelt sentiment into crass commercialism. In the early 1920’s, florists began heavily marketing carnations and greeting card companies began to sell Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis hated this, as her intention was for children to write hand-written, personal notes. Though she had spent almost a decade trying to establish the holiday, she eventually turned against its commercialization and was arrested for protesting at a Mother’s Day carnation sale. Jarvis spent the rest of her life trying to end Mother’s Day.

Well, Mother’s Day or any day of the year is the perfect day to say thank you to your mother for unselfishly giving of her life and love to make you the best man or woman you could be. Better than the greeting cards, of which there are 107 publishing establishments, nationwide; or better than the jewelry, of which there are approximately 27,000 jewelry companies in the U.S; or better than the wired flowers or the purchased gifts; or better than e-mails or text messages; sharing your time with your mother is ultimately the greatest gift you could give her. My mother and I do not live near each other, so get togethers involve traveling long distances. However, she is delighted with a weekly telephone call, where we catch up on all that has happened during the week. She also loves to share her thoughts about current events and discuss politics. I realize this is important to her and I am happy to have these conversations with her. So I would suggest, that the best Mother’s Day gift you could give your mother, would be that you find “the thing” that makes your time with your mother special. 

Have Breakfast With Your Mom On Mother’s Day

Or Any Day Of The Year

 

Espresso Smoothie

2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold fat-free milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 1 medium banana, cut up
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking cocoa

Directions:

In a blender, combine all the ingredients; cover and process for 1-2 minutes or until blended. Pour into 2 chilled glasses; serve immediately. 

Grilled Pineapple

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 fresh pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts or hazelnuts, toasted

Directions:

Combine syrup and butter; set aside. Quarter the pineapple lengthwise, leaving top attached.

Heat an outdoor grill or stove top grill pan. Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack.

Grill the pineapple quarters, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn; brush with maple butter. Grill 5-7 minutes longer or until heated through; brush with maple butter and sprinkle with nuts.

Serve with remaining maple butter.

 

Turkey Breakfast Sausage Patties

8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash each white pepper, cayenne pepper, ground allspice, ground cloves and ground nutmeg

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Shape into eight 2-1/2-in. patties. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook patties over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until no longer pink.

Extras freeze well. 

 

 

Raspberry-Cinnamon French Toast

This moist French toast bake can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

6-8 Serving

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices cinnamon bread, such as Pepperidge Farm’s whole wheat cinnamon swirl bread , cubed
  • 5 eggs, beaten or the equivalent egg substitute
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries

Directions:

Place bread cubes in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; pour over bread.

Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Sprinkle almonds over egg mixture. Combine butter and remaining brown sugar; drizzle over the top.

Bake, uncovered, at 400° F. for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with raspberries. Bake 10 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.


We’ve all heard the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but do you know why? Breakfast is literally just that, breaking the fast that your body is in from the night before.The consumption of an early morning meal increases the metabolic rate (how fast you burn calories) and kick starts your body into gear, telling it what to expect the rest of the day. If you don’t eat breakfast, your body doesn’t process your next meal as quickly and tries to hold onto those nutrients. Since your body didn’t get any morning fuel, it tries to hold onto the afternoon meal as long as possible — instead of burning it right away.

Studies have shown that weight loss can be more difficult and weight gain more prevalent in folks who opt out on the morning meal. Those who skip breakfast have a tendency to consume more food than usual the next chance they get to grab a bite to eat and also have a higher tendency to snack on high-calorie foods to keep from feeling hungry.

If you don’t like breakfast foods, don’t eat them! Try leftovers, soup, a sandwich, or lean meats in the morning. Many cultures serve rice and vegetables as a breakfast meal.

Breakfast should include a healthy source of protein and plenty of fiber; that combination will help satisfy your hunger and will keep you feeling full until lunch time. The protein can come from low-fat meat, low-fat dairy products, or nuts and nut butters. Eggs are also a good source of protein. They’re also high in saturated fats, but one egg only has about 75 calories and they’re quite satiating, so it can help keep the hunger pangs away. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

There is no harm in switching from your traditional breakfast, as long as you are going to get the proper nutritional value, you can try eating something different to start off your day. Try out something tempting and appetizing like some of these recipes listed below.

Breakfast Mini Pizzas                                                                                                                                     

1 serving

IngredientsMini Breakfast Pizzas

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin, split and toasted
  • 2 tablespoons shredded reduced fat Italian cheese blend, such as Sargento
  • 2 slices turkey pepperoni or Applegate Farms nitrate free pepperoni (optional)

Directions:

Preheat broiler or toaster oven.

Coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add egg and cook, stirring often, until set into soft curds, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread marinara sauce on English muffin halves. Top each muffin half with scrambled egg, pepperoni (if using) and cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes.

Berry Smoothie

3 servings, 1 cup each                                                                                                                                                                                      

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups orange juiceMixed Berry Smoothie Recipe
  • 1 banana
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and/or strawberries
  • 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or 1/2 tablespoon Truvia or Domino Light
  • Berries for garnish

Directions:

Combine orange juice, banana, berries, yogurt and sugar in a blender; cover and blend until creamy. Garnish with berries and serve.

Stuffed Italian Toast

Makes 8 sandwiches

Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind (from 1 small lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

bfd_Italianfrenchtoast

Toast:

  • 1 loaf hearty whole grain Italian bread, cut into 16 – 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Warm marinara sauce

Directions:

For the filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, combine chopped spinach mixture, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, basil, and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread one bread slice with 2 tablespoons of filling, top with another slice of bread and press closed. Repeat with remaining bread to make 8 sandwiches in all.

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and garlic powder in a shallow baking dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Working with 1 sandwich at a time, quickly dip into egg mixture, turning to coat both sides. Add to hot oil. Repeat with 3 more slices, taking care not to overload pan. Cook for 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Repeat with remaining oil (if needed) and 4 sandwiches.

Transfer to plates, spoon warm marinara sauce over top, and serve.

Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts                                                                                                                   

Serve with a fruit salad

MAKES ONE 9-INCH LOAF

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar or sugar alternative
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Coat with cooking spray and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch metal loaf pan.

Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until they are fragrant.

Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them, then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and yogurt.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

MAKE AHEAD:  The zucchini loaf can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen in plastic and foil for up to 1 month.

Eggs Baked Over Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach                                                                             

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 slices of whole-grain toast

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 minutes. Stir in the butter, garlic and mushrooms. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are softened and a lot of liquid is released, 7 minutes.

Uncover and add the salt and red wine and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the liquid is reduced, 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, 2 minutes. Season with pepper.

Coat four 1-cup ramekins or small gratin dishes with cooking spray. Transfer the mushrooms and spinach to the ramekins and crack an egg on top of each.

Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the eggs are set.  Let stand for 2 minutes; serve with the toasts.

Crepes with Sweet Yogurt and Raspberry-Apricot Sauce                                                                                

Makes 8 servings

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves, low sugar, if available
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt (not fat free)
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with 1/4 cup of the milk and the salt until blended. Whisk in the flour until the batter is smooth, then whisk in the remaining 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Let the crepe batter stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the apricot preserves with the raspberries and lemon juice and cook over moderate heat until jammy, about 5 minutes. Cover and keep warm.

In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the brown sugar and vanilla.

Heat a 10-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Brush the pan with some of the melted butter. Pour in a scant 1/3 cup of the crepe batter and immediately rotate the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Cook the crepe until lightly browned on the bottom, about 45 seconds. Flip the crepe and cook until brown dots appear on the other side, about 15 seconds longer.

See post on how to make crepes:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/27/new-years-eve-party-time/

Transfer the crepe to a large plate covered with parchment paper.

Continue making crepes with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with the remaining melted butter as needed. Place a sheet of wax paper in between each cooked crepe.

To Assemble Crepes: Spoon 3 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture onto each crepe and roll them up.

Transfer to individual serving plates. Spoon the raspberry-apricot sauce on top and serve.

MAKE AHEAD : The crepes can be made ahead and stacked, then rewarmed in a microwave oven for about 20 seconds.


While much of the Italian food choices are healthy; breakfast, generally, is not. Breakfast in Italy is sweet. Cake is a traditional breakfast food, and so are cookies. Continental breakfast is a concept Italians embrace. Even fruit is looked upon with suspicion! The typical Italian breakfast is made of a hot beverage, such as espresso or cappuccino, with something sweet to eat- cake, cookies, pastries, brioche, croissants, or toast and jam.

Moka Pot

When at home, caffe latte and coffee made in a moka pot are the more common choices for drinks, and usually small breakfast cookies provide the sugar rush. Cereals are available on the shelves in the grocery store, but mostly eaten as an afternoon snack, not for breakfast! Italians often consume their breakfast out- the thousands of bars you will walk by everywhere in Italy serve cappuccino and paste (brioches, or bomboloni) for a breakfast you can conveniently consume while standing at the counter.

Italian sweet bread, like most Italian cooking, is rich in flavor. The most common flavorings used in these breads are:

  • Vanilla is considered to be the most important ingredient in Italian sweet bread recipes. Vanilla tends to give the bread more flavor and brings out the flavor of other ingredients. Pure vanilla extract is recommended.
  • Raisins are used in the bread to give it a sweet taste in every bite. Yellow raisins are commonly used, but darker raisins can be used as well. 
  • Orange zest is what makes Italian sweet bread so unique. Orange peel is shredded in order to give the bread that extra zesty flavor.
  • After being baked, Italian sweet bread is often brushed with rum to give it that extra kick. 

Here are some lower calorie versions of Italian Sweet Breads to bake:

Italian Breakfast Sweet Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm 2% milk (70° to 80°)
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar or 2 tablespoons light sugar alternative
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast                                                                                                                       
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sugar

Directions:

Place the first seven ingredients in large mixer bowl with paddle attachment and mix until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape each portion into a ball; flatten slightly.

Place in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Beat egg and water; brush over the dough and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 350°F  for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).

SCHIACCIATA CON ZIBIBBO (ITALIAN SWEET BREAD WITH RAISINS)

Double the ingredients to make two loaves and put one in the freezer.                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm (105 to 115 degree) water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour

Directions:

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment. Stir in raisins, sugar, oil, orange peel, egg substitute and enough flour to make a soft dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Shape into round, slightly flat loaf about 9 inches in diameter. Place on greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until bread is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire rack. 1 loaf.

Italian Braided Sweet Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water ( 110 degrees F)
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup light sugar alternative
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute

Directions:

Mix yeast and warm water, and let sit so that the yeast can react. The yeast should begin to foam.

Mix dry ingredients together.

In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter, and egg substitute. Be careful not to let the eggs cook and become solid.

Mix yeast/water with dry ingredients in large bowl of the mixer with a paddle attachment. When thoroughly incorporated, mix in milk/egg mixture until a dough is formed.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough, then cover, and let rise about 20 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. (Times vary depending on warmth of environment.)

Punch down the dough and divide in half to make 2 smaller loaves. Divide each half into three equal pieces and braid the ropes together and tuck in the ends.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let double in size. Bake bread at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes.

Optional Step:

Rum Syrup:

½ cup water

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon dark rum

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature.

Brush all over bread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let bread cool before slicing.

Rustic Raisin Walnut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.

Stir in the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour and salt. Mix until well combined. Keep adding the rest of the white flour until dough leaves sides of bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Be sure not to add too much flour.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover with damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Punch the dough down and place it on a floured board. Gently knead the raisins and walnuts into the dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on prepared baking sheet.

Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Using a spray bottle, spray loaf with water. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.

Ricotta Crumb Cake (Italian Breakfast Cake)                                                                                                              

Crust:

  • 2/3 cup toasted almonds, ground
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour or Eagle Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter or Smart Balance Blend
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions for the Crust:

Mix in a bowl the almonds, flour, baking powder, brown sugar. Using a pastry blender cut in the cold butter with the dry ingredients. Pour the egg and vanilla over the butter mixture and toss together just until moistened. Spoon half of crumb mixture into a 10 inch springform pan and set the other half aside.

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 1/2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3/4 cup sugar or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light sugar alternative

Directions for the Filling:

Put 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in the processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to grind the almonds into small pieces. Do not ground too fine.

In a bowl mix together the ricotta, rum and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Stir in almond/sugar mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over crumb crust in the springform pan. Spoon remaining crumb mixture over the ricotta filling and pat down to make top flat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, Let cool and sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Sweet Bread from Valtellina (Bisciola)                                                                                               

Makes 1 (8-inch) oval loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon grappa or rum
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons egg substitute
  • 15 dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, roughly chopped

Directions:

Heat oven to 350º F with oven rack placed on the middle shelf. In a small bowl combine raisins, grappa or rum and water; set aside.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then roughly chop.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until just warm, then remove from heat. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, all-purpose flour, rye flour and salt. With mixer at medium-low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix until well blended, then add remaining flour mixture, butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons egg substitute. Reduce speed to low and mix 5 minutes more.

Drain raisins; discard liquid. Add raisins, hazelnuts, figs, walnuts and pine nuts to dough; mix on low until just incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough to form a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On prepared baking sheet, form dough into a 8-inch-long oval loaf. Cover loaf with a lightly dampened clean dishtowel and let rest, in a draft-free place, 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350º F. with oven rack in the middle.

Brush dough with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons egg substitute, then bake, rotating pan once halfway through, until bread is deep golden, about 30 minutes. Let bread cool completely on pan on wire rack.

 

 

 


I have read that Italian breakfasts are very light, usually consisting of coffee (espresso) or cappuccino and some kind of pastry or bread.  Biscotti are also favorites for an Italian breakfast. Biscotti are a, not too sweet cookie, that is baked, cut, then baked again to form slices of hard biscuits that are often dunked in coffee. Egg dishes, such as frittatas, are usually eaten at lunch or dinner, never for breakfast.

I can remember going to my grandparents’  home around breakfast time and my grandfather would be having a cup of coffee and eating the heel end from a loaf of Italian bread.  This was pretty much his usual breakfast.  I am not sure when Italian-Americans began eating specialty pastries from a bakery, but I can remember Italian bakeries were numerous where I grew up in New Jersey.  I think  the tradition of going to the Italian bakery came about when folks who had just come from church services wanted a special breakfast on Sunday.  I can remember long lines at the bakery counter, didn’t like standing there, but liked those pastries. My grandfather even got into the habit and would bring us pastries when he visited us on Sundays.  He continued the tradition when my children were little and brought us pastries up until the time that he died.  Some of those delicious pastries (just wanted to make you drool) are pictured below. Of course you know they are not a healthy choice.

Sfogliatelle feature luscious mandarin flavored ricotta filling encased in a crispy shell shaped pastry.

Pasticiotti are tender pastry cups filled with either ricotta cheese, vanilla cream or chocolate cream

Frittatas

I recall that most of my breakfasts growing up were the usual cereal and scrambled eggs. Very American.  My mother, however, often made traditional Italian style egg dishes, such as potatoes and eggs, or peppers and eggs or spinach frittata and I will share those recipes with you.  My children weren’t so fond of fritattas when they were growing up, but they like them now as adults, so I like to make frittatas for breakfast when they visit.

A frittata is a healthy and economical dish that you can eat for any meal of the day. It is a dish similar to a French quiche,  an American omelette,  or a Spanish tortilla.  Frittatas generally consist of eggs,  vegetables, cheese, and herbs.

In my house, the contents of a frittata usually consist of whatever leftovers I have in the refrigerator that day. Italians are frugal and know how to use leftovers creatively.

You will want to pick items that have a natural affinity for each other. Think of things that you might find on a plate together anyway, or on a pizza and cheese is a key ingredient in any frittata. Making this dish is very simple as long as you have an ovenproof skillet.  Sauté whatever veggies you are putting into the dish and heat through any cooked meat leftovers.

Here are some ideas:

  • 1 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and sautéed until soft, 2 diced plum tomatoes and 4 ounces of diced or shredded Fontina.
  • A bag of cleaned spinach cooked in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1/4 pound sliced Prosciutto, some grated Parmesan cheese and some shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • I prefer to use reduced fat shredded cheeses from Kraft or Sargento and substitute half of the eggs with egg substitute to save on calories.

General techniques include

  1. Turn on the broiler.  Place a non-stick skillet with an oven safe handle on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Heat the pan and add 1 tablespoons olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the frittata vegetables, stirring until warm, and then pour the eggs beaten with the egg substitute over the vegetables.
  3. Slowly cook the frittata until the edges start to firm up. When the frittata is cooked about three-quarters of the way through, scatter the top with shredded cheese and move it to the heated broiler.
  4. Set the frittata about 6-inches below the broiler.
  5. When it is just golden brown and puffed up, remove the skillet to your stove top.
  6.  BE SURE TO PROTECT THE HOT HANDLE WITH A HOT PAD SO YOU DO NOT BURN YOUR HANDS!

Spinach Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 5 eggs and 1 1/4 cups egg substitute
  • 8 ounces chopped raw spinach (or 1-10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oil  in a 10 or 12 inch skillet with a heat-resistant handle over medium heat.   Saute onion in the oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted.  Remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the mozzarella cheese. Whisk until well blended. Pour egg mixture into skillet with onions and spinach. Return to low heat and cook 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle the top with shredded mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler. Remove when the top is golden brown and cut into wedges.

Some Traditional Italian Style Egg Dishes

Peppers and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute (such as, Egg Beaters)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and sauté until lightly golden.
Add the peppers, cook 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften.
Cover skillet and cook 5 more minutes until they are tender.

Mix the eggs, oregano, salt and pepper together and por over the peppers in the skillet.
Stir fry the eggs and peppers to allow the uncooked portions to reach the bottom of the skillet.
Remove from heat when the eggs are done to your liking.

Potatoes and Eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs beaten with 1 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Cooking Directions

Heat the oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the potatoes until tender and golden brown. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the egg mixture to the potatoes and onions. Stir fry the mixture turning the ingredients with a spatula over and under until the eggs look cooked to your liking.

Completing the Breakfast Menu

The best accompaniments to the egg dishes featured here are bread and fruit, such as, melon or berries. Certainly a loaf of  Italian bread would be good, but I like to serve Focaccia.

Focaccia  is a flat oven-baked Italian bread which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients.
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese, meat, or vegetables.
Focaccia dough is similar in style and texture to pizza dough but is usually baked in a deep dish pan. The bread bakes up thicker than pizza and can be used for sandwiches.

In Ancient Rome, foccacia, was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace. The word is derived from the Latin word meaning “centre” and also “fireplace” – the fireplace being in the centre of the house.  As the tradition spread, the diverse regions and the different local ingredients resulted in a large variety of breads.  The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine, a coastal region of north-western Italy.  In America, it is referred to as focaccia bread.

Here is a recipe I have adapted from King Arthur.

This bread is just about the easiest home-baked bread recipe that I have found because it can be made without kneading and is ready in under 2 hours.

No-Fuss Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons for drizzling)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • Italian seasoning or other herbs of choice
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Drizzle the bottom of a 9″x 13″ pan with 1 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine all of the ingredients and beat at high-speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.

Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan.  If you spray a spatula (or your fingers) with cooking spray, the dough will be easier to smooth out.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.  Drizzle it lightly 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated parmesan cheese.

Bake the bread until it is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Focaccia



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