Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Durum

 

Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. With so many types of flour to choose from-spelt flour, soy flour, quinoa flour, rice flour, organic bread flour and even gluten-free flour-your head may begin to spin. If you want your recipe to be a success, you’ll need to understand what each type does and whether it’s right for your recipe’s need.

There are two different types of wheat in the descriptions below: hard and soft. The difference is in the protein content, with hard wheat having a higher level of protein than soft. Wheat is milled and processed in slightly varying ways to create the different flours, for example whole-wheat flour will be darker in color than all-purpose flour because it contains the whole kernel (the bran, germ and endosperm) rather than just the endosperm (the center of the wheat kernel).

The type of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Flour contains protein and when it comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten, which gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore using a different type of flour than what is called for in a recipe (without compensating for this change) will alter the outcome of the baked good. A cake flour is used to make a white cake where a delicate tender crumb is desired. Bread flour is used to make a chewy bread and all-purpose flour makes a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies.

What Mario Batali says about using different flours in Italian cooking:

Soft wheat flour produces the tender pasta used in Emilia-Romagna’s cuisine. Hard wheat flour, conversely, is lower in starch and higher in protein and gluten, producing firm and resilient pasta and bread. Durum wheat is high in gluten and is usually ground into semolina, a slightly coarser flour used in pasta production, particularly in the South of Italy. When purchasing flour, look at the nutrition panel for the protein content, which is listed in grams per pound.

Essentially, for thin tender pasta, I’ve found the pastry flour in the bulk bins to be perfect. For everyday pastas I just use all purpose. For rustic pastas with a rougher texture and thicker noodles, I mix in 1/3 or even 100% semolina, again from the bulk bin. Sometimes I experiment with hard winter wheat Durum (bulk bins), which I think is similar in protein/gluten to semolina but more finely ground if I want a finer texture.

How To Store Flour:

Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months. The main change that occurs over time is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.

Flour should be stored, covered, in a cool and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.

Do not store flour near soap powder, onions or other foods and products with strong odors.

If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.

Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator the year around. Natural oils cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature.

Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is infested with weevils.

Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months.

Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.

Following are the flours I use on a regular basis with a description of how I use them. The brands I use are also depicted in the pictures but use the brands that are sold in your area. Recipes follow with the type of flour I use in the recipe.

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Ideal for the full range of your baking repertoire. All-Purpose is strong enough to combine with whole grains for higher-rising loaves, and tender enough to make beautiful pie crusts, scones and muffins.

Unbleached Bread Flour

High-gluten bread flour, milled from hard red spring wheat, is perfect for yeast baked goods-bread, rolls, pizza, and more. The higher the protein level, the stronger the rise. Excellent companion for whole grain flours, such as rye or whole wheat.

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour

Ultragrain All Purpose Flour contains 9 grams of whole grain per serving and twice the fiber of other all-purpose flours. Use it in place of standard white flour in all of your favorite recipes. Recipes made with Ultragrain look, cook, bake, and taste like recipes made with white flour, but have the added benefit of whole grain nutrition. I like the convenience of the whole wheat flour added in with the white flour, especially for baking muffins and other coffeecake types of bread.

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour, a blend of flour, baking powder, and salt, is a Southern staple. Milled from a lower-protein wheat than all-purpose flour, it produces softer, more tender baked goods, including biscuits, pancakes, cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, and more.This convenient flour eliminates two steps in many of your favorite recipes: adding the baking powder, and adding the salt. Both are already in the flour.

White Whole Wheat Flour

100% white whole wheat is a lighter whole wheat, with 100% of the nutrition. Makes lighter-colored, milder-tasting baked goods. Perfect for cookies, bars, bread, muffins, pancakes… all your favorite baked goods.

100% Whole Wheat Flour

Traditional Whole Wheat Flour, features the classic flavor of red whole wheat. Its fine grind and 14% protein content produce whole-wheat breads with a hearty texture and higher rise.  Excellent for yeast bread.

 

 

Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

A flour blend that produces a medium-fine texture cake, moist and flavorful, with no artificial colors or chemicals added. It is a good flour to use for baking birthday cakes and cookies, especially Christmas sugar cookies.

 

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

Pastry Flour (both white and whole wheat) is milled from soft wheat and has a level of protein between all-purpose and cake flours (at about 8-10%). That medium level makes it great to use in recipes where you want a tender and crumbly pastry (too much protein would give you a hard pastry and too little protein would give you a brittle dough). Try pastry flour in recipes for biscuits, pie dough, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Do not use it for making yeast breads.

I prefer to use the whole wheat version and I have great success with it in all my pies and cookies.

Whole wheat pastry flour is milled from low-protein soft wheat, producing a flour with 9% protein. Use it in cookies, pie crusts, and scones to incorporate whole wheat into your pastries while retaining the tenderness these pastries need.

 

Semolina Flour

Semolina–a coarse grind of high-protein durum wheat–gives gorgeous color and great flavor to breads, pizza crust, and pasta. Substitute semolina for some (or all) of the all-purpose flour in your bread recipe.

Makes wonderful pasta.

My favorite way to use the semolina flour is mixed into pizza crust – it really just helps make a superior crispy product. I just replace about a cup of the regular flour with semolina and mix it in.

 

Italian-Style Flour

Italian-Style flour makes an extremely supple dough, smooth and easy to work with. The “00” refers to the grind of the flour, and how much of the wheat’s bran and germ have been removed, not to its protein level. There are low-, high- and in-between 00 flours. The one sold in the US is a lower protein one. Try it for crackers or pasta, tender pizza, focaccia, and bread sticks or crisp grissini.

Instant Flour

Wondra is an instant flour, low in protein and finely ground. It has been treated, so that it will dissolve instantly in water and not require the same long cooking process as non-instant flour to dissolve in a liquid and thicken it. The process is called pregelatinization and it involves heating a starch (flour) with very hot water and/or steam, then drying it out, so that it has essentially been cooked already. Because of this, instant flour is unlikely to form lumps when mixed with water or broth. Wondra also has some malted barley flour mixed into it, which acts as a dough conditioner in many breads. This quick-mixing all-purpose flour is the perfect solution for lump-free gravies and sauces and for breading fish and poultry.

 

Fluffy Pancakes

These pancakes taste like they are made with buttermilk and are light and fluffy with minimal fat.

Makes: 5 servings (2 pancakes each)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat free milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups Ultragrain All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray

Directions

Pour milk into small bowl and whisk in oil and lemon juice; set aside. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; blend well. Form a well in center of dry ingredients; set aside.

Add Egg Beaters to milk mixture; whisk together. Pour mixture into the center of dry ingredients. Gently whisk together just until combined; a few lumps will remain. Do not overmix.

Spray large nonstick griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Heat griddle over medium heat until hot. Pour four 1/4 cupfuls of batter separately onto griddle.

Cook about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes or until large bubbles form on top and bottom is golden brown. Turn with wide spatula; cook 1 minute more or until second side is golden brown. Keep warm. Repeat until all batter is used. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or serve with pancake syrup, if desired.

Whole-Wheat Scones                                                                     

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit, your choice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, divided
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or coat it with nonstick spray. Place cream cheese and butter in freezer to chill, about 10 minutes.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut cream cheese and butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. Add dried fruit, 1/4 cup pecans and orange zest and toss to incorporate. Make a well in the flour mixture. Add 2/3 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork until just combined.

3. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead gently 7 or 8 times. Divide dough in half. With floured hands, pat each piece into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. With a floured knife, cut each circle into 8 wedges. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

4. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Fresh Whole-Wheat Pita                                                                                                          

Stuff with your favorite salad or sandwich fixings. Leftovers make tasty baked chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 10 ounces bread flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4.75 ounces White Whole-Wheat Flour (about 1 cup), divided
  • 2 tablespoons 2% Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions:

1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add bread flour, 3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour, yogurt, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture; beat with a electric mixer paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining whole-wheat flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to the bowl (dough will feel sticky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

2. Position the oven rack on the lowest shelf.

3. Preheat the oven to 500° F.

4. Divide dough into 8 portions. Working with one portion at a time, gently roll each portion into a 5 1/2-inch circle. Place 4 dough circles on each of 2 baking sheets heavily coated with cooking spray. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, at 500°F for 8 minutes or until puffed and browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 pita)

Golden Semolina Biscotti                                                                                                                                                       

You won’t need a mixer to make these crunchy biscotti; the dough is easily stirred together by hand.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) melted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 to 4 drops flavoring of choice; e.g., butter-rum, almond, hazelnut, etc.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Semolina Flour
  • 2 cups diced dried fruit, chocolate chips or chunks, or nuts

Directions:

Grease a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, flavor, and vanilla, mixing until blended. Add the eggs, then blend in the flour and semolina. Use a spatula or your hands to mix in the fruits, chocolate, or nuts.

Scoop the dough onto the baking pan and shape it into a 10 1/2 x 4-inch log.

Bake the log in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour.

Slice on the diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide pieces. Place the biscotti back onto a baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 22 to 26 minutes, until golden. Turn them over halfway during the baking time.

The biscotti will become crisp as they cool; allow them to cool right on the baking sheet.

Store in an airtight container when totally cool. Yield: 14 to 18 large biscotti.

 


Ciro’s Italian Village, Washington, D.C. (1930)
Photo courtesy of Bill Walsh, copy editor at The Washington Post.

In the early 1900’s the Italian Immigrants who came to America lacked a common language and a common interpretation of “Italian cuisine.”  In Italy they had  been sharecroppers and tenant farmers and had become accustomed to living on the foods they grew on their land. While there was no single style of cooking that typified the newly-arrived Italian, one foodstuff that all Italian immigrants had in common was pasta made from soft wheat flour, water, and salt. At the time, semolina pasta made with durum wheat (as we know it today), was a staple for only the Italian upper classes, however, that would change once the newcomers found housing and steady incomes in America.

As they began to form communities in America, the Calabrese settled with other Calabrese; Sicilians with other Sicilians, etc. They cooked the dishes they remembered from Italy, whenever possible, with ingredients close to those they knew from home. These Italian neighborhoods became the ‘Little Italy’ communities in the major cities of the United States. Among the better known are the North End in Boston, North Beach in San Francisco, The Hill in St. Louis, the Bella Vista neighborhood in Philadelphia, Federal Hill in Providence, and the Little Italy quarters of Chicago, Baltimore, and New York.

Commercial pasta production—on a mom-and-pop level—began with the first waves of immigrants. Many set up shops, some in the front parlors of their apartments, to sell their homemade products to neighbors.

Although many worked as laborers and longshoremen, Italians found that even with a $10.00 weekly wage, one could enjoy the semolina pasta and salume (cured meats) they had been unable to afford back home. Tenement living may have been crowded and unpleasant, but semolina pasta—even simply dressed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes—gave them a sense of liberation from the oppressive poverty they had known in Italy.  (Source: Almost Italian: A Cookbook & History of Italian Food in America by Skip Lombardi and Holly Chase.)

Following the First World War, pasta was an inexpensive choice at a time when food prices were rising in America. Recipes for spaghetti and tomato sauce started turning up in women’s magazines. American millers found a new use for flour, the consumption of which had decreased as the population moved to cities and began eating  more varied diets, which were not based on bread. The millers sponsored “eat more wheat” campaigns in the early 1920s and promoted macaroni. Pasta makers began using durum wheat, which they advertised as being higher in protein than soft wheat (it is, but not by much). Campbell’s, Heinz and other manufacturers brought out canned macaroni with tomato sauce, joining Franco-American, which in the 1890s had begun to sell canned spaghetti, stressing that it used a French recipe. Cooking pasta long enough to can it safely, institutionalized what was already a long-established practice, one for which Italians still deride Americans—over cooking pasta.  

Semolina Flour

It became acceptable and fashionable  to promote Italian food, even if the pasta was mush and the tomato sauce was full of sugar and salt. One typical recipe for tomato sauce omitted garlic and consisted of canned tomato soup with Worcestershire sauce added. In 1927 Kraft began marketing grated “Parmesan” cheese in a cardboard container with a perforated top and suggested that the cheese be served as a topping for spaghetti with tomato sauce. Spaghetti sales outnumbered those of egg noodles and ran a strong second in popularity to elbow macaroni, called simply macaroni, which was already conventional in salads.

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

The promotional efforts worked and annual per capita consumption of pasta went from near zero in 1920 to 3¾  pounds by the end of the decade (as compared with fifty pounds in Italy). Restaurants accounted for much of this rise. Cafeterias, which became extremely popular in the twenties, served a great deal of spaghetti and tomato sauce. Italians all over the country opened “spaghetti houses” that served spaghetti and meatballs (purely an Italian American creation) to blue-collar workers. By the end of the twenties Italian restaurants had become the most popular ethnic restaurants in American cities, a lead they now hold nationwide. The Depression made spaghetti less an option than a necessity, and spaghetti and meatballs began appearing regularly on millions of American tables. ( Source: July 1986 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE)

In the mood for some real Italian spaghetti, try these recipes:

Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce                                                                                                                

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces hot Italian pork or turkey sausage links
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Arrange sausage on a small baking sheet. Broil sausage 5 minutes on each side. Remove pan from oven (do not turn broiler off). Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil sausage slices 2 minutes on each side or until browned.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
4. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, and salt; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Add sausage and cooked pasta to pan; toss well. Top with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sautéed Chicken with Pesto Spaghetti                                                                                                     

4 Servings

Ingredients:

Directions:

1. Make the pesto if using homemade.
2. Trim the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Dredge the chicken in the flour.
3. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 – 5 minutes per side. (Do not move them until you are ready to turn them – let them caramelize.) Place chicken on a plate and set aside.
4. Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.
5. Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil in a large pasta pot.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions until ‘al dente’. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain pasta.
6. Return pasta to the pot in which it was cooked.  Remove chicken from the sauté pan to a plate. Pour the sauce from the sautéed chicken over the pasta.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta.  Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.
7. Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate.  Arrange the chicken over the pasta and top with the reserved pesto.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Scallops, and Clams                                                                                                 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound fresh clams, scrubbed and rinsed well 
  • 1/2 pound. fresh scallops, cut small
  • 1/2 pound fresh raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

Directions:

1.  Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and sweat the garlic and chili for a few minutes until soft. Add the wine to the pan. Tap the clams on the work surface and discard any that do not close.  Add the clams and scallops to the pan and continue to sweat, taking care that the garlic and chili do not burn. As soon as the clams open (discard any that do not), remove the clams and scallops to a plate and set aside. Add the shrimp to the same pan and saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes until they turn lightly pink. Return the clams and scallops to the pan.  Season with salt and a little black pepper, and toss briefly to heat through.
2.  Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce with a tiny amount of the cooking water (just enough to keep the pasta moist). Stir well, transfer to a large serving bowl or individual pasta bowls, and sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley.

Note
How to clean clams:
Scrub the clams well under cold running water to wash away any grit. Put the clams in a large bowl of salted water making sure they are well covered with water (but do not cover the bowl). Soak in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight – any grit or sand will be left behind in the bottom of the bowl when you remove the clams. Pick out the clams by hand and rinse in plenty of fresh cold water.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Artichokes And Ricotta                                                                                                       

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and as soon as it starts to sizzle, add the artichokes and lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water together in a large pasta bowl until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley.

Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water and drain the pasta. Add it to the pasta bowl with the ricotta and toss to coat the pasta. If necessary, add a little hot pasta water to attain a creamy consistency. Add the artichokes and toss again. Serve immediately with generous amounts of grated Parmesan.

Spaghetti With Fresh Veggies                                                                                                                     

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 16 thin stalks fresh asparagus (or any fresh green vegetable in season)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 medium plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped (2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter*
  • 3/4 pound of spaghetti 
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup fat free half

Directions:

Trim asparagus. Remove tips; set aside. Bias-slice asparagus stalks into 1 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add asparagus stalks, wine, and salt. Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Add asparagus tips; cook uncovered, for 1 minutes. Add butter; stir till melted.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Return to pan and toss with asparagus mixture, half and half and basil.

Note: The butter is used in this recipe to bind the sauce. Margarine might not be an effective substitute.



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