Tag Archives: Cooking

Isn’t She Lovely? Lighter Lasagna

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Often lasagna is like  a beautiful Italian woman in a tight red dress. She may look like a siren, but she may be good for you too.  Italians are known for overdoing it. We are impulsive, impetuous, extreme, but passionate. In the kitchen our personality is in full force all the time. Nothing is off-limits.

The new year is about shedding many things. In an attempt to embrace a new life.. ..I also let go of the calories and fat in my traditional Christmas Eve lasagna. Basically anything that does not add to your lasagna, needs to be left out. Sounds simple but it does wonders.

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Fresh and Simple Summers

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Me and mini me have been enjoying every sprouting food market within a 60 mile radius this season and I love it. To me, nothing heals the mind better than love and food. Seeing the pride of growers, cultivators, creators and area cooks inspires me.  My life recently has been full of a lot of new colors, flavors and aromas. All of this has reawakened stalled dreams and brought new life even into my kitchen. What better way to celebrate this heightened sense of awareness and passion than with a simple, bright meal.

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Aren’t You a Sweet Thing

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Who hasn’t had a tough morning after? Nothing cleans the soul after a bad choice like a good brunch. It is my favorite meal of any day. Lazy enough to sleep in, early enough to leave the day wide open. With some simple ingredients you can wow that bad choice on its way out, or keep  it coming back for another round.

My smokey sweet potato hash is also a colorful way to keep your body on the right track.
This antioxidant and vitamin rich dish is easy on the eyes and waste. It is the subtle smokey cumin that adds to the antioxidant rich cancer fighting power:)

The mixture of beta carotene in sweet potatoes (go for organic, the skin is truly your body’s best friend) with Vitamins A, K, E, C, B in the spinach keeps your body in stasis, fighting disease like batman.

Even better, it is simpler than last night’s regret. Brown 2 medium thickly sliced sweet potatoes in olive oil and a small tab of butter. Make sure to let each side brown. Lower the heat and add two cloves of garlic, sea salt and two tablespoons of cumin. Throw in some bright red onion and some fresh spinach. Tear up four basil leaves and throw them in. Brown the mixture, gently turning once. Add some tomatoes, I prefer Roma. Then top it off with three organic eggs. On covered low heat, let the egg cook on top of the potatoes sunny side up. Yum!!

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How Sweet It is!

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Mini me shows me how it is done! Her simple blueberry pie
is a healthier version of the usual sugar laden staple. We use nothing but fresh blueberries, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest with a touch of starch to hold our little piece of heaven together. This one crust version, is complete with mini me’s light wheat crust. For a sweet touch, she always puts a heart somewhere in our baking. Love. Love. Love.

Pasta Pomodoro!

My recent ventures to some local and not-so-local markets has had me  and mini me eating well ! A well fed body and heart is all we  really need. Check, I have both covered! I made sure to pick up some fresh pasta from a small family eatery this weekend. Me and mini me do roll our own pasta, but we need to really try to infuse our variety. These new flavors have us inspired!20140523-233333.jpg

This week, I experimented with a red pepper cappellini, spinach fettuccini, and garlic-chive spaghetti .. so many possibilities. These fresh rolled bundles balance perfectly together.  Like the yin and yang of love, the flavors complement and enhance the fabulous union!

The art of bringing out their uniqueness, without masking their qualities can be challenging. When I want to enhance and not cloak..I turn to my homemade lemon-olive oil. I use a rich extra virgin olive oil  and 6 meyer lemons to create an oil that quickly infuses flavor without overdoing it. I store bottles of it and use it for skin care and culinary exploits.

I cooked 6 roma tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, a shallot, sea salt, crushed red pepper and a handful of capers in about 4 tablespoons of the oil. Once the tomatoes started to cook down, I added 8 torn basil leaves and 1/4 cup of fresh Romano.  When mixed together, I used tongs to create little nests of each flavor.  With some simple grilled chicken and a lemon vinaigrette, it was heaven. Close to it anyway!
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Sassy Shrimp Scampi

 

There is nothing quite as bright as the hue of meyer lemons hanging over the Amalfi Coast. And every time I make our simple lemon basil shrimp, I feel like me and mini me have escaped to a land where cobalt blue meets canary yellow. We can dream, can’t we?

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The healing properties of lemon are innumerable, almost as innumerable as new love. This week, I’ve  been fighting a cold that is wreaking havoc on my mood and my nose, so I needed to call in the big guns !

I wandered through a small city market this weekend and found some beautiful meyer lemons, some ginger juice, incredible pastas, herbs and some fresh lettuce.

For the moment, I live in a landlocked town:( And I truly can’t stand it. I have always lived near the water or in pretty close proximity to a coast. It is challenging to find fresh seafood here. However, the city market was abound with well priced  fisherman stands and I made sure to stock up on some fresh shrimp.

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For our simple lemon basil shrimp, me and mini me used the juice of 3 meyer lemons, olive oil, sea salt, white pepper and oregeno. This is our basic marinade . It is important to let the shrimp sit in the marinade for at least two hours. Then we drain ig. We lay the shrimp in a baking dish lined with olive oil, and zest 1 lemon over the shrimp. We then chop three cloves of garlic in a bowl with a half cup of planko, two cubed tablespoons of butter and 5-7 torn basil leaves.  Take the dry mix and spread it evenly over the shrimp. We add crushed red pepper to taste  and some  shredded fontina. Simply cook it at 425 for 15 minutes until the shrimp is cooked through.

This is a light dish and is perfect with couscous and a bright spinach salad! Perfecto!

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New Labels, Old Habits?

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Seeing a well-fed, satisfied face across the kitchen table is probably at the top of my list of life’s greatest pleasures. I like to feed and to nurture. The short Italian in me likes to think food and meals can heal all.

Yes, it can repair rifts, build family routines and new families, can warm hearts and even deepen love. Over a meal is usually how Italian women are charmed! And I am most charmed when a tall, handsome man asks for a second helping of my culinary creation:)

When life disappoints, what I miss most is that feeling of being needed in the kitchen. Italian women like to feel they solely sustain their loved ones– through food ( and other things)! Id truly be happy just feeding someone and being loved in my apron. 😉

When that is gone.. What else do I have…I have mini and our food adventures to get me over the slump. We share laughs, ideas and life in the kitchen. She’s developed healthy, well rounded eating habits through years of my coaching!

The FDA is considering a huge change to its nutritional labels to help others make good choices. In the hopes of deterring over-consumption of high sodium and high fat foods the FDA wants to enlarge serving sizes and move percentages to a more readable spot.

While I commend these gestures… I realize as a lover of healthy eating.. that habits will not change with a bigger sign. Change is internal.

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That would be like writing a neon sign to a former lover explaining their mismatched moves! It would be far more fun and more of a learning experience to keep the romance going and offer small changes at a time. In the end, all would win!!!

It is the same with food. When depression hits in, we are all guilty of pleasure eating and drinking. Some use sex with new partners or even strangers to get that endorphin/ego high. Dangerous, stupid and doesn’t help much. It is the same for those whose intake of sweets, fats, and salts triple during depression. These are small habits that we can change.

I worked on a project that offered healthy cooking classes to at risk families last year. I was so excited to show them how one or two small changes could impact their mental, physical and economic health!!

This week, my soul feels out of whack and jarred. My choices..eat until I explode or run to another kind of emotional fix. Neither is a good plan.

Instead.. I am using my energy to snack on better options than fudge, like avocados ( which in the winter I don’t use much but should). I am changing up my routine. Trying some Latin cooking tonight…new proteins. I am hoping the fiery chilies will give me the rush, rather than Ben and Jerry’s!

I’ve got a friend who is willing to join me in some rustic Sicilian cooking and is willing to venture into new waters. I need new waters. I had a pomegranate smoothie this morning and tomorrow am making my own orange-ginger concoction. Fighting one habit at a time.

And though the table may be a bit more empty… And that familiar well-fed face is long gone..there will be others sometime. I will find solace in healthy options I’ve overlooked. So should you.

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Lighten Up: Carbonara Done Right!

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It’s been one of those weeks, where my body and mind need an overhaul. What better way than with the right food. When all else disappoints, carbonara and mini me do not.

We lightened up the traditional dish with whole grain pasta and vegetable stock. We browned some pancetta ( you can use American bacon but only a few pieces are needed) with shallots and garlic. Drain to a towel and put it back in the pan.

In the meantime I undercooked a pound of whole grain pasta. Make sure it is al dente because the starch will thicken the flavors. Take the pasta from the water in half the cooking time and add it to the pancetta mixture. Put the heat on medium. Use tongs to evenly distribute. Add sea salt, pepper and basil. Quickly add in two eggs making sure to keep the pasta moving as you mix.

Once it looks even, add in a cup of peas, 1/4 cup of cream and a good cup of Romano cheese. It will be thick. Add vegetable stock til your desired texture.
So simple and just the therapy I needed.

Here is mini me keeping our pasta moving!!!

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Now..THAT is Amore! Italy’s Healthy Side!

Me and mini me strolling through Little Italy's food treasures!
Me and mini me strolling through Little Italy’s food treasures!

Unfortunately Italy is far from my current geographical stomping grounds. When I feel like bringing Tuscany and its colors, tastes, smells, sounds into my little haven… I retreat to the kitchen.

Me and mini me have had a long week. The weather has been frightful but fun, and we needed a few dishes that could keep us going strong. What better way than my version of Tuscan spring in a kale-sausage stew?

There is no other star brighter than the nutritional powerhouse of kale. It’s bright green hue showcases its might– low in calories, high in fiber, iron, vitamins A, C, E and K, an anti-inflammatory and digestive aid! What better base for my culinary trip back to Italia !

Me and mini me started by sautéing a basic base of four minced cloves of garlic and half of a red onion in olive oil. Then we put in 5-7 chopped ripe roma tomatoes. Once the garlic and onion were translucent I added sea salt and thyme. We added 6 links of a turkey sausage ( be mindful that some alternatives to pork sausage have a lot of salt..buy fresh if possible..we lucked out and went to a newly discovered local butcher).

Our Sausage-Kale Stew
Our Sausage-Kale Stew

Crumble the sausage in the pan and add vegetable stock. Keep the heat on low to medium and add a pound of tri-color tortellini and as much kale as you can handle! (Make sure to clean the kale well and chop it so it is palatable).

Add 5-7 fresh chopped basil leaves, pepper to taste and 1/2 cup of
Romano cheese. The colors and tastes are reminiscent of the spring greens of Italy’s countryside. Pair it with a nice glass of wine and forget…or remember…

whichever is more pleasant!

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That’s a Big Cannoli You’ve Got!

Finding real Italian food below the Mason Dixon is like trying to find a good man. Oh how you will suffer through the imposters. The price is always too high and the mental hangover lingers endlessly.

You know you are far from home when you need to shop in the “ethnic” aisle for San Marzano Tomatoes. Yes, you too may find yourself looking into the frazzled eyes of  a southern grocer, attempting to decipher your Yankee accent and need for “special” tomatoes.

Like love, however, if you shop around and do your homework, you just may find the rustic comfort your soul craves. When I am below the Italian food belt ( anything south of 9th Street in Philadelphia), the hunt for something to heal my homesick ails is daunting. When I miss Umberto’s Pizzeria, when I miss Luigi’s,  and when Caffe Reggio is far behind me in the rear view , I stop in at Leoci’s Trattoria in  Savannah.

Local farm raised ingredients meets rustic homemade Amore! The pasta is made fresh for each plate, so be patient. But, just like the hunt for a lascivious lover, the wait is worth it. From the arancini to the fresh tagliatelle, it may be better than that lover anyway!!

During my recent visit I tried the Pasta alla Norma; fresh ribbons of tagliatelle with grilled eggplant, crushed tomatoes and a delightful helping of buffalo mozzarella. My salad was smothered in grilled artichokes and under a raspberry jalapeño dressing, made fresh on the spot. If you do wander in, be sure to try the veal polpette and any of the risotto. The wine list is endless and so are the possibilities! So do not fret, find yourself an olive skinned beauty or a stallion, and turn that GPS to Leoci’s.

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