Category Archives: Viva Italia

Recipe: Portabella, Polenta & Peppers

We all do it — we make crazy combination dishes, using what we find in the fridge then throwing in a little of this,  a little of that. Once in a while, though, magic happens, and the dish turns out so surprisingly delicious that we scramble to write it down.

Polenta stir fry 2

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Recipe: Fresh Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a summertime staple. It’s quick to make, universally enjoyed, and affordable. The only downside to the usual pasta salad? Gobs of mayo, and overcooked pasta.

You’re not going to find either of those things in this recipe!

IMG_0630[1]This salad uses extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice; the juice from the fresh tomatoes also adds moisture. And for the pasta, I tend to use only Barilla brand. I think they are the best commercial brand out there, and you can choose from traditional, whole wheat or mixed.

The real star of this dish, though, is the produce. You can add a huge burst of flavor, color and nutrition with the creative use of veggies of all kinds. In this particular version, I used what I had on hand, but the variations are endless. Read the rest of this entry

Recipe: Bread, rolls, pizza, oh my!

I have learned how to bake bread… and I feel like I have just invented fire. Yeah, I am Wonder Woman.

You have no idea how proud (and surprised) I am at this accomplishment! Why did I think that making bread was beyond my capabilities?

basil bread rolls

Basil whole wheat rolls with Viva Italia and parmesan

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Recipe: Spicy Grilled Cod

You’ve heard that fish can be a valuable part of a healthy diet. It’s naturally low-fat, high in protein, and easy on the calories (depending on how you prepare it). The health benefits read like an alphabet: fish can help to prevent asthma, fuel your brain, stave off some cancers, lower your risk of dementia, and more.

Grilled fish

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Recipe: Stuffed Manicotti with Spicy Turkey Sausage

It’s darn cold around here, these days, so I thought that a nice, hearty lasagna would be just the thing to warm me up. Any excuse to fire up the oven, you know? But lasagna can be a lot of work… so I decided to make some stuffed manicotti instead (doesn’t it actually LOOK just like lasagna?).

Stuffed Manicotti

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Recipe: Italian Wedding Soup, YSOL-style

Typically, Italian Wedding Soup is made up of chicken stock, tiny meatballs, even tinier pasta (pastina) and escarole. It’s fantastic, but like many traditional recipes, could use a little lightening up by reducing fat and adding more veggies. I’ve also amped up the flavor by using my complex “Viva Italia!” seasoning blend,  both inside the meatballs and in the broth at serving time.

"Viva Italia!" spice blend

So, I’ve swapped out the pasta for cannelloni beans,  which provide the same weight and starchiness as the pasta, but add protein. The typical beef meatball is transformed with low-fat turkey breast, and I’ve added carrot and fennel bulb to the usual garlic and onion in the meatballs.

Overall, you still get the same warm, wedding-ish feeling from this soup, but now you can feel better about eating it! Who wants to hear the recipe?  I DO! Read the rest of this entry

Recipe: Za’atar Pita Chips

Zaatar, za’tar, zatar, zatr, zahatar, zaktar or satar!  However you spell it, za’atar is a delicious spice blend with Middle Eastern origins.

Introducing:  za’atar by Your Spice of Life!

The same way that there is no set recipe for Italian or Cajun seasoning, there is no standard for za’atar. However, the components of za’atar that are most often found are thyme, oregano, sumac berry, sesame seeds and salt.

I wanted to develop my own za’atar blend, honoring its tradition but also adding my own twist, as I do with all my blends. So I omitted the sesame seeds (mostly because of their very short shelf life) and the salt (because none of my spice blends contain it). Instead, I added some marjoram to intensify the herbiness, and a pinch of lemon peel to brighten the flavor and enhance the lemony flavor inherent in sumac berries.

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Recipes: Time-savers and add-ins

Who wouldn’t love creating soup-to-nuts meals every day, from scratch?

OK, maybe not literally soup-to-nuts, but you know what I mean: wholesome, healthy meals that are creative and delicious. Time constraints and energy shortages can get in the way;  as much as I   to cook from scratch,  there are times when I need to take a few shortcuts.

I’m not alone in that, either;  there is a very popular show on the Food Network, Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee,  in which Sandra combines fresh ingredients with store-bought to create what she calls “semi-homemade” dishes.

Over time, I’ve come up with a few shortcuts, myself,  that are real winners: Read the rest of this entry

Recipe: Campanelle Pasta Salad with Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Campanelle” is an Italian word that means little flowers or little bells. It’s also the name of one of my favorite Barilla pasta shapes, ever! Anything that you add to them gets trapped in the folds, so that every bite yields a burst of flavor.

With summertime cooking, I wanted to make a really fresh, easy pasta salad for my two Farmers Markets that I’m doing this season — every Wednesday at The Nutrition Center in Great Barrington, and the 1st and 3rd Saturday right here in Hillsdale.

Viva Italia! Pasta Salad
Viva Italia! Pasta Salad

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Recipe: Spiced Popcorn

We love to snack!

Finding something that doesn’t leave us wracked with guilt is another matter. Popcorn is a great solution on all counts. It’s quick to prepare, high in fiber, very budget-friendly, and best of all, you can create numerous varieties right in your kitchen by using my spice blends and sea salts!

Before you start, you will want to select your seasoning, and have it ready to add to the hot popcorn as soon as it comes out of the pan. Of all my products, these are my favorites to use on popcorn:

•  Viva Italia! spice blend (the version with or without salt)

Feisty Fiesta spice blend gives a nice kick!

Feisty Fiesta spice blend gives a nice kick!

•  Feisty Fiesta spice blend
•  Hurricane Curry spice blend
•  As Sweet As Kate spiced sugar
•  Kitchen Campfire smoked sea salt
•  Smokin’ Onion Double Dipper dip mix
•  any combination of my sea salts and exotic peppers

I am a fan of making popcorn the old-fashioned way, i.e. not in the microwave, and not Jiffy Pop either. All you need is a sturdy pan, a few tablespoons of oil (I use olive oil for the extra flavor), and 1/2 cup of loose, unpopped popcorn. This will make the equivalent amount of a one-gallon plastic storage bag.

Heat the oil on medium high, and add the popcorn. Cover with lid.  Gently shake the pan back and forth so that nothing sticks. Keep this up until the popping slows down to once every few seconds, then remove from the heat.

Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam), and pour into a large bowl. Immediately add your chosen Your Spice of Life seasoning — start with one teaspoon, taste it, then add more if it needs it — and toss well. As long as you add it right away, the heat and the residual oil will allow it to cling nicely to the popcorn.

Enjoy!

If you need more detail on how to make popcorn on the stovetop, see http://www.ehow.com/how_2013_pop-popcorn.html

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