Appies, Italian Style

February 12, 2010

A few weeks ago, some friends gathered at our house for an Italian potluck dinner.  The plan was simple: everyone took one part of the menu and came up with an Italian-type dish.  Italian is one of the few cuisines I never cook … but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with some basic appetizers.  It turns out that Italian style appetizers are exactly that: basic.  The best ones are made with ingredients that are fresh, simple and delicious. 

While I’d highly recommend making these in the summer months (when tomatoes and basil will be in season, inexpensive and irresistible), I’ll post them now for your eating pleasure.  Just in case you can’t wait til June to get your hands on some brushetta.

My first appetizer was an antipasto plate.  This was insanely simple: meats, cheeses, and olives.  (I used an aged cheddar, pecorino romano, prosciutto and sopressata.)

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And, of course, when you think Italian appetizers, what do you think of?

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Bruschetta, anyone?

This is also very easy to make.  Prep by turning the oven on to 450 and making sure you have a rack on the very top.

Slice a thin baguette on an angle, about 1/2” thick.

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Brush each piece, using a pastry brush, with olive oil and then rub with garlic clove, before laying oil-side down on a cookie tray.

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Toast for 5-6 minutes, til golden brown.

Meanwhile, chop up tomatoes (plum or roma work best) and basil.  Toss together with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. 

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Once the bread comes out of the oven, top it with the tomato mixture. 

Then, eat, eat, eat!

Lastly, I had lots of tomatoes and basil leftover, so I did what any cheese-lovin soul would do…. made Caprese salad!

Again, very straightforward.  Pile up round slices of tomatoes, with a piece of basil, and a round slice of fresh mozzarella.

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Fresh Mozz is a MUST! 

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Once you pile up the stacks, drizzle them with balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper.  Although I’m not really a big tomato fan, I just love the way this salad looks.  Isn’t it beautiful?

While these were appetizers, you could certainly make a dinner out of them.   Had my friends not shown up with their goodies shortly after I finished assembling these, I think I might have!



July 15, 2009

When we were growing up, my mom would pull everything out the fridge every 2-3 weeks, pile it up on the counter and hand us a plate. We called it “Smorgasbord” and as a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. As the cook, now I get why my mom did that. There’s nothing more annoying than whipping up yet another meal when there’s at least 2-3 days worth of leftovers taking up real estate in your fridge. After hosting both sets of our parents, one sibling and two out of town friends over the course of one weekend, we had some serious leftovers hanging out in our fridge. So Sunday afternoon, I pulled everything out, piled it up on the counter and handed out the plates.

Anything You Want, We Got It.

Anything You Want, We Got It.


This is one of the most delicious meals I think I’ve had in awhile! Toasted whole wheat bread and snow peas with hummus, and a salad with lunchmeat turkey, strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Sometimes the most simple meals taste the most delicious!

Not bad for leftovers

Not bad for leftovers


July 4, 2009

While this is a blog about eating healthy, I also promised to show you what I eat day in and day out. And one of my very favorite treats is a delicious, crisp glass of white wine. Every month, Consumer Reports publishes their best pick ones and last month they happened to have a BOX of wine as their best pick! I could hardly believe it, but since CR sent me in the right direction on my car and my fridge, I figured I had a good shot at enjoying the wine.

Not only was this pick, Fish Eye Pinot Grigio, dee-lish, it was also $19.99 (here in North Carolina) for a 3L box. Unbelievable.

Box wines go classy?!

Box wines go classy?!

Just in time for some holiday celebrating! Have a safe & happy 4th, ya’ll!


July 2, 2009

A few years ago, my friend Emily brought a salad to our house for a cookout and every since then it has become a staple in our household. I could eat this morning, noon and night – I’m not kidding. And, it’s absurdly simple to make. Emily had a recipe, but after following it the few times, it started becoming a pantry-dump salad.

If you’ve got 4th of July plans and need a healthy but yummy dish to take with you: here’s your dish!

Throw It Together, Mix It Up

Throw It Together, Mix It Up

The general ingredients are beans, corns, tomatoes, onions and jalapenos if you like a little kick. Then the whole thing gets tossed together with 1/4 cup of olive oil or a light Italian dressing. I like olive oil with just a pinch of salt and lots of pepper, along with fresh garlic.

Simple Dressing: OO, Salt, Pepper

Simple Dressing: OO, Salt, Pepper

The last one I made had kidney beans, black beans, corn, onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Based on these ingredients (one 15 oz can of each of the beans, 1 cup corn, 1 tomato) and the 1/4 c olive oil, it was 220 calories per serving. (My batch was 16 servings.) And it has 8 g of fiber AND 12 g of protein. We started making this as a side dish, but with those stats, I often eat it for lunch as my main entree!

Ready to Eat!

Ready to Eat!

Parsley Pesto

April 22, 2009

Recently I bought a ginormous bag of fresh parsley at Harris Teeter, with great intention to sprinkle into a mustard potato salad I was making. Once I used the requisite teaspoon of parsley required, I was left with approximately six more cups and no game plan. I decided, impulsively, to see if I could make a pesto out of parsley. As I began combining my ingredients, I realized I also did not have pine nuts. I did, however, have walnuts – so toasted and chopped they were, and into the mix they went. It actually turned out pretty yummy – once tossed with my pasta, I would never have guessed it was parsley.

Chop chop chop chop chop.

Chop chop chop chop chop.

Pesto is not exactly known as a health food, due to it’s caloric density. In my version (compliments of my kitchen-savvy Aunt Jennifer), there is olive oil, Parmesan cheese, red wine, walnuts, lemon juice, pine nuts and basil. Well, in this case, walnuts and parsley. However, there are great health perks from the olive oil, walnuts and red wine. Parsley, another native of the Mediterranean, is an overlooked powerhouse of nutrients.  With portion control applied, my parsley pesto can be a health happy food too.

Parsley, known most often as a pretty garnish on the plate that your hamburger comes on, is underestimated herb. Turns out parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C & vitamin A, as well as vitamin K.   Vitamin C is one of our major sources of antioxidants, which protect the body from free radicals damage and improve iron absorption.  (Which means if you actually eat the parsley under your hambruger, you’ll eek out more iron from that burger.  Woo!)  Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin, has the mighty task of helping preserving your eye sight and combat viruses.  Vitamin K also prevents oxidative damage and helps your blood clot normally.   ALL THAT in that forgotten about little sprig.  And did I mention it tasted delicious all ground up in my blender with parmesan cheese and walnuts?

According to my fave calorie counter website, my recipe had 130 calories per servings (8 servings).  With 1.5 oz of fusilli (160 cals) and 3 oz chicken (140), the whole combo clocks in at 430 calories.  Pair with a small side salad with a 100-cal dressing or some raw veggies and hummus as an appetizer, and you have a truuuuuly decadent yet good for you meal.  Oh and the best part, this is the EASIEST dish to make for big groups.  Party time!

Parsley Pesto

Parsley Pesto

Aunt Jennifer’s Pesto Recipe:

2 cups basil (or parsley)
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T red wine
2 T lemon juice
4 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt

*Mix all in food processor.  Toss over warm pasta.  Add chicken, si vous plait.