To eat or not to eat? A classic Italian Sunday Lunch

Sunday is a very big day for families to get together and have lunch. It generally is held at your Grandma’s house or at your Mother’s house, she will more often than not make a 5 course meal where homemade pasta will made, with a delicious Ragù that has cooked for hours accompanied by a nice bottle of red wine; then followed by a vast array of meats and vegetables, cooked and served in various forms, from steamed to fried, boiled to sautéed, with all the in-betweens of bread, prosciutto, salami, cheeses, olives, etc… In other words it’s a day of sitting down around 1pm and getting up around 5pm.

My family is Traditional and we do (most Sundays) meet at my parents house in this cute town about an hour away from where I live with my Husband. The house is a typical old rustic house built somewhere about 80 – 100 years ago on a huge property with an old barn in the back, surrounded by vineyards. It’s perfect for family get-together’s although during the winter due to how old this house is it tends to be fairly cold. We are on the Adriatic coast north of Florence and South of Venice in the region of Emilia-Romagna, you may know the Region as this is where Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Balsamic Vinegar, Lasagna, Tagliatelle, Ragù a la Bolognese, etc…are from; not to forget also where Ferrari and Lamborghini are manufactured.

We are a large family and we love to eat. Although we do make some large meals, most of the time we try to not make too much food (as most Italians do) on Sundays, we generally pick one dish and then accompany that with veggies, wine (of course), tea, coffee and some sort of dessert. Now that I am pregnant I am lucky enough to be the one that gets the phone call of what my cravings are for Sunday, what would I like to eat and so forth; this will of course lead to the occasional sibling phone call telling me to tell my Mom that I am craving…..whatever they are craving. I can occasionally cave in to that but I also opt out at times, because it is generally something a little more fattening than I would appreciate to eat. I know that I am pregnant but I am still not in that mentality that just because I am pregnant I need to eat constantly and without watching what I eat. Don’t get me wrong I do occasionally indulge (why should I not) but those are on rare occasions, after all I am only going to be pregnant for another 4 months, after that I will have work to go back to my weight and all the eating I do now will be a huge factor of how and if I can do it in a timely manner. Fortunately, I haven’t had crazy, gross cravings so far, but I’ll talk about that another time.

As I mentioned earlier, Tagliatelle is very typical of this area and one of my favorite dishes for a Sunday, not to forget accompanied with Ragù a la Bolognese and the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano. So, this Sunday that is what my Mom prepared, she made the Ragù the previous day cooked it for hours and it was delicious.

              

Don’t let yourself get distracted by the plastic plates….it doesn’t take anything away from the amazing flavor of the food. I prefer my Mom to use plastic plates, we are about at least 10-12 and that’s on a regular day when not all my siblings, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, nieces, nephews can show up; if we had to use the regular plates and cups I think that it would suck to have to clean up after that, let me remind you that here in Italy there are seldom dishwashers so to wash by hand is more time-consuming than spending time together. BTW….yes that’s my gorgeous Mother at 50 after 10 kids…still looks smoking even with leggings and a big sweater.

We followed the meal with lots and lots of vegetables, we are a family that loves vegetables, so we had that along with whole grain bread and Gorgonzola. Here in Italy, it’s very common to serve raw vegetables, like carrots, celery, fennel, endive, radishes, etc…and then pour some olive oil and salt and dip your vegetables in and eat it like that, if your like me then you add vinegar…balsamic of apple cider; here in Italy this array of raw vegetables accompanied by olive oil is called Pinzimonio, one of my all time favorites. It’s perfect for get togethers, dinner parties, cook outs and it also helps you eat slower because you dip it take a bite and repeat.

             

After that we ladies sat around made teas and chatted about most possibly every subject you can think of. It was an amazing lunch and many more of course; to follow. I wanted to share this with you (the reader) because I think that this is an important part of life, we eat but how do we enjoy it?

I enjoy it this way! I find that one day a week you should be allowed to pick one dish that you truly enjoy and eat it, but what makes it all the worthwhile is when you are surrounded by the people you love and enjoy because then you truly enjoyed that meal, from start to finish. You are talking, eating and don’t even realize that you are full and satisfied without over eating, because in great company you tend to eat slower, talk a little more and get full faster. So all in all it’s a win win situation. This is a day to Eat!

P.s. Recipes for this day to follow………Have a wonderful WEEK!

           

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Low-Fat oven baked Chicken with delicious Rosemary Potatoes

What are making this weekend??? A nice home cooked meal is always the best if you are not going out to restaurant. Here is an idea….You can accompany this dish with a nice salad or roast vegetables.

Rosemary, being one of my favorite ingredients to use when baking, simply because the aroma it gives your dish is so wonderful and subtle and of course it makes the whole house smell delicious and warm. It’s such a simple and wonderful ingredient to use; I especially love to use it along with potatoes and chicken. In this recipe I don’t peel my potatoes because I quite enjoy the flavor, also the skin of the potatoes has lots of vitamins so in my defense why remove it. But you can peel if you like it will taste just as good.

I have to admit there is something that I just love about oven-baked chicken.

Of course, I love the whole chicken baked in the oven; but sometimes I just don’t have the time for that or sometimes all the fat that the skin of the chicken lets out and the skin itself (although flavorful) is just not that good for you. So when having little time to cook or being healthy I can say that I omit the chicken skin; (I don’t really eat it anyways) and still have the taste of this delicious traditional dish that I can say most people love; this is what I do.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 thick chicken Breast (or 4 thin breasts)

4 small Potatoes (or 2 large ones)

3 tbsp. Olive oil

3 fresh Rosemary sprigs (stem removed)

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Preheat your oven at 320 degrees.

In the meantime wash and slice your potatoes in half and then long ways (about 1/4 inch thick), kind of like fries. Put in a bowl and add 1 ½ tbsp. of olive oil, 2 sprigs of rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, mix until all the potatoes are covered with the dressing.

With your chicken add the rest of the olive oil and rosemary and then salt and pepper to taste.

Get a large baking pan, place your chicken down first, and then pour in your potatoes, try to get your potatoes on the sides of the chicken not on top.

Place in the oven and allow to bake for 20 minutes, then turning chicken over, mixing your potatoes and cooking for another 15 minutes. It should be ready.

Of course all ovens cook differently so if yours cooks faster you may remove before or if it cooks slower leave in there a bit more.

 

10 ways to speed up your Metabolism

I think that boosting your metabolism aids to weight loss and energy. Here is a list of how you can boost your metabolism naturally, without doing anything crazy.

1.     Never Skip Meals:  you want to make sure that your blood sugar stays leveled and if you skip meals you risk lowering it, when your sugar levels drop you get immediately hungry, which can cause you to binge or make wrong food choices. Eat smaller and healthier meals more frequently.

2.     Drink Water:  cold water is the best option, research shows that when you drink cold water your body expends extra calories warming it up to your body temperature. Subjects who drank 16 ounces of water at a time experienced a 30 percent increase in metabolic rate during the following hour.

3.     Spice it up: Hot food and spices like paprika, red pepper flakes, cayenne give your metabolism a real kick. A fiery meal can make your heart beat faster and even bring you out in a sweat – both signs your body is working harder and therefore burning more energy.

4.     Muscle Building: Building up muscle increases your resting metabolic rate and reduces your body fat levels. People who are really toned will have a slightly higher metabolism all the time, as women I suggest doing exercises that tone the body, like Pilates, Resistance training, Power Yoga (ashtanga, vinyasa, bikram).

5.     Exercise:  Cardio, Aerobics, even fast walking all improve definition and burn the fat that covers your muscles, especially belly fat. It even stays at this higher rate for three to four hours after you’ve finished your workout. I especially love Tracy Anderson, she does a combination of both Cardio and resistance.

6.     Caffeine: Research shoes that drinking Green Tea and Coffee can significantly increase your metabolic rate for a period of 3 hours. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects metabolism your central nervous system. Avoid putting sugar in your coffee or green tea, sugar turns into fat. And please; stay away from sodas.

7.     Get Real: Eat healthy, To maximize the calories burned through digestion and stave off hunger, get plenty of complex carbs (fruits, vegetables and beans) and eat a little protein with every meal. It doesn’t need to be meat; nuts, lowfat dairy, tofu, and beans are all good vegetarian protein sources.

8.     Manage your fat intake: Unsaturated fats – consumed in moderation can boost the metabolism. This includes omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, omega-6 fatty acids found in cereal grains.

9.     Sleep: If you’re tired because you haven’t slept your metabolism won’t have had the chance to recharge so it will be slower than normal. Plus your body will crave sweet foods to give it constant bursts of energy. So get a good eight-hour kip so you’re ready to start fighting the fat

10.    Avoid crash dieting: Crash diets — those involving eating fewer than 1,000 calories a day — are disastrous for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop pounds (at the expense of good nutrition), a high percentage of the loss comes from muscle. The lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. The final result is a body that burns far fewer calories (and gains weight faster) than the one you had before the diet.

* This is research I did, I am not a physician or a dietician. I love figuring out the ways to make a women’s body healthier and sexier.

A Healthy twist on an Old Italian Recipe

Bruschetta is a typical Italian dish that is served with bread. I happen to love bruschetta and it always seem to be so convenient to make especially as an appetizer, for yourself, for guests, at a dinner party and as hors d’oeuvres.

The other day for lunch I suddenly craved Bruschetta, I opened the cupboard and didn’t have any bread, which came as no surprise because I don’t keep bread in the house. So, I came up with the next best thing to satisfy this craving; make the bruschetta sauce and pour it over pasta.  I looked to see what type of pasta might be good with this and I had some whole-wheat penne, what a fabulous idea.

What I really liked about this was that I like to respect the quality of the ingredients I cook with, so of course when being able to make a dish that doesn’t require cooking any of the ingredients besides the pasta, makes me feel more wholesome and appreciative of the dish, also the ingredients are able to maintain their natural source of vitamins and color.

This is a simple, quick, and low-fat dish.  You can make it when out of time, as a pasta salad and when you want to eat something light. Enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

 250 gr. Of Whole-Wheat Penne pasta

2 large vine Tomatoes

4 Basil leaves

1 small crushed Garlic clove

A handful of Rucola (arugola)

1 small fresh Mozzarella Ball (100 gr.)

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

Salt to taste

 

Put a pot of salted water to boil, throw your pasta in and let cook for 9- 10 minutes. (Always follow the cooking time on the box).

Meanwhile, chop you tomatoes into small cubes, place in a medium bowl and add your garlic, olive oil and salt. Chiffonade your basil and add to tomatoes, mix the ingredients and let sit. Now cut your mozzarella into small cubes, add to tomato mixture.

Drain your pasta throw into bowl with tomato ingredients and toss together, until mixed well. Serve and enjoy.

 

Low-Fat, Healthy, Nutritious and Delicious Soup

This is soup is so good for you in so many different ways, it’s packed with great nutrients and vitamins. You get Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Antioxidants and also Molybdenum: This is a trace mineral that helps the body produce detoxifying enzymes. This prevents headaches that are caused by sulfites, a compound used to preserve baked goods, wine and various things. These are just to name a few things you can benefit from the Cannellini and Garbanzo Beans.

Then you get Vitamins, Minerals and Beta-Carotene from the Spinach helping to protect yourself against inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular problems, bone problems, and cancers at the same time.

So all in all this soup is perfect!! What better things are there in life than to know what you are feeding your body is completely beneficial and helping you live a healthier, happier and thinner lifestyle. I like the fact that this soup is so good for you, it makes me want to come back for more because I know it’s benefiting instead of ruining my internal and external system. Also it’s wonderful for a cold winter day, when all you want to do is cozy up to your loved one and not leave the house, or when you come home from being outside in the cold and need something to warm your body……this does the trick. I hope that you enjoy this soup as much as I do, It’s truly delicious!

Ingredients:

Time : about an hour

1 onion

1 carrot

1 celery stock

2 bullion*

200 gr. Pancetta diced (Optional)

1 6-8oz small can tomato paste

2 14oz cans Cannellini beans

2 14oz cans Garbanzo (Chickpeas)

1 lb. Baby or Chopped fresh Spinach leaves

5 cups of water

3 tbsp. Olive oil

Salt to taste

Parmesan (grated)

Chop up your celery, carrot and onion very finely. In a 5.5 qt. pot over medium heat add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot add your carrot, celery and pancetta and let sauté for 3-5 minutes, at this point you may add the onions and continue to sauté until onions are translucent. Add the bullion and let dissolve. You may add your tomato paste and mix well with your ingredients, now you may add your beans stir and add 5 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil, but continue mixing. Add salt and set to low flame. You may add your Spinach leaves now and allow to cook for another 15 – 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat for the soup. Serve your soup and grate some Parmiggiano on top of soup. Buon Appetito!

* Make sure that the bullion is MSG free, and try to get more natural possible.

* Pancetta is Italian bacon, you can find it in the deli section, just ask them to cut you a chunk that weighs a quarter of a lb or 7 oz. and then slice it yourself at home into cubes.

* If you like you could boil some short pasta off to the side and some to your dish, but I like to eat this soup just as is.

* I love spicy so I chopped up some chiles and threw them in there.

 

 

 

 

Delicious Lo-Cal Eggplant Parmiggiana

I love vegetables. I have said it many times before and will continue to make this statement. You can literally make anything with vegetables and still make it taste good. So, of course it wouldn’t go un-noticed that I love eggplant parmiggiana. The thing with eggplant parmiggiana, is that although it is made with eggplant, it still ends up being quite heavy and not something that you could eat all the time. I went through a period were I became Vegan for about 6-7 months. It wasn’t as hard as it sounds, but as most of you know you can’t eat anything that derives from an animal, again not that that’s hard (well maybe a little) but eggplant parmiggiana is definitely not something that you could eat considering that there is egg and cheese in there. My theory to cooking is that just because there is an ingredient you don’t like or can’t eat doesn’t mean you can’t make it or even eat it, you can substitute the ingredient or just plain leave out. So, I grilled the eggplant and portobello mushroom with some garlic and olive oil, made my red sauce and layered it stuck it in the oven and out came a delicious invention. My Husband loved it as did I.

I am not a Vegan anymore but sometimes I still like to have meatless days, this eggplant parmiggiana here is an in-between of the vegan and regular version. It is faster to whip up and lighter. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized Eggplant

1 16oz can Tomato sauce

1 Garlic clove

1/2 lb. Mozzarella cheese Grated

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven at 350 degrees.

Slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds (or long ways it’s really up to you), salt them each individually and stack. In a medium sauce pan/pot drizzle olive oil and place over medium heat, add your garlic clove whole and allow the oil to get the flavor, now you may add your tomato sauce , some salt and pepper to taste, cover and let simmer.

Put a skillet over medium flame and drizzle olive oil, lay out your eggplant and allow to turn golden and then flip. Continue this process until all of them are done cooking.

Turn off your sauce. Get your baking dish, put first a little bit of sauce at the bottom and then lay out your eggplant evenly, pour some tomato sauce evenly over the eggplant and then sprinkle some mozzarella, continue this same process until your baking dish is filled and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. You will now when to remove from over your cheese will be completely melted and turning a light shade of gold.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving. Cut into squares and serve.

Benefits of Vinegar

Vinegar is a highly acidic substance that arises naturally from the fermentation of alcohol. Aside from its flavorful versatility, recent medical studies have made at least a few indications that vinegar has some impressive health benefits. Why they might exist isn’t yet very clear – some suspect that certain phytochemicals, or molecules that are found in certain plants, are the root cause. You might be surprised to learn that there are dozens of types of vinegar. The most common vinegars found in American kitchens are white distilled and apple cider, but the more adventurous may also use red wine vinegar; white wine vinegar; rice vinegar; or gourmet varieties, such as 25-year-old balsamic vinegar or rich black fig vinegar.

Vinegar can be made from just about any food that contains natural sugars. Yeast ferments these sugars into alcohol, and certain types of bacteria convert that alcohol a second time into vinegar. A weak acetic acid remains after this second fermentation; the acid has flavors reminiscent of the original fermented food, such as apples or grapes. Acetic acid is what gives vinegar its distinct tart taste.

Health Benefits:

The claims are many and some of the most impressive are listed below:

1.) Vinegar helps the body absorb calcium: Vinegar’s calcium absorption assistance is especially useful for people who are lactose intolerant. Their aversion to dairy limits the number of calcium containing foods available to them. But by eating calcium dense leafy greens with a little vinegar, one can work towards offsetting that deficiency. Those at risk for bone loss and Osteoporosis, especially middle-aged and older women, may stand to gain some very real health effects from vinegar consumption. As mentioned in the article’s introduction, vinegar is highly acidic. Its primary component is a substance called acetic acid, which has a very low pH – much like the body’s own naturally occurring digestive juices. According to some in the medical community, vinegar can thus assist the digestive system in breaking down certain other substances by incorporating a little more acidity into the digestive mix. Listed among these substances is calcium. While calcium supplements are widely available to those at risk of Osteoporosis, it’s the amount of the mineral absorbed that makes the difference between a healthy and unhealthy bone structure. By consuming vinegar before calcium, one may be able to increase the ratio of absorbed and used calcium to calcium taken in.

2.) Vinegar helps people with type 2 diabetes: It appears to increase insulin sensitivity in those who are insulin resistant. In a 2007 medical study 11 patients were directed to consume two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar diluted with water right before bed. When they woke up, their blood sugar levels were, on average, between four and six percent lower than control subjects who did not consume the vinegar. Though the study was small enough to be considered only preliminary, it did seem to show that vinegar may be an effective tool in managing blood sugar levels for Diabetes patients. Other earlier studies also support this hypothesis. In a 2004 medical study conducted by the American Diabetes Association, it was found that those who consumed apple cider vinegar before a meal heavy in carbohydrates had lower blood sugar levels than those who didn’t.

3.) Vinegar helps with weight control: Many cultures have used vinegar as a weight loss aid. Many observational studies as well have linked vinegar with healthier overall weight. White vinegar (and perhaps other types) might help people feel full faster than those who don’t consume it. So; in turn you eat fewer calories and smaller meals. 1/2 a cup of vinegar has only 25 calories. Vinegar can be used to replace high-fat foods like mayonnaise and tartar sauce. And help you control what you eat. Remember to consume in moderation too much of anything is not good for you.

4.) Vinegar helps with pesticides: Some people are concerned that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables may lead to an unhealthy consumption of pesticide and other farm-chemical residues. Vinegar can lend a hand here, too. Washing produce in a mixture of water and vinegar appears to help remove certain pesticides, according to the small amount of research that has been published. Vinegar also appears to be helpful in getting rid of harmful bacteria on fruits and vegetables. To help remove potentially harmful residues, mix a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water (for example, mix one cup of white vinegar in nine cups of water). Then, place produce in the vinegar solution, let it soak briefly, and then swish it around in the solution. Finally, rinse the produce thoroughly.

Do not use this process on tender, fragile fruits, such as berries, that might be damaged in the process or soak up too much vinegar through their porous skins. Some pesticide residues are trapped beneath the waxy coatings that are applied to certain vegetables to help them retain moisture. The vinegar solution probably won’t wash those pesticides away, so peeling lightly may be the next best option.

So here it is. You can use vinegar in many ways. I like to dress my salads with it at times, other times you can was your windows, vegetables and fruits and some have even used it to remove dandruff. Use your discretion and always do some research or discuss with your health provider before using it in a medical manner.