Ingredients For Delicious Winter Salads

An younf woman eating a warm winter saladFood crops harvested in winter months with the use of hoop houses or hot houses (such as used in California, USA) and other methods that extend the natural growing season, and old-fashioned storage vegetables like cabbages and potatoes all mean that there are plenty of winter produce to choose from.

What winter produce that is available, is sufficient to enjoy delicious winter salads along with great homemade dressings and vinaigrette’s.

The different crops available in the winter months include among others:

Beets: Available in season from fall through spring in temperate climates, and those available during the summer months, are from storage.

Belgian Endive: This leafy green is forced to produce under artificial conditions, making them available year round. Their traditional season, as with all chicories, is late fall through winter.

When grown in open fields they are covered with sand for about 6 months to keep out the light. When grown in hot houses they are placed in darkness for 6 months before shipping to market for purchase.

Read more here about the endive (includes a recipe with video): Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken

Broccoli: This and all other cruciferous vegetables can be grown year-round in temperate climates, but broccoli tastes best when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

salad plate with Warm Winter Salad with Apples Spinach Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Warm Winter Salad with Apples Spinach Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Brussels sprouts: These vegetables are part of the cabbage family.  They grow on stalks, and they last somewhat longer than when sold packaged or removed from their stalks.

Cabbage: This vegetable is crispy when raw with bitter flavor, though it mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked.

Sweet Potatoes: This root vegetable is often referred too or interchangeable with yams. The two vegetables are different though.

Most yams in the USA are sweet potatoes. Yams are dry and starchy, and grown mainly in Africa and Asia. They can weigh up too 100 pounds.

Sweet potatoes store very well and are available year round in warmer areas. Though their season is from late summer through winter.

Other vegetables available in fall to winter months include, radicchio, radishes, turnips, winter squash, rutabagas, parsnips, chard, collard greens, cress, spinach, kale, carrots, leeks, fennel, and celery among others.

There are also a verity of fruits in season during the winter months that you can enjoy in fruit salads, or as a snack. To view the available in season winter fruits link here: Fruits Info – Seasonal Fruits.

Salads To Enjoy In The Winter Months

Chilly temperatures, and dark winter days are traditionally suited to cheese, meat, and vegetable casseroles, including pastas. A salad filled with raw vegetables may not seem appealing in the cold winter.

But what if you could prepare a warm winter salad, like this one – Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts. This recipe is offered by a professional chef, author, recipe developer, educator and certified health coach at A Food Centric Life.

THE RECIPE

Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

1 large bunch of organic kale (Tuscan, Lacinato or Dinosaur)

a white salad plate with Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Image Credit: A Food Centric Life

1 large shallot

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

Handful of dried cranberries

Small handful of chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (suggestion: infused balsamic fruit flavored variety like dark cherry)

Salt and pepper, to season

Bring a large pot (5 quart/liter) of water to a boil while you are trimming the kale leaves and slicing the shallot. Trim the ribs out of the center of the kale leaves, and then cut the leaves crosswise into ribbons. Slice the peeled shallot crosswise into thin rings.

When water boils, add 2 teaspoons salt, then drop the kale leaves into the water and cook for 2 minutes (called blanching). Drain well through a sieve and place kale on a clean kitchen towel. Alternatively you can steam your kale for 2-3 minutes, and then proceed with the recipe.

In a medium sauté or fry pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat until warm. Add the shallot rings, then the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until softened. Be careful not to let them burn. Add the cranberries, walnuts, and vinegar. Stir and cook for a minute, then add the cooked kale. Toss the kale ribbons to coat and warm, season up with salt and pepper, and then serve.

Make this a even more warm winter salad by either serving the warm salad as a side dish with roasted chicken, as Sally the author of “A Food Centric Life” explains, or as a foundation for roasted salmon. She also suggests placing the warm salad over a bed of quinoa for a vegetarian or vegan entree.

Sally says you can use a fruit flavored infused balsamic vinegar like dark cherry or fig when making the vinaigrette.

Another great warm winter salad you can enjoy is: Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

salad plate with Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet½ cup onion, diced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups sweet potatoes, diced

2 cups fresh shrimp

3 cups trimmed and coarsely chopped kale leaves

Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat a a ceramic coated cast iron pan over medium heat, add olive oil.

Next add onions and red pepper flakes, and saute until onions are soft and browned.

Next add garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.

Next add sweet potato and cook until soft, about 10-15 minutes. If necessary add a 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to help cook the sweet potato.

Next add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they are pink in color.

Turn heat to low and add kale, stirring in until wilted.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (optional).

Plate and serve.

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Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

Hand, apron, flour - Alternative Ingredients For Making Crusts

A recipe that requires a crust, has an important function, as it is the foundation to countless culinary and pastry dishes. The crust is a crucial structural aspect of the particular recipe you may be preparing. Crusts impart texture, either crispy, crunchy, or flaky depending on how you prepare the crust.

chicken pot pieCan you imagine making a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, or pot pie devoid of a crust? And how would you eat a pizza without a crust? We can’t imagine. Maybe you would have a tomato-pepperoni soup?

Crusts are important to a tart, shortbread, pie, quiche, pot pie, or pizza.

What are some alternative ingredients to making these crusts?

We know that using cold butter in a pie crust when done right, can make for a flaky crust.

Did you know that coconut oil be an alternative to butter, doing the same thing? It is still a saturated fat like butter, but a shorter chain amino fatty acid, and has some extra nutrients over butter, like minerals, and has antibacterial substances.

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

This crust using coconut oil makes a delicious, flaky pastry just as well as butter.

3/4 cup solid coconut oil

2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 – 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Cut the coconut oil into the flour (the same you would do with cold cubed butter) and salt with pastry blender or two knives. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix well.

Roll out on floured board. Pastry is very tender and may be partially rolled around rolling pin for ease of picking up to place in pie pan (recipe from: Coconut Recipes).

How about this alternative for a quiche, rice crust.

Rice Crust
A rice crust is a great way to use up leftover rice, explains Erin McDowell at Food52. She says it’s an excellent option for savory pies, and this crust works especially well for quiches.

a woman making a rice crust in a pie dish

Image Credit: Food52

Erin explains to make a rice crust you simply mix cooled leftover steamed rice with egg whites and grated cheese, and press the mixture into a pie plate.

Par-bake the crust to help it set before filling and baking it. Watch your crust carefully to see how it browns, as you may need to lower the temperature from 425 degrees to 375 degrees if it browns too much in the early stages of baking.

How about this alternative for a pizza crust. It’s gluten-free and uses no yeast. The recipe idea is from – She Knows.

At She Knows, they say that in this recipe they used both almond and coconut flours, and the result was anything but boring. The pizza crust turned out soft, fluffy and delicious.

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

pizza on a table with a pizza cutter

Image credit: She Knows

1/2 cup tapioca flour (plus more for rolling the dough)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup almond milk (warmed plain, or other nondairy milk)

2 whole large eggs (organic)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

To a large mixing bowl, add the almond flour, coconut flour, tapicoca flour, garlic powder and salt.

To the flour mixture, add the olive oil, the warmed nondairy milk and the eggs. Mix very well until the dough is soft and fluffy.

Turn the dough out onto a large surface lightly dusted with extra tapioca flour.

Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and can be rolled out.

Roll the dough out into the desired thickness but being careful to not make it too thin (or it will break).

Bake the pizza dough for about 15 minutes, until it’s firm and slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and set aside until ready to prepare your pizza.

A pizza crust traditionally is dough, but since the food revaluation started, people like yourself are looking for healthy alternatives to pizza crust. The pizza crust replacement (made from flour) is vegetable crusts, which are becoming more popular, and eating a pizza like this is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet.

How about this wonderful and tasty alternative for a shortbread or tart crust.

Peach and Cardamom Bakwell Tart

For the almond shortcrust pastry

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Peach and Cardamom Tart - Food Network uk

                                           Image credit: Food Network U.K.

1/4 cup almond flour

1/3 salted butter, frozen and grated

1 tbsp sugar

2 drops almond essence

1/4 teapoon organic cornflour

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1-2 tablespoons ice-cold water

Extra flour to roll the pastry

For the peach jam filling

1 ripe peach

1/2 cup sugar

For the almond cake filling

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup almond flour

1/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup milk, full fat

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1-2 drops almond essence

1-2 ripe peaches, sliced to decorate

For the cardamom mascarpone cream

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

Tips For a Great Pie Crust

These are some reminders to making a great pie crust.

Chilling the dough after preparing it makes it easier to roll out and much less likely to stick. It also resolidifies the shortening, butter or coconut oil to ensure flakiness.

parchment and dried beans placed over crustWhen rolling out the chilled dough, roll from the center to the outside edge. Use just enough flour on the rolling surface and rolling pin to keep the dough form sticking.

To bake a “blind” a raw dough crust, first chill it for 20 minutes and then fit a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on the inside surface. Prick both the crust and the foil or paper, to allow steam to escape and keep the crust from developing a bubble.

Fill the foil with baker weights, or dried beans to help the crust keep its shape while it blind bakes (view our post here: Blind Baking).

To store up some labor in the freezer, Make several pie shells at a time and freeze them in airtight plastic bags. They’ll keep for 6 to 8 months.

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How To Use Avocados In Your Culinary Adventures

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.Avocados are a popular fruit, though used like a vegetable, can find its way into almost any dish. It just seems that when adding avocados to a culinary or baked good, the dish has been enriched. Like this one at Tracy’s Culinary Adventures – Fudgy Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies, Bobby Flay‘s Crunchy Avocado Salad, or how about pairing avocado slices with grapefruit as in Simply RecipesGrapefruit Avocado Salad.

Avocados have a lot of descriptive words to explain its flavor. Such as a creamy, buttery, and smooth fruit, with distinctive colors like bright yellow and green. Their aroma can be described as floral, green, grassy, freshness, and earthy.

The texture of the fruit is a butter rich melt in your mouth taste and feeling.

How To Pit An Avocado

Pitting an avocado is not hard at all. As a matter of fact you can become a pro in no time once you know the technique.

Avocado Trivia

list with pictures of avocado varieties

Image Credit: 17 Park Side

Do all avocado varieties taste the same? What do you think, yes they do, or no they do not? If you decided on, “No they do not,” you are correct.

There are taste variations between the different varieties of avocados available for consumption.

Not only does the variety determine the taste but it is also affected by the season and how ripe the avocado well get.

It is recommended to taste test the avocados that come into season and are fully ripe, so that you can see which ones you prefer to use in your recipes.

The summer and Fall season avocado favorite among many individuals is the Hass, and the spring season avocado favorite is the Fuerte.

Just remember you can get these avocados out of season because of international trading of produce, but they will not taste the same as when having them in season.

Tips To Selecting A Ripe Avocado

The appearance of a ripe avocado will vary based on the avocado you are selecting.

The Hass variety is one of the creamiest, making it suitable for spreads, dips, and any recipe requiring mashed avocado. Other varieties are firmer and better when consumed in whole slices or chunks.

man shopping for produceThe way to tell if the avocado is ripe or not is to hold the avocado in one hand, and place the thumb of the other hand over the small stem, then gently try and see if you can move the stem.

If stem is firmly in place and cannot be easily removed, that is an indication that the avocado is still not ripe.

The fruit should be fairly heavy and free of blemishes.

To ripen an unripe avocado for use, place it on the counter at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It would be best not to refrigerate it, as refrigeration halts the ripening process, so you should not store unripe avocados in the refrigerator unless they have already been cut open.

Avocados ripen after they are harvested and not on the tree. If you are picking an avocado off a tree, you should pick a large one with even, dark coloring and a firm texture. After picking it, you will need to let the fruit harden on the counter for 2 to 7 days before it will be ripe and be ready to eat.

If you do not plan to eat the avocado immediately, it is in your best interest to buy an avocado that is still unripened. A ripe avocado will usually only last for a few days in the refrigerator.

To speed up the ripening process, place the avocado in a brown bag with an apple or a banana. These two fruits will release a gas called ethylene, a chemical linked to the ripening process.

Here is our featured recipe using an avocado.

Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado

1 avocado

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.1 lemon, juiced, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped onion, to taste

5 ounces cooked or canned wild tuna

2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Himalayan salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Cut the avocado in half and scoop the middle of both avocado halves into a bowl, leaving a shell of avocado flesh about ¼-inch thick on each half. Cut removed flesh into small chunks.

Add lemon juice and onion to the avocado in the bowl and mash together. Add tuna, avocado chunks, dill, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust if needed.

Fill avocado shells with tuna salad and serve.

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Enjoy Warm and Tasty Winter Vegetables

Enjoy Warm and Tasty Winter Vegetables

Just because the weather is cold shouldn’t keep you from enjoying in season fresh produce. Nature gives us a collection of its best winter vegetables that have proven to be flavorful. Winter root vegetables can contribute an interdependent, sweet flavor to a hearty winter soup recipe, like carrots, or sweet potatoes.

Roasting most winter vegetables brings out their best flavors. Even using complementary herbs and spices helps add some extra exceptional tastes.

Available In Season Winter Vegetables

Brussels sproutsAlthough Brussels sprouts are available year-round, their peak season is from September to February.

When looking to purchase them, remember to look for small firm sprouts with compact bright-green heads, and the smaller the head the sweeter the taste. Roasting Brussels sprouts lightly caramelizes their edges but keeps them tender inside.

To view a few recipes using Brussels sprouts one of the following links:

Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon – includes a video

Warm Brussels sprouts and Dilled Potato Salad –  includes a video

Brown Butter and Brussels Sprout with Fennel

At All Recipes (allrecipes.com) they call Broccoli the star vegetable in stir-fries, soups, salads, and casseroles. Broccoli can be purchased year round. But when in season, as a winter vegetable when roasted retains its entire flavor and even gains deliciously crisp bits when.

preparing broccoli to eatWhen asked the question – How Do You Describe Broccoli? – to a community of online people at answers.com, one member answered saying, “Broccoli is good chopped into small pieces or cut into larger piece and cooked until tender.

It’s delicious to eat as it is when cooked naturally and also in recipes. The popular dish, broccoli and cheese is made with cooked, tender broccoli before draining and stirring in cheese until it melts and mixes in with the broccoli. You can also make cheese sauces, which you serve, poured over the broccoli on a plate. Either way it is cooked or served, broccoli is a favorite among vegetables and nutritionally powerful” (Answers).

To view a recipe using broccoli click here: Baked Garlic and Broccoli

The Sweet Potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the Convolvulaceae family. This species of plants are known commonly as the bindweed or morning glory family, which has more than 1,650 species of mostly herbaceous vines, but also trees, shrubs and herbs.

Stuffed Sweet Potato with Chipotle Black Bean and Corn SaladThe sweet potato is a starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous root. There are about 1,000 species of sweet potatoes, with some varieties sold at market for food, while others are not for consumption, as they are poisonous. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the common potato, though it is not part the nightshade family.

The website – “The Worlds Healthiest Foods” – has this to say about sweet potatoes when preparing to eat them, “It can be helpful to include some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable.

Recent research has shown that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes. Of course, this minimal amount of fat can be very easy to include.

In our Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes recipe, for example, we include 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and with just this one tablespoon, each of our 4 servings for this delicious recipe provides 3.5 grams of fat (whfoods).

To view a few recipes using sweet potatoes click one of the following links:

Sweet Potato Pilaf with Cranberries and Pecans

Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Baked Beets and Sweet Potato Chips

KaleKale is considered to be the most robust of the cabbage family. Its high nutritional worth and intense flavor make kale an exceptional addition too many vegetable recipes. At Mind Body Green, Alison Lewis makes note of kale as “the new beef,” “the queen of greens,” and “a nutritional powerhouse”(MBG).

To view a few recipes using kale click one of the following links:

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup

Moroccan Three Bean and Kale Soup

Red Kale Beets and Sweet Cilantro Vinaigrette

Leeks are winter root vegetable that looks much similar to onions, and to which they are also related. Their flavor is onion-like but much milder, mellower, and not overpowering, as onions sometimes can be.

The darker green parts have plenty of flavor. They can either be cooked longer then the root parts to tenderize them, or used when making homemade soup stock, like chicken broth base soup along with potatoes, carrots, and herbs.

They can also be eaten raw or joined with a salad of leafy greens to divulge a wonderful crisp crunchy flavor.

Link here for a recipe using leeks: Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken –  includes a video

Turnips are a a round, light-colored root related to the mustard family. Though the vegetable is grown for its eatable root, the top green parts are also enjoyed in salads. Turnip greens are a common side dish in southeastern U.S. cooking, primarily during late fall and winter months.

Smaller leaves are preferred when boiling them in water, as the larger the leaf the stronger the flavor. However, if you find yourself cooking with larger turnip greens, any bitter taste can be reduced by pouring off the water from initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water.

The natural sweetness of Parsnips comes alive when they’re roasted and caramelized. The addition of fresh rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar makes a sweet, aromatic glaze. Roasted parsnips make a great side dish for pork tenderloin.

Link here for a recipe using parsnips :  Roasted Root Vegetables with Brussels sprouts and Bacon

Belgian EndiveThe genuine Belgian endive is deeply rooted in its country of origin – Belgian, were it was discovered in 1830. This compact white colored small cylindrical shaped leaf vegetable with light green tips is a tangy, but tender and delicious vegetable.

Some cooks add the leafy vegetable to soups, while others use it in salads.

Link here for more about endives discovery and for a recipe: Endive and Fruit Salad with Chicken –  includes a video

Other winter vegetables that can still be found in your local market are…

Buttercup Squash – Collard Greens – Delicata Squash – Sweet Dumpling Squash – Winter Squash

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Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Prosciutto Cotto and LentilsLentils have 18 grams of protein per serving, making them the third highest level of protein than any other plant food. Garbanzo beans and wheat berries both have 12 grams of protein per serving.

types of lentilsOut of all the varieties that are grown for consumption, the French Green Lentils are considered the most flavorful, having a delicate peppery taste.

They originated in Puy, France, though today they are also grown in Canada (highest production) Italy and the United States.

The French variety lentil hold their shape well while only taking about 30 to 40 minutes to cook.

On New Year’s Eve in Italy people eat “lenticchie stufate” or in a soup. Why? This is an old symbol of good luck in the Italian tradition, because of their round shape, which resembles coins. They say the more you eat, the more wealth that comes to you.

Our featured recipe contains French Green Lentils, and here is what you well need to prepare your own Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils.

diced vegetables for Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Real Whole Food Nutrition

2 medium stalks celery, diced

2 medium yellow carrots, diced

1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 small red onion chopped

1/2 cup tomato paste

4 1/2 cups broth, your choice beef – chicken – vegetable

3/4 pound prosciutto cotto – about 2 slices 1/2 inch cut, cut into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch squares

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons avocado oil

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil and minced garlic – sauté until fragrant.

adding vegetables to garlicNext add prepared onion – carrots and sweet potato and mix together.

adding lentils and tomato paste Next add rinsed lentils and mix in. Then add tomato paste and stir being sure ever lentil is coated.

adding brothAdd broth, place lid on pot and simmer 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked.

After 30 minutes there will be only about 1 cup or so of broth – drain and set aside – leave lentil mixture in soup pot.

warming avocado oil and pork fatIn a warm pan with avocado oil add some prosciutto fat with prepare prosciutto cotto and sauté in oil until meat is warmed.

We used refined high heat (to 550 degrees) avocado oil, which has no flavor, therefore not contaminating or changing the smoked flavor of the prosciutto cotto.

Remove meat and mix with lentil mixture.

Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils - close upSpoon Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils to a platter and serve.

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Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo

When the suns behind the winter clouds and not able to warm your skin, the next best thing is Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup.

The cannellini beans or white beans are also known as white Italian kidney beans. The skin of the white kidney beans are much thinner and more delicate than their red cousins. White beans also have a smooth, but slightly nutty tasting interior.

Concerned about your daily fiber in take? A half cup serving of cooked cannellini beans are a excellent source of dietary fiber, providing you with 7 grams of your 30 grams of fiber needed daily for good health.

Here is what you will need for this simple and nutritious Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup.

Our ingredients are all organic grown and harvested and pasture fed meat.

red kale2 tablespoons avocado oil

12 ounces pork chorizo sausage, 1-inch slices

1 medium red onion, diced

3 gloves garlic, minced

1 medium purple carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups chicken stock

2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt optional

4 cups red kale, stemmed and leaves torn

spooning from the sauce pot - Red Kale Cannellini Beans and ChorizoOver medium heat, add oil to a large sauce pot. Once heated add meat and brown. Next add onions, and garlic. Stir until garlic and onion is just browned about 1 minute.

Next add diced carrots and celery, and stir until you see the vegetables brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Next add chicken broth, beans and salt.

a large sauce pot of Red Kale Cannellini Beans and ChorizoBring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and add kale, then stir in. Place lid on pot, and on simmer let soup cook another 5 minutes.

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo - close upTo thicken the soup a little, as we did not use potatoes (their starch content will thicken soups), you can add some arrowroot starch. In a small glass add 1 tablespoon of starch and stir in a teaspoon of fresh water, and add when soup is boiling. When soup has thickened some, lower heat to a simmer. Add kale and stir in, then place lid on soup pot and let cook another 5 minutes.

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo

According to Mangia Bene Pasta, the Cannellini beans are difficult to harvest when ripe and therefore are harvested in the fall when the pod is completely dry.  As a result, the beans are rarely eaten fresh.

In some parts of Italy, the beans are a popular accompaniment to tuna and pasta dishes containing poultry. In the United States, vegetarians often utilize the hearty beans as a fish or chicken substitute, due to its protein source (WiseGeek).

The dried beans double in size when soaked, so a few beans go a long way in a dish.  Cannellini beans are available in supermarkets in both dried and canned form. If cannellini beans are unavailable, great northern beans or navy beans can be used, though they are a much smaller bean.

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National Spaghetti Day

National Spaghetti Day - Little Girl Eating her spagheti dinner and making a mess

Today January 4th is National Spaghetti Day (USA). Were you aware that 1.3 million pounds of spaghetti was sold at the turn of the 21st century (USA)? All those packages together would circle the Earth nine times. Now that’s a lot of spaghetti.

Wikipedia writes that there is controversy in respects to the origin of spaghetti.

There are records in the Jerusalem Talmud of itrium, writing about a kind of boiled dough, being common in Palestine from the 3rd to 5th centuries A.D.

A 9th century dictionary written in Arabic describes itriyyaas, string-like shapes made of semolina and dried before cooking.

Record keeping was done for Norman King of Sicily in 1154, and itriyya is mentioned being manufactured and exported from Norman Sicily.

By the 14th century pasta became popular, and was even taken on sea voyages due to its easy storage. A century later, pasta was present around the globe during the voyages of discovery. In Italian spaghetti means “little lines.”

Pasta has always been associated with the Italians, who have established the dish by inventing a wide variety of pasta shapes. These include farfalle, conchiglie, rotini, penne, tortellini, and, of course, spaghetti.

Spaghetti with anchovies and sundried tomatoes

Spaghetti with Anchovies and Sundried Tomatoes – By Il Cuore in Pentola

Spaghetti dishes are traditionally served topped with grated hard cheeses such as Pecorino Romano, Parmesan and Grana Padano.

March of 2009 The world record for the largest bowl of spaghetti was set in March 2009, and beaten in March of 2010 when the Italian RestaurantBuca di Beppo” in Garden Grove, California  successfully filled a swimming pool with more than 13,780 pounds of pasta.

Just about anyone loves a good plate of spaghetti. Here are some great spaghetti recipes to enjoy this day – National Spaghetti Day.

Spaghetti bundles

Spaghetti Al Pesto Genovese

7 ounce spaghetti

Spaghetti Al Pesto Genovese2 tablespoons pesto alla genovese

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1/3 teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper

Pine nuts (optional)

Have some pesto alla genovese basil paste on hand. If frozen, break off the amount you’ll need and thaw. The basil paste is similar to basil pesto, but prepared without the olive oil, and cheese.

Boil spaghetti in a large pot of salted water. Follow the directions if using packaged spaghetti, making sure to stop when it’s still al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix prepared basil paste with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until smooth. The amount of oil, cheese, and salt can be adjusted to your taste.

Add the spaghetti to the bowl and toss with a pair of forks until well coated.

Put on plates and sprinkle with whole pine nuts and more Parmesan cheese, if you like.

Recipe credit: The Delectable Hodgepodge 

Spaghetti bundles

Close-up of spaghetti bolognese in a cast iron frying panSpaghetti Bolognese

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)

1 carrot, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced (optional)

1 pound ground beef, or a combination of beef and pork

Coarse salt

1/2 cup red or white wine

One 28-ounce can best-quality tomatoes, pulsed in a blender

1/2 cup cream or milk

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

1 pound spaghetti or other pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a saucepan over low heat. Add the olive oil, onion, carrot, and celery and saute over low heat until lightly caramelized, about 12 minutes. Add the pancetta and beef and cook, separating the meat into small pieces, until browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain off most of the fat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt.

Pour the wine into the beef mixture to deglaze the pan; stir to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes and stir in the cream, black pepper, and red-pepper flakes. Gently simmer for about 40 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Start cooking the spaghetti when the sauce is within 10 minutes of being done. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Stir the butter into the bolognese sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Recipe Credit: Martha Stewart 

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