Since garlic and it’s health benefits has been the topic of conversation already this month, guest blogger Bridget Sandorford brings us an article on the health benefits of an Italian diet….Thanks Bridget!
A traditional Italian diet is not only delicious, it’s also very healthy. From olive oils to fresh
veggies to a wide variety of herbs and spices, the ingredients in a traditional Italian diet are
loaded with nutrients that can help you improve your health and to reduce the risk of disease.
Here are just a few of the many health benefits of a traditional Italian diet:
Traditional Italian cuisine is loaded with healthy unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Olive oil
and pine nuts are both high in these healthy fats, which can reduce levels of bad cholesterol in
your body and help to reduce your risk of heart disease. You can also find these healthy fats in
whole olives and some other oils used in traditional Italian cuisine.
You can use these oils in pastas, on breads, or in salads. You can even cook roast some
veggies in olive oil and sprinkle them with an array of spices.
Though a traditional Italian diet has plenty of pastas, which have simple carbs, the diet is rich in
fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as rice and other grains. Complex carbohydrates provide the
fiber that you need for healthy digestion and the slow release of energy you need to maintain
your blood-sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are low on the glycemic index, and they can
help to enhance a healthy metabolism and to reduce your risk of diabetes.
You can pair complex carbohydrates with proteins such as cheeses or lean meats in order to
help regulate your blood sugar even more.
As budgets and banks around the world crashed over the past few years there has been a call for the dreaded “austerity” measures. In Italy media articles documented the need to go back to war-time eating, “food austerity” as they were calling it. Gourmet chefs embraced the recommendation, showing off menus that used all parts of a pig, or calling up old-time recipes and putting a modern twist on them.The Repubblica even published a roundup of “nearly forgotten dishes.” A 2012 report by the Italian Bureau of Statistics found that over one out of three families in recession-hit Italy cut their spending on food last year.
“Old recipes are a richness that Italy boasts, that were perfected during periods of poverty and are a way to come through the crisis eating well,” said Carlo Petrini, the head of the slow food movement, which campaigns for traditional, sustainable foods. (from the Guardian)
I realize how much of my food habits and recipes, handed down from my grandparents and parents who immigrated here, have the austerity idea throughout. What we eat and when we eat it has just as much to do with Italian flavours as it has to do with making do. Yes, it stems form the poverty of years past, but it’s not entirely cucina povera (that is dishes that used ingredients common to the poor areas of Italy) as it is making the most use of your food and cutting out the waste.
We have a little celebration this weekend, so I’m breaking out the celebration food with this new recipe! An Italian-Canadian Life won third in the Ninjamatic’s 2012 Canadian Weblog Awards! YAY! Thanks so much to my readers and supporters, it’s an awesome honour to have the first year out of the gate. I was in amazing company with the other nominees and I know I have a lot of work ahead of me as I improve the blog and continue to document the Italian-Canadian life that I love.
In Italian families, celebrations mean food, lots of food. So I’m serving up an all-food month of blog postings for February. It’s what my readers (and me, let’s be honest), love best. So join the celebration – grab a seat, pull up to the table and dig in! We start the celebration with hubby cooking up his rotolo di pollo recipe, a hand-me-down recipe from his Nonna that he knows by heart. The stuffing is fantastic and the meal itself makes for a great presentation. Of course, I tagged along on the cooking with my camera and notebook in hand so we can finally write this recipe down.
Rotolo di Pollo
1 whole chicken, with liver and heart
meat from 2 sausages
1 cup coarse breadcrumbs
1 cup parmiggiano cheese
1/4 – 1/2 cup of milk
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/8 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
Happy Friday! Today I’m sharing the second of my favourite Christmas recipes – sugar pecan crescents. I can’t really claim that these are traditional Italian cookies, but they are tradition in my family. They’ve been a staple around the holidays since I was small, well for as long as I can remember, and they make a constant appearance on our cookie trays. And cookie trays are an Italian tradition that I love.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and enjoy your holiday celebrations. Merry Christmas everyone!
Sugar Pecan Crescents
1 pound butter
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (you can also use walnuts)
2 cups fruit sugar
The holiday season is upon us and I want to give a big thank you to my readers, subscribers and the community I’ve found online. I’ve had a fabulous first year with this blog so I’m gifting to you, my readers, two of my favourite recipes for the holidays. The first is up today: my family’s Italian Potato Doughnuts recipe. The second, a favourite cookie of mine, comes later this week. Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!
Italian potato doughnuts, also known as Colluri in my family, are a winter/holiday specialty. When the weather started to turn really cold in November, my grandfather would start on a big batch of these and invite over extended family to enjoy them with a glass of wine. These doughnuts are fluffy and easy to scarf down even though they are made from potatoes. The dough is also perfect for making panzerotti – pouches filled with sauce and cheese – or sardine-filled snacks. And if you want to make it Canadian-Italian, spread the dough flat, fry and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar for a Beavertail.
While we call them Colluri, really these doughnuts go by many names. I am tempted to say the name is different for every region in Italy, but I’m afraid the truth is it’s different for every town and, possibly, every family. Whenever I mention these doughnuts to another Italian, they say “oh yeah, but we call them….” Some of the names they also may go by: cullurielli, ciambelle, bomboloni, buffarede, grispelle and zeppoli. For me, zeppoli are much more like Jerry’s version featured on this blog last week. But like I said, each family has their own name for things.
The most important part of this doughnut recipe though is that it makes quite a few dozen. Which means it calls for a lot of people to eat them. Which means a lot of people need to help make them. Which means family is together, the house is loud, the food is plentiful and well, we all end up stuffed and on the couch. A perfect Italian Sunday, particularly in the winter. Best thing is, they are a great treat for Christmas and are amazing warmed up in the toaster oven so the outside gets nice and crispy even two or three days later. You have to try these.
Italian Potato Doughnuts
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
10-12 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled (use a dry potato like Yukon Gold or Russet, rather than a waxy potato)
3-4 cups cold water
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ounce hard liqueur (whisky, rum or brandy)
2 tablespoons salt
5 pounds all-purpose flour
Fall brings with it a lot of root vegetables, which generally I like. Except for beets. I’ve never been a fan. They taste ok but they look like a mess to work with. After an over-zealous shopping spree at a farmer’s market, I found myself staring at two beets in my fridge wondering what to do with them. I was pretty much resigned to giving them to my mom, who loves beet salad, when I found a way to work them into one of my favourite Italian dishes – arancini – and it’s a win-win situation.
Arancini are balls of plain risotto, breaded and fried until crispy. You’ll usually find meat, cheese, peas and/or sauce in the centre. My favourite arancini from a bakery near my parent’s place are about four inches wide and are a meal on their own. I haven’t mastered that recipe just yet, but these arancini are a good stand-in as an appetizer or snack. The beet flavour is mellow and slightly sweet and the colour makes for a surprising first bite. Enjoy!
Beet Risotto Arancini
To make the risotto:
2 red beets
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup minced red onion
2½ cups arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons grated parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To make arancini:
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
oil for frying