Easy and unique summer recipe: Zucchini Mint Pesto

Prepara questa ricetta per un sugo estivo buonissimo in pochissimo tempo: Pesto di zucchine e menta con mandorle ed aglio! Perfetto per pasta o bruschette! #zucchine #ricettaestiva

Sick of the usual pasta? It’s super fast and easy to make a yummy new sauce: zucchini mint pesto with almonds and garlic! This recipe is delicious for the entire family! #zucchinirecipe #summerrecipe

Everyone knows and loves eating fragrant basil pesto in the summer (and you can find my foolproof recipe for it here), but today I want to show you a variation on this classic recipe that my entire family LOVES eating: zucchini mint pesto.

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Sick of the usual pasta? It’s super fast and easy to make a yummy new sauce: zucchini mint pesto with almonds and garlic! This recipe is delicious for the entire family!

We usually put it in pasta, but we also use it frequently on bruschette, crusty and crunchy grilled bread slices with flavorful toppings. My daughter loves it so much that she eats bowls of it plain with a spoon!

Do you have some garden-fresh zucchini that you want to try this recipe with? Well, let’s get started!

Read moreEasy and unique summer recipe: Zucchini Mint Pesto

Homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe (finocchietto digestif)

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

As my readers know, I was born and raised in the United States, but moved to Italy years ago and married into a Neapolitan family. Which means that I’ve learned a lot of my husband’s family’s culinary recipes and secrets, lucky me! It would be really hard to choose one favorite hand-me-down recipe, but the wild fennel liqueur recipe definitely ranks way up there!

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One of the culinary treats that is most famous from the area where we live is limoncello, a lemon liqueur, but what many people not from this area don’t realize is that there is a plethora of different types of liquers that you can find, and most families have their own traditional versions to make them at home. And my absolute favorite of these is finocchietto, wild fennel liqueur.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

Wild fennel grows all over the place in certain areas near us, such as in the Cilento, where we go on vacation frequently. Here is a random finocchietto plant growing on the side of a country road in Pollica, in the heart of the Cilento. They have strong woody stalks with umbrella-shaped groups of yellow flowers, sort of similar to the Queen Anne’s Lace flower.

If you get them at the right time, they also have tender wispy greens that are absolutely delicious with fish and vegetables. The greens and the flowers have a wonderful anise-like taste that I love, but another great thing about them is their digestive properties. Whenever I have problems digesting something, I make myself an infusion of fennel seeds, and it always does the trick.

So a classic in Italian homes is to take the bottle of finocchietto liqueur out after a big meal and have a little glass of it to help digestion.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

In June and July, these “umbrellas” look like little hard seeds, though I suppose they’re actually flower buds. Most people pick these seed umbrellas to make their finocchietto fennel liqueur.

End your meal with delicious Italian finocchetto digestif! This homemade wild fennel liqueur recipe will make your stomach and your mouth happy! Great gift!

But I prefer to pick the flowers themselves (which are also delicious for seasoning and garnishing food) in August/September to make my finocchietto. I’ve always gotten a lot of compliments on how it comes out, so perhaps there is indeed something special about the flavor of the flowers as opposed to the seeds.

This obviously comes out the best when using just-picked flowers or seeds, but if that’s not possible for you, you can always use store-bought dried fennel seeds. I usually pick a ton of flowers in the summer and make a bunch at a time because I like to bring it when we are guests for dinner or for a night away. A bottle of finocchietto is always well-received, so it’s a really great gift!

So what do you say? Do you want to know my beloved wild fennel liqueur recipe? Let’s get started!

Read moreHomemade wild fennel liqueur recipe (finocchietto digestif)

Foolproof Basil Pesto Recipe and 15 Ways to Use it!

Make delicious homemade basil pesto with this foolproof recipe and then find 15 mouthwatering ways to use it for your family’s meals! Sooo good!

Make delicious homemade basil pesto with this foolproof recipe and then find 15 mouthwatering ways to use it for your family’s meals! Sooo good!

I live in southern Italy, aka the capital of Basil-land. Nearly every home has at least one basil plant and those plants can easily grow into thick masses of fragrant green leaves. I am no exception to the rule. Every year I have two or three pots with forests of basil and over the years I have come up with my own foolproof basil pesto recipe!

Basil is one of the most beloved herbs and is even better when fresh picked. Learn how to grow basil year after year for FREE with the help of an easy trick!

If you follow my tips on how to grow a flourishing basil plant, you too will soon have lots of this herb to use in all sorts of ways. And sooner or later, you will want to make pesto, one of the most delicious sauces ever created. It’s one of the few healthy green things that kids almost unanimously like to eat.

So I’ve decided not only to share my pesto recipe, but also to share 15 absolutely delicious ways you can use it for meals that the entire family will love!

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Ready to get picking, mixing and cooking? Let’s start!

Read moreFoolproof Basil Pesto Recipe and 15 Ways to Use it!

Use up Leftover Easter Chocolate: Chocolate Banana Bread

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

As you know, Easter was this past weekend. And, if you have kids (or perhaps even if you don’t), you probably have ridiculous amounts of chocolate sitting around in your kitchen. And dining room. And living room. Hopefully not in your bathroom.

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And if you’re in the northern hemisphere, it will start getting pretty warm soon, meaning all that excess chocolate will start getting melty and gross. So how do you use up leftover Easter chocolate without getting a stomachche? One good way is to make one of my family’s favorite things with some extra chocolatey goodness: banana bread!

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

Oh, we LOVE banana bread! We’re a family of swimmers, so we try to eat a lot of bananas to avoid leg cramps. However we inevitably end up every so often with some pretty yucky-looking brown bananas that nobody wants to eat. When I have just one mushy banana, I mash it into pancakes (find my pancake in a jar recipe here). When I have two mushy bananas, I make a double recipe of these two-ingredient pancakes (which are considerably different from classic pancakes, but a very fast and interesting alternative every so often). And when I have three mushy bananas, I make banana bread.

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

And when we have lots of extra Easter chocolate hanging around (thanks to overly-generous friends and family), I just add some chocolate in to the mix! Super easy and also a great way to involve kids in baking! How? I’ll show you in a minute!

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

But first, let me show you some mouthwatering pictures of delicious banana bread with bits of melty chocolate and zings of tangy citrus!

Is your home full of extra chocolate eggs and bunnies? Making this chocolate banana bread recipe is a perfect way to use up leftover Easter chocolate! Check it out on www.cucicucicoo.com

I might have to go get myself another slice right now!

So, want to find out how to use up leftover Easter chocolate for this super easy and yummy recipe? Let’s get started!

Read moreUse up Leftover Easter Chocolate: Chocolate Banana Bread

Healthy Sugar-Free Lemonade Recipe

Stay healthy and cool with this SUGAR-FREE lemonade recipe! It's sooo good and refreshing, the best way to stay cool in the hot summer months! www.cucicucicoo.com

Stay healthy and cool with this SUGAR-FREE lemonade recipe! It's sooo good and refreshing, the best way to stay cool in the hot summer months! www.cucicucicoo.com

There’s no denying it: summer is suddenly here!

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Our family is doing everything we can to stay cool. The kids have started using the bathtub as a swimming pool, our ice cream machine* is back in business, we’ve been making all sorts of homemade popsicles, and we’ve been doing everything else that I’ve written about in my “How to beat the summer heat” series.

And what else? I’ve been drinking loads and loads of homemade lemonade.

Stay healthy and cool with this SUGAR-FREE lemonade recipe! It's sooo good and refreshing, the best way to stay cool in the hot summer months! www.cucicucicoo.com

We’re lucky enough to live in an area where lemons grow abundantly, so we have no shortage of organic local lemons. And, because vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, I’ve been ingesting lemon in every possible way to help my body in its very slow recovery from the extreme blood loss that led to a 4-night hospital stay last month. So besides squeezing lemon juice on every vegetable known to man, I’ve been drinking glass after glass of delicious homemade lemonade!

And besides its health benefits, how incredibly refreshing lemonade is on hot, humid summer days! You know, those days when you can barely move because of the suffocating heat? And I’ve also come up with a recipe without sugar so it’s a 100% guilt-free pleasure for the whole family!

Stay healthy and cool with this SUGAR-FREE lemonade recipe! It's sooo good and refreshing, the best way to stay cool in the hot summer months! www.cucicucicoo.com

I make up two or three batches of lemonade at a time so that we’re sure to always have plenty of it in the fridge. And it’s perfect for offering to guests or bringing to an outdoor summer party! Remember, fellow US peeps, July 4th is coming up, and this stuff is perfect for your holiday cookout!

So, are you ready to find out the secret to making this incredibly healthy, delicious and refreshing summer drink? Read on for the Cucicucicoo sugar-free lemonade recipe!

Read moreHealthy Sugar-Free Lemonade Recipe

Make homemade nettle powder from your weeds

Did you know that stinging nettle is super healthy, and tasty too? Discover how to make homemade nettle powder, and you’ll start being happy to see weeds in your garden! www.cucicucicoo.com

Did you know that stinging nettle is super healthy, and tasty too? Discover how to make homemade nettle powder, and you’ll start being happy to see weeds in your garden! www.cucicucicoo.com

For the first time in my life, I am on a diet.

When I was little, I was super thin, and as a young adult, I could eat anything and never gain weight. But not all of my pregnancy weight went away on its own, and I am now 8.5 kg (18 lbs) heavier than my ideal weight. Sure, it’s not the end of the world, but I don’t feel good and so I’ve decided to do something about it.

It’s not that I eat badly, but I do eat too much. I love eating. I love tasting flavors and combining ingredients. I don’t eat any meat and I love vegetables, and absolutely adore leafy greens.

We also get a lot of stinging nettle weeds where I live in southern Italy and my balcony garden gets totally overrun by it. I’d always considered it a huge inconvenience… until I realized that those weeds were like my own personal crop of free organic leafy greens.

Did you know that stinging nettle is super healthy, and tasty too? Discover how to make homemade nettle powder, and you’ll start being happy to see weeds in your garden! www.cucicucicoo.com

Did you know that stinging nettle is super healthy, and tasty too? I wrote a couple of years ago about how to harvest and cook stinging nettle in soups and stews, and that’s still my favorite way to eat it, but I recently started wondering how I could get all the healthy goodness of nettle without having to cook it. And what I came up with was this: homemade nettle powder!

Your first instinct might be to turn up your nose at the idea of eating your weeds, but trust me, if you try nettle, you’ll start being happy to see weeds in your garden! Read on to learn how!

Read moreMake homemade nettle powder from your weeds

How to make homemade garlic powder

How to make homemade garlic powder: a super simple recipe by www.cucicucicoo.com

How to make homemade garlic powder: a super simple recipe by www.cucicucicoo.com

I’m not always a big fan of cooking, at least not the regular day-to-day cooking necessary for survival. I like to cook special things when I actually want to, not just because my stomach’s growling. And when I do cook, I usually can’t get too elaborate, otherwise the other people in our home won’t eat it. This is why I’m sort of obsessed with preparing flavored salts and powders that I can add to the food in my plate without bothering anyone else. (Click on the links to read my posts about garlic salt, chili pepper powder, lemon-rosemary salt, dried citrus powder, and lemon salt from salt-preserved lemons.)

I’d always used minced fresh cloves of garlic in my powder recipes with garlic, but the powder sometimes starts to clump together because of the dampness in the garlic. I realized that I should dry out the garlic, too, but I wasn’t so sure of how it would turn out. Then it finally occurred to me that that’s what the garlic powder that you buy in the supermarket is: dried and pulverized garlic.

When I gave it a go, the result was amazing, and much more flavorful than industrial garlic powder! And it’s ridiculously easy, so now I’m hooked! Want to find out how to make homemade garlic powder? Then just keep on reading!

Read moreHow to make homemade garlic powder

Lemon salt recipe from salt preserved lemons

Lemon salt recipe: prepare tasty lemon-flavored salt from the salt left over from preserved lemons! Perfect for flavoring your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

Lemon salt recipe: prepare tasty lemon-flavored salt from the salt left over from preserved lemons! Perfect for flavoring your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

I’ve been experimenting with the radiators and food processors in my kitchen again these days.

Lemon salt recipe: prepare tasty lemon-flavored salt from the salt left over from preserved lemons! Perfect for flavoring your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

Yes, because once again, it’s lemon season in southern Italy.

Use the salt left over from preserved lemons to make a tasty lemon salt to flavor all your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

This means that I’ve been making my beloved salt-preserved lemons again.

Use the salt left over from preserved lemons to make a tasty lemon salt to flavor all your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

We love using these salty, tangy lemon peels on pretty much everything.

Use the salt left over from preserved lemons to make a tasty lemon salt to flavor all your favorite dishes! www.cucicucicoo.com

In the past, I’ve always reused the extra salt left over after we’d finished all the lemons in a jar to salt the water we cook pasta and rice in. But at one point it occurred to me that it was a shame to waste the amazing lemon scent absorbed by the salt.

Read moreLemon salt recipe from salt preserved lemons

How to make healthy DIY popsicles

How to make healthy DIY popsicles: a fun and no-guilt way to cool down with kids in the summer! www.cucicucicoo.com

How to make healthy DIY popsicles: a fun and no-guilt way to cool down with kids in the summer!

In last week’s post on refreshing activities to do with kids inside the house in the summer, part of the Beating the Summer Heat series, I mentioned that I had another fun activity to do with kids. But even more fun is when you EAT it with kids. I’m talking about no-guilt, ice cold, healthy popsicles made to order right at home!

How to make healthy DIY popsicles: a fun and no-guilt way to cool down with kids in the summer!

These are one of our absolute favorite things to do in the summer because you can get super creative with what you make them with, even mixing up ingredients for really unique flavors and textures. And the great thing is that, unlike store-bought popsicles, which are filled with artificial colors and flavors, not to mention way too much sugar, you know exactly what goes inside your pops, so they can be just as healthy as you want!

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If you have any experience with homemade popsicles, you are probably wondering what I can fill a whole blog post about about them. Well, I actually am going to fill up TWO whole blog posts with the different ways we make popsicles!  In this first one, I’m going to show you different types of popsicle molds, including a non-plastic version, and give you some ideas on popsicle ingredients. In the next post, I’ll show three more fancy varieties that I like to make. So, want to make some healthy DIY popsicles? Let’s get started!

Read moreHow to make healthy DIY popsicles

How to make homemade iced tea (sun-brewed or boiled!)

How to make homemade iced tea, the best drink on a hot summer day! A recipe for all natural sun brewed or boiled tea. www.cucicucicoo.com

This ice tea recipe is so good! I love sun brewing it! Learn how to make homemade iced tea, the best drink on a hot summer day! A recipe for all natural sun brewed or boiled tea.

Today, for the first post in the Beating the Summer Heat series, I want to share one of my absolute favorite things to drink when it’s hot out: iced tea!

Have you ever had real iced tea? I mean the real stuff that’s actually brewed from tea leaves, not that glucose-y industrial stuff with fake lemon flavor and god knows what weird synthetic  ingredients. I am a tea drinker, so I find that fake tea absolutely horrifying, not to mention that I don’t like very sweet things. Homemade iced tea tastes like real tea because it IS real tea, and you can sweeten it how much you want and with your preferred sweetener, and add real lemon juice if you so desire. It’s so ridiculously easy to make, there’s really no excuse not to!

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And, if you’re hesitant to turn on your stove on hot days, there’s still no problem; all you need is a nice sunny corner to steep your tea leaves! Are you trying to limit your caffeine intake? Again, no prob! You can make iced decaf tea, green tea, herbal infusions, or whatever other tea variant you can dream of!

So now that you have no excuses left, let me show you how to make homemade iced tea!

Read moreHow to make homemade iced tea (sun-brewed or boiled!)

How to make Homemade Bread Crumbs

How to make Homemade Bread Crumbs | www.cucicucicoo.com

How to make Homemade Bread Crumbs | www.cucicucicoo.com

Don’t you just hate it when your bread gets stale long before you’ve had time to finish the loaf? Luckily there are ways to use stale bread, such as making meatballs or meatloaf, or the classic Tuscan bread salad panzanella. Only thing is, I don’t eat meat and I tend to be a little too lazy to prepare panzanella, so we always end up with piles of old bread. But luckily, there’s a way to use stale bread that can be stored for a pretty long time: bread crumbs!

How to make Homemade Bread Crumbs | www.cucicucicoo.com

Until a few years ago, I, like a lot of people, had never really considered how bread crumbs are made. All I knew is that you buy them in little bags in the supermarket. But every once in a while I’d hear about something nasty that someone would find in industrial bread crumbs or some strange ingredient added to them. Really, though, what are bread crumbs if not… crumbs… of bread? I discovered that you can grind up stale bread in a blender to make the stuff. In my experience, this method tends to make very fine, powdery bread crumbs and is a bit rough on blenders, too. Then my father-in-law revealed how he made his amazing chunkier bread crumbs: with an old-fashioned iron meat grinder!

Want to find out how to make homemade bread crumbs? Then read on!

Read moreHow to make Homemade Bread Crumbs

How to peel prickly pears (cactus fruit without pain!)

Come pelare e mangiare i fichi d'india senza farsi male!

Do you love eating cactus fruit, but hate those horrible needles? No fear! Learn how to peel prickly pears so you can enjoy this fruit without the pain!

Something I love about living in a different country, language and culture is knowing a food or animal in my second language, years later finally looking it up in the dictionary to find out what to call it in my native language, and discovering that it’s a word I’ve always known without actually knowing what it was. So it made me laugh out loud when I eventually discovered that the Italian fico d’india (Indian fig), the fruit growing from the Opuntia cactus, is none other than a prickly pear! There are certainly no prickly pears in northeastern United States, where I lived until moving to southern Italy, so my knowledge of this fruit was limited to Baloo’s “Bare Necessities” in The Jungle Book. (The same thing has happened to me with mulberries, persimmons and turtledoves, among other things.)

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Now, a prickly pear at first glance doesn’t actually look that prickly, in that there aren’t big thorns on it, or anything, and the cactus it grows from isn’t particularly dense in thorns either. The skin of the fruit, however, is covered in tiny needles. They’re so thin that you don’t even feel them when they enter your skin. The problem is that they sting like crazy when you touch that area of the skin and are nearly impossible to find and pick out. They are also invisible if they fall onto the floor, counter or dish towel, so you can uknowingly get stuck even if you’re nowhere near a prickly pear. For this reason, my husband despises them. But I just can’t get enough of these things. I love the taste, the crunchy seeds, the thirst-quenching juice… And they grow all over the place where I live, so I can generally get loads of them for free!

Luckily last year my father-in-law taught me how to peel prickly pears so that you don’t get stuck at all with those awful little needles and they get disposed of properly. So now, when prickly pear season rolls around at the end of August, I’m all ready for it! Would you like to learn how to enjoy this fruit without the pain of the prickles? Well then, read on!

Read moreHow to peel prickly pears (cactus fruit without pain!)