Category Archives: Vegetables

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

Hopefully you are convinced (as I am) that the Mediterranean diet is fantastic. It has proven to be a healthy way of life for many people – why not you? Unlike other diets such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet there is little debate over whether or not it is good for you.

Of course, we have established that it is also quite different from other diets because it is more about food choices and cooking methods – a way of eating – rather than focusing on restrictions. In fact, it doesn’t really even talk about portion control. Although, I do recommend that you use good sense and eat moderately.

Other than that, this is one of the best diets on the planet. It’s tasty, easy to follow, and has multiple health benefits, such as:  reducing your risk of getting nasty diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Also – if you need to lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol . . . the Mediterranean diet is for you. If you want to live a long and healthy life . . . you got it! The Mediterranean diet is for you.

It you are focusing on clean eating, this is a diet that allows you to follow that philosophy, eat well, and enjoy the food.

The diet itself is quite simple and very flexible. You should be able to find most of the food at your local supermarket.

Mediterranean Diet Shopping List

The diet can be broken down into a few groups, which makes it easy to shop:

  • Whole grains
  • Healthy oils & fats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Herbs and spices

That’s pretty much it. There may be a few other items, but for the most part, if you stick to these eight categories, you will be eating healthy.

Whole Grains

Please notice it says “whole grains.” In fact, look for the word “whole” or 100% whole wheat or whole grain on the label. Examples would be whole grain bread or whole grain pasta. Good whole grain items would be: pasta, tortillas, bread, oatmeal, cereals, polenta, brown rice, quinoa, barley and pita.

Whole wheat bread dipped in olive oil is a tasty treat.

Healthy Oils

Mediterranean DietHealthy oils are a key ingredient In the Mediterranean diet. Replace butter with healthy fats – especially extra-virgin olive oil, which is excellent for cooking and on salads.

Other suggested oils are: canola, grape seed, sesame, and avocado oil. In the Mediterranean diet, the staple oil used is olive oil. Oils have lots of calories, so try to limit yourself to no more than three tablespoons per day.

Keep the oils in a cool, dark place so that they last longer.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are another group of healthy fats. You must be a little cautious with this group, they are calorie dense. Don’t go nuts with the nuts. Consume them in moderation or you will end up adding pounds you do not want.

A handful a day will provide our body with protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Buy them in bulk and pack them in small snack bags – limiting yourself to one bag per day.

Almonds, cashews, flax, sunflower seeds, walnuts and pine nuts are all good choices.

Vegetables and Fruits

Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

These are nutrition-packed foods filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Always buy fresh, organic produce when it is available. Seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables should be eaten daily.

Frozen fruits and veggies are also fine as long as they are quick frozen with nothing added. Avoid canned vegetables, if possible. If you must use canned, be they are low sodium.

Vegetables – you have many choices:  All the green leafy vegetables, plus broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, celery, onions, radishes, tomatoes, squash, beets, mustard greens, avocados, green peppers, etc. Obviously, it is a long list!

Fruits are eaten in place of sweets on this diet. Recommended are: apples, cherries, dates, peaches, kiwi, mango, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, melons, and strawberries.  Again . . . buy organic if at all possible; or, you may be ingesting pesticides that are harmful to your body. If not organic, wash extremely well and peel if possible.

Yogurt and Cheese

Dairy is not a major focus on the diet. It is usually eaten in the form of yogurt and cheese.  Both are good options as a calcium source. Stay with whole natural cheeses and plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (need sweet, add a little honey).

Seafood

Baked SalmonSeafood is heavily consumed in the Mediterranean region. Shrimp, salmon, cod, clams, tilapia, tuna, sardines, scallops and crab are excellent seafood choices and are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs are also eaten as a source of protein and a regular part of the diet. Chicken is also served on occasion.  Red meat is eaten rarely – so go very easy on this one.

Lentils and Beans

These are high in protein but low in fats and calories. You have many choices: lentils, chickpeas, clack beans, pinto beans and white beans.

Herbs and Spices

Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to season your food and enhance the flavors. You will not need to use salt or unhealthy fats to make your food tasty. Garlic, mint, cumin, coriander, parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro and pepper are good choices.

Don’t forget the garlic – a favorite in the Mediterranean Region.

Red Wine

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

I know this isn’t one of the categories – and is optional on the diet. But if you enjoy good red wine, a glass each evening is encouraged (one for women and no more than two for men).

That pretty much sums it up. The diet is primarily focused on fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and seafood with limited poultry and practically no red meat plus minimal sweets – all good reasons why it is so healthy.

Shop wisely and ENJOY!

Many Uses for Refreshing Iceberg Lettuce

You have many choices when it comes to lettuce at the local grocery store and the farmer’s market. Iceberg seems to have been relegated to second-class status in some circles, but should not hold that position for you and me.

Iceberg is the lettuce my mom used when I was growing up and along with Romaine, it is still at the top of my list.

The main reasons I continue to use it regularly are: it is the least expensive, it stays very crisp when handled properly; it contains a lot of water which is good for you; and, it has a mild flavor, which keeps it from overwhelming other ingredients in your dishes.

Yes, it does have fewer nutrients than some of your darker green lettuces; but, since it is often just a base for nutrient-rich dishes, that should not be a huge concern. Also, you can always mix in a little Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce for color and a nutrition bump if you choose.

Preparing Iceberg Lettuce

Cleaning and coring iceberg lettuce is quick and easy.

To remove the core, hold the head of lettuce, core side down and gently, but firmly hit the bottom of the head on the counter. The core should break apart from the rest of the head so you can pull it out quite easily. Rinse the head thoroughly with cold water. Also be sure to rinse all the crevices. Wrap in a damp paper towel  and store in the fridge until ready to use. This helps keep it fresh and crisp for two or three days.

Below are some of my favorite ways to use Iceberg lettuce:

Perfect Crunchy Freshness on Burgers and Tacos

For me, a nice crispy leaf of iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato and thinly sliced raw onion makes a hamburger complete. Iceberg lettuce gives the burger extra texture, color and flavor. Just before the burgers have finished cooking, I tear off nice-sized leaves from the head stored in the frig and dab them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture so the buns do not get soggy. Perfect!

When serving homemade tacos (one of my family’s favorites), I cut the crispy head of lettuce in half. I cut one of the halves into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. I then cut the slices in half  – and in half again. This creates perfect tiny strips for tacos. (I learned this from a wonderful Mexican cook in my home town years ago.) The lettuce adds a crunchy, fresh crispness to any taco.

Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad

Image by Tavallal
Image by Tavallal

This a classic traditional steak-house salad and always delicious when the lettuce wedge is fresh and crisp. It is usually served with a quality creamy Roquefort or Blue Cheese dressing – with or without additional toppings depending on the steak house, or personal preference. It is the perfect side dish for a good steak and potatoes dinner.

Traditional Tossed Salads

Of course, anytime you mention a dinner salad, Iceberg lettuce comes to mind. With fresh veggies, it makes a light, healthy first course or side dish for almost any meal.

I always chop my vegetables first – using a combination of any or all of the following: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, avocados, and cucumbers. I place them in a bowl and add a little vinegar and oil-based salad dressing to add flavor.

Then, I remove my crisp head of lettuce from the refrigerator and tear into bite-sized pieces, placing the lettuce on top of the marinating veggies (but do not toss). If not serving immediately, I cover the lettuce with a slightly damp paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to toss and serve.

When the time is right, I serve in individual bowls with dressings on the side; plus, croutons, bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, grated cheese, or other family favorites.

Main Dish Salads

The above traditional salad can also be used as an entrée – a great way to serve a low calorie, highly nutritious meal for lunch or dinner. I simply add a little more lettuce – usually a darker green type for color – and some grilled chicken or steak, cut into strips, and placed on top.

When serving guests, I put all the extra toppings in small serving bowls so they can create their own finished salad.  To keep the calories down and to savor the wonderful mix of flavors, I typically eat mine with a light vinaigrette or balsamic dressing

Substitution for Bread

Try this healthy, tasty twist for sandwiches. Use two large crispy leaves instead of bread for your next sandwich. Place your favorite sandwich meat or sliced leftover roast chicken or turkey, a slice of cheese, a slice of tomato, strips of raw onion, and a little mayo between two iceberg lettuce leaves for a tasty, crunchy and healthy meal. Tuna salad also tastes great when served between two crisp leaves.

You can either serve the “sandwich” open-faced using a leaf or two of crispy iceberg lettuce as the base and enjoy with a fork. Or – create your layers and do a roll-up.

Base, Garnish, or Decoration

One or two crispy Iceberg lettuce leaves make the perfect decorative base under any meat or rice dish. Since it is so inexpensive, it is great to use decoratively for almost any meal.

For example: place it under a scoop of chicken, tuna, or egg salad for a healthy lunch; or, place it under a bed of couscous or seasoned brown rice as a side dish.

This is only a tip of the “iceberg” (LOL). The next time you are shopping pick up a head of this wonderful lettuce and let your creativity take flight.

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Add More Veggies to Your Meals

Healthy Veggie Basket
Image by fo2Trends

It is a well-known fact that almost everyone should add more veggies to their meals. In fact, the recommended amount is  four to six servings (½ cup each) of vegetables every day.  Many people continuously fall short of that amount.

Veggies are low in fat (and calories) and filled with nutrients – especially vitamins and minerals. They also contain antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant stress, disease and cancer by boosting immunity. All of which helps the human body stay fit and disease free.

If vegetables have never been your family’s favorite foods, eating enough of them can be a problem. One solution is to learn how to incorporate vegetables in attractive and delicious ways into your meals.

Since many people avoid vegetables completely, trying to eat two to three cups of vegetables each day may seem impossible.   But . . . it does not have to be!

Ideas to Make It Easier

Below are some ideas that you can use to successfully incorporate more vegetables into your diet. They will also increase the daily nutrients that you and your family need

  • Casseroles

Adding diced or chopped veggies to casseroles add color, flavor, and texture to the dish without being obvious. You can start with one or two vegetables in small amounts and gradually increase them over time. For example, adding chopped broccoli, diced onions and tomatoes to a chicken and rice casserole offers a delicious blend of flavors and is usually eaten with great gusto.

  • Salads

Salads are the perfect accompaniment to meals such as pizza, lasagna, hot dogs, hamburgers and a variety of oth

Diced Fresh Vegetables
Image by Clare Brosman

er dishes.  Make it a fun adventure by allowing each person to create his/her own salad. Serve a big bowl of fresh crisp greens and bowls of extras that can be added:  tomatoes, avocados, diced onions, grated cheese, feta cheese, diced bell pepper, sliced bananas, sliced beets, chopped eggs, bacon pieces, etc.  Offer a variety of dressings including some “light” dressing for fewer calories.  You may want to encourage them to experiment with dressing combinations such as Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

  • Stir fry

This is a great way to serve vegetables and will be enjoyed by almost everyone. Use mostly vegetables that are cut (diced) in small pieces.  Some good basics are: onions, garlic and diced chicken, shrimp or lean beef. Serve the stir fry alone or over steamed brown Basmati rice. Add soy sauce or teriyaki for a more authentic Asian flavor.

  • Sauces

Spaghetti or lasagna sauce is a perfect place to add vegetables. Either make your own (preferred) or buy a good brand (Newman’s Own™) of plain sauce (with herbs or cheese). Then, add a mix of finely diced onions, zucchini, tomatoes and even finely sliced or diced carrots. It gives your sauce extra flavor and also increases the vegetable servings.

  • Veggie Snacks

Fresh raw vegetables provide excellent nutritional value. For snacks, serve strips of carrot, jicama, zucchini, celery, and bell pepper, plus broccoli and cauliflower florets and chunks of tomatoes with a ranch dip, guacamole, or hummus.  Carrots and celery are often a welcome treat when spread with peanut or almond butter

  • Kebabs

If you enjoy outdoor grilling, learn to make kebabs, made by alternating chunks of lean meat with vegetables on grilling skewers. They can be cooked on a grill or broiled in your oven. Serve with a dipping sauce and steamed rice for a healthy light meal – perfect for spring and summer evenings.

  • Soup

You can hide a world of good food (vegetables) in a pot of soup. The traditional favorite, chicken soup, can be made using your favorite recipe and adding diced veggies to increase the nutrient value.

Minestrone is another excellent vegetable disguise that you should make occasionally.  Or, make cream of broccoli or squash soup – a creamy puréed soup that is so good, the vegetable factor is a non-issue.

NOTE: Regardless of the soup recipe you choose for this purpose, the notorious “bad guys from the world of vegetables” are not recognized as such. There is no one particular flavor that dominates the soup – all the flavors meld into one.

  • Wraps

Rolling up your vegetables in wraps is a great way to disguise them. Use flavored or plain whole wheat flour tortillas that allow you to serve your family’s favorite protein such as turkey, ham or beef together with peppers, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, avocado, spinach, onions, etc. These can also be grilled with a little butter on a hot pancake grill or heavy frying pan. The potential combinations are endless.

You can also create simple veggie wraps loaded with fresh veggies, finished with olive oil, salad dressing, or mustard. Try flattening, stuffing and rolling chicken breasts, boneless fish fillets or even fillets of beef with veggies and cheese for a surprise dinner. Insert spinach, tomato and/or roasted red peppers and onions combined with a small amount of feta, blue cheese, or mozzarella to enhance flavor.

  • Vegetable Buffet

There is a good chance that there are various vegetable preferences (and dislikes) among the members of your family – but everyone can benefit from the nutrients in any or all of them. It can be very effective to serve a vegetable buffet where you prepare three to five vegetables separately – incorporating seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, and thyme along with olive oil or a small amount of salt and pepper to spice them up.

It is a good idea to prepare them in different ways – experiment with steaming, grilling, sautéing, and/or roasting – each method offers its own particular flair to the taste.

For example . . . Grilled asparagus topped with melted butter seasoned with minced fresh garlic; green beans with sliced almonds tossed in Italian dressing; roasted squash pieces marinated in salad dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese; or sweet potato fries are all great ways to make veggies tasty and interesting.

Allow family members to spoon up their personal choices. The buffet makes vegetables more fun and gives each person control over what he/she chooses to eat. These two things together make healthy eating so much more fun and delicious.

Find Your Favorites

These are only a few of the many ways to successfully add vegetables to your meals.  Experiment with new and unique seasonal finds, plus try different forms of cooking them, and use a wide variety of seasonings and disguises.

Getting your family to eat more vegetables – without a struggle – can be your personal cooking challenge. Using the suggestions listed in this article is so much better than trying to coerce family members to “eat their vegetables.”

It is likely that your family will try the new “forms” of vegetables far more frequently and willingly than they have in the past.

We would love to hear how you do when you try some of our suggestions. 

*Stevia comes from a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods and has a negligible effect on blood glucose.

Spanakopita – Spinach Phyllo Pie – Recipe of the Day

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Spinich Phyllo Pie

Spinach Phyllo Pie is a flavorful spinach and feta Greek dish that is a wonderful appetizer, but can also be served as a main dish. It is perfect when served with Tzatziki Dip, a creamy, tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic that complements this dish as well as many grilled meats and vegetables.

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil
  • ½ bunch fresh spinach
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly whipped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • ½ cup crumbled feta
  • 5-10 sheets phyllo dough

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  • Brush a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
  • Wash the spinach thoroughly and remove stems – then, squeeze the leaves to remove any remaining water – squeeze them until they appear wilted.
  • Chop the spinach and the green onions.
  • Place both ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the egg, dill, and feta.

spinach-pie ingredients - premixed

  • Mix until well combined.
  • Lay 1 or 2 phyllo sheets flat on a very clean counter.
  • Rub a little olive oil on each sheet and place 1/5 of your filling near the bottom of the sheet.

spinach-pie filling

  • Fold in the sides of the sheet(s) and roll them up.
  • Place the rolled, stuffed phyllo onto the baking sheet with the seam facing down.
  • Brush the top with a little olive oil.
  • Repeat the process four more times.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve with Tzatziki Dip (see recipe below).

Tzatziki Dip

In addition to the perfect sauce the recipe above, this dip can also be served with grilled meats, vegetables or  pita bread for dipping.

Tzatziki Dip
by Robyn Mackenzie

 INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper – whisk to combine well.
  2. Blend the yogurt with the sour cream with a wire whisk.
  3. Add the olive oil mixture and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill.
  5. Chill for at least two hours before serving.



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Roasted Beet Salad with Feta – Recipe of the Day

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Roasted Beet Salad

Try this Roasted Beet Salad soon! Next time you roast beets for dinner, roast a few extra, so you can enjoy this delicious salad. Canned whole beets will also work, but freshly roasted beets are always better. To roast the beets – cover them in foil and put them in a 400º F. oven for about one hour. Chop the ends of the beets and peel them while they are still warm.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium roasted beets, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon thyme
  • Field greens or lettuce mix (optional)
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta (goat’s cheese)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, pecans, etc.
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the beets, oil, lemon juice and lemon thyme in a mixing bowl.
  2. Prepare four servings bowls with a bed of mixed greens (if you are using them – can be served with or without the greens).
  3. Top with the beet mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with feta and pine nuts.
  5. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Note: If you don’t have lemon thyme, use fresh basil, oregano or regular thyme. Dry herbs will also work, but use them sparingly. 



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