Tag Archives: salads

Healthy Eating the Mediterranean Way

Healthy Eating - Greek Salad
Image by robynmac

Healthy Eating

The Mediterranean Diet has been popular for some time and the reason is simple – It is easy and delicious. Healthy eating the Mediterranean Way may be an easier switch than you think. In fact, when I took a very close look, I realized that I have been eating this way for many years.

The name is accurate because it emulates the way people eat who live on or near the Mediterranean Sea. When studies were done, it was found that people who live on the Mediterranean Diet, experienced a lower incidence of heart disease, reduced incidence of cancer (including breast cancer), Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s – plus they live longer in general.

The findings were surprising at first because the diet includes fats and wine – two things that are usually “no-no’s” on a “healthy diet.” However, further research found that when the types of fats they use (olive oil and real cheese) coupled with good wine, when used in moderation and combined with a nutrient rich diet, can actually be beneficial.

A nutrient-rich diet should be self-explanatory, but in case it is not, let’s take a look at some of the foods that are included in the Mediterranean Diet.

Fish

If you do not like fish – this is not a good style of eating for you.  BUT . . . if you are like me and LOVE fish, a Mediterranean-type diet is a great choice.

Fish is a natural food for people who live near the sea and being near the warm Mediterranean means being near tons of fish – lucky them! For the rest of us, it is not quite so easy, but good fish is available in most metropolitan areas. And . . . fish is incredibly good for the human body.

Fish is lean and low in calories especially when compared to red met and provides lots of essential fatty acids and amino acids – a wonderful “brain” food and, it keeps you full.

Its easy year-round accessibility (fresh or frozen) makes it an excellent main-dish option.

Fresh  Salads

Salads are a mainstay in all Mediterranean homes – and they are a good way to bulk up a meal without adding a lot of calories.  Plus, they are filled with nutrients, providing the body with iron, calcium, and other minerals.

A favorite for people of the area is simple Greek salad. It is a combination of:  chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber, peppers, olives, and feta cheese – lightly drizzled with olive oil.

Healthy Fats

Going hand-in-hand with fish and veggie salads are all of the healthy fats – meaning saturated fats (not trans fats!) which aid in testosterone production while also enhancing nutrient absorption and improving cholesterol

Seeds and Nuts

Many dishes for this diet include seeds and nuts for flavoring (with lots of herbs). Another excellent choice because they keep you feeling full, which also makes them a brilliant, nutritious snack (including zinc, potassium, magnesium) that will not pack on calories. Add a few nuts or seeds to any salad for crunch and extra flavour.

Fruits and Vegetables

Once again the sunny region in which the diet originated provided lots of berries, grapes, tomatoes, and root vegetables ripe for picking, cooking and eating. This is another big component of the Mediterranean Diet and is one of the biggest ‘secrets’ when it comes to making sure that you enjoy a long, healthy lifespan without getting ill!

In summary, the Mayo Clinic explains:

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Enjoying meals with family and friends
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Getting plenty of exercise

If you have not already tried this diet, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t want to go full force, at least try adding some of the elements, such as more salads, fruits and veggies, plus nuts and seeds.

Simply adding wine to your diet will not do the trick. (LOL)

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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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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Fresh Corn Salad – Busy Mom Series, Day 2

Fresh Corn Salad

 

Fresh Corn Salad is light and refreshing. It is a wonderful side dish for any meal – steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, or even good for a light lunch if served by itself.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ears of fresh corn – OR – 16 oz. package frozen corn
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, washed, trimmed, and sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (Hellman’s™ or Best Food™)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic vinegar
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and coarsely-ground pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS

The Vegetables

  1. Packaged corn – thaw and drain and skip to “add the green pepper . . .”
  2. Fresh Corn – remove husks and silk
  3. Add a small amount of sugar to a large pot of water.
  4. Place corn in water and bring it to a boil – cook for 1 to 2 minutes. (Don’t overcook. Corn should be just heated through.)
  5. Drop the corn into a bowl of ice water to shock it and stop the cooking process.
  6. Let it stand in the ice water for ~4 minutes.
  7. Cut the corn off the cob with a sharp knife and place in a large bowl.
  8. Add the green pepper, onions and tomatoes – mix well – set in the refrigerator to chill

The Dressing

  1. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise, basil, garlic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper in a small bowl – mix well.
  2. Pour over corn mixture and toss gently to coat.
  3. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

 

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