Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fig and Honeydew Pops

We have quite a bit of pop season left here in Florida but this recipe is coming in just under the wire for some of you. Enjoy a few icy treats while you still can. I'll waste no time with paragraphs - let's chill.

1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
3 cups diced honeydew melon* 
6 figs, sliced
3 tbsp honey
juice of one lime
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

*I used an orange flesh honeydew - it's like regular honeydew with a hint of citrus!

  • Process melon and yogurt until smooth. 
  • Add honey and lime juice. Pulse a few times to combine. 
  • Stir in coconut flakes. 
  • Distribute fig slices amongst popsicle molds and top with honeydew mixture.
  • Freeze until solid - if you can stand it, just let them freeze over night. (If necessary, straighten pop sticks after one hour or use tin foil caps with slits to hold sticks in place.)

Makes 8 sm/md pops.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fig Pizza

I have a tendency to obsess over things. Right now, one of those things is le fig. I want to put them on and in everything. Mostly because they are pretty. Tasting delicious is a bonus. Let's get fancy...

small red onion, sliced thin
5 tsp EVOO

whole wheat pizza crust
ricotta, asiago and goat cheeses (amount to taste)
6 figs, sliced (I used a mixture of Brown Turkey and Black Mission figs.)
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

  • Saute onion slices over low heat with 4 tsp EVOO and a dash of salt until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  • Top pizza crust with a thin layer of ricotta. Grate a layer of asiago over the ricotta and finish with goat cheese crumbles. 
  • Layer fig and onion slices on top. 
  • Drizzle with 1 tsp EVOO and honey. Sprinkle with rosemary. 
  • Bake for 10 minutes. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Baked Grouper with Strawberry Salsa

Fish is a staple of the Mediterranean "diet" - shoot for fish dinners twice a week. Being a seafood lover living on the Gulf Coast (fresh!), I am happy to dine on creatures of the sea. And bay. And river. And lake and pond. I've never met a fish that I did not like (to chew on). I often hear people say that they do not enjoy fish because it's too...fishy. If you fall in that camp, try kicking it up a notch with fruit salsas. Let's bake!

Baked Grouper
2 large or 4 small grouper fillets
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried cilantro
black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat bottom of baking dish with EVOO. 
  • Place a layer of lemon slices on bottom of dish.
  • Top lemon slices with grouper. Salt and pepper lightly. 
  • Evenly sprinkle fillets with garlic powder, basil, and cilantro and top with remainder of lemon slices.
  • Bake until fish flakes when you scrape it lightly with a fork, about 15 minutes.

Strawberry Salsa

1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp honey

Mix all together and serve on top of baked grouper.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fresh Raspberry Soda

Last time I tried to give blood, Diet Dr. Pepper spewed forth from my veins. On my quest to healthier insides, I began replacing some of my soda with...soda. Fruity, pink, good for you soda. Grab a sieve and let's get girly.

1 cup raspberries
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp agave nectar
1 cup soda water
Optional: splash of vodka

  • Place sieve over a bowl and & drop raspberries in. Mash the berries with the back of a spoon so that juice flows through the sieve into the bowl. 
  • Mix raspberry juice, lime juice and agave nectar in a glass and add a few cubes of ice.
  • Grab the sieve full of raspberry bits and hold it over the glass of mixed juices and nectar. Pour soda water over raspberry bits and allow it to drain through sieve into your glass. 
  • Add a splash (or two) of vodka if you so desire.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Snack Week Recipe: Roasted Cantaloupe Salad and Smoothies

Snack week continues with roasted cantaloupe salad and cantaloupe smoothies.

Cantaloupe doesn't stand a chance in my house. It's one of my favorite fruits and sometimes disappears before it reaches the fridge. This week I practiced restraint all in the name of food blogging. Let's roast!

Roasted Cantaloupe Salad
2 cups bite-sized pieces of cantaloupe
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees and cube cantaloupe. 
  • Place cantaloupe on baking sheet and roast until it begins to caramelize, roughly 35 minutes. 
  • Allow to cool.
  • Toss cooled cantaloupe, chopped nuts, Greek yogurt and coconut flakes. Makes about 1 cup.
  • Hint: if you want to serve this to folks, set aside a few of the prettiest pieces of roasted cantaloupe, a spoonful of nuts and some coconut flakes. Sprinkle each over the top of the salad. Looks matter. 
  • Eat!

Cantaloupe Smoothies

2 cups cubed cantaloupe
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt 
1/2 cup reduced fat organic milk
2 tbsp agave nectar
  • Throw all ingredients in a food processor. Process until desired texture is reached. I let mine run about 1-1.5 minutes for a smoothie with no chunks . Makes a pint and a half.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Snack Week Recipe: Fruit & Nut Squares

Snack week continues with fruit & nut squares! Which coincidentally was my nickname in high school. Let's do this.

1.5 cups mixed nuts
3 cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, pineapple, papaya, coconut)
1 tbsp honey
Additional 1/2 cup dried fruit for topping

  • Pulse mixed nuts in food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.
  • Process dried fruit and honey until it forms a paste. 
  • Add nuts back to mixture and pulse until combined. 
  • Roll "dough" out on baking sheet and cut into squares.
  • Sprinkle remaining dried fruit over squares and press into top.
  • Refrigerate for one or more hours prior to serving. (Squares will taste great if you skip this step but will hold up much better after spending some time in the fridge.)

Makes roughly 15 1 inch x 1 inch squares. Store in air tight container in refrigerator. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snack Week Recipe: Black-eyed Pea Hummus

Snack week continues with black-eyed pea hummus! 

I have yet to meet a hummus that I do not like. I usually eat chickpea based hummus, but black-eye based is a delicious departure from the norm. 

Grab the vegetable chips we made yesterday and get cookin'.

1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained 
1 head roasted garlic*
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp cajun seasoning 1 tsp
1/2 cup tahini 1/3 cup
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dash of sea salt
  • Place black-eyed peas, roasted garlic, lemon juice, paprika and cajun seasoning in food processor. Process until pureed. 
  • Add tahini, olive oil and sea salt. Pulse until well combined.
  • Garnish with fresh chives, cilantro, a few drips of evoo and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with baked pita chips or vegetables.

*Don't want to wait for roasted garlic? Cut the top off the head, place it in a microwave-safe dish and drizzle it with evoo. Add a little water around the garlic (about 1/4 as high as garlic) and cover the dish. Microwave for a few minutes at a time, checking to see if the garlic has softened up.

P.S. The owner of my favorite produce market/Asian grocery store questioned my use of black-eyed peas on a recent tahini trip. What's your verdict? Yea or nay? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Snack Week Recipe: Vegetable Chips

Snack week continues with vegetable chips!

I generally prefer to eat vegetables raw. Wash and go. It's a texture thing - squash may be the worst offender when it comes to cooked vegetables. I can't stand the squish. 

Chips don't squish. Let's make some chips.

Vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, zucchini, kale, beets, fennel, squash, etc)
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil per vegetable used
1/4 tsp sea salt per vegetable used
1/4 tsp seasoning per vegetable used

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Wash and DRY desired vegetables and thinly slice (I used sweet potatoes, beets, zucchini and kale). 
  • Toss with olive oil, sea salt, and seasonings (I used Cajun seasoning and dried cilantro) until evenly coated.
  • Place in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake until crisp. (10 min for kale; 30 - 40 min for others, flip half-way through)

Your chips should last a few days stored in airtight container. Pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes if they feel a little soft.

The kale chips are definitely my favorite. If you try this recipe, give me a shout - let me know which you like best.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Snack Week Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas Two Ways (Salty and Sweet)

It's snack week on Turning Mediterranean! I am a snacker. I often eat snacks for meals. And snacks for snacks. First order of snack week: roasted chickpeas.

I may love chickpeas too much. I toss them in salads and mash them in sandwiches and pluck them straight from the can. With a side of hummus. In my book, chickpeas are the perfect snack food: healthy, easy and delightful to the tongue. Why am I still typing? Let's cook!

Two cans chickpeas
1.5 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
(alternatives are offered for the following - see recipe)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning
1 tsp dried cilantro
2.5 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Step One: Crunch 

  • Drain and rinse two cans of chickpeas.
  • Rub peas between two paper towels to dry them out a bit. Remove any loose skins.*
  • Spread chickpeas in even layer on baking sheet and place in oven. After 15 minutes, give the baking sheet a little shake to toss the chickpeas. Return to oven and bake until almost crisp (about 10 min). Leave the oven at 400 for the next step.

Step Two: Season
While still hot, divide crunchy chickpeas in half.

  • SALTY: Toss half of the chickpeas with
    • 1/2 tsp olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • garlic powder, Slap Ya Mama and cilantro (experiment! try spices such as paprika, cumin, curry powder, lime salt, black sesame seeds, etc if garlic and slap aren't your faves)
  • SWEET: Toss remaining half of chickpeas with
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • brown sugar and dried rosemary (try with honey, cinnamon and nutmeg if brown sugar and rosemary isn't your bag)

After chickpeas are evenly coated, return baking sheet. Make a tin foil barrier between the two to keep flavors from mixing. Place in oven until crispy (about 10 min). Store cooled left-overs in an airtight container.

*It is entirely possible that I just eat the skins as I remove them. This is a judgement-free zone.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho

There is only one thing better than picking vegetables from your very own garden when you are eating fresh - picking vegetables from someone else's garden. Enter my pops. He grows a terrific garden every year. And it's only a couple minutes away from my house. 

If you have two minutes, hang in the garden with me. If you hate relaxing things like nature scenes and bird songs, skip to the recipe.

A decorating blog I read on the regular, Decor8, features Liz and Jewels, two girls who cook on two continents, once a month. Jewels just posted about Watermelon Gazpacho on Decor8. That's a bit of a web to weave but hopefully it's not too tangled. I'm not a huge fan of watermelon (texture issues, I got 'em) or gazpacho, but something about this recipe made me want to give it a try. 

Jewels says to use any colorful vegetable you desire in the recipe. So I did. Let's get processing!

Watermelon Gazpacho (adapted from Decor8)
3 slices watermelon (I'll add more next time, I was a bit watermelon shy. Don't be like me.)
1/2 each of green, red and yellow bell pepper
1 cucumber
1 large tomato
1/4 red onion
1/2 cup chopped eggplant
generous handful of cilantro 
juice of one lemon
dash of salt 
goat cheese, crumbled

Throw everything except the goat cheese into a food processor (or blender) and process the heck out of it. When you reach the desired consistency, serve it up and throw a little pico de gallo (made from the left-over pieces of vege for the gazpacho), cilantro and goat cheese on top. Eat!

**Also, sorry I stopped blogging for 1.5 months. I'll not do that again.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mrs. Dash Marinade Review + Easy Recipes!

Looking through my pantry this weekend, I found a couple of Mrs. Dash marinades that I had purchased with a coupon and promptly forgotten about. Apparently it's been a while because in looking at the website, I noticed that they have changed the packaging. I tried Garlic Lime (now called Lime Garlic for some reason) and Zesty Garlic Herb (now just called Garlic Herb). 

The ingredients list is filled with items that are food, not chemicals, that add up to 15 calories, 3g carbs and 1 g sugar per tbsp. A huge part of my turning Mediterranean is being conscious of what I put in my body. I try and stick to ingredients I recognize, can purchase separately, and can pronounce. I'm quite proud of this change as I rarely read ingredient lists before.

My old packaging instructed 10 minutes of marinating. So that is exactly what I did with a package of chicken tenderloins. And then I cooked them on a griddle. I plated up half of one Garlic Lime tenderloin and half of one Zesty Garlic Herb tenderloin with a few spoonfuls of griddle garden potatoes. 

My first thought upon on tasting the cooked chicken: this would be better if it marinated longer; not quite enough flavor. I guess I wasn't the only person thinking that - the new packaging instructs 30 minutes of marinating. Agreed, Mrs. Dash, agreed! I might purchase the Garlic Lime marinade again - it's nice and fresh and lightly lime. The other Garlic Herb didn't impress me much. 

I shredded all the remaining tenderloins and mixed the two flavors together. With a portion of the it, I made honey-mustard chicken salad and threw it on half of a whole grain sandwich round with spinach leaves for an almost but not quite Asian flavor. I used the last of the chicken on an easy cheesy pizza. Recipes below (we go through a lot of goat cheese and cilantro in the Turning Mediterranean household).

Griddle Garden Potatoes
4 fresh from the garden potatoes

dash of sea salt
dash of pepper
dash of Slap Ya Mamma seasoning (or something else cajun)
tbsp dried rosemary

Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Roll in EVOO, salt, pepper, seasoning and rosemary. Cook on heated griddle prepped with a thin layer of EVOO. 

Honey Mustard Chicken Salad
2 chicken tenderloins (that you marinated and precooked), shredded
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp raw organic honey, heated slightly
goat cheese, crumbled

Mix all together. Done!

Chicken Pizza
premade whole wheat pizza crust

basil pesto 
4 chicken tenderloins (that you marinated and precooked), shredded
havarti with dill, grated
mozzarella, grated
goat cheese, crumbled
cherry tomatoes, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover crust with layer of pesto. Sprinkle with chicken, cheeses cilantro and tomatoes. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is at desired crispiness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe: Saucy Singles Egg Bake with Goat Cheese

I believe I've already mentioned (500-ish times) that I like my weeknight recipes to be easy. Just like my men! Bazinga. Here's another that fits the bill. And if you think ahead, you can get multiple meals out it. 

This may be my favorite recipe on the blog so far. It's eggy, a little spicy, fresh and comfortable. I want to put on a cable-knit sweater and eat this every day. I call it a singles egg bake because it is cooked in single-serving ramekins, but it also makes for a great single person meal. Leftover sauce can be saved in the fridge for a few days. When you're ready to eat it, break and bake, baby.

(makes 2 individual egg bakes)
tbsp EVOO
1/8 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 clove garlic, minced
3 large tomatoes, diced
sprinkle each of crushed red pepper, paprika, chili powder
1/2 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp goat cheese (+ extra to top)
tbsp cilantro
sprinkle of sea salt
sprinkle of black pepper
scallion, diced
2 eggs
  1. Heat EVOO in sauce pan over med heat. 
  2. Cook onion until translucent. 
  3. Add garlic - cook for about one minute. 
  4. Add diced tomatoes.
  5. Stir in crushed red pepper, paprika and chili powder. Cook about 10 min (until tomatoes are soft and sauce looks juicy), stirring occasionally. 
  6. Heat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray individual ramekins with oil.
  7. Remove sauce from heat and stir in oregano and goat cheese. 
  8. Place 1/2 of sauce in each ramekin. Push a little dent in the middle with a spoon. 
  9. Break one egg into the dent. 
  10. Bake until white is cooked but yolk is runny (roughly 10 min). 
  11. Allow dish to cool. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, scallion, cilantro and extra goat cheese.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Favorite Healthy Lifestyle Things

It's too bad that I am not Oprah. If I were, I'd be giving you my favorite salad kit. Inside a new car. Obviously.

In order for me to consistently take a healthy Mediterranean inspired lunch to work, it has to be very convenient. Thankfully I discovered the Cool Gear EZ-Freeze Collapsible Salad Kit. The kit includes a collapsible bowl, freezer tray, dressing container and snap on lid. 

It only takes a few minutes to throw my fixins in and hit the road in the mornings. The freezer tray does a great job of keeping my food cool and crisp. I drizzle EVOO on my salads instead of dressing. I fully expected the dressing container to leak oil. I was wrong. If I had to find something about the kit to criticize, it would be that there is no fork (or fork compartment) included.

I found my kit at WalMart for six bucks and some change. It's BPA free, dishwasher safe and microwaveable (if you remove the freezer tray).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Recipe: Shrimp Spring Roll 3 Ways

Tonight I'm injecting a little Asian persuasion into Turning Mediterranean because I can't think of a better, or easier, way to showcase fresh ingredients than inside a spring roll. Plus. I like eating with my hands. 

Now boil some small shrimp and let's get this party started.

Note: Amounts of ingredients will vary depending on the size of your rice paper, how full you like your spring rolls and how many spring rolls you are making. I have included photos of my ingredient plates as a reference for how much of each ingredient I put in one roll. 

Gather ingredients.

One: Strawberry Shrimp Spring Roll
(Trust me. Strawberries taste good with almost everything. )
small shrimp                               unsweetened coconut flakes
sliced strawberries                     crumbled goat cheese
slivered almonds

Two: Traditional Shrimp Spring Roll
small shrimp                              cilantro
sliced red cabbage                     sliced scallion
slivered almonds                        unsweetened coconut flakes

Three: Spicy Shrimp Spring Roll
small shrimp                               lime juice
sliced red cabbage                      chili paste
cilantro                                       sliced scallion

To assemble:
Fill a shallow dish with warm water. Dip rice paper into water, one sheet at a time, for a few seconds then place on a flat, dry surface. Allow the rice paper to sit until pliable - around one minute. Place ingredients on one side of rice paper. Do not overfill. Gently pull edge of rice paper closest to filling over ingredients and firmly tuck filling under. Roll. After one or two rolls, stop and fold ends in. Continue to roll carefully but firmly to the end. 

It is best to eat these fresh as rice paper doesn't store well. If you must transport them, wrap each roll individually so that they do not stick together.

I intended to tell you which roll was my favorite but I can't! They were all so good. Tell me, how do you roll?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Recipe: Healthy Chicken Casserole

Not really a looker but...

Y'all. This healthy chicken casserole doesn't taste a bit healthy. So garlic-y and flavorful and fulfilling. This is comfort food. Fried chicken strips who? 

Plus, after a bit of prep, you throw it in the oven and take care of business while it gets itself ready for your mouth. 

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, brought to room temp
basil pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
almond flour
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Saute chicken bites in olive oil and Italian seasoning until just beginning to brown on all sides. 
  • Combine Greek yogurt and chicken in small casserole dish and drizzle generously with pesto.
  • Sprinkle cheese over top.
  • Add a thin layer of almond flour.
  • Bake 30 minutes. 
  • Eat! Remember, 1/2 vege, 1/4 whole grain, 1/4 lean protein.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fix Your Plate

Source of gorgeous butter lettuce: Uncle Max's garden.*
And that tasty looking chicken? Come back tomorrow for the recipe. 

Not sure how much of this or that you should be eating as you turn Mediterranean? Generally, you should fill half of your plate with vegetables (or fruits and vegetables), one-fourth with whole grains and one-fourth with chicken or fish (not fried!). 

Obviously, with half your plate being covered in vegetables, you should be consume primarily plant-based foods: fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that eating this way can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. (Research is currently under way on the effect of this sort of diet on cancer.)

Fuhgeddabout refined sugar, flour and butter. Most of the time. I'm sure a slice of cake on your  
birthday and a helping of Aunt So-in-so's famous creamy, bread-y casserole at Christmas won't kill you unless you crossed her

Tips for turning Mediterranean:
  • Replace fats such as butter, margarine and salad dressing with olive oil.
  • Use herbs and spices in place of salt. 
  • Can't give up your red meat? Limit yourself to once or twice a month. 
  • Work in whole grains every day, if not at every meal.
  • Simmer vegetables over low heat instead of boiling them to reduce leaching nutrients.
  • Don't be afraid of eggs and dairy - just consume  smaller portions than the typical American. 
  • Stick with it! Your taste-buds can change. After a couple weeks of eating whole grain bread, I stopped choking it down and started enjoying it. And fruit tastes sweeter now that I have (mostly) kicked the sugar habit. 
*Not a hipster whole foods store. My actual uncle grew it in his actual garden.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Recipe: Chickpea Salad

Sometimes your grannie's 90th birthday party starts at 5:45 and you get off work at 5:00 about 45 minutes away from party central and still have to swing by your house so you need something (a) super easy (b) healthful and (c) tasty that you can throw together the busy night before and grab out of the fridge in a mad dash to be fashionably late. During those times, you need chickpea salad.

1 cup spinach, finely chopped in food processor
4 cans chickpeas
10 oz grape tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 lime

Rinse and drain chickpeas and place in a large bowl. 
Add all ingredients except lime and goat cheese. Toss.
Just before serving, squeeze juice of lime and crumble goat cheese over top. Toss again.
Eat. Remark on the freshness.

(Hack: Go heavier on the tomatoes and onion and add a jalapeno pepper or two for a sort of chickpea pico de gallo for enchilada night with your Bible study group. I did.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Recipe: Super Easy Pesto Chicken Pizza

It's possible that I forgot to photograph this pizza when it was fresh out of the oven and looking its best.
It's possible that I warmed up a slice for breakfast just so I could take a photo. The sacrifices I make for blogging.

Turning Mediterranean is not about giving up food you like to eat. It's about making food you like to eat better. It's about saying yes. Today we say yes to pizza.

Confession: I do not like pizza sauce. I've been called un-American for this very reason. Pretty sure pizza sauce is not American so I remain secure in my citizenship. For now. Basil pesto has been the basis for many a pizza in my household (the word "household" totally applies when it's just you and a cat). It's herby and garlicy and olive oily - pretty much the best things that food can be. Grab your greens and we'll hop to.

2 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
tbsp extra virgin olive oil
tbsp chili paste
pre-made whole wheat pizza crust of your choice (I used Mama Mary's. See my crust reviews.)
basil pesto (make it fresh - your taste buds will think you the coolest)
goat cheese, crumbled
mozzarella cheese, grated
cherry tomatoes, cut into slices/chunks

Preheat oven according to directions on pizza crust.
Heat EVOO and chili paste in saute pan over medium-high heat.
Saute chicken breast strips until just cooked through.
Spread pesto over pizza crust (as thick as you like it - remember, pesto is pretty flavorful).

Sprinkle mozzarella, tomatoes and crumbled goat cheese over top.
Strategically (or not) place strips of chicken on top of the other goodness and sprinkle more mozzarella & goat on top.

Bake about 10 minutes (may vary depending on type of crust used). When the cheese is melty and the tomatoes are soft, it's time to stuff pizza in your face take sweet nibbles between healthful bites of salad.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Product Review: Premade Whole Wheat/Grain Pizza Crusts

Unfortunately, I became a pizza girl just before turning Mediterranean. Once or twice a week I would drop by the Publix Deli to pick up a ball of pre-made dough (ain't nobody got time for homemade dough) and make a sauce-less pizza. Sometimes it was a honey and walnut sitch. Other times it was more along the lines of freshly grated cheese and tomatoes.

I won't lie - the dough was my favorite part. Maybe I had a bite or two raw. Maybe the toppings were just an excuse to eat the dough.

I almost gave up on pizza as I was certain that nightmares are made of a whole wheat/grain crust, but I'll try almost anything once. Enter my first two test subjects: Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust with Whole Grain and Mama Mary's Whole Wheat Gourmet Crusts.

Pillsbury Artisan Pizza Crust with Whole Grain

If you like a doughy pizza (as I normally do), this may be your whole grain guy. Cook it not quite long enough and you end up with some nice crust love-handles. The taste isn't quite like regular pizza crust. It is good, but I didn't feel 100% satisfied by it. Maybe I'll try cooking it a little longer next time.

Specs: 16 grams of whole grain per serving, 190 cal, 5g fat, 30g carbs, 3g sugar, 6g protein.

Rating: 4 out of 5 turkey pepperonis. 

Mama Mary's Whole Wheat Gormet Crust
So I kinda forgot to take a photo before tearing into this baby.
Mama Mary's is the WYSIWYG of the pizza crust world. There is no rising. There is no spreading. Basically, you pop a little heat on it and gets a little crusty. The toppings are the star of the show. That's really not such a bad thing. A slice (or two) of pizza made with this lady won't weigh you down. As far as taste - it really didn't seem much different from a regular thin crust.

Specs: made with 100% whole grain and honey, 90g cal, 3g fat, 18g carb, 0g sugar, 3g protein.

Rating: 5 out of 5 turkey pepperonis!

Up next, a pizza recipe of course. What kind of person would I be if I left you hanging with a crust review? 

Have you tried whole wheat/grain crusts?  Tell me about it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Recipe: Flourless Pancakes

I. Love. Pancakes. Almost to an inappropriate degree. I knew I would need a <good> pancake alternative when I began turning Mediterranean. 

Most wheat flours I've looked at have been discouraging upon checking the ingredients, but almond flour has one ingredient. Almonds. Imagine that. Almond flour is just very finely ground almonds - the basis of this (white) flourless pancake. 

I'm happy with the outcome: a bit sweet and bit nutty. Like regular pancakes with an earthy kick. 

Let's do this.

1.5 cups almond flour

pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 tbsp pure honey
1/4 cup organic milk

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter on skillet. Flip after the edges are firm. Cook on reverse side 30/45 seconds. Makes about 7 medium pancakes.

Syrup Alternative
Rather than smothering my healthy pancakes with unhealthy syrup, I mixed 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt and 1 tbsp pure honey together, put a couple dollops on top and sliced a banana over it.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Wonders of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a staple in Mediterranean dining. About 2-3 tbsp per day is suggested. But why?

Short answer: it can help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, help prevent cancer, and help cognitive function. It contains vitamins E, A, and K, iron, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Annnnd, it's high in amino acids. 

Long answer: olive oil is packed with polyphenols. Polyphenols help protect your cells from damage. They help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce blood clotting and improve artery lining - all decreasing the risk of heart disease. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce cancer risk. They can reduce microbial activity and infections. They also reduce oxidation and cell damage, which leads to degenerative diseases. 

A New England Journal of Medicine study (published Feb 2013 involving 7500 people in Spain and 5 years of research) shows that those who stuck to a Mediterranean diet with lots of olive oil or nuts had a 30% lower risk of major cardiovascular problems compared to those who followed a low-fat diet. They found that more than 4 tbsp/day can lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke or dying of heart disease.

Researchers are currently studying the effect of polyphenols on bone and digestive health,  cancer prevention and improving cognitive function and memory.

But what about the fat? Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) are the main fat in EVOO. Good news - MUFAs are the healthy fats. They can help lower cholesterol and control insulin. Don't just consume healthy fats, replace unhealthy fats with EVOO.

Does it have to be extra virgin? When it comes to olive oil, the less processing the better. "Virgin" means that it is physically processed, not processed with chemistry. Like milking an olive! "Extra virgin" is cold-pressed once. "Virgin" is pressed twice, lowering polyphenol content. So yes, it has to be extra virgin if you want the greatest health benefits.

  • Use EVOO to replace less healthy fats and oils. I have started using it in place of salad dressing and butter - it's not too shabby. 
  • One egg white + one tsp EVOO can be substituted for one whole egg in recipes to cut cholesterol.
  • The vitamin E in EVOO extends the freshness of baked goods.
  • Greener oil doesn't necessarily mean better oil. Greener comes from green olives. Paler oil comes from black olives.
  • Exposure to light, heat and air reduces polyphenols (the good stuff). Buy EVOO in a dark glass bottle and keep it in a dark, room temp cabinet (or the fridge). Stored properly, a bottle should last about a year before phenol levels decrease.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recipe: Shrimp & Tomato Soup

I'm all about easy cooking on weeknights. And a recipe that only calls for dirtying one pot? Yes ma'am. This dish is the sort that you can toss together while you pay more attention to the latest episode of The Walking Dead than to the stove. Invite a couple pals over because it's also the kind of dish that will have folks believing that you really know your way around the kitchen. It tastes...fancy.

1 tbsp evoo couple shakes of onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced    1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cans of no-salt-added diced tomatoes (w/ juice)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 1 scallion, chopped
1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, precooked 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir in onion powder and garlic; cook one minute. 
Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. 
Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer 5 minutes. 
Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, scallion, pepper and shrimp. 
Sprinkle with feta just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Healthy Choice Frozen Greek Yogurt

Healthy Choice jumped on the Greek yogurt bandwagon last year and then they crammed that dag-gum wagon in the freezer. I didn't hop to trying it because I am not the biggest fan of ice cream and I pretty much hate yogurt. Frozen yogurt is my jam but the words "Greek" and "Healthy" had me scared. Now that I am turning Mediterranean, it's time to give it try.

The low down: no artificial flavors, real fruit, nonfat milk, and yogurt cultures. 4 grams of protein and 100 calories (and 12g sugar + 17g carbs - nobody's perfect). Each box contains 3 - 4oz cups. Available flavors: Vanilla Bean, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Honey Swirl and Dark Fudge Swirl. 

I picked up a box of Vanilla Bean after scouring the ice cream isle at three separate grocery stores. Vanilla Bean was the only flavor left on the shelf. Apparently this junk is popular, y'all. 

Upon opening, I was surprised to see specks of vanilla bean. Fancy. My first bite was very tiny as I was sure I wouldn't like it. I was. So. Wrong. Creamy. Thick. Creamy. Not overly sweet. A tiny bit tart. Creamy. I don't love ice cream. I don't love yogurt. But this. This I could love. 

Did I mention creamy?

The frozen yogurt held together better than ice cream and 4oz was the perfect serving size. It was just enough to feel like a nice treat but not enough to weigh me down. It might feel a little small if you normally enjoy a big bowl of ice cream. The 12g sugar and 17g carbs makes HCFGTY a treat I'll put on the every week or so list. I'd probably tire of it if I ate it more often anyway.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Whoa.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

One week down...

I began turning Mediterranean one week ago today. What say I? I feel pretty good. It is not an exaggeration to say that before I started this, I might go a day or two without consuming a fruit or vegetable. (Unless, of course, french fries count.)

Now I eat more fruits and veggies than anything else. Now I can count on one hand the number of Diet Dr. Peppers I drank in a week instead of using up that hand in one day. Now I'm one of those people who order water because they want to drink water, not because they want to save $2.53. I think my body kinda likes it.

Bonus: I lost four pounds! I'm pretty sure I look like Posh Spice now (don't ruin it for me). I needed to change my eating habits to keep my body healthy. To make efforts to ward off such things as diabetes and cancer. To make good things better and give bad things a harder go of it. But I would by lying if I said weight loss wasn't a huge motivator for a change in my diet.

By the way, I'm not using the term "diet" the way I've used it so many times before. It's not something I'm going to do for a while to drop some pounds. I'm using "diet" as a general term for the type of food that I habitually eat. This Mediterranean thing is a commitment that I want to make life-long. I know it's still early, but I don't think that will be very difficult. I feel full. The food is good. It's pretty easy. The only hard part is saying no to fried chicken and strawberry cake. I just have to remind myself that I can still have those things once in a while.

Source: diet-blog.com

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Recipe: Spicy Chicken Meatballs

I love meatballs and I don't want to give them up to turn Mediterranean. Enter spicy chicken meatballs. They taste wonderful + it's almost shameful how easy they are to make.

One of my exes recently gave me a bag full o' Asian delights because I am such an awesome ex-girlfriend that my exes want to do things like give me food stuffs and hire me to build websites and ask me to go to cook a specialty dish for him and his new girlfriend (no, really). Chili paste, fish sauce and fried garlic, oh my! You know what is perfect for all of these ingredients? Chicken meatballs. The chili paste adds a nice subtle heat and the fish sauce adds a salty note. If I have to explain why garlic is a good thing, you are doing food wrong. 

Gather the following:
1 lb ground chicken                                 3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 scallion, sliced                                     handfull of chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp fish sauce                                  1 tbsp Huy Fong chili paste
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil                      pinch of fried garlic

Mix all ingredients together. Get your hands in there!
Roll into preferred size meatballs and place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 minutes. Turn! Bake until they start to brown a bit.
(Cut one open to make sure they are cooked through - better safe than sorry.)

Optional Meatball Dip: Blend a block of light cream cheese with 4.5 tbsp of organic low fat milk until well combined. Stir in a bit of cilantro and the juice of two limes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Day in the Plate

Day one. I have a feeling I'm not doing this quite right. On the plus side, I didn't get hungry between meals and this is way healthier than I usually eat. No fried chicken, gravy or cake! Whoa. 

Breakfast: Whole grain toast w/ hummus & grapes. I tried to have coffee with just a little bit of lowfat milk and creamer but I could only drink half a cup. I only like coffee when it doesn't really taste like coffee.

Lunch: Spinach with olive oil, orange slices, hummus, salami, whole grain crackers, frozen greek yogurt and water with lime.

Supper: Baked tilapia, pinto bean puree, field peas, green beans, tomatoes, cilantro, grapes, and splenda sweetened tea.
Are you turning Mediterranean? Tell me about your meals.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What the what?

I, along with my parents and sister, have decided to adopt the Mediterranean lifestyle. Healthy foods, activity, sunshine. We're adding more fruits and vegetables and exercise. We're subtracting some red meat and sweets and time in front of the television. 

I tend to stick to my guns a little better when I tell the internet about them. So this is my proverbial trek.  I'll be posting research as I learn more about the Mediterranean lifestyle, reviews of food products, recipes, etc. This is a learning process and you're invited. Let's do this.

P.S. Hop over to WhitfieldAwesome.com to read about my foolish exploits. That's where my blogging obsession blossomed.