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.


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 to read about my foolish exploits. That's where my blogging obsession blossomed.