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Almond-Cocoa Bites, A Sweet Recipe from the Greek Islands

April 24, 2014 Leave a Comment

amygdalota-Greek almond sweets

I’ve been involved in a few projects lately and one of them was discussing the Greek Diet and Greek island cooking on a cruise.
Yes this was a fun job because we also were able to take a 4 day cruise on the Greek islands. While I had travelled to most of these islands, visiting them in March provided a different perspective compared to the summer months. Islands such as Mykonos and Santorini were serene and well . .. quiet. It was a nice change and you really see the beauty of the island and the people. Whether that is a simple cafe in Mykonos or the UNESCO Heritage site on the island of Rhodes; one of the best preserved Medieval towns, or a tiny church on the edge the town on Patmos or the extreme scenery of Santorini. Read more »

Greek Inspired Chickpeas Cooked in Tomato Sauce

April 14, 2014 12 Comments

Garbanzo chickpeas

I would like to continue where I left off from my previous post about beans; it is significant that a simple eating habit such as eating a cup of beans can help us lower our cholesterol levels, but also maintain our blood sugar levels as well as help us lose weight since beans are filling due to the fiber and protein. And let’s not forget the antioxidants.

Here in Greece we are in the holy week, the last week before Easter. While traditionally the religious fast starts about 40 days before Easter, most Greeks nowadays will not be fasting for all those days, however the majority of Greeks still fast (avoid animal products with the exception of some seafood) the week before Easter, so it seemed fitting to share this easy bean recipe. Read more »

Beans, A Mediterranean Diet Staple, May Be the Secret to Lower Cholesterol Levels

April 10, 2014 4 Comments

beanssss

A new a review of 26 studies from a group of Canadian and U.S. researchers found that consumption of beans also known as legumes, is associated with a significant reduction of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol, it is the one that gathers at the blood vessels and potentially can cause narrowing of the arteries and eventually clots. HDL on the other hand is the good cholesterol that scavenges and removes the bad LDL cholesterol transporting it to the liver to reprocess it.

Now in this study, prominent researchers from the University of Toronto, Harvard University and McMaster University to name a few found that eating only a mere ¾ cup of beans (130 grams or 4.5 ounces) was associated with reduction of LDL cholesterol levels by 5%. That is significant. The researchers noted that they conducted this study because basically beans were not included in any heart health  guidelines or that there was not enough evidence.  Read more »

5 Ways to Eat More Vegetables The Greek Way

April 7, 2014 10 Comments

horta

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal showed that individuals who consumed 7 or more servings of vegetables a day had a reduced risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

While we know that the traditional Greek diet was mostly vegetarian due to the religious fasts, but also to economic reasons, today Greeks have moved away from their traditional diet eating a more westernized diet, but surprisingly still consume plenty of vegetables. In fact, according to a 2010 OECD report, Greece has the highest consumption of vegetables per capita in Europe based on supply and production, however it is mostly older Greeks that still eat more vegetables. Here is how we do it: Read more »

Greek Style Roasted Olives

March 28, 2014 5 Comments

Roasted olives

I came across this idea in a magazine ad featuring the restaurant owner Donatella Arpaia, who mentioned spicy roasted olives as an appetizer idea.  I had never had roasted olives other than in a cooked dish, so this seemed very interesting yet simple.

You can use a mixture of olives, but I have a bunch kalamata olives that my sister had handpicked and prepared herself, so I used some of those. I made mine more “greek style” using Greek herbs such as oregano, garlic, parsley and lemon rather than making them spicy.

This recipe is really easy and these are best enjoyed right out of the oven. They give a burst of taste, because the roasting brings out the flavor. Serve them with an aperitif for something light to bite on when having a drink. Read more »

Traditional Greek Roasted Salted Cod with Onions, Tomatoes and Raisins-Bakaliaro Plaki

March 20, 2014 Leave a Comment

bakaliaro plaki

This recipe is one of my mother’s specialties and I have fond memories of eating it back in Chicago when I was a little girl. This is basically salted cod cooked in tomato, onions and raisins and accompanied by potatoes. Yes, I know-I know, it is another strange dish for a kid to like, but like I’ve said my mother only cooked Greek, and that’s what I grew up on.

The dish is known as being a Peloponnesian dish (from the area of Peloponissos in Greece) where my mom and dad are from. It is of the few Greek dishes that use fruit in a savory dish. The story goes that salted cod was first imported by the English and in exchange they were given Greek raisins. Korinthos another area in Peloponissos, was and is known for their raisins and according to George Mazos a Corinthian black raisin producer and owner of Golden Black, Greeks were in fact supplying the English with raisins so it seems that the two ingredients were somehow combined to create this wonderful dish. Now, although fish was available on the coastal areas of Greece, for the mountainous regions even on some islands fish was not so accessible, so salted fish was common as was salted cod which also lasted for a long time. Read more »

Traditional Greek Stewed Octopus in Tomato Sauce

March 13, 2014 Leave a Comment

Greek octopus

This is a traditional dish that is served during Greek lent and often consumed on the first day of lent known as Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday). We eat that along with the lagana (Greek flatbread), taramosalata and olives.

The Greek Easter fast goes on for about 40 days and Greeks fasted for over 180 days. This fast does not allow animal products and is pretty much vegan with the exception of some seafood. Now you may wonder why certain creatures of the sea are allowed. Well, many believe because these creatures do not have blood. In fact, it has to do more that their blood is blue rather than red, due to the due to the hemocyanin.

This meal though is great even if you are not fasting or not Greek, it combines lean protein with starch along with the tomato resulting in a complete and nutritious meal. Read more »

Greek Flatbread-Lagana

March 1, 2014 6 Comments

Lagana Kathara Deftera

Lagana is a type of flatbread that is eaten in Greece only on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera). This particular Monday is basically the first day of lent for the Greek Orthodox religion. Nutritionally it is important because it marks the beginning of the 40-day fast, which ends on Easter. It is called “clean” because it was considered a day of cleansing oneself (spiritually) and preparing for the fasting and the mourning. People ate plain fish roe (taramas), bread, beans (without olive oil) and other vegetables. Read more »

Greek Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Feta and Tahini

February 25, 2014 2 Comments

Greek feta tahini sandwich

Last Thursday was what we call Tsiknopempti (rough translation smoking Thursday) which basically celebrates the beginning of Mardi gras or as it is called in Greece apokria. Apokria actually means “away from meat” as the word carnaval. The real meaning of Tsiknopempti is that it is supposedly the last day before Easter one can eat meat, after that you can still eat dairy until Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera) which is the official start of Greek Orthodox lent and the beginning of the 40 day fast where most animal products are not allowed (see here for what is allowed during Greek Orthodox fast).

With that in mind, I made this Greek style grill cheese. Feta cheese, tahini (sesame seed paste), kalamata olive tapenade , olive oil and oregano all on whole wheat bread. There is no meat but provides a good amount of protein, I grilled it under the grill in a mini oven I use, for a few minutes and it is perfection. Read more »