Mediterranean Pita Pizza with Tahini Sauce

February 1, 2012 5 Comments

One of the recipes I cooked on my recent television appearance were these tasty and easy to make mini pizzas made with pita bread and tahini sauce. These are great snacks for Super Bowl parties or for lunch or for a quick snack. I originally presented these pizzas as diabetic-friendly, and they are since they are fairly low in carbs, a good source of protein (from the tahini) and fiber. Tahini can be an alternative to peanut butter, it’s made from sesame seeds and it’s a great source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants. OK, so these are really good for you, but they are really tasty too. They are a nice alternative to pizzas with tomato sauce, and you can load them with plenty of vegetables (good for the kids). Read more »

Healthy Greek style Dessert: Fruit and Cheese Phyllo Turnovers

January 30, 2012 1 Comment

So last week I made an appearance on a Greek cooking show called Chef ston aera (Chef On Air). I presented some diabetic friendly recipes made with Mediterranean ingredients such as tahini, phyllo dough, couscous and soft Greek cheese. You can see it here, but it is in Greek, so I will post the recipes here in the next few days, starting with the dessert today.

Of course the traditional Greek diet is diabetic friendly: moderate carbohydrates, whole grains, plenty of vegetables and fruits and rich in monounsaturated fats. Plus as I mentioned in an older post,  research showed that a Mediterranean style diet may actually help prevent the need for drugs for newly diagnosed diabetics.

Many people with diabetes believe that they can’t eat any desserts. Well the fact is that you do want to avoid sugar, but in small amounts it can be OK. The following recipe has a very small amount of sugar, corresponding to less than 1/4 teaspoon per turnover, these turnovers also contain a good amount of protein from the low fat cheese and the Greek yogurt and the phyllo dough has a fairly low glycemic index.

And no, these are not only for people with diabetes but for everyone, I make these all the time for us and it’s a great treat with very little sugar for my son.

Read more »

Like fried foods? No problem, as long as they are fried in olive oil.

January 26, 2012 4 Comments

And yes this is one of the reasons I love the Mediterranean diet: I can eat fried foods and not worry about destroying my health. Well not exactly like that but sort of. A Spanish study that was just published in the British Medical Journal concluded, based on information gathered from over 40000 Spaniards, that there was no association between eating fried food and coronary heart disease.

OK…Before you run out to get french fries, I need to explain a bit about the details. Yes it’s all in the details, the people in this study were using mostly olive oil to fry their food and this olive oil was not reused, in other words they did not fry with same oil over and over again. They also followed a Mediterranean diet, which means that they ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, not much meat or processed foods. So a Mediterranean diet plus using olive oil for frying (that hasn’t been reused many times) appears to protect us somewhat from the negative aspect of fried foods.

This concept of reused olive oil is very important to the Greek. “New” olive oil is almost as important as the food; when they go out to a taverna, one of their criteria is if the oil used is new, if word gets around that a restaurant uses “bad” or “old” oil, the place will pretty much go out of business.

Fried food does play a role in the traditional Greek diet, but not that much. The most common foods that were fried were fish, meatballs (keftedakia), potatoes (patates tiyanites), eggs, shellfish, and the occasional fried zucchini or eggplant as an appetizer. But again with the exception of fish all those other foods were not consumed all that often.

Read more »

Olive Pomace Oil Healthier for Indians

January 26, 2012 9 Comments

A new study from India just goes to show you that even using one ingredient from the Mediterranean diet can have several health benefits. According to a recent study conducted by the Diabetes Foundation India  and the National Diabetes, Obesity & Cholesterol Foundation, Indians with metabolic problems experienced significant health benefits when they used olive pomace oil instead of other oils for their cooking (I reported about it in Olive Oil Times). This shows how incorporating certain components of the Mediterranean diet such as olive oil can provide some benefits. So make that first step today: get rid of all those other cooking oils and use olive oil.

Photo Credit: Sunlit Oil by Brian Caldwell

Easy Greek Red Pepper Pie

January 23, 2012 3 Comments

So last week the goal for Food Network’s, Healthy Eating January, Healthy Every Week Challenge was to cook more at home. Well I was going to make my old standby spanakopita-spinach pie, (read more about Greek savory pies here) which is super easy and makes a great lunch, but instead I tried a new filling and made pepper pie instead. This savory pie can be made with red, orange or yellow peppers combined with feta cheese, some eggs and phyllo dough. It was delicious and it is a great way to eat peppers.

I made it into a roll again, like a strudel, I find it that it bakes more evenly.
And here is the recipe:

Red Pepper Pie-Piperopita

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 peppers (red, yellow, orange)
  • 4 eggs
  • Mint
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • About 12 sheets of phyllo dough
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
  • Salt/pepper

PREPARATION
1. Preheat the oven at 375 degrees F (190 C).

2. Cut the peppers in little cubes. Read more »

Five Steps to eat more like a Mediterranean this year. Step 5: It’s all about the condiments.

January 23, 2012 6 Comments

The final step to eat like a Mediterranean is to add herbs, garlic and lemon to everything. Ok, well almost everything. We know from research that the Mediterranean diet is not about eating specific foods but rather the incorporation of all the foods to your diet, including condiments. Don’t expect to get the benefits of the Greek diet just because you add olive oil to your salad or because you eat Greek yogurt for breakfast.  It appears that the combination of all these ingredients is what gives you the protection and health benefits.

There are 3 condiments that a Greek kitchen will always have: lemon juice (from real lemons-none of that fake bottled stuff), oregano and garlic. All three of these ingredients are sources of antioxidants and other substances that protect from various chronic diseases.

Lemon
A favorite condiment for Greeks. If you go to a Greek restaurant, almost everything you order is accompanied by a lemon wedge (that you are supposed to use-not just as a garnish) whether that’s meat, sausage, cheese, fish, beans and vegetables. Greeks add it everywhere. Originally it was used to kill bacteria, today it’s added for the taste. Apart from the fact that it’s a source of vitamin C, which is also an antioxidant, vitamin C also increases iron absorption when consumed with foods rich in iron such as meat and beans. The interesting thing though is the fact that Greeks added lemon to their meat probably without really knowing that it increases iron absorption, or did they?

Oregano
This is my mom’s favorite herb. Whatever I make or serve she always says: “make you sure you add oregano”. Oregano is added to meat, salads, potatoes, bread, sauces, marinades and salad dressings. It is an excellent source of antioxidants and it prevents the development of heterocyclic amines, substances present in cooked meat that may increase the risk of cancer. Rubbing meat with oregano before grilling can have a protective effect. Other studies show that oregano can slow the growth of microbes in food and help neutralize the bacteria that cause ulcers. Read more »

Maybe Paula Deen should follow the Mediterranean Diet instead of promoting medications.

January 18, 2012 2 Comments

The news of Paula Deen’s diabetes diagnosis is unfortunate, but what is more unfortunate is her decision to work with a pharmaceutical company to promote a diabetes medication that she uses.

As The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) announced: “The first line of defense for the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes is a healthy diet and regular exercise.”

And it is. But what I want to focus on is the relationship of the Mediterranean diet and diabetes. A number of studies have shown that it can prevent type 2 diabetes, but one important study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that the Mediterranean diet was able to prevent the need for drugs in newly diagnosed individuals. In other words if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and follow a Mediterranean diet you might not need to take medications.

The study compared the Mediterranean diet with a typical low fat diet and found that it was much more effective in controlling diabetes but also for weight loss. What many people don’t know is that the Mediterranean diet is actually a moderate to low carb diet and all the rich in antioxidant foods can play an important role in the prevention but also the management of the disease.

This is not the time to blame a certain lifestyle for the appearance of chronic disease, we don’t know all the details of Deen’s diagnosis, but to show that there are healthy alternatives out there, other than the bland, boring, low fat diet we’ve all been taught to think is the only solution, it’s not.

Photo Credit: Chris Cassidy

 

Five steps to eat more like a Mediterranean this year. Step 4: Don’t take desserts for granted.

January 17, 2012 1 Comment

The idea of having dessert after a meal is a fairly new concept in Greece. Thirty years ago people used to eat a dessert, a gliko as they called it, during the holidays, when they went out, or if they were offered a sweet as a guest at somebody’s house. If you were lucky enough, you would have some small sweet like a cookie with your afternoon coffee, but you never had a dessert after a meal.

The dessert was a special treat consumed on its own and never taken for granted.

In Greece people would typically eat fruit after a meal. In the summer visiting my grandparents at the horio (village), I remember after every meal my grandma would bring out one or two fruits to the table, a knife and a plate. She would than sit with us, cut the fruit at the table placing them on the platter for all of us to eat.

When you go to a taverna here in Greece, the waiter will automatically bring a complimentary big platter of seasonal fruit at the end of the meal. Fruit is considered an important part of the meal like bread or wine, which may be another reason why Greeks have such a high intake of fruits and vegetables. I’ve started doing this with my older son; once we are done with lunch, I get up and grab a fruit and start cutting it and sharing it with him, and guess what? He eats it all!

I like the idea of not having to eat a dessert after a meal. Read more »

3 Tips for Easy and Healthy Home Cooking, Greek style.

January 16, 2012 5 Comments

This week we started participating in Food Network’s Healthy Eats, January Healthy Every Week Challenge. The goal for this week is to cook more at home. Cooking at home is one of the best steps you can take to get yourself to eat healthier “real” food.

The Mediterranean diet conjures images of long, time consuming, home cooked meals… and who has time for that? I don’t, but did you know that there are plenty of Greek-Mediterranean recipes that are not only quick and easy to make, but they taste even better the next day?

As a dietitian, a busy mom of two little boys, and a avid supporter of the Greek diet, cooking healthy Mediterranean style dishes is a priority for me, but my time is limited. How do I do it? Here are my survival tips for quick Mediterranean cooking.

1. I always keep frozen vegetables, frozen herbs and canned tomatoes in my kitchen. With these 3 ingredients you can make the super healthy Greek vegetable one-pot dishes known as lathera which means “made with olive oil”. These dishes are made with a combination of vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and olive oil. They are delicious, healthy, full of antioxidants, low calorie and one serving which is a medium plate can provide you with 3 servings of vegetables. And the best part: active preparation time is only 10 minutes and they cook for 30-40 minutes. Click here for 3 easy and healthy lathera recipes. These dishes last 2-3 days and we eat them with a piece of feta cheese and a slice of whole wheat bread. Perfect for Meatless Mondays.

2. I make at least 2 no-cook meals a week with beans. Beans are a staple in The Greek-Mediterranean diet. Traditionally Greeks consume them at least twice a week cooked with some olive oil, lemon and sometimes tomato. Not only are they a great source of protein, fiber and antioxidants, they are cheap. I make Mediterranean inspired bean salads, and one of my favorite one is black eyed pea Mediterranean style salad. Read more »