Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: February 2016

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The province of Chieti is a located in the Abruzzo region on the eastern coast of Italy. The province is hilly and mountainous with many valleys that run along the rivers and creeks. The northern part of the province is pretty desolate, while the southern part is dotted with numerous tiny villages.

The province has  quite a history.

It was first settled by the Osci people around 1000 BCE. The area was also lived in by the Greeks, who named it Teate. The province and surrounding areas were conquered by the Romans in 305 BCE, but after the fall of Rome in 476 CE, it became a Lombard fortress. The area had been occupied by the Franks, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragonese rulers until it was taken over by Charles V of France. Later, it was ruled by the House of Bourbon.

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The Caracciolo nobility rebuilt the area of Chieti in Medieval times. Ferrante Caracciolo began teaching his house staff his cooking techniques, a tradition that continued within the noble family’s household for centuries. Many of the well-trained cooks were sent all over Italy and to other countries to work for royalty and heads of state. This training led to the creation of Villa Santa Maria’s culinary and hotel management school. Every year in October the province is host to La Festa dei Cuochi (the Cook’s Festival) in which locals and visitors from the world over gather to celebrate the local cuisine.

During World War II, the area was the place of a battle between German and predominantly British and Canadian forces where over 2,000 civilians died and many of the towns were  destroyed.

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The area is well-known for growing saffron but it has a different flavor from the saffron used in Spain. The first saffron bulbs were brought to Italy in 1400 by a Dominican friar named Santucci,  who brought them from his birthplace in Spain. He successfully planted the bulbs in his monastery garden and the spice was used to flavor sauces and as a curative herb.

During the autumn harvest, the first presses from the olives are often infused with chili. This is known locally as olio santo or holy oil and used on the table during meals. To experience the significance of this spicy ingredient in the region’s cuisine, visit their famous chili festival held in late August in the small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti.

Lamb is the predominate meat in cooking, vegetables are abundant and there are a large variety of herbs and the use of hot pepper called Peperoncino. Seafood dishes include fish stews, fried fish and fish sauces served over pasta, as well as fresh-water fish, mountain trout and river shrimp.

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This is a cheese loving land and they produce a number of cheeses, many of them flavored with the local herbs. Among the most famous cheeses are provolone, both mild and strong, ricotta and pecorino (made with sheep’s milk).

Desserts tend to be simple and include torroncini (a hard candy), pies and cookies often flavored with amaretto, dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate and  pine-nuts.

And not to be forgotten are the fine regional wines, such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the whites Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Local liqueurs are also very famous, particularly the Amaro Abruzzese.

Italian Seafood Salad

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Serves 8

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seafood:

  • 1 1/2 lbs calamari rings
  • 1 1/2 lbs small fresh shrimp, peeled
  • 1 1/2 lbs bay (small) scallops
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 3 lemons

Salad:

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Directions

Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

In a large pot combine 10 cups water, the wine, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cut the 3 lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or spider and place in a serving bowl.

Repeat the procedure with the calamari, cook 2 minutes and remove to the bowl with the shrimp.

Repeat the procedure with the scallops, cook 2 minutes and remove the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp and calamari.

Be sure to drain off any water that has collected in the bowl and return the fish to the bowl.

Add the celery and the peppers to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the mixture. Mix well, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.

Just before serving, toss the salad and add the parsley and basil. Garnish with black pepper and serve with the lemon wedges.

Crepes in Broth (Crespelle-en-brodo)

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Broth:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lb chicken wings
  • 1 lb beef bones
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 plum tomato, cored and halved

Crepes:

  • 1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Directions

Make the broth:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken wings and beef bones until browned, 35–40 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to pan; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Return wings and bones to pan. Add parsley, bay leaf, tomato and 20 cups water; simmer, skimming as needed, for 4 hours.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan; keep warm.

Make the crepes:

Whisk the parsley, flour, cheese, oil, nutmeg, eggs and 1 cup water in a bowl until smooth.

Heat an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet while tilting the skillet to let the batter cover the bottom completely.

Cook until the crepe is golden on the bottom, 1–2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more; transfer to a plate. Roll each crepe into a cigar shape.

To serve:

Divide the rolled crepes among soup bowls and ladle reserved broth over the top; garnish with parsley, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu

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This type of sauce is usually served over spaghetti alla chitarra, a regional pasta that is shaped on a tool that resembles a guitar. Since most of us do not have such a tool, bucatini or perciatelli pasta is just fine.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 lb spaghetti alla chitarra or thick spaghetti
  • Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-quartt saucepan over medium-high. Cook lamb, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 6–8 minutes.

Add bay leaves and garlic; cook until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine; cook until reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. Stir in peppers; cook until peppers are tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish with pecorino cheese.

Ricotta Fiadoni

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Ingredients

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 8 ounces (200 g) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 shots rum
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for the topping

Directions

Combine the 4 whole eggs, half the rum, half the anise, vanilla, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder, and sufficient flour to make a homogeneous dough.

Combine the egg yolks, remaining rum and anise, raisins and candied fruit in a bowl, stirring well to mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick and cut out rounds with a round cutter or a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on each round and fold them over to make half-moons. Seal edges with a fork.

Lightly beat the remaining egg white, brush the half-moons with it, sprinkle with sugar and transfer them to an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute until golden brown.

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Rooting for your team is fun, but thinking about what you eat while watching the game and the commercials is just as important. According to USA Today, the Super Bowl is “only second behind Thanksgiving for the average amount of calories consumed in a day.”

Super Bowl day is prime time for forgetting about eating healthy. From high-fat dips to buffalo wings, it is an endless array of food, food, food and more food. Part of the fun, though, is to be able to snack during the game.

Revamp your old favorites by making them healthier and introducing a few new ideas into your menu. You’ll be able to root for your team without going overboard on fat, calories and salt.

Here are some ideas for doing just that:

The standard bowls of potato chips, tortilla chips and high-fat dips don’t deserve a place in your healthy lineup of snacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy chips and dip.

  • Skip creamy artichoke and spinach dips in favor of hummus, which pairs well with baked pita chips.
  • Mash fresh avocados with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and lime juice for a potassium-rich guacamole that pairs well with baked tortilla chips.
  • Puree low-sodium canned beans with olive oil and garlic powder for a dip rich in fiber and protein.
  • Make a healthy ranch dip using low-fat sour cream and a reduced-sodium packet of ranch dip powder.
  • Create a visually appealing layered dip with low-sodium mashed beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, low-fat sour cream and reduced-fat cheddar cheese.

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Set out fruit and vegetable platters on your snack table. Fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories but also supply potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. You will be surprised at how guests reach for these snacks.

  • Arrange grapes, berries, melon, apples and oranges on a plate and serve them with flavored low-fat yogurt for dipping.
  • Make colorful vegetable kebabs by threading pieces of bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion and zucchini onto skewers.

Hot dogs, sausages and fried hot wings are common additions to a Super Bowl snack buffet, but they contain too much saturated fat and salt to be nutritious.

  • Replace the fried wings with baked versions instead. Brush fresh chicken wings with a low-sodium sauce and bake them until they’re cooked through. Serve them with a low-fat ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
  • Replace the wings with chicken tenders as an even healthier alternative.
  • Roast a turkey breast ahead of time, cut it into thick slices and serve it with whole-wheat bread and sandwich fixings.
  • If you can’t pass up the hot dogs and sausages, look for reduced-fat and low-sodium varieties to keep the snack as healthy as possible.

Cut a small slit in several large jalapenos and stuff the cavities with low-fat cream cheese. Close the slit in the jalapenos using toothpicks. Dip the peppers in beaten egg and then roll them in finely crushed bread crumbs. Bake the peppers until they are golden brown for a healthier take on traditional jalapeno poppers.

Air-popped popcorn seasoned with chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon or Parmesan cheese is a snack high in fiber.

Make sweet potato fries. Cut raw sweet potatoes into wedges or strips, drizzle them with olive oil and roast them until they are golden brown and soft. Season the fries with garlic powder and black pepper or sprinkle them with cinnamon for a sweet version.

Make a batch of chili and serve it in baked tortilla cups and low-fat cheddar cheese for a snack high in fiber and protein.

Here are some of my favorites:

Roasted Eggplant Spread

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Makes 1½ Cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Toasted sesame seed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.

Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Top with sesame seeds and serve with pita bread or baked pita chips.

Easy Red Pepper Hummus

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Serve with pita chips.

Ingredients

  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained

Directions

With the processor running, drop garlic through the feed tube and mince. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, salt and lemon juice; process until mixture is smooth.

Add roasted peppers and process until peppers are finely chopped. Transfer hummus to serving bowl. (Can be made 1 day ahead.) Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For homemade pita chips:

Cut 8 whole-wheat pita breads into triangles. Place pita triangles on large baking sheets and spray the surface with olive oil cooking spray. Season each with garlic salt. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a 400 degree F oven, until golden brown and crisp.

Fresh Salsa

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Serve with baked tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Put all ingredients into a serving bowl, toss well. Chill in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving..

Baked Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges.

Arrange the wedges in a single layer on non-stick baking sheets. Lightly spray the chips with oil and sprinkle with chili powder, salt and pepper.

Bake the chips until lightly browned and crisp, 15 minutes. Make sure not to let them burn. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Steak Tapas

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Makes 18

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless New York Strip Steak (or steak of choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 large plum tomatoes (1/2 cup), seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
  • 2 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 18 baguette slices (3/4 of a large French baguette)

Directions

Season steaks with salt and pepper.

Grill steaks, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350°F to 400°F) about 8 to 10 minutes on each side.

Broiling Directions

Place steak on the rack of a broiler pan. Broil 3 to 5 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.

Let cool and thinly slice.

Combine basil, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Scrap into a medium bowl. Stir in fresh tomatoes, onion and blue cheese.

Arrange baguette slices on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top with steak; spoon tomato mixture evenly over the bread slices.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted.

Fennel and Prosciutto Flatbread

Photo Editor: Paden Reich, Art Director: Bob Perino, Prop Stylist: Buffy Hargett Miller, Food Stylist: Erin Merhar. Food: Hot Brown Bites, Cheese Ball, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Flatbreads, Shrimp dip, Trout crostini.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let stand covered, at room temperature, 30 minutes or until ready to use.

Trim and discard the root ends of the fennel bulbs. Trim the stalks from the bulbs and chop fronds to equal 2 teaspoons.

Thinly slice fennel bulbs lengthwise and place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and oregano.

Bake at for 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Cook prosciutto in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until browned and crisp. Break prosciutto into large pieces.

Turn the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 17 x 13 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick).

Place the dough rectangle on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) baking sheet. Brush the dough with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven. Turn on the broiler.

Top the baked crust with fontina cheese, fennel slices and prosciutto. Broil 1 minute. Sprinkle with dried crushed red pepper, reserved chopped fennel fronds and the coarse sea salt.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Cut into small squares and serve.

Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs

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Ingredients

  • Small (6 inch) flat metal or bamboo skewers
  • 1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 x 1 x 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place the chicken in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons each of the mint, cilantro and parsley, salt, cumin, turmeric and pepper. Stir to mix. Stir in the oil.

Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.

Thread the chicken onto skewers so that the flat side of the chicken will be exposed to the fire.

Set up a grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Or preheat the broiler.

When ready to cook, oil the grill grate or oil the broiler pan.

Arrange the chicken kabobs on the grill or under the broiler. Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes per side.

Place the kabobs on a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of mint, cilantro and parsley.

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Sandwiches are one of the most popular midday choices for lunch and, for some, even dinner. They are quick, delicious, and, if properly portioned, an option for losing weight. But if you aren’t careful, a few ingredients can add hundreds of extra calories and make up more than half your daily limit of artery-clogging saturated fat. So make sure you know what hidden calories are hiding between those bread slices. If you make smart choices you’ll create a delicious and healthy sandwich for yourself.

Smarter Choices

Start with whole grain bread slices, a pita, an English muffin or a tortilla. Look for the words “whole grain” near the top of the ingredients list, not just “whole wheat.” Good choices have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some breads are fortified with extra fiber and contain as many as 12 grams of fiber per serving, helping you achieve the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber a day.

Good sandwich fillings include chicken, turkey, ham, lean roast beef, tuna, hummus and reduced fat cheese. Check the sodium levels in prepackaged and deli meats, since most of those products run high. Cut the sodium by slicing meat you have roasted at home or by asking specifically for meats lower in sodium at the deli.

Vegetables add both nutrients and flavor. Tomatoes, fresh greens (the darker, the better), red onion and peppers are all good choices. Roasted red peppers are especially good and it you like things spicy, sliced banana peppers can do that for you.

Condiments don’t need to be high in fat to have a lot of flavor. There are low-fat, healthful choices that will give your sandwich extra flavor, such as:

— Mustard

— Salsa

— Italian vinaigrette

— Light salad dressings

— Greek Yogurt flavored with herbs and lemon

Crispy Chicken Sub

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Serves: 4

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, divided

Sandwich

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • Four 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 thin whole-grain sandwich buns, toasted
  • 2 cups arugula or shredded lettuce
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Season with 1/8  teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together egg whites, Dijon mustard and remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper; set aside.

Place panko crumbs in a shallow pan. Place flour in a second shallow pan.

Dredge each chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then in egg white mixture. Press cutlets gently into the panko crumbs and transfer to a baking tray or plate.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high and saute chicken until golden brown and fully cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Split buns and spread yogurt-lemon mixture evenly onto cut sides of the bread, dividing evenly between the four sandwiches. Layer the bottom half of each bun with 1 chicken cutlet and even amounts of lettuce, cucumber slices and roasted peppers. Cover each with the top half of a the bun.

Smoked Salmon Flatbreads

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces reduced fat tub cream cheese spread with added chives and onions
  • 4 multigrain flatbreads or pitas
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, sliced into strips
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
  • Ground black pepper

Directions

Spread one ounce of cream cheese evenly on one side of each flatbread. Top with shredded lettuce. Add salmon strips, radish slices and capers to each sandwich; sprinkle with pepper. Fold in half and serve.

Meatball Pitas

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup feta cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove , minced
  • 1/2 cup grated peeled seedless cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coat a small baking sheet with cooking spray.

Slice the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into small pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use.

Add the milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine the beef, onion, oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt in a medium bowl.

With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from the pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard the milk.

Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined and form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning the meatballs over halfway through baking, until browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Combine the yogurt, feta cheese, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top and serve.

Mozzarella and Tomato Panini

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 slices whole grain country bread
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil cooking spray.

Place bread slices on a work surface, coated sides down.

Arrange tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on four of the bread slices. Cover with the remaining four bread slices, coated sides up; press together gently.

Preheat a panini grill or heat a large skillet over medium heat.

Add sandwiches to the hot panini grill or skillet; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is beginning to melt, turning once if using a skillet.

Serve with balsamic vinegar for a dipping sauce.

Mediterranean Sloppy Joes

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 oz  lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 large  garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 3 whole wheat pita bread rounds, cut in half
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, cucumber slices and chopped Kalamata olives

Directions

In a large skillet cook ground lamb or beef over medium heat until the meat is brown using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.

Drain off the fat and place the meat on a paper towel lined plate.

Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened. Add the browned meat, beans, tomatoes, wine, bay leaf, oregano, mint, salt, thyme and marjoram.

Cover and cook on low-heat for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.

To serve: spoon the sloppy joe  mixture into the pita bread halves and add the toppings.

All things previously thought to be good for us are in fact harmful to our health.



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