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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

Fall vegetables are starting to appear in the markets – lots of different types of squash, beets, cauliflower and cabbage are typical at this time. Hot Dogs or Franks say fall and hot dogs can fit into a healthy diet, if you read the label to make sure you are getting the right type. Check for high sodium and sugar levels in the nutrient list. Ideally, one hot dog should have less than 100 calories, no more than 6 grams of fat (and no more than one-third of that as saturated fat), and no more than 300-400 grams of sodium.

I like to purchase Applegate Farms Uncured Organic Beef Hot Dogs. They contain beef, spices and that’s about it. These hot dogs are free of nitrates and have only 70 calories, 6 grams of fat and 330 mg of sodium. Yes, they taste good and yes, they taste like a hot dog. So when the hot dog craving happens choose wisely. I like to skip the bun and prefer the way they taste cooked in sauerkraut.

Cauliflower fritters are a great way to use up any leftover cauliflower. This recipe makes a delicious side dish.

Franks and Sauerkraut Saute

Serve with your favorite pumpernickel or rye bread.

2 servings

Ingredients

4 uncured (nitrate free), natural/organic all beef hot dogs
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped red or white onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

Directions

Heat a deep skillet with a cover over medium heat.

Melt the butter, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and paprika, cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the sauerkraut and caraway, simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Add the hot dogs and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes more.

Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Fritters

2-3 servings

Ingredients

2 cups cooked cauliflower florets
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup green onions or shallots, minced
3 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or almond flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil
Sour cream for serving

Directions

In a shallow mixing bowl mash or finely chop the cooked cauliflower. Squeeze out any moisture. Add egg, flour, cheese and spices.

Place a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Place four 1/4 cup fritter mixture in the pan and cook 3 minutes per side.

Don’t turn the fritters until the bottoms are well cooked. Drain on paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining fritters and add more oil if needed. Serve with a little sour cream on top of each fritter.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

I make a big pot of these beans and freeze them in 1 to 2 cup containers, so they are handy for a quick meal. Of course, you can use canned beans but homemade tastes so much better.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

1 pound navy beans
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 pieces thick bacon
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup Dijon country mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Rinse beans in a colander under water to remove any stones or impurities.

Place the rinsed beans in a large pot or bowl and fill with water to completely cover the beans.

Set aside, loosely covered, on the kitchen counter, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Cook the bacon in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. When crisp, remove to a paper towel to cool and, then, cut into small pieces.

Drain the beans and place in the Dutch Oven with the onions and the garlic. Mix well.

Add all the remaining ingredients, including the chopped bacon and stir until all contents are well mixed.

Add enough water to cover the beans, about 3 cups, depending on the size of your pot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 4-5 hours – stirring several times during the baking period.

Remove the lid after 3 hours and continue baking for the next hour – to allow the liquid to evaporate into a thick sauce.

Add the kosher salt. Taste the beans and add more salt, if needed.

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We have salmon for dinner on a regular basis because we like and appreciate that it is a healthy food option. I am not a fan of cooking something the same way all the time, so I am always trying new ways to prepare this fish. I experimented with some different spices and seasoning, added nuts and came up with the recipe below. We really liked this version. We are also trying to incorporate more seasonal vegetables in our meals and trying to prepare them in healthier ways. Oven baked zucchini fries were delicious and turned out crispy with the Parmesan coating. Spaghetti Squash is in season and makes a delicious side dish with Italian flavors.

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

For 2

Ingredients

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each
Seafood seasoning ( such as Old Bay)
4 tablespoons finely chopped raw pecans
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mayonnaise

Directions

Thaw salmon overnight in the refrigerator, if it is frozen.

At least 30 minutes before you plan to cook, take the salmon out of the refrigerator.

Coat a small baking dish with olive oil cooking spray, place the fish in this dish and let the fish come to room temperature.

Sprinkle the fish lightly with the seafood seasoning.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to reach a 425F/220C temperature a half hour before you plan to cook.

Mix together the Dijon mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl and use a rubber scraper to spread it over the surface of the salmon.

Press the pecans onto the top of the fish with a little pressure so they stick to the topping.

Roast the salmon for about 15 minutes. (Don’t overcook; the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes when you take it out of the oven.)

Zucchini Parmesan Oven Fries

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini
Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Directions

Cut each zucchini in half and each half into quarters.

Place the zucchini in a plastic zip-lock bag and add a little salt. Seal and shake the bag to coat the zucchini pieces.

Place them on paper towels to drain for several hours. Reserve the plastic bag.

Oil a large baking sheet with sides. Use the same oven temperature as the salmon.

Place the egg in a shallow dish and the Parmesan cheese in the bag that held the zucchini quarters.

Dip the zucchini in the egg and place in the bag with the cheese. Shake the bag and place the zucchini on the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat with all the zucchini.

Place the pan in the oven 10 minutes before the salmon will need to go in the oven.

Bake 10 minutes and turn the squash over when you place the salmon in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes more or until they are crispy.

Spaghetti Squash Aglio e Olio

Spaghetti squash makes an excellent substitute for thin noodles. It is best to cook the squash earlier in the day or the day before.

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash, about 3 lbs.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and halve the squash lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of each half.

Arrange the squash in a baking dish, cut sides down. Pour 1 cup of water into the dish and bake until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes.

Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands. Turn them into a storage container.

When ready to cook:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and add 2 crushed garlic cloves.

When the garlic turns golden, remove it from the pan and discard.

Add the spaghetti squash and toss in the oil. Add crushed red chili flakes, black pepper and salt to taste. Serve immediately.


Eggs are one of my favorite foods. I like them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are also many ways to prepare them, so don’t get stuck in the scrambled or sunny-side up preparation. Below are some of my innovative and tasty ways to make eggs. And, if you are adventuresome, give them a try.

Tomato & Egg Breakfast Skillet

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 large (3 small) plum tomatoes, chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, slivered
Fresh ground pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until softened (about 3 minutes).

Add chopped tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they the juice has cooked off–about 4-5 minutes.

Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture with a spoon and pour a cracked egg into each well. Add a grind or two of fresh pepper.

Cover the pan with a glass lid, and simmer until the egg whites are firm and the yolks are starting to set (about 2 minutes).

Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese, and cover again until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with fresh basil and spoon on to individual plates.

Spinach Egg Muffins

6 servings

Ingredients

6 large eggs
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 oz package frozen spinach, defrosted
3 thin scallions, white and light green sections, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar/Monterey cheese mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Squeeze the spinach to remove the water.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together until frothy. Add in the cheese.

Add the spinach, scallions and bacon and mix until combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among the 6 jumbo muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Bake for 40 minutes until muffins are firm and golden.

Baked Avocado Egg Cups

Ingredients for each serving:

Half an Avocados
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese
Toppings – chopped tomato or chopped onion and bell peppers

Directions

Cut the avocados in half. Take out the seed.

Scoop out about a 1 teaspoon of the flesh from each avocado half where the pit had been.

Season with salt and pepper. Place each avocado half in a small baking dish.

Crack an egg into the avocado opening and season with more salt and pepper.

Bake at 425-degrees for 10 minutes and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the egg.

Continue to bake for 18-20 minutes until the egg is done to your liking.

Sprinkle with additional toppings, if desired.


Do you ever entertain at lunchtime? Every once in a while, it is fun to ask friends over for a special lunch on a weekend. There are so many good things you can make for this meal while keeping it simple, delicious and mostly made ahead to allow you time with your friends.Finish the lunch menu with a platter of delicious fruit and that is all you really need.

Mini Carrot Muffins

Make these muffins well in advance and keep in the freezer. Heat in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

Ingredients

1/1/2 cups all-purpose
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shredded carrots
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons low-fat or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup chopped pecans
Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place the beaten egg, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, oil and butter in a large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly.

In a large measuring cup or medium mixing bowl combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder.

Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in carrots and pecans.

Divide batter evenly among 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. A cookie scoop works well for this.

Bake at 400°F for 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.cool five minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Shrimp Salad

The shrimp salad can be prepared the day before you are having lunch. Cook the shrimp and place in a covered container. Make the dressing and store it in the refrigerator. The next morning, combine the shrimp and dressing and store in the refrigerator until is time to serve. Then fill the tomatoes just before serving.

Ingredients

1 pound large shrimp (21-25)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon good white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
Salt and pepper


Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel, remove the tails and devein the shrimp.

Place them in a baking dish with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together.

Spread the shrimp out in one layer and roast for 6 to 8 minutes, just until pink, firm and cooked through. Allow to cool for 3 minutes.

To make the dressing.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

When the shrimp are cool, add them to the dressing and toss. Add the dill, capers, and vegetables and toss well.

Cover and chill until serving time.

Hollow out the tomatoes and fill with the shrimp salad and serve.

Summertime Corn Chowder

The chowder can be made weeks in advance and defrosted overnight. I keep several soups in the freezer for just such occasions.

For the corn stock ingredients

12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed and set aside for the chowder)
2 chive stalks
2 stems fresh parsley
2 stems fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Directions

Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and measure the broth.

If you do not have 6 cups add water to make the 6 cups. Set aside the broth.

For the chowder ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated canned milk
6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth if you don’t make the corn stock
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.

Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the 6 cups corn stock, chili powder and the thyme.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Take the pot off the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender.

Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.


Eggplant is probably my family’s favorite vegetable and it is certainly a major food in Italian cuisine. It is versatile and can be prepared healthy or anyway you like it. I prefer to bake the eggplant slices instead of frying them and then I can use them in any number of ways: parmesan, lasagna, “meatballs” or as below – rollatini. This dish is delicious as a main entrée or as an appetizer. Grilled Italian sausage is an excellent side dish as are the green beans.

Eggplant Rollatini

If you choose, you can also coat the eggplant slices in egg and breadcrumbs and bake as described below. If you want less carbs, leave out the crumbs.

Ingredients

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into very thin slices, to get about 14-15 slices
Olive oil
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups prepared marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought

Directions

Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and place them on a large baking sheet.

Roast (or broil) in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes, turning the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.

Place on paper towels to cool.

For the filling:

Combine the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella, egg, parsley, salt and pepper and mix well.

When the eggplant has cooled about 10 minutes, place about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture on each slice.

Spread it over the eggplant slice and then roll up into a cylinder. Repeat with all the eggplant slices.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Place the eggplant rolls in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the eggplant rolls. Cover the dish with foil and bake in a 400-degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs Italian pork sausage
Olive oil

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Oil the grill grates.

Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil.

Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve.

Skillet Green Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, washed, trimmed and cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed flat with the side of a knife
A little coarse salt
1/4 cup water
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the skillet on medium and add the oil.

Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or until lightly golden, stirring.

Add the beans, turn a few times to coat well with the oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Stir in the water. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Cover and cook 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Uncover and increase the heat to high.

Cook 2 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are cooked but still bright green.

Taste and adjust the salt as needed. Add black pepper and transfer to a serving dish.

 


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece. This series continues with the country of Turkey.

Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir and the rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of the Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, koftas and a wider availability of vegetable stews (türlü), eggplant, stuffed dolmas and fish. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi) and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast (e.g. Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana) is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, şöbiyet, kadayıf and künefe. In the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking.

The cuisine of Turkey’s Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs and fish. Although meat-based foods such as kebabs are the mainstay in Turkish cuisine as presented in restaurants and literature, native Turkish daily meals, however, largely center around rice, vegetables and bread. Dolma, rice and meat stuffed vegetables, are frequently prepared throughout the country, most often with peppers, grape leaves or tomatoes. The eggplant is the country’s most beloved vegetable, with zucchini a popular second and then beans, artichokes, cabbage, usually prepared in olive oil. Pilav (pilaf), Turkish rice, is a common filling for dolmas, as well as a common side dish. Various grains are used to make pide (flat bread), simit (sesame rings) and börek, a flaky, layered pastry filled with meat or cheese that is often eaten for breakfast.

Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialties include: lamb, beef, rice, fish, eggplant, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, zucchini and tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine, and are used extensively in desserts or eaten separately. Semolina flour is used to make a cake called revani and irmik helvasi. Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano, pul biber (red pepper), allspice, urfa biber and thyme. Olives are also common on various breakfast and meze tables. In Turkey ‘iftars’ (the breaking of fasts) are generally opened with date palms. “Beyaz peynir” and yogurt are part of many dishes at that meal, including börek, manti, kebab and cacik.

Turks enjoy three meals a day. Kahvalti (kah-vall-tuh), or breakfast, is generally a light meal consisting of fresh tomatoes, beyaz (salty cheese), black olives, bread with jam and honey and an occasional soft-boiled egg. Freshly baked bread and tea are almost always present. Sucuk (a spicy sausage) and pastirma (seasoned beef) are frequently prepared in the wintertime. Those in a hurry often stop at a street cart or büfe (food stand) to grab a quick börek , a flaky, mince or cheese filled pastry, or simit, a bread ring topped with sesame seeds. Muslims do not consume pork products, making bacon absent from most menus.

Öyle yemek (oy-leh yem-eck), or lunch, is traditionally a heartier (and warmer) meal than breakfast. Çorbalar, or soups, are served in a variety of ways, and most commonly include lentils and vegetables and meats. Larger lunch items include baked lamb or chicken served with peppers and eggplant, and fresh grilled fish with a side of lemon. Rice and bulgar pilaf dishes are also popular. Lahmacun (lah-mah-jun), Turkish pizza, is popular among children. It consists of a thin crust and a layer of spicy ground lamb and tomato sauce. Tost, a grilled cheese sandwich, is also popular.

Akam yemek (ak-sham yem-eck), or dinner, is the largest meal of the day. Mezeler (or mezze, singular), are “appetizers” served before the main meal. Most mezeler dishes are large enough to comprise an entire meal by themselves. Salads, soups, pilaf-stuffed fish and köfte (fried minced meatballs) can leave diners quite full. A meat dish accompanied by starchy vegetables (such as potatoes) typically follows. Seasonal fresh fruits or milky puddings are most often enjoyed for dessert.

Turks are extremely hospitable and enjoy company. They will welcome even unexpected guests with Turkish coffee. Meals are traditionally served on a large tray, placed on a low table or on the floor. The family and guests sit on cushions on the floor around the prepared foods. To avoid accidentally insulting the host, it is best to not refuse second or third helpings. It is also customary to remove one’s shoes at the door and offer a small gift to the host for their generosity.

Source: Food In Every Country

Make Some Turkish Recipes At Home

There is a metric conversion tool in the right hand column of this blog page, should you need it.

Εggplant Spread

This eggplant dish is usually served as a dip or spread with pita bread or vegetable sticks but can also be served as a side dish to any barbecue cookout.

Ingredients

3 large, round eggplants-aubergines
100 gr of olive oil
1 lemon
1 onion
Salt & white pepper
Parsley

Directions

Chop the onion and place in 1 cup of water.

Rinse and dry the aubergines and prick them with a fork.

Bake the aubergines in the oven (375 degrees F) or on a charcoal grill for about an hour.

Remove from the heat and cool

Peel off the skin, remove the seeds, cut them in long slices and lay on a cutting board.

Mash them with a wooden spoon or a pestle.

Drain the onion well. Put the aubergines in a bowl add the onion, the salt, pepper and blend by hand or in a processor.

Add lemon and oil and whisk the mixture well.

Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.

Turkish Grandma’s Wheat Soup

(Buğday Çorbasi)

Ingredients

1 ½ cups shelled whole wheat kernels
4 cups of yogurt
6 cups of chicken broth or stock
1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
Mint leaves
Aleppo pepper
Salt

Directions

Soak the wheat overnight in water. Drain well.

Place the yogurt in a sieve lined with cheesecloth and let the excess liquid drain out for a minimum of 5 to 6 hours, or overnight if possible.

Place the wheat in a large pot with the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and strain the soup. If desired, puree in food processor.

Place the strained yogurt in a small pan with the egg and flour over medium heat, constantly mixing well. This will help prevent curdling.

If the mixture is too thick you can add ¼ cup of water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk it into the wheat mixture, cooking over low heat and adding more chicken broth or water if the soup is too thick.

Stir in salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

In a small skillet melt the butter and when it is hot and sizzles turn the heat off and quickly add a handful of mint leaves and Aleppo pepper to taste, mixing well. Pour in circles on top of the soup.

Mini Kebabs

Ingredients

For the kebabs
½ kg lean ground beef or lamb, minced
2 thick slices of day old bread
2 tablespoons tahini
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water
Olive oil

For the yogurt dip
250 ml. Greek yogurt, 2% fat
1 tablespoon mint, fresh (chopped) or dried
½ teaspoon cumin
Salt, pepper

For serving
Chopped parsley
Chopped tomatoes
Mini pita breads

Directions

Soak the bread in water until completely soft.

Drain well and knead in the beef together with all the remaining kebab ingredients until you have a homogeneous mix.

Season well according to taste.

Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and form oblong sausage-shaped kebabs. Thread these onto the soaked wooden skewers.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grates.

Brush the kebabs with olive oil, place them on the grill for 20 minutes turning frequently, until golden.

To make the yogurt dip, combine all the ingredients and season well.

Serve 2 kebabs per person, on warm pita bread topped with parsley and chopped tomatoes with the dip on the side.

Chickpea and Couscous Croquettes

Ingredients

300 gr boiled chickpeas
125 gr couscous, soaked for 20 minutes in hot water, squeezed
3 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 onions, cut into thick slices
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley
4 tablespoons olive oil
Rosemary, thyme

Directions

Put the couscous, chickpeas, onion, tomato, wine, soy sauce, mustard, garlic, parsley and olive oil into the food processor.

Add rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Blend the mixture. Leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour to thicken.

Shape the mixture into medium-sized round croquettes and fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Drain.

Serve with a yogurt sauce:

Mix 1 cup strained yogurt with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 finely chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, 1 grated garlic clove and 1 pinch each cumin and coriander powder.

Seker Pare

These traditional Turkish cookies are called seker pare which means sweet bits in Turkish.

Ingredients

300 gr flour
180 gr semolina
240 gr butter, melted
170 gr icing sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
45-50 almonds, blanched
750 gr sugar
600 ml water
½ tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 347F/175C.

Prepare the syrup. Boil the water, sugar and lemon juice for 10 minutes; allow to cool.

Break the eggs into a glass bowl, add the icing sugar and blend with a hand-held mixer for 3 – 5 minutes.

Add the melted butter, baking powder and salt and continue to mix for a further 5 minutes.

Finally, add the flour and semolina and knead until the dough becomes smooth and uniform.

Break off a piece of dough (walnut sized), roll into a ball, press the top lightly between the palms of the hands and place on a greased baking pan. Do the same with the rest of the dough.

Insert an almond into the center of each ball. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

When ready, remove the cookies from the oven and pour the cold syrup over.

Leave them in the syrup for 1 hour before serving.


Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and the agave nectar. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

 



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