Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46–33 in 1939 to win the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Final Four, as the tournament became known, has grown in size and popularity since then. Today, the NCAA basketball tournament has become the most popular sporting event, after the Super Bowl.

For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament, only eight teams were invited to participate. Today, the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams. The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four, who meet in that year’s host city to decide the championship.

The NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982. The women’s tournament started with 32 teams, but now the women’s format echoes the men’s, with play in four regions culminating in a Final Four held in a single location. The championship is played the day after the men’s, concluding the college basketball season.

Yesterday was Selection Sunday and the madness begins on Thursday. Here are some recipes to help you cheer.

Cheesesteak Sandwiches

4 large sandwiches

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Half a green bell pepper, finely chopped
8 very thin sandwich steaks (usually sirloin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 slices American cheese or your favorite cheese
4 long hoagie rolls, about 8 inches long (I like Martin’s for these sandwiches)

To make the toppings:

Heat a griddle or a large, heavy frying pan, over medium heat. Add oil to the pan and, when it begins to shimmer, add the garlic, onion and green peppers and stir to combine.

Cook, stirring every so often, until they begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove to a bowl and set aside.

To make the steaks:

Place the steaks between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until uniformly thin.

Turn the heat to high until nearly smoking. Season the meat aggressively with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the griddle, working in batches if necessary, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until well browned but very rare. Remove to a serving platter and allow to rest.

To make the sandwiches:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the sub rolls in the oven to warm.

Return sliced steaks to the griddle or frying pan, over medium heat, and place the onions and peppers on top of the steaks. Turn heat to low and cover each steak with sliced cheese.

To serve:

Remove the rolls from the oven and fill each sub with a mixture of 2 steaks, vegetables and cheese. I usually cut these sandwiches in half and arrange on a serving platter.

If serving to guests, keep them warm on a hot plate.

Deviled Eggs and Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz smoked salmon slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a platter and chill.

To serve:

Arrange the eggs and salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle chives over both and serve.

Spanakopita Triangles

Let the package of fillo dough sit in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Any remaining dough can be kept in the refrigerator well wrapped in plastic for four weeks or be refrozen, so don’t worry that you are not using the entire package.

Makes about 16 triangles

Ingredients

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 scallions (green onions), minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
48 sheets Fillo Dough, thawed
Olive oil
Tzatziki, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the scallions, parsley, dill, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth.

Keep the fillo dough not being used, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying, while you work on the triangles.

Spread one sheet of the dough on a cutting board and brush with some olive oil. Place a second sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Repeat with a third sheet.

Cut the layered fillo in half lengthwise. Place one tablespoon of filling about 1″ from the corner of each strip. Fold one corner of fillo diagonally across to the opposite edge to form a triangle.

Brush lightly with oil. Continue to fold the triangle onto itself. Brush the outside of the triangle with oil and place the triangles seam side down on parchment covered cookie sheets at least 1” apart.

Repeat until all the filling is used up.

Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Rolls can be made ahead and reheated just before party time.

Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the chopped cucumber in a fine mesh colander and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Place the colander over a bowl and let the cucumbers drain for one hour.

Turn the cucumbers over on paper towels. Squeeze all the water out.

Combine the cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Quick and Easy Almond Bark

Ingredients

16 ounces slivered almonds
16 ounces high quality baking milk or dark chocolate (such as Valrhona )

Directions

Toast the almonds in a 9″x 13″ baking pan at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cool.

Line the same baking pan with a piece of parchment and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl with a cover in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Uncover and stir the chocolate with a spatula until smooth.

Stir in the nuts, a little at a time, until they are all incorporated and covered with chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread the mixture to the sides of the pan and press down with a spatula until smooth.

Cover with another piece of parchment and press down to flatten. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened.

Cut into serving pieces and store in a cool place.

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Football7

Football season is back! And the return of America’s most popular sport means the return of many beloved traditions – including lots of fried and fatty foods washed down with calorie-laden drinks. When football season arrives, there seems to be a different type of energy floating around in the air. Rivalries between friends pop up for 18 weeks or so. Saturdays and Sundays (and now we can add Monday and Thursday evenings) are filled with large quantities of beer and food; not to mention, sitting in front of the TV most of the day.

Your waistline won’t be affected if you skip a workout or indulge every now and then. However, for 18 plus weeks indulging in football style food (chips, dip, pizza, wings…you know…) could lead to weight gain.

Instead of sabotaging your healthy routine, why not do something about it. Create healthier snack options and incorporate exercises throughout the day. Give these  ideas a try next time you find yourself glued to the couch watching football.

Baked pita crisps and cut-up raw veggies served with salsa, guacamole, hummus, bean or other low-fat dips.

Snack mix made with mini whole-grain cereal squares, seeds (toasted sunflower or pumpkin), unsalted nuts, mini-pretzels, dried cranberries.

Popcorn – air-popped or microwaved (save money – to make about 5 cups –  put 1/4 plain popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top a few times and press closed, cook on high for about 2 1/2 – 3 minutes), add 1 tablespoon olive oil or melted margarine high in omega-3’s, low in saturated fat and without trans-fat and seasonings that you like; go light on the salt.

Pistachios or peanuts in their shells slows down the eating.

Salsa: Use in place of mayonnaise-based dips to save loads of calories and fat grams.

Cut-up fruit.

Greek yogurt: Use in place of sour cream for dips. Greek yogurt offers the same flavor at a fraction of the calorie tally.

We all like to munch on crunchy snacks while watching football. However, chips and a dip are not the best option, especially when the whole bag can be devoured in the span of an hour. Why not swap the chips for nutritious veggies? Put a variety of bright colors on the table. It’s eye-catching and full of flavor to lay out carrots, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes or broccoli.

For Subs choose 100 percent whole-grain bread with fresh turkey or grilled chicken, avocado and lots of veggies. Cut the sandwiches in quarters to keep portion sizes in check.

football8

Who doesn’t like grilled food? Grill instead of ordering in pizza and wings.

Swap the Buffalo wings for lean chicken breast tenders. Chicken breast (without skin) is a great source of protein and a better option than fatty, breaded wings. To get your Buffalo wing fix, grab your favorite hot sauce and drizzle it on the chicken as it grills on the BBQ. Grill sliders with interesting toppings, instead of regular size burgers.

Beer and football seems to be the trendy thing. However, for every beer you drink have a glass of water.Try to limit your beer intake, as beer packs on the pounds. Have iced water with fruit slices in a pitcher. It’s easy to make and it’s full of flavor. (I like to thinly slice a lemon, a lime and an orange to add to a pitcher of ice water.)

During commercial breaks move around. Stand up and stretch or take walking breaks. Create a challenge with your friends and do x-number of push ups, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, planks, etc.

If you are at the game, take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Get up and stretch or walk around the stadium periodically.

Remind yourself to only eat if you are hungry – not just for something to do during the game.

Here are some healthy recipes for your game day fun.

football

Barbecue Spice Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2-15 ounce cans no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue spice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine garbanzo beans, oil, barbecue spice, paprika, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt and onion powder.

Spread in an even layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast about 30 minutes or until browned and crisp, stirring once halfway through roasting. Cool completely.

football1

Caramel Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lower-fat tub-style margarine (50% to 70% vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 cups popped popcorn

Directions

In a Dutch oven heat and stir the brown sugar, granulated sugar, margarine and salt over medium heat until just boiling and sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Add popcorn and toss until coated.

Place coated popcorn in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large piece of foil to cool.

football2

Italian Parmesan Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 pound homemade or frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons light butter with olive oil, melted

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions.

Roll each portion into a 15-inch-long rope.

To shape each pretzel: hold one end of a rope in each hand and form a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other and then twist. Then lift the ends across to the bottom of the U-shape; press to seal.

Arrange shaped pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper; let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl stir together Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Brush pretzels evenly with the melted butter and sprinkle with the Parmesan mixture.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until browned. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack.

football3

Yogurt Fruit Dip

Ingredients

  • 1-6 ounce carton plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash ground cloves
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 pear, cored and cut into wedges
  • 6 slices fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small bowl combine yogurt, maple syrup, the 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, the nutmeg and cloves. If desired, sprinkle dip with additional ground cinnamon. Serve fruit with the dip.

football4

Grilled Shrimp with Red Pepper Dip

Make a double batch of the roasted red pepper dip and add your favorite cut up vegetables in a bowl alongside the shrimp.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh or frozen extra jumbo shrimp in shells (about 32 total)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 whole roasted red sweet peppers or use 2 whole jarred roasted peppers
  • 8 ounce carton reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions
Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto small wooden (soaked in water) or metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Lightly brush shrimp with the oil.

For a charcoal grill, grill shrimp skewers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling. Allow about  8 to 10 minutes for the shrimp. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place shrimp skewers on the grill rack directly over the heat. Cover and grill as directed.)

Place cooked shrimp skewers in a shallow dish. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours.

For dip: in a blender or food processor combine roasted peppers, sour cream, salt and black pepper. Cover and blend or process with on/off pulses until mixture is coarsely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Serve shrimp skewers with dip.

football6

Smoky Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-16-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14 1/2-oz can diced no-salt-added tomatoes
  • 1-15 ounce can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 ounces finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • Reduced-fat sour cream, optional

Directions

Put a large nonstick soup pot on medium-high heat and add the oil and beef. Break the meat up into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, beef is no longer pink and no excess liquid is left in the pan (about 5 minutes).

Add remaining ingredients except the salt, pepper, cheese and sour cream. Stir, then cover the pot and cook over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, then remove the bay leaf. Pour into serving bowls or mugs and top each with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

football5

Healthy Turkey Meatball Subs

Meatballs

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Marinara sauce, recipe below
  • 12 small whole wheat hoagie buns or firm hot dog rolls, split and warmed
  • 12 slices (one ounce each) mozzarella cheese, cut in half

Directions

Make the marinara sauce.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt and parsley and mix thoroughly. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the meatball mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and then transfer to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Turn over halfway through baking.

Add the baked meatballs to the marinara sauce and heat.

To make the sandwiches:

Spoon the hot meatballs with some sauce over the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of mozzarella, cut in half, over the meatballs. Spread a little more sauce over the meatballs, then fold the tops of the rolls over and serve.

The sandwiches can be assembled and wrapped individually in foil. Rewarm the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes before serving.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (26-28 ounce) containers crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots and the salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.



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