Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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Kids are not always the pickiest eaters at the dinner table. Many adults are extremely finicky and some are fussy to the point of risking their health. They have it in their minds that veggies do not taste good, even if they have never tried them. It can be very difficult to come up with a variety of healthy dishes day after day for this type of eater, but with culinary creativity, it is easy to provide nourishing foods on the sly. Absolutely anyone can successfully sneak vegetables into foods for finicky adults and unless they catch the cook, they will never know the difference. When looking for ways to sneak vegetables into foods, look for ways to include them in your favorite recipes. Fresh and frozen veggies are the most nutritious. Cook and puree carrots, spinach or any other mild tasting vegetable that will be easy to stir into a tomato based dish. Be careful not to overdo it or the pureed vegetable will change the color of the sauce and alter the flavor. Add just enough of your favorite cooked and pureed vegetables to add nutritional value. Most people will not notice a difference, because the food will taste the same. Love macaroni and cheese with a rich golden sauce? A deep golden color can be achieved by stirring in pureed butternut squash or carrots. Top it with buttered bread crumbs and bake it in the oven until it is golden brown and bubbly. If it is cheesy enough, no one will realize that you were able to sneak in vegetables. It will look and taste just as it always does. Sometimes, it’s okay to be sneaky in the kitchen. Try these tips to sneak in one or two extra servings into your day and you’ll be adding a new twist to an old favorite recipe.

  • Shred or grate fruits and vegetables or puree them and see how creative you can get with your favorite recipes.
  • Meatloaf is a mixture of various foods, typically including ground meat, eggs, onions and some bread crumbs. Adding a little shredded carrots, zucchini or broccoli may give the meal a nutritional boost that won’t change the flavor.
  • Chili is chock full of beans; grate or dice in some carrots, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini for added nuitrition.
  • Use the blender or food processor to puree broccoli or peppers (a great source of vitamin C) and carrots and spinach (for vitamin A) to add to sauces.
  • Make homemade ravioli using pre-packaged wonton wrappers and fill with chopped veggies.

  • Quick additions – Layer zucchini slices into lasagna. Stir broccoli florets into macaroni and cheese. Toss tomatoes into an omelet. Include peppers in a cheese quesadilla.
  • Soup – Embellish your favorite soups, fresh or canned, with added veggies. Just add raw or frozen vegetables while you’re heating or cooking the soup.
  • Salads – Load your salads with as many raw veggies as you can: cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, green beans, onions, radishes, jicama, tomato, etc. Or try spinach leaves instead of lettuce.
  • Serve them raw – Raw can bring out the best in vegetables that have a strong taste when cooked, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage or spinach. Add a low-fat dip.
  • Spaghetti sauce – Add finely chopped zucchini, mushroom, onions, eggplant or yellow squash to spaghetti sauce. The smaller you chop them, the less likely you are to notice they’re there.
  • Make them fun – Try corn-on-the-cob wheels (slice cooked corn into 1-inch thick disks), fill celery sticks with peanut butter or light cream cheese or stuff zucchini or bell peppers with a savory filling.
  • Drink them – Try V-8 or carrot juice. Or blend some carrot juice with a fruit juice you enjoy, such as orange or tangerine.
  • Pizza – Top your pizza with any combination: tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini and artichoke hearts.
  • Grilling – After the meat or fish is taken off the grill, why waste the hot coals? You can probably use the same marinade you’re using for your meat. (Just marinate the veggies separately, using marinade that hasn’t touched the meat.) Make a kabob with chunks of vegetables (eggplant, carrot, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini or other types of squashes). Soft vegetables won’t need precooking, but firm ones such as sweet potatoes will benefit from steaming or microwaving before they go on the grill.

Each of these veggie-rich dishes fits into any meal plan and is loaded with color, nutrients and flavor. Best of all, low-calorie vegetables let you add more food to your plate!

Mushroom-Sausage Flatbreads

Makes for a great, quick weekend lunch! 4 servings Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces uncooked turkey Italian sausage links, with casings removed
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a 16 ounce package of frozen bell peppers and onion stir-fry vegetables (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 multi-grain low-fat wraps
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms over medium heat until sausage is browned and mushrooms are tender, stirring to break up sausage as it cooks. Drain mixture in a colander; set aside. Meanwhile, chop one of the tomatoes; thinly slice the other tomato. In the same large skillet, cook chopped tomato, stir-fry vegetables and garlic over medium heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated and vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally. Place wraps on a very large baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Spread vegetable mixture over hot wraps. Top with sausage mixture. Top with sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and just starting to brown.

Grilled Beef Garden Burgers

4 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces 90% lean or higher ground beef
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
  • 3/4 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 small tomato, thinly sliced
  • Condiments

Directions: In a large bowl, combine egg white, carrot, green onion, shredded zucchini, garlic and black pepper. Add beef; mix well. Shape the mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. For a charcoal grill, place patties on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 14 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the side of each patty registers 160 degrees F, turning once halfway through grilling. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place patties on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above. Serve each patty on a whole wheat bun with spinach, tomato and condiments of choice.

Mediterranean-Stuffed Chicken

4 servings Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/2 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/4 cup drained, bottled marinated artichoke hearts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained, bottled roasted red sweet peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions: Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast by cutting horizontally through the thickest portion almost to the opposite side. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine feta, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, green onion and oregano. Spoon evenly into pockets in chicken breasts. If necessary, secure openings with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle chicken with black pepper. Grilling directions: For a charcoal grill, place chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, (170 degrees F.) turning once halfway through grilling. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place chicken on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.

Layered Root Vegetable Bake

Good make ahead dish. 8 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and halved crosswise
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and halved crosswise (1-1/4 cups)
  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 whole baby beets, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions: In a covered large saucepan, cook potatoes in enough boiling water to cover about 25 minutes or until tender, adding the carrot pieces and parsnips for the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain, using a slotted spoon, and cool until easy to handle. Very thinly slice potatoes, parsnips and carrots, keeping each in separate bowls. Reboil water, add beets and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Cool and slice thin. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9 x 1-1/2-inch round baking pan with heavy foil. Generously coat foil with cooking spray. Layer half of the beet slices, half of the carrot slices, half of the parsnip slices and half of the potato slices in pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the pepper. Layer remaining vegetable slices on top in the same order. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Cover with foil; press down lightly with hands. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Let stand for 5 minutes. Remove top piece of foil. Invert vegetables onto serving plate; peel off foil. Cut into 8 wedges to serve.

Golden Risotto


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, warmed
  • 1 cup carrot juice, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions: In a medium nonstick saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and almonds, stirring to coat. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until evaporated by half, about 2 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the broth, carrot juice, water and salt to taste. Add to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring, until absorbed, before adding the next 1/2 cup (total time will be about 20 minutes.) Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and pepper before serving. Zucchini-Oat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields: 48 cookies Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium)
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 2/3 cups (10-oz pkg.) Semi-Sweet or Dark Chocolate Chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Combine flour, cinnamon and baking soda in small bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well combined. Add egg and vanilla extract, beat well. Add zucchini and mix. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, nuts and chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoon, 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Be sure to rotate baking sheets in the oven after 6 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.  

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