Friday, February 21, 2020

A Month-of-Medtierranean: Breakfast and Brunch

I realize the focus has been on dinners with some attention to lunch, but today will focus on breakfast/brunch ideas that are Mediterranean Diet-compatible, like this baked egg in a bell pepper half. You can bake eggs in about any vegetable with an indentation—mushroom, avocado, hollowed out tomato, or a nest made of chopped kale and sprinkled with curry powder.

Of course, you can always stick with eating whole grains like rolled oats or old-fashioned oatmeal (no instant stuff!) topped with honey, nuts, and fruit. Or try out other grains like quinoa, barley, or farro as a stand-in for oatmeal.

Or you might caramelize fresh figs and top with Greek yogurt. I sometimes eat a banana and peanut butter.

A breakfast board with fruits, whole grain toast, hummus, and a spread of vegetables and cheeses could be breakfast for you. Or you might make a caprese whole grain toast (mozzarella/tomatoes/fresh basil/balsamic vinegar) topped with avocado. M

But for a company breakfast or brunch, or just to treat yourself, you might try one of these.

Quinoa with Eggs and Other Good Stuff (serves 4)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup mushrooms, cut into chunks
3 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup tomatoes, chopped (or use sun-dried tomatoes)
1 large handful kale, chopped into chunks
8 eggs, sunny side up or soft-poached
4 tablespoons Asiago cheese

Rinse the quinoa per package instructions. [See NOTE; very important step]

Put rinsed quinoa in sauce pan with 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. It should be done in 15-20 minutes. When done, the quinoa will have a gelatinous look, like tiny eyeballs.

While quinoa is simmering, melt the butter in a skillet. Add mushrooms, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. and stir until tomatoes are softening and the mushrooms are tender. Immediately add the kale and mix together thoroughly.

Remove from heat and prepare the eggs the way you like them. We like them soft and runny, but if you’re a hard egg person, cook them that way.

When the eggs are almost done, stir veggies into the quinoa. Stir together. Put one cup (or so) of quinoa mixture on a plate or large flat bowl. Sprinkle on a tablespoon of cheese on each dish. Top with eggs and serve.

This goes great with corn muffins and a fruit salad.

NOTE: It is really important to rinse off the coating nature puts on quinoa before you cook it or you will end up with a bitter dish.

Or how about Eggy Taco Cups for a really hearty brunch meal? Yeah, it has bacon, but just one piece per person. And you could leave it out if you are really restricting processed meats.

Eggy Taco Cups (serves 2)

2 slices of bacon
2 corn tortillas, warmed
8-12 leaves fresh spinach
2 eggs
2 green onions, sliced
½ cup Mexican cheese, shredded; divided
4 cherry tomatoes
1 small avocado, diced
¼ cup salsa
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon and set aside. Crumble when cool. (I do mine in the oven)

Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 15 seconds to make them more pliable.

Place two oven-proof bowls (or large ramekins) on a cookie sheet. Spray the bowls with non-stick cooking spray. Then wrap a tortilla into each bowl, overlapping edges where necessary.

Put ½ of spinach into each taco bowl. Top with an egg.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of cheese on top of each egg.

Top each egg with onions. Add bacon to each taco cup. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes. Check eggs to see if you want them more done. (We like them soft, but not runny.) Bake in 5 minute increments to the doneness you want.

Top each eggy taco cup with tomatoes, avocado, salsa, and Greek yogurt. I didn’t have fresh cilantro, or I would have used it. Great served for dinner with black beans and corn.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up
DH enjoys the occasional special breakfast or brunch even though he typically has cereal or toast with peanut butter and jelly. However, anytime we make one of these (or other) special meals, he is a clean plater.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Lo Mein

I think next February, I’ll take a culinary tour around the Pacific Rim for this blog series. What do you think? So many Pacific Rim dishes are nutritious and delicious. I’ve always liked a variety of Asian foods, but DH doesn’t really like many Asian cuisines except for some Thai foods. Odd, huh?

He’s not a picky eater, so I’ve never been able to understand why he doesn’t enjoy those tastes as much as other cuisines. And Asian foods are so varied. Chinese is different from Japanese which varies from Vietnamese and . . . The spices may overlap, but there are differences. And when meat is used, and it is used much less than in the Western Hemisphere, that can vary, too, from more pork to chicken to beef.

I love hunting down copycat recipes for favorite dishes at restaurants. My chicken lettuce wraps are an amalgamation of the various recipes out there. I wanted easy-to-make but close-to-the-real-thing lettuce wraps. I kept experimenting until I finally have my version. Same with lo mein. I always get lo mein when I eat Panda Express. I like it so much more than the fried rice. And, guess what, lots of people have been trying to recreate the taste of their lo mein. This is my take on Panda Express’ delicious lo mein.

Lo mein can be a vegetarian/vegan main dish or you can add bits of animal protein if that’s how you swing. It also can be served as a side dish alongside a main dish of chicken or pork.

The veggies and low fat content make this Mediterranean Diet-compatible. Another case of eating around the world can be healthful as long as you stick to the guidelines. An added benefit is that once the chopping is done, this cooks up fast!

Panda Express Copycat Lo Mein (serves 4)

¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons chunky garlic (Garden Gourmet)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ginger paste (Garden Gourmet)
¼ teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
1  7-ounce package Fortune Yakisoba Stir Fry Noodles, discard seasoning packet
1 medium onion, sliced
4 hearts of celery stalks, cut in small chunks
2 cups Napa cabbage, shredded (or use regular cabbage)
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup water

Mix soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and pepper. Let sit while you chop vegetables.

Remove noodles from outer packaging and punch five or six holes in the plastic around the soba noodles. Do not open package yet. Microwave for 90 seconds. This will loosen the noodles.

Cut up all the veggies before pouring olive oil into the skillet. Heat skillet on high to get it hot, then turn to medium high for cooking.

Dump celery and onions into the skillet and stir to coat. When onion start to soften, add cabbage. Stir for a couple of minutes more to wilt the cabbage.

Pour noodles onto the vegetables and add sauce over the vegetables and noodles.

Add water. Stir to combine and heat through. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Next time I’m using regular cabbage. It is thicker, so the texture will be different, but more importantly, regular cabbage has more flavor, and more nutrients. Napa cabbage was okay, but we wanted more cabbage flavor.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up
Yay! He liked this Asian dish! Lots of veggies which always pleases him, and the sauce is tasty, too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Pork Posole

Here’s another one of those recipes I make a lot that is from a non-Mediterranean region. Mexico, in fact is very far away from the Mediterranean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat more healthfully with foods from their region.

Pork Posole is a satisfying dish with a high flavor profile. I cut the amount of meat usually in traditional posole to make it more healthful and you never miss it! I sometimes use chicken instead of pork. I suppose most any animal protein could be used, but I’ve only used pork and chicken.

It was only after I moved to Arizona that I started making posole, so I’m late to the party. My version of Southwest chili (3 meat/3 bean) is much older.

DH, who grew up in Arizona, knew posole well, but I had never eaten it until the move. Once I tried it, I knew I had to do my own version, and this is what I devised based on flavors that I like, traditional or not.

Sharon’s Pork Posole (serves 8)

1 T olive oil
½# pork roast, cubed, (fresh or cooked leftovers)
2 cups diced onions
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
4 cups poultry stock or broth
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cumin
2 cans (15.5 oz) yellow hominy
2 cans (15.5 oz) white hominy
small can (4 oz) diced green chilies (adding other kinds of chili peppers can up the heat level)

If the pork is fresh, put in freezer for ½ hour to stiffen it up, then cut into cubes.
Brown the cubes in heated olive oil over medium heat. Remove.

Add onions to the pot and bring to translucence. Add garlic slices. Cook for two more minutes, continually stirring.

Add in pork and stir around to coat the meat with the onion and garlic flavors.

Add broth, cinnamon stick, cloves, and cumin. Stir. Add in white and yellow hominy and chilies. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and cool until ready to serve. Remove cinnamon stick and re-heat. Serve with corn muffins or tortillas.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Way Up
He loves my posole. It is great on the first day and even better for lunches later in the week.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions

Does this picture look familiar? Yep. I served the eggplant alongside yesterday’s orange chicken. Wow! Did they ever go together well! This couple of recipes becomes your next easy company dinner!

We love eggplant. Babaganoush or baked with marinara or stuffed eggplant rollatini. Yum! Eggplant takes on the flavors added to it, so it’s a great palette to showcase savory tastes. Sauteed, baked, grilled, or fried, eggplant is versatile. And good for you! Naturally low in calories and sodium, eggplant is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins and more!

"Mediterranean Living" is a wonderful source for some authentic Greek Mediterranean tastes. I followed their recipe pretty closely (for me!). I swapped out the oregano for Greek Seasoning and I used Garden Gourmet’s chunky garlic paste instead of my own minced garlic so I could spread it more evenly on the eggplant. But you can do the original recipe and it will be delicious, too!

I did get a bit impatient (Who? Me?) and I more kinda like fried the onions (as you can see) than caramelized them. They were delicious anyway, but next time, I’ll plan ahead better and sweat the onions slowly and then caramelize them. I promise. I’m sure caramelizing will deepen the onion flavor. I give you the caramelizing directions I skipped. Allow time for this step.

Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions (serves 6-8)

2 medium eggplants, cut into slices ¼” thick
2 medium onions, sliced into rings
1-4 cloves of garlic, minced (1 used 3 tablespoons)
3 tomatoes, diced (I sliced)
1 tablespoon McCormick’s Greek Seasoning, divided
About ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Slice eggplant and arrange on a paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit.

Slice onions. Put a skillet on medium heat with 2 tablespoons oil. Add onions and stir often for about 30 minutes until caramelized. Remove from pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 13”’x9” baking dish with one tablespoon oil on the bottom.

Pat the eggplant dry and make a layer in the bottom of the pan with half the eggplant. Spread on half the garlic. Add half the onions and half the tomatoes. Drizzle on olive oil. Repeat layers finishing with olive oil.

Bake covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve as a side dish or as a vegetarian main dish on top of pasta.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up

This is another one to “put into the rotation”. I usually serve baked eggplant, as you know from an earlier recipe, with marinara sauce. So, no sauce in this one, but eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and onions is a combo that cannot fail no matter the final form. This did make a lot! So, I’m after serving as a side one more time, I’m going to make the rest into a blender with V-8 Juice and make soup. Presto bingo! Lunch is served along with some croutons on top!

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Orange Chicken with Crispy Green Beans

Okay, so this has some sugar. And, as we know, we are trying to limit sugar while eating in the Med-Diet style. But, sometimes, a dish is so tasty that it is worth it. In fact, as you read the ingredients list, can’t you just imagine the bursts of varied flavors?

And, sugar once in a while is not the problem. It’s the regular consumption of bad fats and sugar and processed foods that will get you. In this recipe, the Mediterranean Diet principles are adhered to with the exception of the orange marmalade. But if it bothers you, just skip this one.

I make a similar marinade/sauce for our grillled pork tenderloin. Fruit and pork just go together, but we don’t usually think of chicken with fruit. Sometimes, but not usually.

I pretty much followed the recipe from the “My Recipes” site, with just a few modifications. I did halve the recipe since we weren’t having company, and the original served eight people. I used olive oil not canola. I didn’t cook the orange sauce before using. I added more or less of the sauce ingredients to fit our taste. Also, I didn’t use the chili-garlic sauce on the beans as called for in the original recipe. I brushed on the orange glaze instead. Hmm. I guess I did make quite a few changes.

Next time I’ll only use the chili-garlic sauce and brush it on both the chicken and the beans. And then a THIRD time I’ll do the original recipe with both orange-glaze and chili garlic. And maybe a fourth time, I’ll mix them together for both chicken and beans. And maybe a fifth time . . . well, that’s just the way my brain works. Below is my first modified recipe.

Orange Chicken Crispy Green Beans (serve 4)

4 chicken thighs
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot mustard
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper
8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub chicken thighs with olive oil and place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Wash and trim the beans.

Bake chicken for about 35 minutes (meat thermometer 165 degrees).

While chicken is baking, mix together marmalade, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot mustard, and sesame oil. Reserve a tablespoon of the sauce in a separate small bowl. Brush ½ the remaining sauce on the
green beans.

Remove chicken pan from oven and put beans on all sides. Using the remaining sauce from the green beans brush it on both tops and bottoms of the chicken. Sprinkle on more salt and pepper on green beans and on glazed chicken.

Put the oven on broil (500 degrees) and return baking pan to oven. Broil about three minutes to get beans tender and a nice brown crust on the chicken.

Serve the reserved sauce alongside to put on plated chicken.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up
“Put this into the rotation!” I agree. This is a company-worthy chicken dish. Tons of flavor that gives chicken, as DH said, “a distinctive taste.”

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Souvlaki and Spinach Salad

Here’s a very heart-healthy and easy to fix dinner for you. This dinner also has the advantage of not only using up some of those leftovers in an interesting way, but the remaining ingredients are likely on your pantry and refrigerator shelves.

Souvlaki is a Mediterranean region staple that made its way to this continent and was an instant hit. Real souvlaki is a Greek fast food. Meat is grilled on a skewer and usually eaten right off the stick with tzatziki, but sometimes it is tucked into pita (gyro) and eaten sandwich-style, like we’re doing today. I am also using leftover game hen meat, so I am not cooking this on a skewer. Thus easier to prepare, but it won’t have the grilled flavor of traditional souvlaki.

Of course, if you want a different taste, you could skewer your meat (chicken, beef, pork, lamb), season with Greek Seasoning by McCormick, and grill it if you have the time.

Easy Chicken Souvlaki (serves 2)
1 cup leftover cooked chicken, cut in chunks or shredded
2 teaspoons Greek Seasoning by McCormick
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
½ small cucumber, grated
1 tablespoon dried dill
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small tomato, diced
2 pita bread halves

Toss the chicken pieces with Greek Seasoning and set aside for an hour.

In small bowl mix together the yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic powder, and lemon juice. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to eat, divide chicken between pita halves and add ½ of tomato to each pita. Top with cucumber sauce (a kind of tzatziki).

Spinach-Quinoa-Bean Salad (serves 2)
2 cups baby spinach (or arugula if preferred)
1 cup beans (black, cannellini, white, pinto)
1½ cups leftover cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

Put 1 cup of spinach in each of two bowls. Drizzle dressing on top.

Warm up beans and cooked quinoa. Put quinoa on top of spinach. Top the quinoa with beans.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up for the salad; 3 Tongues Up for the Souvlaki
“That was really good salad.” Pause. “And the souvlaki?” “That was cucumber, right? I just don’t like cucumber.” FYI, despite his comments the souvlaki with tzatziki was delicious! I keep trying him with cucumber and he just won’t change his mind!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Month-of-Mediterranean: Greek Chicken Stifado

Oh. My. Gosh. I am giving this recipe 5 Tongues Up! You can read DH’s rating at the bottom. This is tender chicken in a mulled red wine sauce. And it is company-worthy!
I love Coq au Vin (in fact that’s what I made for my wedding supper), and this is reminiscent, but flavored with spices that bring a distinctiveness to the chicken.

In the original Greek recipe, stifado is made with rabbit. Not really available at my grocery store, but if you find it in yours, give it a try. Instead, I substituted chicken thighs. Some recipes (they’re all over the Internet) show chicken breasts as a substitute for rabbit. We use a lot of thighs, however, because the meat is tastier.

I served it with buttered noodles, ladling the sauce and onions onto the chicken. A salad made this a very filling meal. Next time I will probably prepare orzo with broth to be a bit different.

Greek Chicken Stifado: (serves 4)

4 chicken thighs
1 package frozen pearl onions
2 bay leaves
1 orange peel, torn into pieces
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups red wine
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole peppercorns
Salt and pepper

Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.

Place four chicken thighs in bottom of slow cooker. Salt and pepper them generously.

Place orange peel pieces and bay leaves on top of chicken, then put pearl onions on and around the chicken.

Mix together extra-virgin olive oil, red wine, allspice, water and tomato paste. Add in cinnamon stick and peppercorns. Pour over the chicken in slow cooker.

Turn slow cooker to low and cook for six hours.

Serve with sides. Add extra salt and pepper at the table if needed.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up
He said how different it was with the spiced wine sauce. He wants me to make it again, always a good sign.