Friday, 11 May 2012

Is the Mediterranean Diet really a challenge?

A few weeks ago, I decided to challenge myself by eating only Greek food for a month.  As a mom with two kids and a full-time job, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't have enough time to cook some of these healthy and delicious traditional meals.  This made me realize that I needed to change my attitude:  I wasn't simply following the "Mediterranean "Diet" but rather living the Mediterranean "lifestyle".  My passion for Greek food became my motivation and the healthy benefits behind it encouraged me to not give up.  This isn't a challenge anymore; it is a journey I do not wish to stop.

The word Mediterranean reminds me of a culture that is family oriented; a culture that takes time to enjoy life; a culture that likes simplicity and appreciates the results of hard work.  This is the image that I have and has been passed down from my grand-parents and my parents.
view of Pylos, Greece

During the first week of the challenge, I was still on maternity leave hence I had more time to spend in the kitchen.  Within the first few days of eating traditional mediterranean meals, I started having more energy and felt lighter.  Since I knew that the countdown to going back to work had begun, I had to think of a schedule that would allow me to continue my passion for cooking.  I quickly became aware that I was saving a lot of time by doing all the preparations from the night before.  As soon as we finish dinner, I start chopping onions and carrots, washing and peeling potatoes, making my bechamel sauce and assembling my "pastitsio" etc. However, I also noticed that the cooking time for most of the vegetarian meals, poultry and some beans is less than an hour.  Meat is slowly becoming part of the menu only on the weekends. 

Another interesting point that came to my attention is that numerous Greek dishes are vegetarian and gluten-free!  I will try to share some of these recipes in future posts. 

Therefore, is the Mediterranean Diet month a challenge?  Not at all!  It is simply a change of attitude and a step closer to a healthier you!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Olive Oil Addiction

Hi, I'm Anthi and I am addicted to Olive oil! I do not know if such an addiction exists but if it does, I must be an example.  I have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is the only source of fat that I use for cooking: in all of my meals, on salads, on bread and even in some desserts.  I discovered that olive oil had become my obsession the day I became the butt of jokes at work (since I have a bottle of olive oil with my name on it in the cafeteria): "Anthi, have you had your olive oil shot yet?" "Anthi, soon you'll be consuming it intravenously!"  Statistics show that each Greek consumes approximately 26 litres of olive oil per year.  It may sound absurd but I believe it.  I am one of them.

I know that I should be using it in moderation but food has so much more flavor with EVOO.  Like I mentioned in my first post, I am very fortunate because I have never needed to buy olive oil: for as long as I can remember, my grand-father (and now my uncle) has sent us gallons of it every year.  My annual consumption may be high but I comfort myself by remembering the health benefits of each an every golden drop! 

Are you addicted to Olive Oil? 

Here's a delicious recipe for Lemon Cake with Olive Oil and Greek Yogurt from Diane Kochilas.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mediterranean Month Challenge has begun!

May 1st!  "Kalo mina" as we say every beginning of the month. What better way to begin the Mediterranean cuisine month on "Protomagia"!  I have spent the last days researching for recipes and I am amazed at the extensive list that I have compiled.  My biggest challenges for Mediterranean Month are to cook something different everyday while working full-time and to keep a balanced weekly menu (meat, poultry, fish, beans and vegetarian meals).
My inspiration for this week's menu are my grandparents.  I truly believe that their healthy eating habits (Mediterranean diet), their walks to the "plateia", socialising in the "plateia" as well as having a  fixed schedule contributed to their longevity.  Mou lypete!

Note: My 3 year old son loves the recipes below!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012.

{Lunch: Mung bean soup - psilofasoula}

1 cup of dried mung beans (rinsed well)
1 large onion chopped
1/4 cup of dried oregano
1 litre water and more if needed (approx.)
1 or 1 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice & salt to taste (added towards the end of cooking time)
1 tbsp of olive oil per serving
1. Add water and mung beans in large pot.  When it starts to simmer, remove the outer shells of the bean that will begin to surface.
2. Add the onion and oregano.  When the beans are fully cooked, add the salt and lemon juice to taste.  If the soup is to thick, simply add water until wanted concistency.
3. Add a tablespoon of olive oil per serving

Serve with bread, olives and feta on the side
Note: I like adding the olive oil when serving the dish because it is much more flavorful.

{Dinner: Yiouvarlakia} (see previous post for recipe)