Now that the New Year has begun, the most common resolution in this country is to lose weight. Counting calories in some diets or counting points in others takes some effort, but if you step back and look at the natural way to gain the nutrition that you need, while enjoying heathy, flavorful meals, look no further than the Mediterranean diet. It is a heart-healthy eating plan that combines the natural foods and cuisines from countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. Front and center is Italy, the healthiest country in the world, which boasts a cuisine containing many types of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, grains, legumes, fish, cheese, plenty of fresh herbs and of course, wine. The benefits of this diet have been well researched and will help to reduce the risks of many diseases, so shed some pounds by eating healthy, delicious meals. The key is to plan ahead and stay away from heavily processed foods and saturated fats. Slow food – both in preparation and enjoying the time during the meal with family makes all the difference and the benefits are well worth it!
Honey Lime Fruit Salad
This recipe comes from Sicily, where honey from Sardinia is combined with native and seasonal fruits. It is fantastic for breakfast, delicious and energizing. The touch of lime combined with honey makes this fruit salad refreshing as well as elegant and can be easily doubled or tripled for large family gatherings.
2 large bananas, sliced
1 lb. fresh strawberries, sliced
½ lb. fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup pignoli nuts
Combine bananas, strawberries, and blueberries in a bowl. Drizzle honey and lime juice over fruit; stir to coat. Sprinkle with pignoli nuts.
Niçoise-Style Tuna Salad
Perfect for lunch, this tuna salad recipe for four combines flavors and textures to satisfy anyone’s palate.
12 oz. green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
1 (12 oz.) can solid white albacore tuna, drained
1 (16 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained
¼ cup black olives, sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch arugula
1 tbsp. fresh oregano
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
4 soft-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Place the green beans with 1/3 cup of water and a large pinch of salt in a medium skillet. Cover and heat over high flame until the water boils. Lower the flame and allow the beans to steam for 5 minutes. Allow them to cool on a paper towel.
Mix tuna, cannellini beans, olives and onion in a medium bowl. Place arugula and/or whatever lettuce you choose on four plates. Whisk together oregano, oil, lemon juice and zest in a medium bowl. Arrange a portion of green beans, tuna-bean salad and eggs on each and pour the dressing pour over the salad to serve.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
Broccoli rabe and orecchiette are a match made in heaven. With sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and toasted bread crumbs, this Apulian recipe is as heart-healthy as it is delicious.
1 lb. orecchiette
1 ½ lbs. broccoli rabe
6 anchovy filets, cut in small pieces
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 peperoncino, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Clean and wash the broccoli rabe and cut into small pieces. Toast the breadcrumbs in a large sauté pan with a drizzle of olive oil over a medium-high flame for 2 minutes and then set aside. Pour the remaining olive oil into the sauté pan with the garlic and peperoncino. Cook for 1 minute over a high flame. Add the broccoli rabe and lower the flame to medium. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes and the capers. Stir to mix for 2 minutes and then turn off the flame. Cook the orecchiette in salted water until al dente, drain and add to the sauté pan. Cook for two minutes over a high flame and serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Chicken with Zucchini and Artichokes
You will be hard-pressed to find a healthier and more delicious dinner recipe. Low in calories and big on flavor, this recipe will become a staple in your household. In the winter, you’ll want to enjoy this meal hot, but in the summer, chill it in the refrigerator for a delightful Mediterranean summer salad.
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 zucchinis, sliced
1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (6 oz.) can black olives, drained
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese
6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Trim the chicken breasts into cutlets ½” thick and about 4” by 3”. Season both sides of cutlets with salt and black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over a medium flame and cook the chicken until the juices run clear (about 6 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second). Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil in the same skillet over medium flame. Cook and stir the zucchini in the hot oil until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the zucchini sticks to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Mix the zucchini, garbanzo beans, olives, artichoke hearts and Parmigiano cheese with the chicken and toss to combine.
Spaghetti Squash with Broccolini
In this low-carb spaghetti squash recipe, broccolini, spaghetti squash, garlic and cheese are combined for a healthy, hearty dinner that is sure to become a favorite. This dish bakes right in the squash shells for a unique presentation.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch broccolini, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano cheese, divided
¾ tsp. Italian seasoning
½ tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400°F. Place squash cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the squash is tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccolini, garlic and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp. of water and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl. Use a fork to scrape the squash from the shells into the bowl. Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Stir ¾ cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmigiano, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into the squash mixture. Divide it between the shells; top with the remaining ¼ cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano. Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool for 3-5 minutes and serve.
Avocados add a silky consistency and cheese-like richness to this dairy-free pesto recipe. Toss it with pasta, or spread it on baguette slices to make bruschetta.
2 ripe avocados
½ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
ground pepper to taste
Strip basil leaves from the stems and add to a food processor along with avocados, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic and salt; pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and process to form a thick paste. Season with pepper.