In a recent article posted by the NY Times NY Times, the topic of the increasing obesity epidemic was at the forefront. Obesity is rising at an alarming rate, particularly amongst children. Much of this is blamed on sedentary lifestyles and diets high in sugar and fats and low in vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. The unfortunate end result that will likely occur is a generation of young individuals who will die prematurely of obesity related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Statistically speaking, this is the first generation of children that will not outlive their parents. First Lady Michelle Obama is doing her part to try to increase awareness of this epidemic with her “Let’s Move” program and there is some talk of legislation to help make school lunch programs healthier but it isn’t enough.
Education has to begin at home. Yet what I find is that parents are at as much of a loss as to what to eat themselves and are constantly yo yo dieting as the kids are. We have become a society of overly processed, overly convenienced foods that are killing us but are cheaper and more readily available than fresh foods are. People cannot continue to be bombarded with these mixed signals and be expected to make the right choices for themselves and their children without some help.
I have been teaching cooking classes for 5+ years and there are two constants in all of my classes. One, adhering to a Mediterranean cooking style using spices to flavor foods, low fat olive oils and lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Two, eating local. These two go hand in hand to developing a healthy lifestyle.
Notice I didn’t say healthy diet, but healthy lifestyle. I don’t believe in diets. They don’t work and they leave you wanting for something that cannot be sustained eventually leading to binge eating. You have to develop lifestyle choices that are common sense, easy to follow and don’t leave you feeling deprived. Learning to eat a Mediterranean diet rich in locally grown foods will do just that.
The following are just a couple of recipes I will be using tonite for a cooking class I am hosting featuring local farms. They are prime examples of exactly what I’m talking about. Delicious, light, fresh and healthy. Enjoy!
Roasted Pepper and Olive Salad
Yields: Approx. 6 Servings
2 Red Peppers, Roasted, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped
2 Green Peppers, Roasted, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped
1/2 cup Spanish Olives, Pitted and Chopped
2 Tomatoes, Sliced
2-3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
2 tsps Hungarian Paprika
2 tsps ground cumin
2-3 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Red Wine Vinegar
Toss peppers, olives, tomato and garlic with oil and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Yields: 4 Servings
8 Small New Potatoes Cut in Half or 4 Larger ones Quartered
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
2 tsps Smoked Hot Hungarian Paprika (Austin Parker sells great spices or you can order the one I use from www.zamourispices.com)
2 tsps Garlic Powder
2 tsps Herbes de Provence (Austin Parker or www.zamourispices.com. Make sure you get the one with lavender in it. My favorite spice. I use it on everything, especially steaks or pork)
2-3 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Tzatziki-Cucumber and Yogurt Salad/Dip
Yields: Approx. 6-8 Servings
2 English Cucumber, peeled and seeded
13 oz Greek Yogurt or Whole Milk Plain American Yogurt, Drained
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
3 Tbl Mint, Chopped
2-3 Tbl Fresh Dill, Chopped
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Shred the cucumber and place in a colander lined with paper towels. Salt generously and allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour to pull out most of the moisture. Combine cucumber with yogurt, garlic, mint and dill. Season with Salt and pepper to taste.
Yogurt Parfaits with Orange Blossom Water, Honey, Cinnamon and Vanilla
Yields: 6-8 Servings
16 oz Natural or Greek Yogurt
2 tsps Pure Vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbl Orange Blossom Water
1/3-1/2 Cup Orange Blossom Honey
Combine and sweeten to taste. Layer yogurt, organic granola and fresh fruit in a wine glass. Chill 30 mins before serving.