Thursday, April 14, 2011

a healthy challenge

As a contribution to Bacon Gravy's Come Dine With Me challenge for March, some friends and I cooked up a Mediterranean scran that was both healthy and delicious. Bacon Gravy's stipulations were simple: a healthy meal made without butter or heavy cream and easy on both salt and sugar. But, because a friend is on a candida diet (no sugar, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, or additives) for health reasons and another is gluten free, we were presented with a whole new list of challenges. Bring it on!

To start the evening off, we enjoyed some wine and snacked on olive hummus and tzatiki both served with fresh carrots, pita bread, baguette, and some rice crackers. As an appetizer, my friend made a roasted garlic and goats cheese 'pate' from a gardening cookbook I had given her for her birthday. She arranged each plate with a whole bulb of garlic that had been roasted with olive oil and fresh rosemary, a mixture of goats cheese, fresh herbs and walnuts, some pita bread or rice crackers, and a few extra walnuts. Believe me folks, this dish was as amazing as it looks! I won't even begin to express how great garlic is for your health, as I am sure most of you already know, but I believe even the smell of garlic roasting is enough to cure anything! And goat's cheese or chevre is not only lower in fat and lactose than cheese made from cow's milk but also higher in vitamin A and potassium. Just another reason to love it some more. Plus, walnuts are a superfood, packed with cholesterol lowering omega 3s. I eat them daily.

For our main meal, the same friend had prepared (and assembled along with some guests) stuffed tomatoes and peppers from a recipe she had acquired from a Greek friend. Stuffed with a mixture of brown rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and, in half, organic ground beef, the tomatoes were fragrant and yummy (and I'm not one for rice unless of course it's wrapped around nori!).  For our protein, I sauteed up some lamb and pesto sausages from Sweet Williams (sorry they don't seem to have a site but you can find their sausages at the market) as well as some Windy View farm chicken thighs that had marinated in lemon juice, garlic, pepper, and oregano. To round out the meal, I made a salad of organic spinach, Ran-Cher Acres goat's milk feta, tomato, cucumber, olives, red onion, red and yellow peppers, and a dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, Tuscan herb olive oil from Liquid Gold Tasting Bar, fresh dill and parsley, some dried oregano, and freshly ground black pepper. With more pita for the gluten eaters as well as the remaining hummus and tzatiki, our meal was complete.

So, how did we do? Not only did we use no butter or cream or sugar or much salt, we were able to offer everyone at the table a fresh, healthy meal that wouldn't make any of us sick. Nutritionally, our meal was high in vitamins, minerals and fiber (and let's not forget a little heart healthy fat-oh, I forgot to mention how incredible that olive oil from Liquid Gold tasted-it owned that salad dressing!), was extremely well balanced and, I think more importantly, was made primarily from fresh, local ingredients with nothing artificial. Just real food. Simple. Healthy. Delicious.