Saturday, August 2, 2008

0 Simple, Healthy Meals, Part 1: Greek Salad for Lunch or Dinner!


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I'm starting a new series of posts called "Simple, Healthy Meals" to help people -- whether they be runners, athletes, or aspiring exercisers/healthy-eaters -- plan tasty & practical meals, which will fuel their bodies & satisfy their taste buds.

This is the first post of the series. So, after you're done reading this &/or have tried the below recipe & suggestions, please let me know what you think! Thanks & enjoy!

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One of my favorite things to eat for lunch or dinner is a gigantic Greek salad. In fact, Erik & I just ate it tonight for dinner. ;-)

One of the reasons I like this particular salad so much is that it's quick & easy, & seriously delicious; all you have to do is cut up vegetables, add a dab of dressing & a crack of pepper, & le voilĂ , you're done. Plus, all of that protein & those fibrous veggies are guaranteed to fill me up; I never ever leave the table hungry or dissatisfied!

One thing I'm big on is not just eating right, but eating enough. I believe in using quality (salad) ingredients (i.e., no imitation bacon bits, stale reject croutons, or clammy strips of processed American cheese, thank you very much!) & am not into eating tiny salads with literally nothing else but lettuce, tomatoes, & cucumbers; those salads are for the birds! Pun intended. ;-)

I'd rather eat something substantial & then feel full during my intentionally planned meals & snacks. Then I know I won't impulse snack on things that I'll only regret eating later. ;-)

When I eat treats, I try to plan those too; intentionally planned, "conscious" eating keeps me feeling good on multiple levels: It keeps me on track & makes me feel good about my decisions & my eating habits. By taking the extra two seconds to plan my meals & by eating regular meals & snacks, I make it easy for myself to stay in control of my eating at all times. This is much better than letting extreme hunger yank my chain in the wrong direction. ;-)

(A brief aside on the subject of snacking: Because many times I need to eat on the go, I've had to find a system that works for me. As a mid-morning snack, I eat 8 almonds & 2 of these fantastic organic fruit strips that I found at Target, called "Archer Farms Organic Fruit Strips." They come in these delicious flavors -- Pomegranate, Apricot, Raspberry, Strawberry, Wildberry, etc., are all natural, contain zero fat, & are only 45 calories per strip. And to make them even more perfect, they're portable. I can shove them in my pockets along with the almonds, & I'm all set for the day's snacks. Plus, I make a point of drinking lots of water throughout the day, which helps hydrate me & also keeps me from overeating; those cravings we have are sometimes mislabeled or misdirected: Sometimes we eat food when what we really need is to drink more water!)

And now back to our regular scheduled programming.... ;-)

So back to salads & enjoying food & feeling satisfied. Instead of eating wimpy, "light-weight" salads, I make an extremely satisfying, delicious, & healthy gourmet version of Greek salad, & would like to share that recipe with you here:

A picture of the exact same salad that Erik & I ate tonight, 
of course before we attacked it like ravenous beasties. ;-)

Corey's Gourmet Greek Salad 

Ingredients:
mixed greens (I really like Safeway's "Organic Spring Mix")
grape tomatoes ("Santa Sweets" are great!)
green bell pepper, seeded & sliced lengthwise into long strips & then halved
red bell pepper, seeded & sliced lengthwise into long strips & then halved
cucumber (sliced into rounds; or, you can cube them into 1/2" pieces if you prefer)
President brand fat-free feta (or any other brand of fat-free feta cheese), crumbled
red onion, thinly sliced
A mix of gourmet olives -- Greek, Kalamata, Manzanillo, Bella di Cerignola, etc. (Preferably pitted, or just remove the pits!)
Greek salad dressing* (see link for recipe)
freshly ground/cracked pepper (Pepper blends are better & more interesting to use than straight-out black pepper)

Optional ingredients:
sumac, a light sprinkling (Use sparingly; this stuff will definitely kick up the spice & saltiness factors.)
stringless sugar snap peas ("Mann's Sunny Shores" is a great brand; you don't even have to open them & remove the peas inside -- You can simply eat them whole!)
capers

Directions: Cut up veggies, pour dressing over top, & toss! Now, how easy is that!

Chef's Notes:
I didn't feel like listing amounts of ingredients. After all, it's only salad, & this isn't a 7th grade Home Ec class. ;-)

OK, so I'm an experienced cook, & truth be told, I tend to lose patience when I have to list those sorts of petty details for something so obvious. (If you do happen to visit my official recipe site/blog, you'll see that I do list exact amounts of ingredients for the more complex recipes. ;-) )

If you don't have a sense of how much of something you should put into a salad, then you probably shouldn't be making salads in the first place. ;-) Just use common sense, & don't overdo the onions or the dressing, & you'll probably be fine. The point is to lightly dress the salad, not drench it. ;-) Also, use olives & feta sparingly, & be sure to mix the salad really well. Enjoy!


*I'd recommend making the dressing a day or two in advance, to shrink the time between meal prep and serving time. :) Or, if you don't feel like making your own homemade dressing, you could use something really tasty like "Girard's Greek Feta Vinaigrette"; however, please note that it has 11 g of fat per 2 Tbsp., so use sparingly! If you only use 2 Tbsp for an entire salad for 2 people, it's only about 5.5 g of fat per person. ;-) ) Or, if you can't find this, the ubiquitous "Ken's Steakhouse Greek With Imported Olive Oil Salad Dressing" will do.

As a general rule, I typically don't like using the fat-free varieties, because they're typically full of made-made chemicals. Plus, they even taste artificial. It's hard to find a Greek salad dressing made without fat that actually tastes good and is also good for you!

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