My Top 3 Recipes for the Mediterranean Diet

In May, I am exploring the Mediterranean Diet at jenpennock.com.  So far this month, I have blogged about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and how to follow the diet.

This week, I’m going to share three of my favorite recipes for the Mediterranean Diet.  Next week I will put it all together for you with a detailed one week meal plan to follow including links to more recipes.

When you follow the Mediterranean diet, you will be eating a lot of vegetables, at least 4 servings a day. Vegetables are delicious, low in calories and have many health benefits. Vegetables can be great raw in salads, or chopped and dipped in hummus or guacamole.  I also love vegetables in soups, and stews. But one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is to roast them. The roasting brings out the subtle flavors and sweetness of vegetables and the slightly browned edges on a roasted vegetable is heavenly!

Roasted Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is easy to do.  Here are some general tips on roasting veggies:

  • You can buy large quantities of veggies at Costco or similar stores.  You can find large bags of pre-chopped broccoli, brussel sprouts, mini-potatoes, green beans, asparagus and pre-chopped butternut squash.
  • In the frozen foods section of the grocery store, you can find pre-chopped broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, squash and green beans.  You can roast frozen vegetables without thawing them first! You can just toss the frozen vegetables with the oils and spices and put them on the tray and into the oven.
  • You can prep a lot of roasted vegetables all at once on a weekend day, and put them into serving size containers in the fridge for lunches and dinners for the week.
  • If you want to roast several types of vegetables on the same tray, group them by how long they take to cook (see cooking times at the bottom of the recipe) so that it is easier to remove the vegetables that cook faster and then return the tray to the oven.
  • Use aluminum foil on the cookie sheet to make clean-up faster.  If you have non-stick aluminum foil, that is the best!
  • When you follow the Mediterranean Diet, you can use olive oil in cooking as part of your meal plan.  However, if you want to adapt this recipe for a low calorie or low fat meal plan, just omit the olive oil and use spray oil.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon of garlic powder

Choose one or more of these vegetables to roast.  You will use enough of the vegetable to cover the cookie sheet in a single layer

  • Broccoli, fresh or frozen
  • Cauliflower, fresh or frozen
  • Butternut squash fresh or frozen (cut in about ½ inch to 1 inch squares)
  • Eggplant (peel skin off and chop into ½ inch squares)
  • Squash (leave skin on and cut into ½ inch discs, and then chop discs in half or quarters)
  • Zucchini (leave skin on and cut into ½ inch discs, and then chop discs in half or quarters)
  • Mini-potatoes (either whole, or slice in halves)
  • Sweet potatoes (chop into ½ inch squares)
  • Brussel sprouts (if using frozen, just use them whole, and if using fresh, cut off the base, remove loose leaves, and then chop in half)
  • Asparagus (break the tough ends off at their natural breaking point)
  • Green beans (cut off tips)
  • Onion (½ inch discs, and then chop discs in quarters)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil

Spray the aluminum foil with Pam or other spray oil.  If you don’t have spray oil, then put a teaspoon of oil on the aluminum foil, and spread it evenly across the foil with a paper towel. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of kosher salt on the tray to reduce sticking of vegetables.  (You can skip this whole step if you are using non-stick aluminum foil)

Put your chopped vegetables in a large bowl, and add olive oil.  Add salt, Mrs. Dash and garlic powder (If you want to try other seasonings, go for it!  Curry powder or taco seasoning are also delicious)

Use your hands to toss the vegetables and rub the oil and spices evenly over the surface of the vegetables

Pour the vegetables on the cookie sheet and space out the vegetables in a single layer

Place the cookie sheet in the oven and cook until they are starting to brown at the edges.  Take the tray out of the oven, flip the vegetables and place the tray back in the oven another 5 minutes or until the other side is beginning to brown.  Once the vegetables are slightly browned on both sides, they are usually done. For potatoes and squash, stick a fork in them to make sure they are soft on the inside.

Here is approximate timing on how long the vegetables will take to cook.

  • Broccoli (15-25 minutes)
  • Cauliflower (20-30 minutes)
  • Butternut squash fresh or frozen (30-40 minutes)
  • Eggplant (15-25 minutes)
  • Squash (15-25 minutes)
  • Zucchini (15-25 minutes)
  • Mini-potatoes (35-45 minutes)
  • Sweet potatoes (25-35 minutes)
  • Brussel sprouts  (15-25 minutes)
  • Asparagus (15-25 minutes)
  • Green beans (15-25 minutes)

Air Fried Tofu

I like having plant based protein in the morning to start my day, and this is perfect for the Mediterranean Diet.  I have tried every recipe for tofu scramble, and I’ve never been thrilled with the results. So I developed a new way of eating tofu for breakfast, and it is delicious!  I eat these air fried tofu blocks a few times a week for breakfast on top of rice cakes and guacamole.

I generally don’t like to take much time in the morning to prepare breakfast, so I bake the tofu in advance, and then keep them in the fridge.  In the morning, I take out a serving and put it in the air fryer for 10 minutes to get crispy and browned. This recipe makes 4 servings.

Ingredients:

Firm tofu
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon ranch dressing powder mix
Pam or spray oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Put the tofu into a tofu press – if you don’t have a tofu press, then wrap the tofu in several layers of paper towels and place on a plate.  Take another plate and put it on top of the tofu. Place a can (or other weight) onto the top plate. Let the tofu sit for at least 5 minutes.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray (if you don’t have cooking spray, you can put a teaspoon of oil on the foil, and spread it evenly with a paper towel).

Mix the flour and ranch dressing powder mix together on a large plate.

When the tofu is done in the press, cut in in half each direction until it is in 8 pieces.

Take each piece of tofu and dredge each side into the flour mixture until the piece is fully coated.  Place the coated pieces on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Let the pieces cool, and you can store them in your refrigerator.

In the morning, you can take two pieces of the tofu and put them in the air fryer for 10 minutes or until browned and crispy. (If you don’t have an air fryer, you can broil them in the oven)

I serve these air fried tofu by slicing them in half lengthwise and placing on a brown rice cake or wasa cracker layered with guacamole.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is an easy and healthy one-skillet vegetable and egg meal that originated in North Africa.  I eat this often for dinner, although this is traditionally served as a breakfast food in Israel. I learned about Shakshuka from my friend Rona who wowed me with this delicious brunch that she had made.  A few years ago, I watched her making a batch of Shakshuka, and it seemed to take a very long time to chop and prepare the garlic and all the vegetables. Over the next few years, Rona hacked her recipe to make it super easy to put together quickly.  This recipe makes 3 servings.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of pre-chopped garlic
1 bag of frozen fire-roasted bell peppers and onions (you can find this at Trader Joe’s)
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 teaspoon salt
1 jar of spicy Arrabiatta sauce (24 ounces)
6 eggs

Instructions:

Heat a large skillet to medium heat.  Add olive oil and garlic. Stir a few minutes until garlic is fragrant.  Add the bell pepper and onions. Cook until the vegetables are heated through.  Add the cherry tomatoes, and salt and stir until there is some bubbling of the juices.  Add the Arrabiatta sauce and heat until bubbling. Crack each egg gently on top of the mixture, spacing the eggs so that they are not touching each other much.  Once the eggs have become white and firm, the dish is done! To serve, you can scoop out two eggs along with the sauce and serve on polenta or serve in a bowl with whole wheat toast on the side.

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