Last summer, I took a trip to Greece. Per usual, I had a lot of fun, drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of food. Fortunately for the all the walking one does when visiting any part of Greece, calories become a moot issue, and caloric metrics were not on my mind either.
Once I arrived in my parent’s native Kórinthos, an ancient and a modern city of the Peloponnese, in south-central Greece, I made it a priority to head over to the local restaurant on the boardwalk of Loutraki, and immediately devour the freshest and tastiest spanakopita in the world. I was waiting all year to eat that freshly made spanakopita. It just tastes better on the boardwalk.
Spanakopita is my absolute favorite food to eat, although it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, I really enjoy the pan variety with thicker phyllo. Spanakopita can be made either in a large pan and cut into individual portions (pan-sized spanakopita) or rolled into individual triangular servings. The main ingredient you will need to make this spanakopita recipe is of course spinach. Most spanakopita recipes also use feta cheese which is a favorite ingredient in all types of Greek recipes, be it fried, baked or used for stuffing. A mature feta cheese gives a traditional spanakopita recipe a bold and salty flair. Be certain when getting your feta that is imported because the taste of the sheep’s milk is what makes the spanikopita feel and taste authentic.
Legend has it that the the most delicious and authentic spanakopita recipes in the world are believed to be derived from the region of Epirus, in the north west of Greece.
If your mouth is watering by now, I can share the recipe for the yummy spanakopita I eat in Loutraki!!!
TRADITIONAL HOMEMADE SPANAKOPITA recipe- uses homemade phyllo dough or commercial ‘village’ dough (xoriatiko phyllo), which is a little bit thicker than the usually paper thin phyllo and gives a more rustic touch.
For the filling:
2 red onions, halved and sliced
1 spring onion, finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500g spinach, washed and roughly chopped (18 ounces)
a pinch of grated nutmeg
200g feta cheese, crumbled (7 ounces)
2 Pasteurized eggs, beaten
1-2 tbsps fresh dill, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
To prepare this traditional spanakopita recipe start to prepare the filling, sauté the onions in a large block of butter until soft and turning golden. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Cool, then tip into a bowl (leaving behind any excess liquid from the spinach) and mix in the nutmeg, feta, eggs, spring onion and season.
For this spanakopita recipe you will need a non stick baking pan, about 25cm. Put the first sheet of filo in the pan and sprinkle with evoo- olive oil, letting the excess hang over the sides. Keep going with the rest of the sheets, turning a little before adding each additional pastry sheet and sprinkling with olive oil. Use 2-3 phyllo sheets, depending on how thick your phyllo is. Tip in the filling of the spanakopita and fold over the excess pastry to cover. If you like to prepare a larger pan of spanakopita for a big crowd, double the ingredients for the filling and use a 25-35 cm baking dish. Layer the 2-3 phyllo sheets to form the bottom of the spanakopita, tip in the filling and top with 2-3 more phyllo sheets. Brush the top of the spanakopita with olive oil and scar with a sharp knife. Bake in preheated oven for about 60 minutes until the phyllo is crisp and golden. Allow the spanakopita cool down for 10-15 minutes before cutting into pieces. Serve the spanakopita with Village Salad and a glass of white wine. Καλή ορεχι!
When in Greece, it’s common to hear the phrase…καρπουζι με το μαχαιρι! καρπουζι με το μαχαιρι! Literal translation is watermelon by the knife, but the fruit peddler is actually promoting and selling his watermelon by the slice.
Clearly, one does not have to be in Greece to enjoy a succulent slice of watermelon, and its a fruit available mostly everywhere, all summer long. As we prepare to kick off the season in less than two days, my family and I will certainly include watermelon consumption on a daily basis. It’s one of my favorite fruits to help with delicious hydration, it’s sweet and cooling, calorie free.
Fortunately for all of us who like watermelon, it’s a benefit knowing that it’s packed with heart-boosting electrolytes, and can be eaten by the gallon on a hot summer day.
So, as you prepare to indulge in watermelon, keep it chilled, keep it close by and keep it ready to eat.
Most importantly, consider eating it with other ingredients.
As a student in the school of Integrative Nutrition, (#IIN) I was taught that the more you indulge in experimenting and combining foods, the more you will eat for wellness, and maintain vitality
Therefore, today, allow me to share a quick and simple side of watermelon that will make your mouth zing.
Last week I had the great and fun opportunity to interview Ariana Ziogas about her Meal Prepping and Food business @ Ari_you_Hungry. Please visit my BODY section of this blog for the full interview.
In the meantime, below is one of Arian’s favorite recipes, and mine too!
SALMON– Place the salmon in a bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp coconut aminos, 1 tsp honey, 1 tbsp sesame oil, some pink salt, and garlic powder. After it soaks for about 10 minutes with the flesh part down, place salmon on baking sheet, pour the extra marinade on top, sprinkle on sesame seeds for the crust, and pop in the oven! Bake for about 10-12 minutes on 450 (depends on the size of salmon). Tip: Keep the skin on while baking becasue it is much easier to take the skin off after it’s cooked.
BROCCOLINI– First, cut the broccolini into bite size pieces, toss in a pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Next, season with a tablespoon of coconut aminos (healthier soy sauce alternative), salt, and garlic powder. Flip them over and move them in the pan every minute or so for 5 minutes total and at the end add some frozen edamame and heat until they defrost (or fresh if you have)!
During this COVID-19 pandemic where we have been mandated by the state of Illinois to Shelter In Place, one thing is for sure; we will keep eating! The key is to eat for health while building and sustaining strong personal immunity!
Like my cool ancestral doctor believed, prescribed and touted…
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Hippocrates considered nutrition one of the main tools a physician can use. When we reference the famous Hippocratic oath which most modern day doctors take upon graduation, we find that the central importance of diet is hidden. However, the original Greek oath, literally translated, says:
“I will apply dietetic and lifestyle measures to help the sick to my best ability and judgment; I will protect them from harm and injustice.”
The dietetic and lifestyle measures are just one word in Greek, διαιτήμασί, pronounced as deaytimasy. Do you notice the word “diet” in there. It means as much as a lifestyle regime, with a focus on diet.
To be sure, food has dual functions.
In food excellent medicine can be found, in food bad medicine can be found; good and bad are relative.
In these times of health/wellness uncertainty due to the spread of Corona, let us implement positive and preventative action with food that will boost immunity!
Today, I would like to share an interview with you, which I recently conducted with Ariana Ziogas, the founder of Ari You Hungry. Ariana masterfully creates her recipes to nurture mind, body and spirit with a Hippocratic approach! Ariana is a practicing public accountant with a marketing background. Her love of cooking led her to design @Ari_You_Hungry as a creative outlet.
Join me in Ariana’s kitchen for an insightful Q & A regarding healthy eating, meal prepping, recipes and more.
KIKI: What’s the secret to eating healthy every day?
ARIANA: The secret to eating healthy everyday, is to plan ahead! The main reason I am able to stay on track is because I meal prep. I discovered that when I’m not prepared with food options and I get home late, I’ll just grab and eat the first thing I see in my pantry! During college my shopping guidelines helped me to stay on track with food.
If I don’t buy it, I wont eat it.” I always make smart decisions at the grocery store, which includes buying a majority of real, whole foods instead of unhealthy snacks and desserts. Overall, I follow an 80/20 rule. 80% clean eating and 20% of the time I eat whatever I’m craving- life’s too short to not enjoy dessert!
KIKI: What motivated you and keeps you motivated to eat and stay healthy?
ARIANA: What motivates me the most is realizing that food is medicine and I really want to take care of myself now, so I am healthy for my future self. Longevity is very important to me. Generally speaking, my family eats and cooks very clean, we are conscious and mindful of what we put in our bodies. This ultimately keeps me motivated as well!
KIKI: You told me that you began experimenting with recipes in college. Why?
ARIANA: Freshman year of college I was on the dorm room meal plan, and I had a negative relationship with food. I did not really know how to listen to my body and I didn’t fully understand which foods were good for me. During my sophomore year I decided to get off the meal plan, which meant I had to learn to cook for myself. Between sophomore year to senior year my meals got A LOT better. Looking back, in the beginning of my experimentations, I’m not even sure if my meals year were edible. Overall, I learned to cook and prep through trial and error (and google!)
The summer before my senior year of college was when I became really interested in nutrition leading me to do a lot of reading and research on the benefits of what we as people should eat. As soon as I graduated from college and I moved back home, I was able to cook most meals with my Dad. This is the time period for when the art of cooking really clicked for me!
KIKI: Do you cook for your family?
My family and I always cook together- this is how we bond, and growing up it was something we always did.
KIKI: Do you follow any certain diet?
I do not follow a certain diet, but I mostly eat and prepare Mediterranean meals. That means a lot of fruits and vegetables, clean proteins, legumes, fish, whole grains, etc. I consume a moderate amount of poultry and dairy, and rarely do I eat red meat.
KIKI: Which cuisine do you connect with most?
I love and eat Greek because I grew up mostly eating that type of food, and this cuisine connects me to my heritage and family. My dad was born in Greece (Igoumenitsa, Greece). Its intriguing to go back to his village and experience the connection between eating Greek in America and how it emulates my dad’s meal time routine growing up in his hometown village in Greece.
KIKI: How did you come up with the catchy name Ari You Hungry?
ARIANA: My cousin helped me come up with the name of my instagram and business. Last July, I was taking lots of pictures of recipes because I had the idea and desire to launch a food account, but I could not think of a good name for it. Then one day I experienced an auspicious omen when my cousin came up with the name @Ari_you_Hungry and my instagram was born. I posted my first picture and the account continues to grow every day and in every way!
KIKI: Your meal prepping is GOALS!I noticed on your insta page that you prepare an entire meal instead of having all options separated to piece together later. I love that you package food as a meal…do you precook your meats before placing in package?
ARIANA: Yes, I pre-cook all my food so when I’m ready to eat, I just pop meal in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
MEAL PREP TIPS:
Write out your meals for the week, make a list of ingredients you have in stock at home and items you need to buy at the store. This preparation list will allow you to shop efficiently when you head to the grocery store avoiding overbuying, or coming up short with missing ingredients once the cooking process begins. Preparation is the big time saver and helps so much with executing wonderful meals during the week!
*Have at least two options for each meal (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner)
*Breakfast- oatmeal or a smoothie
*Lunch- a salad with at least 3-4 toppings
*Snack- vegetables + hummus, apple + almond buter, protein bar, popcorn
*Dinner- a protein, vegetable, and a grain
KIKI: What is your favorite vegetable?
ARIANA: My favorite vegetable is broccolini because it’s so easy to make and it’s a tastier version of broccoli in my opinion!
KIKI: What is your favorite fruit?
ARIANA: Strawberries for sure
KIKI: What is your favorite protein?
ARIANA: Favorite protein is salmon or grilled chicken.
KIKI: What’s your favorite fat?
ARIANA: Avocados! They’re the best and I have at least 1 avocado a day. I incorporate avocados in a smoothie, on toast, with my eggs, smashed at the bottom of my tacos, alone or with some chips. Avocados are so versatile, beneficial and good for you!
KIKI: What is your favorite Starch?
ARIANA: Sweet potatoes are my favorite starch! I love making sweet potato fries, and this is one of my favorite sides for dinner or when I add to my salads.
KIKI: On your insta page (ari_you_hungry) you share a lot of information about Orgain. Why do you suggest Orgain powder and how do you mostly use it?
ARIANA: Orgain is my favorite protein powder! I’ve been drinking orgain for the past 6-7 years and it’s a very clean, organic, plant-based protein powder. It’s soy free, dairy-free, gluten-free, no added sugars, and has an amazing taste! I add a scoop of vanilla protein to my morning oats and always add some to my smoothies. (use code “AYH” for 30% your first order online!)
KIKI: Which utensils must you have in your kitchen?
ARIANA: Since I love to meal prep, I definitely use my microwave a ton. Also, a baking sheet is mandatory because I roast vegetables in the oven at least twice a week.
KIKI: What’s your view on sugar?
Out of everything I eat, I try to monitor my sugar the most.
Sugars are sneaky, especailly in food products. Yogurts, kombuchas, protein powders, and so many other foods contain hidden sugars.
KIKI: Do you use sugar replacements, which ones?
For baking, I use coconut sugar as an alternative. If I’m preparing a refined dessert, I’ll use the sugar free replacement. Also, I use monk fruit as a sweetener in my coffee or frappes.
KIKI: What message do you want to spread about eating?
ARIANA: Cooking and eating do not have to be a chore, rather something to look forward to creating an opportunity to bond with family, significant other, roommates, etc.
When it comes to eating specifically, do so in moderation. From my experience, whenever I restrict my eating or avoid certain food groups, I end up binge eating it in the future, which isn’t ideal. Instead, listen to your body and choose foods to make you feel good, this is the best way to go. Also, there’s always a healthier alternative! (For example, my healthier version of Reese’s!)
First, mix together 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and 1/4 cup coconut flour (or sub almond flour). Next, line a muffin tin with 6 cupcake holders and scoop the peanut butter mixture into it. Tip: to flatten the peanut butter hit it on the counter a few times so it holds the mold perfectly. Freeze for about 10 minutes. Then melt 1/2 cup of dairy-free chocolate chips with 1 tbsp coconut oil and pour into the cups. Optional: sprinkle some sea salt on top. Finally, add them back to freezer for about 10-15 minutes before eating.
KIKI: As an adult why do you cook?
Cooking a meal packed with nutrients and whole foods is one of the best things you can give your body. It’s honestly my main form of self-care. Eating right and treating your body with respect is so beneficial not only in the present, but for your future self. In this lifetime, you only get one body so it’s really important to treat it right, and it all begins with what you feed yourself. When I take the time to cook and meal prep, I know I’m setting myself up for a successful week. Preparing my meals on Sundays automatically removes the stress of cooking and cleaning during the busy week ahead.
My dad inspired my love of cooking because he’s the best cook I know. Growing up we always participated in family dinners and cooked together as a family. Everyone helped each other out and it was/is really good quality time that we spend together.
My childhood included many family dinners. My dad was the cook and my mom cleaned up. For our family, the rules were that you either had to help cook the food or clean up after the meal. I hated cleaning, so I naturally ended up helping my dad cook while my sister did the post clean up with my mom!
Ariana Ziogas- founder of Ari You Hungry
KIKI: What is the Ari_You_Hungry niche?
Meal prepping and easy recipes is a niche of mine! I relate to students in college or post-college grads that now work 9-5. Generally speaking, meal prepping saves A TON of money, so I always try to post deals or cheap-hacks @Ari_You_Hungry insta page!
KIKI: How do you plan your meals?
My goal is to make sure each meal has 4 foods: fats, fiber, vegetables, and protein. I read a book called“Body Love”by Kelly Leveque- I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Kelly reveals why it’s important to ditch diets all together and implement the “Fab 4” formula to balance our blood sugars, and eat well-balanced meals, which will keep you full and reach satiety! Kelly uses science to explain our bodies and food in a simplistic method, which is easy to understand.
KIKI: What is something you hope your followers will gain from your @Ari_You_Hungry page?
ARIANA: I hope my page shows people how EASY it is to eat real foods. My goal is to demonstrate that anyone can cook for themselves, and gain healthy habits to set self for a healthy/ sustainable lifestyle without harsh restriction-based rules! Also, it is my goal to share the importance of meal prepping and how it can set you up for a successful eating week ahead.
Many thanks to Ariana Ziogas for sharing her story and giving us excellent meal prepping tips to inspire Ola Kala during COVID-19 and beyond!
Enjoy your food by meal prepping, making it easier to sustain a healthy and happy body!!
Oregano is time-honored in almost every way, beginning with its age and origination, to its medicinal and meal purposes. We can look back over 3,000 years during Greek and Roman times when the herb was used to cure a number of health-related issues like coughs, colds, asthma, tonsilitis and toe fungus.
Of course, I’m happy to share with you that the name oregano can be credited to the Greeks. Oregano is a combination of the Greek words “oros” and “ganos” which together mean “joy of the mountains.” Incidentally, oregano is believed to have originated on the mountainsides of Greece and other Mediterranean countries making its name quite appropriate.
The natural oregano, I captured in the above photo, was growing wild and emitting a gorgeous aroma from a sprawling patch high in the mountains of Armenistis, Ikaria. Fresh and organic foods supply the greatest desideratum of home-cooked meals, and for this reason I enjoy nurturing multiple herbs in my backyard garden. However, the human diet is the not the only aspect of life benefiting from oregano.
Historically, it is noted that Aristotle used oregano for snake bites. One day he noticed that after tortoises ate snakes they would immediately eat the leaves from an oregano plant. It is also used as a massage oil and antiseptic.
Hippocrates, my beloved ancient physician, known as the “father of western medicine,” used oregano on a regular basis to protect against respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
So, how did oregano make its way to America? During the first half of the 20th-century soldiers coming home from World War I had developed a taste for the herb after tasting it throughout Europe. With the pizza boom of the 1940s and 1950s, oregano found its way into American homes, and was used for a host of internal purposes.
One such use was for hot drinks. Oregano was often steeped in hot water to create tea. With the addition of some honey, this was ancient Greek’s cure for coughs, colds, and asthma.
Pour one drop of oregano oil into a large tea mug. Boil hot water and pour into large size mug. Squeeze juice from lemon into mug and add the honey. Drink 3 times a day to soothe sore throat until pain dissipates.
One summer day during a family lunch at Paolo Nikos restaurant on the boardwalk of the quaint resort town of Loutraki, Corinth Greece, I learned how to prepare a classic Tzatziki recipe.
Tzatziki, one of many Greek spreads, is probably the most widely known around the world. Other popular dip choices include: Skordalia or garlic dip, Taramasalata or fish dip, Tirokefteri or cheese dip, each one of these versatile, possessing a distinct explosion of flavor dependent on the one you eat.
For the purpose of today’s blog, Tzatziki, acts as a versatile dip paired well with fresh homemade bread, added on top of a chicken pita sandwich or spread over oven baked meat. Generally, I eat Tzaztiki smoothed over bread and I lovingly pair it with my favorite feta cheese and Kalamata olives creating a fabulous appetizer.
By now your mouth must be watering for some dip details, but first let’s take a look at Tzaziki’s (aka yogurt-cucumber dip) main ingredient; Greek yogurt.
According to health blogger Cathy Demetropoulos, Greek yogurt has soared in popularity in the American diet because of its many health benefits. Compared to non Greek yogurt, it contains half the sodium, carbohydrates and sugar and up to double the protein, which also helps promote a full stomach. This is possible because of the extensive straining process it undergoes, which removes much of the liquid whey, lactose and sugar. The result is a creamier and tangier taste. Tzatziki is one dish that boasts plenty of Greek yogurt, a valuable and healthy protein.
Kostis – a waiter at Nikos Palos for the past 23 years, and a native of Loutraki, enthusiastically shared a classic Tzatziki recipe with me, and I’m happy to share with you.
1/2 of a large cucumber, unpeeled
1 1/2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I use Kefi L!fe evoo)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
Grate the cucumber and drain through a fine mesh sieve overnight in the fridge.
Combine the yogurt, garlic, oil, vinegar, and salt in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Transfer the grated cucumber and fresh dill to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
Serve chilled with pita bread for dipping.
Make sure your grated cucumber is well-drained. If you have time, you can drain it in cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve overnight. The sieve can used over and over.
If you’re in a rush, you can use your hands to squeeze the liquid out of the cucumber.
The longer the garlic rests in the yogurt, the less sharp bite it will have and the better it will taste.
For best results, combine all of the ingredients except for the cucumber and dill, then let it rest overnight in the fridge while your cucumber is draining.
Add the dill at the last minute so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the flavors.
At Integrative Nutrition I learned that each time I eat, it’s an opportunity to nourish primary and secondary food, both your body and your soul.
Enjoy this Tzatziki recipe with your loved ones and you could very well experience an Ola Kala moment.
Feed your soul with Greek yogurt and honey! This rendition of γιαούρτι με μέλι (yogurt with honey) is mouthwatering & simple.
1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt- (home made preferably)
Seasonal, fresh pineapple chunks,
Scoop your yogurt into a bowl. Top the protein with the berries & pineapple followed by tossing the nuts over the fruit, each in equal parts to lovingly cover the yogurt. Sprinkle cinnamon with a final touch of honey drizzled over the yogurt.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which can help improve bone health. It also contains probiotics, which support a healthy bacterial balance in the gut. Eating Greek yogurt may be associated with lower blood pressure and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. More reasons to consider eating this rich source of protein found HERE.
Enjoy this super nutritional and delicious edible morning noon or night! 👩🍳 bon appetite and remember to always choose fresh!
As an eternal health, wellness and Kefi seeker, I continually search for the most organic and natural from the source form of living. Τρόπος ζωή. To this date, one staple in my life is the original and prized olive, which when cold pressed becomes the (natural medicine) extra virgin olive oil or evoo.
I’m currently researching on the island of Crete where it is believed that olives grew on trees and were cultivated over 5000 years ago. Can you say OG- original? I’m saying it, I’m living it and loving EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL.
However not all oil created equally, more on that later. For the time being here is a most simple meal aka appetizer;
Kefi L!fe evoo with fresh homemade bread. THAT’S IT!
My daughter Patricia loves to shave parmigiana cheese onto the oil. I like to drink a shot of evoo to receive the health benefits without the carbs.
Here on the island of Crete at Prima Plora – food is an experience, and I did last night. The Cretan olive oil is topped off with crushed tomatoes, oregano, s/p. You realize the best tasing food is simple and allows for the unique flavors to come alive. Τσουνατο με φρέσκια τονατα λάδι και ρίγανι. Here’s to your health and happiness when you daily refresh with #evoo.
Treat your mind, body and soul to #Kefi L!fe evoo. 🙌