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Celebrate National Mediterranean Diet Month With A Healthy Feast!

May is National Mediterranean Diet Month and what better way to celebrate it than to gorge on a healthy feast!

According to BBC Good Food, Mediterranean diet, also known as "sunshine cuisine" usually includes "vegetables, fruits, beans, cereals, fish, white meat and some dairy produce." There are also healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Courtesy: Iowa Girl Eats

Mediterranean Salads

Lori Lange of Recipe Girl has a great recipe for a chickpea salad that is made from a handful of healthy produce. With Mediterranean cuisine mainstays (olives, feta cheese and tomatoes) combined with flavor-packed herbs (parsley, green onion), this salad is a party on all its own!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad from Recipe Girl
Salad:
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2/3 cup chopped bell pepper (mix red/yellow/orange)
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
3 green onions, sliced
12 kalamata olives, sliced in half
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Dressing:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad. Courtesy: Recipe Girl

Mediterranean Seafood Dishes

Lori of Foxes Love Lemons also has a great recipe for pasta with seafood. In this recipe, she used shrimps to flavor a simple pasta dish with olive oil and lemon juice. The dish is made even more flavorful with capers, parsley and Parmesan cheese. The pistachios give it a surprising crunch.

Lemon Shrimp And Caper Linguine from Foxes Love Lemons
Ingredients:
8 ounces whole wheat linguine
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound 26-30 count peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed, patted dry
2-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped

Lemon Shrimp And Caper Linguine. Courtesy: Foxes Love Lemons

Mediterranean Lean Meat 

Mediterranean meat dishes are usually much healthier than those of other cuisines because lean meats are used, flavored with healthy herbs and spices. Suzy of The Mediterranean Dish offers a recipe for Kofta Kebab that uses a combination of beef and lamb.  

Kofta Kebab from The Mediterranean Dish
Ingredients:
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1 whole bunch parsley, stems removed (about 2 packed cups parsley leaves)
1 lb ground beef
½ lb ground lamb
1 slice of bread, toasted until browned and soaked in water until fully tender
Salt and pepper
1½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground green cardamom
½ tsp ground sumac
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp paprika
Pita bread to serve

Kofta Kebab. Courtesy: The Mediterranean Dish

Mediterranean Healthy Dips

With most store-brought cheese dips laden with preservatives and empty calories, you'd be much better off with healthy Mediterranean diet inspired dips that are just as flavorful. Though there are a lot of store-brought hummus in the market, this homemade version that uses sunflower seed butter is a great twist on the classic recipe. The sunflower butter gives it a hint of nutty and toasty flavors.

Sunflower Seed Butter Hummus from Kitchen Treaty

Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 minced garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
Olive oil and salted roasted sunflower seeds for garnish

Sunflower Seed Butter Hummus. Courtesy: Kitchen Treaty

Mediterranean Light Desserts

Most Mediterranean desserts are generous on healthy nuts, just like this baklava recipe from Hilah Cooking. People fond of cinnamon buns would appreciate this lighter and more tart version, made with phyllo dough instead of bread. Made with walnuts, almonds and pistachios, and flavored with cinnamon, orange rind, lemon zest and honey, this dessert hits the spot.

Baklava from Hilah Cooking
Ingredients:
½ pound walnuts, almonds or pistachios, or a combination
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ pound phyllo dough, thawed
½ cup (1/4 pound) melted butter
Syrup:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1 T lemon juice
2" strip lemon rind or orange rind
6 tablespoons honey

Baklava. Courtesy: Hilah Cooking

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