As I promised two weeks ago, we shall take a look at today’s most popular diets, and we shall begin with the Mediterranean and DASH diets. The two diets have been combined to deliver what Harvard Health says are the two healthiest diets to follow. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and truly, it was discovered that this diet was as effective in lowering blood pressure as many of the prescription drugs.

The Mediterranean involved a lifetime eating change and was found a healthy way to lose weight and improve heart health. So now we have the DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution combined diets, which is the Best of the Best diet in the world! Now the Med diet features all the heart healthy benefits of the doctor-recommended DASH diet.

The best selling author, Maria Heller, MS, RD, has created the ultimate life-long eating plan which is also more powerful for heart health, diabetes, and brain health, and new research shows it has an effect on Parkinson’s disease. The Med-DASH plan will satisfy you with a variety of options and delicious recipes. If you desire improved health in the areas of lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, controlled blood sugar, improved heart health, improved brain health, reduction in belly fat, and metabolic syndrome, this diet is for you. In fact, this should be the diet for everyone. The book DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution can be bought in bookstores or online.

Items emphasized on this diet include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken and fish and healthy oils. There is no calorie counting, no calculation of points and are easy to follow. To get you started, I am sharing recipes for Open-Faced Garden Tuna Sandwich, Zucchini Pad Thai, Caprese Avocado Toast, and Mediterranean Strata. For a healthier you in 2020, please try these recipes and ENJOY!!

Mediterranean Strata:

3 TBSP butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup button mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp dried marjoram leaves

6 cups white bread cut into 1/2” chunks

1/2 cup artichoke hearts cut into 1/8ths

1/4 cup kalamata olives, quartered

1/4 cup marinated sun dried tomatoes, slivered

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping

4 oz or 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheeseballs, halved

6 eggs

1-1/2 cups half and half

1-1/4 cup basil leaves, slivered

Kosher salt

Melt 1 TBSP butter. For individual strata, brush the insides of four 1 cup baking dishes. If serving family style, brush the inside of a 2 qt. baking dish.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt remaining 2 TBSP butter.

Add garlic and shallot and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and marjoram and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove from heat and place mixture in a large bowl with bread chunks, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Stir to mix.

Season lightly with Kosher salt.

Fill baking dishes evenly with bread mixture.

In a 4 cup liquid measuring cup, mix eggs with half and half.

Pour 1 cup of egg mixture evenly over bread in each dish.

Garnish with basil and more Parmesan.

Place baking dishes on a baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes or until eggs have set.

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Caprese Avocado Toast:

1 slice hearty whole grain toast

1 — 2 tsp flaxseed oil

1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced or mashed

1/3 low fat cottage cheese

1 small tomato

Basil leaves for garnish

Sea salt

Toast the bread and drizzle with flaxseed oil.

Layer with the avocado, cottage cheese and tomato.

Garnish with basil leaves and sea salt.

Drizzle with a little more flaxseed oil if desired.

Zucchini Pad Thai:

For the sauce:

1/4 cup tamarind paste

1-1/2 TBSP coconut sugar (or Stevia)

1/2 TBSP Sriracha sauce (or to taste)

1-1/2 TBSP reduced sodium Tamari

Juice of 1/2 small lime

1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken stock

For the Noodles:

4 large zucchini with ends removed

2 large carrots, peeled with ends removed and sliced with vegetable peeler

For the Pad Thai:

2 tsp olive oil, divided

2 eggs beaten,

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced

3 cups bean sprouts

salt and pepper

2 TBSP finely chopped green onions

1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

Lime wedges for serving

For the sauce: Mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

For the noodles:

Spiralize the zucchini into circular ribbons and set aside.

For the Pad Thai: Heat a tsp of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium het.

Add eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread eggs to the skillet edge , scramble until cooked through.

Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.

Heat another tsp of olive oil in the pan.

Add the chicken breast over medium high heat and season with salt and pepper.

Stir fry until golden and cooked through.

Remove to the egg bowl and set aside.

Add the sauce to the pan over medium heat and allow to cook for a few minutes to bubble and get syrupy.

Add in the zucchini and carrots and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the sprouts, chicken and egg mixture.

Toss until the sprouts slightly wilt and are coated with the sauce.

To assemble, divide between 4 bowls topped with sliced green onions, peanuts and lime wedges for serving.

Open-Faced Garden Tuna Sandwich:

1 oz low sodium tuna packed in water

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Black pepper

2 green onions, sliced

2 slices multigrain bread

1/2 cup leafy greens (arugula, ETC)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced

1/4 cup reduced fat whipped cream cheese

Place the tuna in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, add the oil, lime or lemon juice, parsley, pepper and green onion and whisk to combine

Pour 2/3 of the oil mixture into the tuna and mix well.

Using a spoon or pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of the bread.

Grill the bread in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat until golden on both sides.

Toss the remaining oil with the leafy greens.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread 2 TBSP of the cream cheese on each slice of bread.

Add 1/2 of the tuna mixture to each slice

Add 1/2 of the greens and 1/2 of the cherry tomatoes.

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