Baked Falafel with a Spicy Feta Dip.

Quick update: #1) School is out and summer is here, so expect more weekly posts! #2) For my birthday, my husband bought me a DSLR camera, so hopefully the quality of my pictures will be improving (considering I was using my phone camera before!)

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Ok, let’s talk about falafel. Such a funny word, isn’t it? Good thing it is incredibly delicious! We love Mediterranean food and falafel is high on the list. If you’re not familiar with falafel, it is made up of mashed chickpeas and spices, and usually deep-fried. My version is baked, but don’t worry, no flavor or texture is compromised, and it’s so much better for you! Falafel is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan friendly. I think it’s pretty kid-friendly, too. You can eat them plain, inside a pita, on a salad, or dipped in this spicy feta dip I’m sharing with you today. Falafel is so versatile that everyone in your family will find a way to enjoy it!

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Because falafel is awesome (and overpriced in restaurants), I wanted to make my own at home. My first attempt at making falafel was almost 3 years ago. Let’s just say that batch did not turn out right, but I learned from my mistakes. Really just one mistake, in particular: over-processing the chickpeas. I was new to using my food processor and went a little crazy with the pulse button until my chickpeas were well blended and, sadly, mushy! The horror! It has taken 3 years for me to forget how unsuccessful that trial run was, and this week I decided to go for it again. I am SO glad I did; they turned out perfectly.

Here’s what they look like before baking:
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And after:
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Other than the tasty end result, there are so many things I love about this recipe/falafel in general. First of all, it is cheap to make. You can easily make an entire batch for less than $5. Secondly, it’s good for you! In 3 falafel there’s 10g of protein and 10g of fiber, and virtually no fat. And lastly, the food processor does all the work for you! Chickpeas, garlic, green onion, spices/herbs, lemon juice, flour, baking powder…they all go in to the food processor, which makes for no chopping and easy clean-up.

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I used the pulse button on my food processor instead of just turning it on and letting it go because it gave me better control of the texture of the falafel. I made sure to stop when the mixture was beginning to come together, but there were still visible chunks of chickpeas, as you can see above. This gave the falafel awesome texture!

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I always make tzatziki sauce to go with our Mediterranean meals, but this time I wanted to switch it up a bit. Instead, I made a spicy feta yogurt dip from plain non-fat yogurt, reduced-fat feta cheese, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. Since I had my food processor out for the falafel, I used it to make this dip while the falafel baked. Another easy recipe: place all the ingredients in the food processor and turn it on! Done.

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This dip has awesome texture AND flavor. It is thick and the feta is definitely noticeable. The salty and savory feta compliments the cool, creamy yogurt and the cayenne pepper adds a nice little punch of heat. The dairy in the dip cuts down the heat a lot, so feel free to taste and add more if you want more spice. You can use this feta dip with your falafel pita, in a salad or just plain! Bonus: it is a great dip for cold vegetables, too!

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Baked Falafel

Ingredients for the falafel:

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp lemon (about half a lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cooking spray

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. In a food processor, pulse the garlic a few times to get it smaller. Add the chickpeas, green onions, parsley, cilantro, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice. Pulse until the chickpeas appear mashed, but not pureed. Add flour and baking powder and pulse a few more times. (See picture above in post for texture).

2). With clean hands, form 1 1/2 inch rounds using 2 tbsp of falafel mixture.  Flatten them slightly, place on a lined baking sheet, and repeat. Before baking, lightly spray with cooking spray.

3). Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and gently flip the falafel over. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until golden-brown. Serve with spicy feta dip.

Yield: 9 falafel patties. Servings: 3. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 156 Carbs: 29g Fat: 1g Protein: 10g Fiber: 10g Points+: 4

Recipe adapted from an awesome vegetarian friend!

Spicy Feta Dip

Ingredients for the spicy feta dip:

  • 8 oz reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2-2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more)

1) Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasoning or add more olive oil for a smoother texture.

Servings: about 6. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 152 Fat: 9g Carbs: 2g Protein: 6g Fiber: 0g Points+: 3

Recipe adapted from: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2014/02/baked-falafel-with-spicy-feta-yogurt-dip/

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Crock Pot Greek Chicken (for pitas & salads!)

Like many of you southern readers, we’ve been snowed in the last couple days! Thankfully neither my husband nor I got stuck overnight in the horrendous traffic that ensued. Instead, we have thoroughly taken advantage of our snow days by building fires, baking these banana chocolate chip muffins, watching movies, and enjoying these easy Greek chicken pitas!

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To make the chicken, I threw it in the crock pot with chopped onion, garlic, and Greek seasoning. I made a homemade Greek seasoning blend and used only about 1/4 of it for this recipe, so I saved the rest for another use. (Tip: make sure to put it in a sealed container and label it with what type of seasoning it is and the date you made it!) After everything was cooked, I shredded the chicken in my kitchen aid mixer, but using 2 forks would work too. Here’s what it looked like after:

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This made a quite a bit of chicken, so if you have a big family you can rest assured there will be enough for everyone. And probably leftovers. But that’s a good thing, right?! Because it does make more than a couple servings, one day I piled some chicken on a Greek salad while my husband enjoyed it in a pita. Instead of dressing I used tzatziki sauce. So much flavor! Here’s my recipe for fat-free tzatziki sauce if you’re interested in trying it. You could also switch things up by using hummus as well. Play around with it and see what you like best! Add olives, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, or any combination of those ingredients as you like.

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If you do NOT own a crock pot (or if you’re low on time), you can also make this by mixing the chopped chicken/onions with 1 tbsp EVOO and the seasoning in a baking dish. Bake it for about 40 minutes at 350F, like the picture below! This recipe is really versatile!

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Crock Pot Greek Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Greek seasoning

For the Greek seasoning (this makes MUCH more than you need; only use about 1/4 cup of this!):

  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp onion pwder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp thyme
1). Mix together the seasoning ingredients. Reserve a scant 1/4 cup of seasoning.
2). Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Layer chopped onions, garlic, and chicken. Sprinkle evenly with seasoning and add water. Set on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
3). Once chicken is cooked, remove the chicken/onions from crock pot and shred chicken using 2 forks or my kitchen aid mixer method. Add some of the cooking juices to keep chicken moist.
4). Serve on pitas or on a Greek salad with tzatziki sauce or hummus. Enjoy!

Serving size: 4 oz shredded chicken. Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 184 Carbs: 0g Fat: 3g Protein: 34g WWPoints+: 4
Recipes adapted from: http://www.heandsheeatclean.com/2013/06/clean-eat-recipe-make-your-own-greek.html 
Adapted recipe courtesy of Audreysapron.wordpress.com.

Homemade Skinny Tzatziki Sauce


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Tzatziki.

Hard to spell, fun to say, and absolutely delightful in any Greek flavored dish!

Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt-based sauce that has dill, garlic, cucumber and lemon juice. It actually incredibly healthy because the main ingredient is Greek yogurt. I used 0% fat plain Greek yogurt and it worked great!

The cucumber adds a bright freshness that is unique and light. The sauce is creamy and cool, perfect for spring and summer.

Best of all, this recipe is fat free and low calorie!

In the next couple weeks I will add a couple of recipe ideas for using this sauce. Truth be told, however, it is great even for simply dipping fresh carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery, etc. (And so much healthier than dipping the crudites in ranch dressing like many people do!) I’ve also used it as a replacement for dressing in a Greek salad!

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This recipe is so easy! Be sure to taste the sauce and adjust it to your taste. If you think 1 tbsp of lemon is too much, start with 1 tsp. If it needs more dill, add it! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Homemade Skinny Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz fat free greek yogurt
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and peeled
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried dill (or 1 Tbsp fresh, but I never seem to have fresh on hand!)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

1) Finely shred cucumber using a grater. Squeeze excess liquid out of the shredded cucumber.

2) In a medium bowl, mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

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Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com 

Nutritional Information per 1/4 cup serving (makes 8 servings): Calories: 18 Fat: 0g Carbs: 1.7g Protein: 2.6g

Baked Chicken with Feta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Tangy sun dried tomatoes pair up beautifully with creamy, fluffy feta cheese. Pile them on top of a well-seasoned chicken breast and you have a lovely Greek influenced main course.

The best part?

This can be done in 30 minutes.

Week night meals in our house tend to be quick and easy; however, I do not believe in sacrificing flavor, health, or quality of the dish for the sake of time. This dish is a perfect example. Within minutes, it can be baking away in the oven, giving you time to prepare whatever vegetable and grain you prefer to serve alongside it. 25 minutes later, the timer beeps and the chicken gets topped with sun dried tomatoes and feta.

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I’ve read several times on other blogs about sun dried tomatoes packed in water (not oil), but I have yet to find them. If you are like me and must use the oil-packed ones, just be sure to press the tomatoes in paper towels to remove the excess oil. Problem solved!

Baked Chicken with Feta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-ounce) jar sun dried tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425F and lightly spray an oven proof dish.

2. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano. Place chicken breasts in prepared dish and top with minced garlic.

3. Bake for about 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, remove the tomatoes from the jar, carefully draining oil. To further remove excess oil, gently press tomatoes between paper towels. Discard towels. Finely chop the tomatoes.

5. Remove chicken breast from the oven and top with sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Servings: 4. Nutrition Information for 1 Serving: Calories 305, Total Fat 16.0 g, Total Carbohydrate 8.7 g, Fiber 1.7 g, Sugars 5.1 g, Protein 31.8 g