Diabetes Diet #22: A big fat greek wedding feast, on a diabetic diet

Diabetes Recipes:

Lima Bean Dip
Cucumbers and Yogurt
Spinach Rice Balls
Marinated Celery
Spanakopita, Spinach Triangles
Faki, Greek Lentil Soup
Moussaka, Bechamel Sauce
Souvlaki Apo Arni (Lamb Skewers)

A couple towns away from where I live there is a wonderful old movie house. It has 1 screen, bumpy springs in the seats, real butter on the popcorn and Monday night is date night (2 for 1 admission). The Bradley Beach Cinema usually plays a film for a week, depending on popularity. But things changed last summer when My Big Fat Greek Wedding showed for 8 weeks running. It was such a smash hit that it played and played until everyone in the entire county got a chance to see it.

The idea of a Greek feast got me thinking about cooking one. As I researched recipes I learned how healthy Greek food is. It’s part of that wonderfully nutritious Mediterranean diet, using lots of vegetables, fresh fish, grains, nuts, beans, olive oil, and fruit. Living in a global world today, we have access to a seemingly infinite variety of ethnic foods. If you look closely, most ethnic foods are simple and seasonal, the way our bodies are meant to be nourished according to nature’s grand plan.

The question now is, can a person with diabetes feast at a big fat Greek wedding? Sure we can, thank you very much. Let’s explore some of the fabulous possibilities. Put on your apron and the sound track from the movie. Music is an inspirational partner to cooking, especially when it’s a feast.

What makes a big fat healthy greek feast?

  • Mezedes (appetizers)
  • Lima bean dip | Tzatziki, cucumbers and yogurt | Youvarlakia, rice and spinach balls | Marinated celery | Spanakopitakia spinach turnovers |Whole wheat pita bread
  • Soup
  • Faki, greek lentil soup
  • Main Dishes
  • Moussaka | Souvlaki apo arni, greek lamb skewers
  • Dessert
  • Kolyva, fruit and nut dessert | Homemade yogurt with mint, almonds and figs | Baklava filo dough with lots and lots of honey.

Ya mas! (to your good health!)

A big fat healthy greek feast for you and yours to enjoy.
Lima Bean Dip
2 cans well drained lima beans or 1 cup dry beans soaked in plenty of cold water overnight and cooked for 1 hour partially covered. Option, cook beans in chicken broth for a full rich flavor.
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ fresh lemon juice and grated zest
2T. each fresh dill and fresh mint
1t. extra virgin olive oil (Greek if available)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Puree or blend first 5 ingredients. Add liquid if too thick.
  2. Drizzle in oil and continue to blend until smooth. Stir in onion and seasoning.
  3. Chill until ready to serve. Accompany with Romaine leaves or pita triangles for scooping.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ¼ cup, Calories: 55, Carbs: 9 grams, Fat: 3 grams, Fiber: 2 grams, Protein: 3 grams

Cucumbers and Yogurt
This is so easy and so refreshing. Use as a salad, side dish or dip, or with any Greek meat, chicken, or fish dish. Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup low fat yogurt (if you have access to a Greek grocery, buy your yogurt there. It will be a delightful surprise)
1 large or 2 Kirby cucumbers, partially peeled, sliced horizontally, seeded and chopped
2 T. fresh dill, chopped. Add a little freshly chopped mint if you would like.
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Combine and chill until ready to use.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ¼ cup, Calories: 40, Carbs: 4 grams , Fat: 1 grams, Protein: 2 grams

Spinach Rice Balls
These are fun to make and freezes well for future use. Makes around 24 balls

2 lbs fresh spinach, stems remove
1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly, using both green and white parts
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 t. olive oil
2 T each lemon juice and dill
grated zest from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup herbed bread crumbs
Option, add 1 cup Greek Feta cheese to mix .

  1. Wilt spinach for 2 or 3 minutes. Drain and chop.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté scallions in oil for 5 minutes until browned.
  3. Combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs and with dampened hands roll into balls (golf size), roll in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet covered with parchment. Bake about 20 minutes until crisp on outside and add to the feast.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 ball, Calories: 48, Carbs: 9 grams, Fat: 1 grams, Protein: 2 grams

Marinated Celery
Makes 4 servings, for an option use green beans or artichokes instead of celery.
2 cups crisp green celery ribs cut diagonally into 1″ slices, then halved
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. fennel or dill leaves chopped
2 sprigs each : parsley and thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except celery. Bring to the boil.
  2. Add celery, cover tightly and simmer for 10 minutes until crisp tender.
  3. Cool to room temp and store in fridge. Garnish with lemon slices to serve.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ½ cup, Calories: 35, Carbs: 2 grams, Fat: 3 grams, Fiber: 1 gram

Spanakopita, Spinach Triangles
12 triangles of Filo. Filo dough is the dough of choice in Greek cooking. It is usually made from flour, cornstarch, water, vegetable oil, salt and water. However I recomend buying it, as it is difficult to make from scratch. Keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel since it dries quickly and then is impossible to work with. Once you get used to it, you’ll have fun cooking with it.

1 t. olive oil
½ cup sliced scallions
1 cup cooked, well drained and chopped spinach
1 egg white
½ cup Greek feta cheese
2T. each fresh mint and parsley, chopped
4 leaves filo dough
1T. melted butter or margarine

  1. Heat oil and sauté scallions and spinach until wilted. Drain well.
  2. Mix in egg white, cheese and herbs and form 12 balls.
  3. Cut filo dough into 3 pieces and immediately cover with waxed paper and towel. Working with 1 piece at a time, lightly brush with melted butter and place 1 filling ball about an inch from end toward you. Fold over and continue folding flag style to top to form triangle. Brush again with a little butter. Use remaining filo and filling. Place on baking sheet and bake in 350 oven for 15 minutes or until a beautiful golden color. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 triangle, Calories: 40, Carbs: 9 grams, Fat: 4 grams, Protein: 3 grams

Faki, Greek Lentil Soup(6 servings)
1 cup lentils , rinsed well to remove any pebbles. Tip, try French lentils from the health food store
1 red onion chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, sliced
1 can plum tomatoes, with juices
herbs: 1 bay leaf, 5 sprigs Italian parsley, 1 / 4 fresh basil or oregano
¼ cup olive oil
3T. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cover lentils with 8 cups cold water. Bring to the boil. Turn off heat. Cover. Rest for 1 hour.
  2. Return to boil. Add onion, garlic and celery. Simmer 30 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, herbs and 2 T. oil. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, adding water occasionally to keep consistency.
  4. Add vinegar, seasoning and remaining oil. Serve hot, garnished with a little fresh herb.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 cup, Calories: 176, Carbs: 17 grams , Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 7 grams

Moussaka(12 servings)
There are as many recipes for moussaka as there are Greek families. I happen to love this particular one. It comes from the mother of my friend Pete Theodoro. It is almost 2 recipes, since the Kima (eggplant caviar) can be used for other purposes, such as stuffing mushrooms or any vegetable, as a spread or even as a dip, with pita triangles. The Kima replaces the meat found in most moussaka recipes, but you’d never know it. I have broken the recipe into separate parts. It’s easier to follow this way.

Kima, makes 2 cups
1 ½ eggplant, peeled, sliced and cut into chunks
2T. olive oil
3 crushed garlic cloves
1t cinnamon
1T. grated orange zest
Pinch of parsley, oregano and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Chop or grind eggplant to consistency of ground meat. This can be done quickly in food processor, if you like.
  2. Heat a little of the oil in a skillet and add eggplant, stirring and cooking, adding oil as needed, until the eggplant begins to steam.
  3. Stir in garlic and seasonings. Taste for adjustments. Refrigerate overnight or until ready to use.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ¼ cup, Calories: 25, Carbs: 2 grams, Fat: 2 grams

Moussaka, Bechamel Sauce
1 large , or 2 small eggplants, sliced into ¼” rounds. Place eggplant slices on baking sheet and broil, turning once, until soft. This will take about 5 minutes.
3 T. Butter
1 / 4 cup flour
2 cups low fat milk
1 T. grated Parmigiana cheese
1 egg, separated
Melt butter until it begins to bubble. Stir in flour and continue stirring until mix is incorporated and very smooth. Turn off heat and very gradually whisk milk into butter/flour. Return to low heat and stir until sauce thickens. Add ½ the cheese. Remove from heat again and stir in egg yolk.
1 large baking potato, 1 onion, and 1 large zucchini, sliced thinly
2 T each: dill, parsley, oregano
3 garlic cloves. minced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to tasteAssemble:

  1. Spray a 9 X 12 baking dish and sprinkle with 1 T. bread crumbs. Layer 1 / 2 the vegetables, scattering the herbs, garlic and oil between layers.
  2. Mix the egg white into the Kima and spread 2 cups over the vegetables. Layer remaining half of vegetables and herbs.
  3. Pour white sauce over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. 4. Bake in 350 oven for 50 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Serve hot.

Approximate Nutrional Value: 1 serving = 100 cal, 12 carb grams, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat, 3 grams fiber

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 serving, Calories: 100, Carbs: 12 grams, Fat: 6 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 4 grams

Souvlaki Apo Arni (Lamb Skewers)4 servings
½lb lean lamb cubes, you can substitute chicken for lamb if you wish.
1t. olive oil
1T. lemon juice
2T dry red wine
pinch of each: dried rosemary, thyme and oregano, 1 bay leaf
1 large garlic clove, crushed
*Mix ingredients and marinate lamb, covered in fridge for a few hours or overnight.
2 bay leaves
2 firm plum tomatoes
1 yellow or red pepper cut into squares
Thread meat, vegetables and bay leaves on skewers. Grill or broil, turning to brown on all sides, basting with marinade. Serve with lemon wedges. APPROXIMATE NUTRITIONAL VALUE: for 1 skewer = 120 cal, 2 crab grams, 15 grams protein, 5 grams fatNutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 skewer, Calories: 120, Carbs: 2 grams, Fat: 5 grams, Protein: 15 grams
This is an ancient and unusual Greek sweet that is usually served in small paper bag after a memorial service in church.

2 cups whole wheat berries (wheat kernels find at health food store), washed and soaked overnight
pinch of salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup parsley and basil, or 1T each dried
1t. cinnamon
¼ cup sliced toasted almonds

  1. Cook wheat in plenty of water. Bring to boil and simmer until kernels begin to soften and burst, about 45 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Mix in remaining ingredients, except almonds. Place in bowl and garnish with nuts. Serve cold.

Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ½ cup,, Calories: 100, Carbs: 15 grams, Fat: 6 grams, Fiber: 3 grams, Protein: 3 grams