Lightened Up Moussaka

Food, and lots of it, is often the focal point of every gathering with my Greek family. While certainly some Greek dishes make up a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, Greek food isn’t exactly known for being “light.” Many of the culture’s traditional main dishes, cheeses, and sauces can definitely take a toll on the waistline if you aren’t careful. Think: buttery phyllo dough and gyros.

As much as I like to indulge in multiple helpings of spanakopita and put feta on everything, when it comes to everyday eating, I try to “healthify” the ingredients as much as I can. I recently experimented with a tried and true family favorite, moussaka. A traditional moussaka is made with sliced eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef before topping with a rich sauce.

In this version, the potatoes are eliminated and bison is used instead of lamb or ground beef for a leaner meat. The butter, white flour, and regular milk are replaced with coconut oil, almond meal, and coconut milk. Finally, the eggplant is baked instead of fried. If you are worried about the end product tasting nutty or like coconut, it doesn’t!

Lightened Up Moussaka

Lightened Up Moussaka

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

For the casserole…

  • 1.5 pounds eggplant
  • 1.5 pounds ground bison
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + extra for baking
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce…

  • 1/8 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond meal or flour (whole wheat flour could be used for nut allergies)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ⅓  cup plain Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to Thinly slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Place on paper towels and cover with a second layer of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Let sit for about 20 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the meat and stir until brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, cinnamon, wine, salt and pepper, and half a cup of water. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until mixture is dry.
  3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange eggplant slices in a flat layer. Season with pepper and drizzle with olive oil, then cook in the oven at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes or until tender.
  4. To make the sauce: Melt the coconut oil. Stir in the almond meal or flour and cook for two minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk and yogurt. Return to heat, then stir until thick and smooth, then simmer five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a baking dish, arrange the following: Layer of eggplant slices, half biston mixture, eggplant, remaining bison, remaining eggplant. Pour the sauce over the top and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F or until brown.
  6. Enjoy!

Lightened Up Moussaka

Hope you guys love it!

–Let’s chat–
What’s your favorite traditional Greek dish? How do you think you could healthify it?

This post originally appeared in BostInno, as my awesome friend Caroline asked me to blog for them.

February 2013 Foodie Penpal Reveal

Hello, friends! Can you believe it’s already the last day of February? This month has seriously FLOWN by. I’m excited though, because I am craving spring. In a bad way. I need me some outdoor time!

For today, I have a couple of month-end posts to share with you. I’ll be back later with my Feb favorites, but for now I’m here with my February Foodie Penpal reveal post!

Foodie Penpal

If you are interested in joining Foodie Penpals, it’s super fun and open to all blog readers, regardless of whether you are a blogger or not. For more details, click over to Lindsay’s Foodie Penpals blog page.

Liz over at Vegging Out in SacTown had me this month. She sent me some olive oil, honey sticks, and a bag of almonds.

February 2013 Foodie Penpal

Liz wrote that the Bariani olive oil is grown and pressed right where she lives in Northern Cali. She even buys it from “Mr. Bariani himself!” How fun. This arrived at the perfect time, because we just ran out of olive oil the other day.

The honey sticks came in a 10 pack of different variations. I guess each type is made by bees pollinating different plants, including sage, wildflower, avocado, and more. Does anyone have any creative uses for these? I’m having a hard time thinking outside the box, but I can’t wait to try the different flavors.

Finally, the alder-smoked almonds came from two girls that sell all kinds of roasted nuts. Liz said they aren’t your typical farmers because they have blue and pink hair. That’s fun.

Thank you, Liz, for my February treats!

Two people never have each other as part of Foodie Penpals, so if you guys are interested in seeing what I sent out this month, click over to Sam’s blog at Center of the Pie. Hopefully she’ll do a recap post on the stuff I sent her way. I’ll give you a hint – it was all nice and Greek!

greek spices

Do you take part in Foodie Penpals? If so, what did you get this month? What did you send? If you don’t, what would you send out if participating for the first time?

I can never decide whether to send random things or go with a themed box. Besides the Greek theme I have also sent a chocolate theme, and a “fall flavors” theme, but I think the rest have been pretty random!

Fun from the Fourth

Is it Friday?  I have no concept of what day it is, which I must say is quite a nice feeling.

Let’s talk about July 4th.

July 4th Eve

On Tuesday after I taught both Kickboxing and Circuit, I headed down the Cape to my uncle’s beach house with Tim and my brother.  Luckily, we hit NO traffic and were able to make decent time.  When we got there we spent three hours in the living room catching up.

While we were talking, I drank one of these:

And also one of these:

And I ate a bunch of THESE:

We didn’t end up going to sleep until around 2, but luckily we weren’t too tired in the morning when the rest of the family pulled into the driveway with Greek music blaring before the birds were even chirping. <—Not joking.

July 4th Breakfast

Our 4th of July started with some patriotic pancakes!

I mixed the batter and Tim did some sweet flipping.  They were a big hit among the rest of the breakfast spread that Uncle Chris had ready for everyone, and a yummy start to the day!

July 4th Beach Time

After breakfast, we all headed to the beach for a couple of hours.

I tried to be as 4th of July-ish as possible in my (what used to be) red bathing suit with white polka dots.  Seriously this bathing suit is like 8 years old.

My dad, as you can see, didn’t care as much about sporting his red, white, and blue.

Our time at the beach was spent lounging, swimming, reading, and hole digging!

July 4th Workout

After we got back from the beach, it was backyard bootcamp time!

I originally was planning for the holiday to be an off day, but I brought a workout outfit to the Cape just in case.  And while I was flipping through the latest issue of Women’s Health on the beach, I stumbled upon this page:

It was called “6 Moves, 4 Workouts.”  Now the moves weren’t anything new to me, and they wouldn’t be for those of you who come to my classes week after week:

  • Jump Squats
  • Butterfly Crunches
  • Burpees
  • Triceps Dips
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Pushups

What caught my eye was the four different workouts that Women’s Health provided that use all six moves.  I decided to go with workout one because it was only 15 minutes, and a quick 15 minute sweat sesh on a holiday sounded good to me.  Especially if I could sneak it in while I was still grimy from the beach and while the BBQ was being prepped.

My mom and Auntie Paula decided to join me.

The workout?  Do 10 reps of each of the moves listed above, in that order.  Once you’ve done 10 of each, you’ve done 1 round.  Do as many rounds repeatedly as you can in 15 minutes.

Let me tell you, this 15 minute workout is NO JOKE.  I was able to do 7 full rounds, which is pretty much averaging 2 minutes per round, plus the first two moves of the 8th round.  By the end, I was dripping. 

Circuit class, I foresee this workout in our near future.  <grin>

July 4th BBQ

After backyard bootcamp was over and showered off, it was time to eat!

Everything was so yummy!  Here’s my plate:

I had a bit of everything, but instead of a bun I enjoyed my burger topped with the tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

After dinner comes dessert, naturally.  I made red, white, and blue chocolate covered strawberries!

And enjoyed with Uncle Chris’s to die for trifle.  I could eat seriously the entire thing!  I didn’t eat the whole thing, but I may have taken an extra scoop.  70 burpees before dinner makes up for it, right? ;)

4th of July Goofiness & Games

Other pics from the rest of the day:

Was a great day!  I love July 4th!

How did you all celebrate July 4th??  Anything fun??

Castle Island and The Greek Corner Restaurant

Did you guys all get a chance to read my mom’s guest post this weekend in honor of Mother’s Day?  I know it was a beautiful weekend out and people had a lot of family plans, so if you missed it make sure to click over to this link and check it out!

To celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, my family and I went for a long walk at Castle Island.  It’s so pretty there!

It felt nice to finally have some good weather and enjoy the sunshine.

During our walk, we kept seeing planes coming and going from Logan airport.  They were so close!

Of course, a few photo ops for Georgia:

My mom also spotted this sign and told me it would be the perfect picture for Fitness & Feta, so I just had to take it.

After we worked up an appetite from our walk, we headed over to Cambridge to try out a new Greek restaurant.  Would you expect anything else?

If that doesn’t look like a Greek restaurant (it was called The Greek Corner), I don’t know what does.

We started out with some Avgolemeno soup and some pita bread.

Do you guys remember when I made homemade Avgolemeno soup?  Love this stuff!

Then came out lots of yummy Greek entrees, each with a Greek salad and the homemade rice.

Moussaka for my mom…

Pastitso for my dad…

A lamb sandwich for my brother…

The gyro plate for my sis…

And a lamb and veggie skewer for me!

Everything was so delicious.

My dad also enjoyed a Mythos beer!

After we finished eating, my mom opened her presents.  I got her a fitness themed gift in honor of her fitness oriented Mother’s Day guest post.

The gift included:

  • Gaiam Metro Gym Bag (Target)
  • Champion Workout Shirt (Target)
  • Bally’s Figure 8 Exercise Band (Home Goods)
  • Swiss Ball Workout Book (Barnes & Noble)

Feel free to steal the idea if you need something fitness related for someone in your life!

Hope you had a nice Mother’s Day, Mom!

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day this year?  What did you do for your mother?  If you are a mom, what did your kids do for you?

Off to Two A Day Tuesday!  My body is CRAVING it!