Easy Mediterranean Diet Breakfast

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SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE

When it comes to spaghetti, a little ground meat goes a long way. A sauce rich with vegetables and tangy tomatoes needs only a little meat to add depth and richness to its flavor. Some Italian meat sauces, such as those from Bologna, have a higher proportion of meat to sauce and also add bacon and chicken livers. However, according to Ancel Keys, the peo-ple in Bologna had significantly higher blood cholesterol levels than the Italian people living along the coast of the Mediterranean. We prefer to keep the meat content, and our blood cholesterol levels, a little bit lower!

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, scraped and shredded

1 small stalk of celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces extra lean ground beef or lean ground meat One 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley 1 bay leaf

½ cup dry red wine or water

1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or vermicelli Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in the olive oil. When the onions are translucent but not brown, add the ground beef. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until brown. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian parsley, bay leaf, and the wine, if you are using it. Reduce the heat and simmer about 30 minutes, until thick but not dry. (If the sauce gets too dry, add more water, a little at a time, to reach desired consis-tency.)

In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling salted water ac-cording to the package directions, until al dente (tender but firm). Drain and return the pasta to the warm pan (do not re-turn to the hot burner). Just before serving, add the sauce and toss well. Pass fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6 to 8.

FALAFEL WITH TOMATO-CUCUMBER RELISH

This Middle Eastern classic never gets boring. When frying falafel in olive oil cooking spray, this dish is much lower in fat than its traditional preparation method, which is to fry it in lots of oil. We think it tastes better this way.

One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

¼ cup parsley, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 cup dry whole-wheat bread crumbs

1 large egg, lightly beaten with a fork Olive oil cooking spray

Tomato-Cucumber Relish (recipe follows)

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the garbanzo beans, onion, parsley, garlic, cumin, and oregano until smooth; season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir in 1⁄2 cup of the bread crumbs and egg.

Spread remaining bread crumbs on a plate. Using your hands, form the bean mixture into 16 round balls, rolling each ball in the bread crumbs to coat. Set the balls on wax paper until you have them all coated.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with the cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Add falafel balls and cook, stir-ring, until balls are browned, about 10 minutes.

Arrange 4 falafel balls on each plate, and serve with the Tomato-Cucumber Relish, or stuff fresh greens and falafel in pita halves, topping with relish.

Serves 4.

Tomato-Cucumber Relish

½ cup chopped tomato ½ cup chopped cucumber

⅓ cup nonfat plain yogurt

¼ teaspoon dried mint (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the tomato, cucumber, yogurt, and mint leaves; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

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