Greek Chicken Souvlaki Recipe

Chicken souvlaki was one of my favourite items to order in Greece. Souvlaki literately translated means “meat on a stick”. Being gluten and dairy intolerant it is challenging for me to find menu options but chicken souvlaki is gluten and dairy free so this was one of my staple orders when I was in Greece.

They originally made souvlaki with pork and beef, but as these are red meats, and red meats may cause greater levels of inflammation in the body compared to white meats like chicken breast, making souvlaki with chicken has its advantages.

 

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Chicken souvlaki is also a very versatile dish. You can serve it alongside a Greek Salad or in a pita with a variety of toppings like olives, tzatziki, tomatoes, peppers etc.

I had an interesting experience at a restaurant in Athens where I ordered chicken souvlaki. My meal came to my table skewered into half an orange which they set on fire to keep the chicken warm (see photo below). It was quite surprising when my waiter brought that to my table and set it down before me!

Athens Chicken

Another meal idea inspiration is chicken souvlaki with roasted vegetables. It’s a great combo because you can roast the vegetables and cook the souvlaki at the same time! Prepare your vegetables (just drizzle some cut up vegetables with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder) and put them in oven 10 min earlier than the chicken because they take a little longer to cook (about 35 min). When it’s time to put the chicken in the oven give the vegetables a shake. When you turn over the chicken souvlaki again give your vegetables a shake to ensure even cooking. There you go! A 2 for 1 deal meal ready in 35 min!

Chicken Souvlaki and Roasted Vegetables

I love how simple this recipe is to make! You just marinade and grill the meat. If you don’t have a grill or a barbeque, you can always roast the skewers in the oven at 350 F for 25min instead. In fact, baking and grilling meats are a healthier way to cook meat vs. frying for example. Furthermore, the ingredients that go into souvlaki marinade (lemon juice, olive oil and garlic) will not add extra calories, fat or sugar like barbeque sauce or other marinades might but they still combine to give the meat an incredible flavour.

Greek Chicken Souvlaki

 

The Almighty Olive – Historical Significance, Nutritional Benefits and Top 10 Tips to Enjoy Olives

I was on a tour of the Acropolis when I heard the story of how Athens got its name. My tour guide Alexia told us this story at a specific point at the foot of an olive tree. According to legend both the Goddess Athena and God Poseidon both desired to be the patron of the city and named the deity of the city. So, they had a contest to see who should have control of Athens and its surrounding area and gave the people of Athens the choice of who they wanted as their patron by choosing based on the gift that Poseidon and Athena had to give them. Legend has it the contest happened on Acropolis Hill. Poseidon threw his trident at the earth and from it sprouted a stream of water. However, as Poseidon was the god of the sea, it was saltwater, which was not judge particularly useful. Athena stuck the ground with her spear and from the spot grew an olive tree.

Which do you think the people chose? It was the olive that won favour, since they judged it much more useful, and chose Athena as their patron and deity. In the first place it was a versatile food more useful and which provided a good source of energy and nutrients. Besides olive oil was a valuable commodity for cooking and for other uses. The olive trees also provided wood with many uses for building or firewood. The olive was fundamental to the Athenian economy and still is to Greek culture.

This story shows just how powerful and important food can be.

Olive Tree

Nutritional Benefits of Olives

What makes olives an empowering eat? Olives are a signature part of a Mediterranean Diet. One of the olive or olive oils claims to fame is the mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Fats and oils are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. MUFAs are a healthy fat and it is encouraged that you try within the balance of fats to replace saturated fats and trans fats with MUFAs wherever possible. MUFAs are a healthy fat and have improved blood cholesterol levels. Olives and olive oil are sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties. Olives are low in carbohydrates, making them a good food choice for anyone following a Keto Diet. Though they come with many nutrient benefits olives should be enjoyed in moderation given their high fat content and that they are relatively high in sodium.

Olive oil contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties which may help protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

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Consumer Tip:

Olives have many nutritional benefits, but they do have a high sodium content. Before using olives try to rinse and drain them to wash away the salty brine, they are preserved in. This will decrease their sodium content.

Did you Know?

The colour of an olive is because of it’s ripeness? Green olives are just less ripe than black olives which are fully ripe?

Black olives

Top 10 Ways to Use Olives and Olive Oil

  1. Eat an olive all on its own as a snack.
  2. Sliced olives are a great addition to salads (Greek Salad of course!), sandwiches and wraps.
  3. Include olives as part of an antipasto tray.
  4. Add olives into a pasta dish to give it a Mediterranean flavour.
  5. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil – provided you do not cook at high temperatures.
  6. Choose olive oil as the oil in salad dressings and marinades.
  7. Have you ever tried olive bread? There are many different types of breads where olives are actually baked into the bread itself i.e. Focaccia.
  8. Incorporate olives into pilafs with rice or quinoa as a base and variety of vegetables.
  9. Try olive tapenade. Top fish or meat with an olive tapenade. An olive tapenade also makes a great spread for bread and you can serve this as an appetizer.
  10. Have some hummus! Olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in hummus and you can double it up by adding actual olives into your hummus and as a topping. They are a great ingredient to add a unique and distinctive flavour variation.

Olives

The Story Behind the Slice – Do You Know Where Your Loaf of Bread Came From?

There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baking bread. The moment I say this you know what I mean. It casts a spell, stimulates the senses, lifts the spirit and has an overall incomparable effect on the human psyche.

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Bread is one of the principal and most important sources of nutrition ever known to human beings. It has been with us since the beginning and, in many ways, it was a spark for the growth of all civilization. There is much more that lies behind the bread you contemplate at the bakery; that you slice and toast for breakfast; that you pack or pick-up for lunch; or even the ordinary dinner roll. Where did it come from? How did it all come to this? Questions that lead to a fascinating story.

The domestication and cultivation of grains like wheat caused our nomadic ancestors to become stationary. This was a revolutionary lifestyle change. The discovery of bread making closely followed. Non-leavened flat breads (think of Indian naan or chapattis, Middle Eastern pitas, Mexican tortillas) were the first types of bread, produced by mixing flours with water to make a paste and then heating this to bake bread. This method made food more compact, easier to store and transport, and last longer. But bread making did not stop there.

The first recorded leavened bread (what you see now when you visualize bread) is traced back to ancient Egypt around 3000 BC. It was the discovery of yeast, also used for making beer, changed the course and preparation of bread forever. Apparently, the discovery of leavened bread was accidental, occurring when an air-born yeast randomly landed on some unbaked bread, thereupon reacting and catalyzing a transformation in the process of bread making. Yeast produces carbon dioxide gas which is what gives bread it’s puffiness. From there leavened bread became the new norm and popular throughout the globe.

Bread has maintained a singularly important role in history, culture and religion. Bread symbolizes prosperity. The bread riots of the French Revolution are infamous. For Christianity the reference to bread is common throughout the bible. In Judaism, the gorgeous braided Challah featured as part of the Sabbath and important holidays. Even in popular culture “bread” or “dough” is synonymous with “money” – again symbolizing abundance and prosperity.

Over the years, the simple loaf of bread has seen many developments and transformations but it has remained integral to survival. The processes of refining flour have been an ongoing mission since the beginning. White flour naturally requires more effort in processing and refining and it was considered a status symbol: whiter, finer breads for the higher classes and darker, denser and more coarse breads for the lower classes. Nowadays, it’s interesting to note how the mindset has shifted to the reverse with current nutrition knowledge promoting the importance of whole grains for their higher vitamin and mineral content.

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Considering where it has come from and where it is at today, it will be interesting to see what lies ahead in the story of bread. Unfortunately, the question always arises – have we gone too far? The addition of preservatives, high amounts of sugar and over-processing is stripping bread of the simplicity with which it started and the nutritional advantages with which it served our ancestors. In Canada from 2006 – 2011 there was limited or stagnant grown and some decline in certain sections and specific bread products. Nevertheless, innovation has always been an important hallmark in the history of bread. Already we have seen the diversification of special products and flours made from grains other than wheat, owing to the massive dietary shift to go gluten-free. Artisan breads are seeing a comeback, and they are more similar to what our ancestors would recognize as bread.

One thing is certain, awareness is of first and foremost importance. Realizing how the decisions we make affect our health and the power we have to make decisions for our own health and well being and champion change for ourselves, our families and our food systems.

What’s Your Food Story?

Food (i.e. a source of nutrition) is the common denominator for all forms of life on the earth. Since time immortal, there has been a fascination with food. It has the incredible power to bring people together. And it has been the fall of civilizations – ripping cultures and people apart. It’s undeniable that we all have a relationship with food in some way or another. As individual as we are from one another so are our likes, dislikes and beliefs about food. Time, history, geographical location and life experience all contribute to these conceptions about what we should and should not eat.

Many traditional medicinal practices believe in the power of certain foods to heal or to harm the body. For instance, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing; the Four Humours of the Hippocratic Medicine system; even the Traditional Chinese Medicine system all shared a common belief in how eating certain foods and not others affected the balance and thereby the overall health and vitality of the body. It is certain that there has been a higher reverence placed on food than is currently seen in much of society’s relationship to food today. Could this be due to the limited supplies and lack of those times, compared to the overproduction and overconsumption of today?

Food and culture are intertwined. Think of how certain foods are integrated into a culture’s heritage and traditions, or in other cases where foods are excluded. What dishes are considered special and why? Consider the turkey at Thanksgiving; chocolate on Valentine’s Day; even the Birthday Cake … all are relevant examples. These beliefs and associations come via a process of socialization and the society in which we are raised.

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What about your family meals and traditions? Where do they come from? Do your beliefs serve and support? How do certain foods make you feel and why? After identifying what your beliefs are about foods you can then reflect on how they impact your overall relationship with food.

We all have our own ideas about food and nutrition. Some of those may have been learned and passed down, others we develop y experiences we have in our individual life situation. However your story is not over. Remember as you can always re-write pages to improve the story’s content and direction, so too can you make changes to improve the quality of your diet and nutrition.

So what’s your food story and how do you want it to read?