Dec 202015

Tis the season to be jolly…and also to eat and drink excessively while wearing ugly christmas sweaters at about 14 different holiday parties. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. Sweets at holiday parties are inevitable, so here’s a slightly healthier option that will still satisfy your sweet tooth. You can even leave a few out for Santa too…I hear his cholesterol was a little high this year.
These truffles have a whopping 4 ingredients, and 2 of them barely even count: dark chocolate, avocado (yup, I said it), vanilla extract, and sea salt. You can roll these in pretty much any crushed up toppings, but for the holidays I kept it festive with crushed pistachios, coconut chips, and freeze-dried raspberries.
Added bonus, they take 0 real cooking, and all you have to do is blend up the avocado and mix it into dark chocolate that you melted in the microwave. Let it cool in the fridge and then roll into balls and cover in your favorite toppings and you have a seriously impressive dessert or gift to share for the holiday.
Nutritional Highlights: We’ve all heard that (thank goodness) dark chocolate has so great health benefits from antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals. This all goes out the window, though, in typical truffle recipes, which are made with cream, butter, and probably some corn syrup or another sweetener. This recipe maintains the integrity of the dark chocolate without adding any extra sweeteners or saturate fats, and even adds another powerhouse ingredient, avocado, which makes these truffles extra creamy and provides additional monounsaturated fats which have been shown to improve heart health, as well as fiber and B vitamins. The toppings I chose are also a whole lot healthier than the sprinkles and caramels that often top our truffles. The coconut and pistachios provide additional healthy fats and fiber, and the crushed dried raspberries add virtually no calories but a killer red color. One of these truffles can absolutely be part of a healthy, balanced diet!
Added bonus, these are gluten free (as long as you don’t use any gluten containing toppings) and can be vegan if you choose vegan chocolate.
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Dark Chocolate-Avocado Truffles
Makes about 12-16 truffles
(go for 16 and you have less calories per truffle!)
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What’s in them:
6 oz good dark chocolate, I used 72% cacao but you can go as dark as you like (about 1 cup chocolate bar squares, chunks, or chips)
1/2 cup pureed ripe avocado, about 1/2 large avocado or 1 small avocado
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Toppings of your choice: coconut flakes or chips, crushed nuts, crushed freeze dried fruit, cocoa powder, crushed candy canes, or any other toppings you can think of

How to make them:
1. In you blender or food processor, add the avocado, vanilla, and salt, and blend until very smooth. My avocado was slightly less ripe than I wanted it to be so it needed some help in the blender so I added 1 tablespoon of soy milk to provide a little extra liquid.
2. In a microwave safe bowl or double boiler melt your chocolate. If using the microwave, stir every 20-30 seconds to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn. Stop cooking as soon as all the chocolate is melted.
3. Mix the avocado puree into the dark chocolate and stir until well combined. Transfer to the refrigerator for about an hour to let the mixture harden.
4. Lay out a piece of parchment. Scoop small amounts of the chocolate mixture (a little less than a tablespoon) and use your hands to roll them into balls.
5. Roll the chocolate balls in your favorite toppings and enjoy!
6. These should be good at room temperature for about 2 days, but keep in the refrigerator or freezer to make them last longer.
It’s such a shame that I don’t have any more holiday parties to bring these too. Whatever will I do with 16 chocolate truffles…

Hope everyone’s holidays are filled with family, friends, and of course, a little chocolate!

Dec 132015

Growing up in a half-Jewish home, Hannukah meant a lot of things to me. It meant lighting the menorah (which sat on our mantle above our hanging stockings) every night and placing bets on which candle would last the longest. It also meant underwear night, which was the night that instead of cool gifts, we got new underwear (don’t ask). And of course, it meant good food with a great family–including latkes. With one night of Hannukah left, it’s not too late to get in your latke fill. This version has some extra veggies, extra color, and some upgraded toppings.
This grown up version version is made with butternut squash and beets in addition to the standard potatoes and onions which make them healthier, tastier, and prettier all at once. The topping are just as important as the base, and I served mine with some homemade chunky apple sauce or with a yogurt-chive sauce and smoked salmon. I liked them, a lat…ke.
The one issue I have had with latkes in the past is the pain of grating all the veggies. This year I enlisted my new spiralizer and spiralized all the veggies using the thinnest blade. Not only was this much easier, but it also made gorgeous spirals that added a cool shape to the latkes.
Nutrition highlights: These latkes are way healthier than your average latkes with added phytochemicals, antioxdiants, and fiber from the beets and butternut squash. They also get a little protein from the eggs that bind them together. By making my own apple sauce, I could make sure it didn’t have too much added sugar, and instead of sour cream, I made a creamy sauce with fat free greek yogurt. Although I still pan friend mine, you could also bake these instead for a lower fat version.
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Beet, Butternut Squash & Potato Latkes
makes 15-20 small latkes
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What’s in them:
1 medium russet potato, peeled
2 medium beets, peeled
Approximately 1/3 butternut squash, peeled*
1 small or medium onion
2 large eggs, egg
1/3 cup whole wheat or regular flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus a little extra for sprinkling over the cooked latkes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil (I used sunflower seed oil) for pan frying
Optional toppings:
– homemade or store bought apple sauce
– chive-yogurt sauce or low fat sour-cream with or without smoked salmon

For the chive-yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
To make it: combine all the ingredients, stir, taste, and season to taste.

For the apple sauce:
2-3 apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar (more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
To make it: Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until apples are very soft. Taste and add additional sugar/spices to your tastes. For chunky sauce, just smush the apples a bit with your spoon as they cook. For a smooth sauce, run through the blender or food processor.

How to make them:
1. Shred all the vegetables using a box grater or thinnest spiralizer blade. If using a spiralizer, run a knife through the spiralized veggies a few times so the strands are not too long.
2. Wrap veggies in paper towels and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Careful with the beets…those guys stain like woah.
3. Combine the veggies, egg, flour, salt/pepper and stir until well combined. Note, everything will look pretty red at this point, that’s ok.
4. Heat a large non stick skillet over medium-high, once hot add 1 tablespoon of oil. Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of mixture into the pan per latke, making sure you leave enough room for flipping. Flatten mounds slightly while they cook. After 2-3 minutes or when golden brown, flip the latkes and cook the reverse side for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Transfer cooked latkes to a paper-towel lined wire rack or plate to cool.
6. Add another tablespoon of oil per batch and continue until all your latkes are cooked.
7. Serve with your choice of toppings (I did half apple sauce, half chive-yogurt with smoked salmon). Enjoy!

*Note: you want to have approximately equal amounts of potato, beets, and butternut squash so you can adjust the amount you use of each based on the size of your veggies

Oct 252015

I am definitely a creature of habit. Every morning I get up at the exact same time, get on the same subway car, go to the same gym class after work, and sit in the same spot on the couch to watch the same TV shows. Food is no exception, especially when it comes to snacks—I eat an apple with peanut butter almost every single day. While there’s nothing wrong with my apple and PB (in fact I think it’s one of the most perfect snacks in the universe), I decided to give it a little twist. The apples were upgraded to cinnamon-apple chips, and the pb promoted to a maple-yogurt-pb dip.
Now here’s the disclaimer about this recipe. While these chips were definitely incredibly delicious, with tons of apple-cinnamon flavor, they were pretty labor intensive. First, you have to slice the apples super thin using a mandolin, which resulted in a pretty nasty cut to my thumb (those things are dangerous, be warned). Then you have to cook them very slowly at a low temperature to dry them out until they’re crispy, which takes about 2-3 hours. Although it’s pretty hands off, it’s still a lot of time, and you can’t fit that many chips on each baking sheet. I loved every bite of these chips, but not necessarily THAT much more than if I had bought some apple chips at the store, just saying.
But, if you have the apple chips, why not go a step further and make some apple nachos. Yep, I said it, and I did it. Just cover a layer of apple chips with a drizzle of the pb-yogurt sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, chopped nuts, and chia seeds (or any other toppings you can think of) and enjoy your new favorite sweet nachos.
Nutrition highlights: The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not that ridiculous given the apple’s nutrition stats. They’re packed with fiber and vitamin C, and recent research has focused on polyphenols found in apples, which may serve as antioxidants, blood sugar regulators, and cholesterol reducers. And keep the peeler in the drawer–the skin has most of nutrients! This snack made even more well rounded by adding the greek yogurt-pb dip, which has plenty of protein and a little healthy fat to keep you fuller longer.
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Cinnamon-Apple Chips with Maple-PB-Yogurt Dip
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What’s in it:
3 apples (a firm apple like honey crisp or granny smith are easiest to slice with the mandolin)
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Pinch of salt, to taste (optional)
For the dip:
1/3 cup plain yogurt (greek or regular are fine)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut or almond butter
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Optional garnishes for dip: fresh apple slices, chopped peanuts, drizzle of maple syrup
If you’re making nachos, some topping ideas include: chopped nuts/seeds, pomegranate seeds, dried fruit, shaved coconut, chia seed

How to make it:
1. Preheat oven to 200F degrees.
2. Wash and thinly slice the apples using a mandolin (being very careful not to cut yourself like I did!). Spread the apple slices in a single layer onto two baking pans, being sure they don’t overlap. Sprinkle with lots of cinnamon and a pinch of salt (optional).
3. Bake for 1 hour, flip the apples over, sprinkle the other side with cinnamon and a tiny bit of salt (optional) and bake for another hour. Turn the oven off and keep the apples inside as the oven cools down (for another hour or so), which helps maximize crunchiness.
4. While they’re baking, make the sauce. Combine the yogurt, maple syrup, and peanut butter. If you prefer it to be thinner, add a tablespoon or two of almond milk to thin it out to your desired texture. Transfer the dip to a small bowl/ramekin. If you want to make it look fancy, you can stick a few fresh apple slices in there, sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and drizzle with a tiny bit more maple syrup!
5. Serve the apple chips with the maple-pb-yogurt dip and enjoy! To make apple nachos, lay the chips out on a dish, transfer the dip to a ziplock baggie and cut off a tiny corner. Drizzle the sauce all over the chips, and then top with your toppings of choice!
– Notes: You can also skip steps 1-3, go to the store, and buy some apple chips, and gain back 3 hours of your life…
That’s it for apple recipes for now, but don’t worry, I’m sure there will be more to come (especially since I’m still not even halfway through my apple picking proceeds!). Let me know if you have any favorite recipes!

Jul 072015

This just in–trends are no longer just for clothes, shoes, and hair. Food trends are taking the world by storm. Kale, for example. I’m pretty sure kale existed in nature before 2013, but I sure hadn’t seen, tasted, or juiced it before. Now it’s everywhere all the time (and I’m not mad about it). Don’t get me started on “bone broth”. And if I see another instagram post of a big fluffy donut or ice cream sandwich…well let’s be honest, I’ll probably just like it. And finally, the trend I’m talking about today–toast. So simple, so versatile, so delicious. I’m jumping on the toast train with 2 simple toast recipes: Avocado, Lemon, Chili & Sesame and Blackberry-Nectarine Ricotta & Honey.
Guess how long it took me to make not one but TWO awesome toast varieties you see below. Just GUESS. 10 minutes, that’s how long. The key to toast success is three fold. One, you need perfect toasted bread. None of that processed pre-sliced stuff here. My favorite is something sturdy and seedy like a multigrain loaf. Two, fresh, simple toppings. Here I used avocado brightened up by fresh lemon juice, and ricotta topped with seasonal fruit. Three, texture and color. Don’t underestimate the power of some black sesame seeds, chili flakes, and lemon zest or toasted pistachios and a drizzle of honey to make your toast that much more exciting.
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The real beauty of the toast trend is that it can be eaten for any meal of the day. It can be a perfect breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or even an impressive appetizer when you have guests over. You can add a poached egg on top for extra protein, or some fresh greens to get in an extra serving of veggies. The possibilities are endless.
Nutritional Highlights: Toast is an amazing vehicle to get a variety of macro and micro nutrients into one meal. Using a healthy whole grain bread provides fibers and healthy carbs. My avocado toast has tons of healthy fat (adding an egg would up the protein too). The ricotta version has healthy fat and protein from ricotta (which is pretty low calorie compared to other cheeses at 50 cal per 2 tablespoons) and pistachios, and tons of vitamins from the fruit. Skip the honey if you’re watching your sugar intake, but I love the touch of sweetness. The other great thing about toast is it’s essentially just an open faced sandwich (duh) so you’re only eating 1 slice of bread instead of 2 to manage carbs and portions. I’ll toast to that.
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Two Perfect Toast “Recipes”
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Avocado-Lemon Toast with Sesame & Chili

What’s in it:
1 slice of thick whole grain bread, toasted
1/2 large avocado
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional (but encouraged) toppings: 1/4-1/2 teaspoon each fresh lemon zest, chili flakes, and black sesame seeds, a few cilantro leaves

How to make it:
1. Toast the bread.
2. Meanwhile, mix 1/4 of the avocado with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Slice the remaining 1/4 avocado thinly.
3. Spread the toast with the mashed avocado and then the sliced (note: using the mashed and sliced combo is for aesthetic purposes only…if you’re not serving this to guests feel free to just mash it all!)
4. Top with the chili flakes, lemon zest, black sesame seeds, cilantro leaves, and additional salt as needed.

Ricotta, Nectarine, & Blackberry Toast with Pistachios and Honey

What’s in it:
1 slice of thick whole grain bread, toasted
3 tablespoons ricotta
Fresh fruit: I used 1/2 nectarine and about 8 blackberries, but any berries/fruit would work!
Optional (but encouraged) toppings: 1 Tablespoon toasted pistachio (or other nut) and a drizzle of good honey.

How to make it:
1. Toast the bread.
2. Top with the ricotta, arrange fruit, sprinkle nuts, and drizzle with honey.
3. Eat.

May 282015

Long time no see! I’ve had quite the eventful few months, which is why I’ve been shamelessly neglecting tush cook. Between finishing the most intense semester of grad school yet, 2 jobs, and planning a wedding, my hands have been a little full. But, today I’m excited to share not only these amazing energy nut bars, but also the 1 week countdown to our wedding weekend. Woah.
Let’s focus on the bars first (we’ll get to the wedding later). Do you ever secretly hate yourself when you spend $3 for a granola bar and think, I could probably make these myself? Well I have, so I did. To be honest the first time I made these they didn’t come out exactly as planned, they were a little sticky and didn’t hold together as well as I hoped. But I adjusted the recipe slightly and now they are PERFECTION. The best part about making these kind-of KIND bars yourself is not only the serious discount, but also that you can put in whatever you want or have lying around in the pantry. For me that meant dried blueberries + coconut + chia seeds + pistachios + cinnamon + lots of other nuts and seeds + some brown rice puff cereal. I have to say I’m pretty obsessed with how these turned out.
The other awesome thing, is you can make a big batch of these, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and freeze them to make them last longer.
Nutrition highlights: Let’s get this out of the way too before we talk wedding. Nut bars like this have gotten a little bit of a bad rep lately, since I’m not going to lie, they can be a little high in fat. But guess what? We all need fat, and nuts give us a healthy kind, and keep us fuller longer than any other type of nutrient. In moderation nuts are an incredible food to include in your diet. So eat your nuts (without going nuts). The other bonus to making your own bars is that you can cut them into whatever size works for you. I cut mine into smaller squares for a perfectly portioned snack, rather than the full sized bars.
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Blueberry, Pistachio, Coconut & Chia Kind-of-KIND Bars
(makes about 10-14 bars depending on the size)
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What’s in it:
¾ cup almonds, raw and unsalted
½ cup walnuts, raw and unsalted
½ cup pistachios, raw and unsalted
¼ sunflower seeds, raw and unsalted
1 T chia seeds
⅓ cup puffed rice cereal (or other puffed grain cereal)
⅓ cup dried blueberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon sea salt

How to make them:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°f. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper and spray a large bowl and spatula with non-stick spray.
2. Spread the almonds, walnuts, and pistachios in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, shake the pan and add the sunflower seeds, and bake an additional 2 minutes, and then coconut for 1 minute, or until nuts are toasted and fragrant.
3. Coarsely chop the toasted nuts, and put them in the prepared bowl. Mix in the cereal, chia seeds, and dried blueberries.
4. Pour the honey and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan. If you’re really fancy, clip on a candy thermometer and heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches 260°f. If you’re like me and don’t even know what a candy thermometer looks like, just heat the mixture until it’s bubbling.
5. Turn off the heat and mix in the salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, then pour the mixture over the nut mixture and stir to combine.
6. Pour into the prepared baking pan and press the mixture so it is even (greasing the bottom of a measuring cup and pressing works well).
7. Let the pan sit at room temperature for about 1 hour (you can refrigerate it to speed up the process). Once the mixture has set, take it out of the pan and cut it into 10-14 bars.

A few extra recipe notes:
– For storage, wrap individually in plastic wrap so they don’t stick together. They are good for about a week at room temp or can be frozen.
– Feel free to swap any nuts, seeds, and dried fruit you like. Note that the bigger the nut, the longer it usually takes to toast, so you may need to toast them separately and watch the nuts closely so they all are properly toasted but not burnt (that’s what gives these such great flavor).
And now the fun stuff! I’m getting married in just over 1 week (cue excitement, nervousness, all of the emotions, etc). I made this recipe originally to thank the hostesses of my AMAZING cooking theme bridal shower for “getting off their tush and showering me with love”. See below for vegetable vases, cookbooks photoshopped with my face, and of course chef’s hats for the #1 chef and taste tester. Lucky to be so loved and can’t wait for the celebrations to continue next weekend. Here’s to what will probably be my last blog post as a Lubin!
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Dec 302014

Happy almost New Year! Although 2014 has been an incredible year, I am even more excited for 2015. In 2015 I’ll become an aunt (for the second time), become a wife (for the first time, thankfully), and will start my dietetic internship so I can FINALLY become a registered dietitian. A new year as big as this one calls for something especially fancy: enter truffle oil.
Santa knows me so well and slipped a little bottle of the this delicious delicacy into my stocking this year. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to start using it.
This recipe is the perfect upscale munchy for your New Year’s Eve party. Despite the impressive flavor, it’s super easy to make. Simply pop some corn (either air popped or with oil in a pot), toss with truffle oil, plenty of salt, pepper, some parmesan and a few fresh parsley flakes for color.
Nutrition Highlights: Although truffle oil seems decadent, it’s really similar to olive oil in it’s nutrition (as the base to most truffle oils is actually just olive oil). Used in moderation, it’s a healthy source of monounsaturated fat. Popcorn is a much healthier snack than most other salty snacks like pretzels and chips. That is because it’s all natural and minimally processed (it’s really just corn that you pop, duh) and very high in fiber to keep you full. The parmesan cheese in this recipe adds a great savory, saltiness, but you can just as easily leave it out if you want the recipe to be lower in fat and/or vegan.
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Truffle-Parmesan Popcorn
makes a big old bowl of popcorn (about 12 cups)
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What’s in it:
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil (or other high smoke point veg oil)
2 teaspoons white or black truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely grated or shredded good parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

How to make it:
1. Pop your corn. For oil popped corn, place the oil in the bottom of a large pot along with 3 popcorn kernels and cover. Heat over medium high and wait until those kernels pop (that’s how you know the oil is ready). Once they pop, quickly add the remaining kernels and cover the pot. As the kernels start to pop, shake the pot frequently to allow the air to escape and prevent the popcorn from burning. Once the popping slows or stops, remove from the heat.
Note: Don’t want to pop your own corn? Buy PLAIN, natural microwave popcorn bags and pop a few bags instead.
2. While still in the warm pan, drizzle with the truffle oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of the parmesan and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Shake so all the popcorn is evenly coated. Taste and add additional oil/seasoning as needed.
*Note: I do this in the still warm pan because I find the salt sticks better to the kernels when they’re still warm.
3. Transfer the popcorn to a serving bowl and top with the remaining tablespoon of cheese and parsley. Enjoy the truffley goodness!
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!

Sep 232014

Much to my dismay, football season has, in fact, returned. Although I’m not the biggest fan of these 3 hour games inhibiting my ability to do more important work (like catch up on Scandal and other Shonda Rhimes dramas), football does have one redeeming quality–the snacks. While delicious, football snacks are not traditionally the healthiest. I’ve made a few healthier but still worthy options in the past like these buffalo quiona bites or these baked sweet potato skins. Here’s one more to add to the list…ladies and gentlemen, meet the Greek Nacho.
Unlike the game of football, there aren’t a whole lot of rules to greek nachos. Basically start with a base of whole wheat pita chips (or better yet, bake them yourself), and top with any ingredient that you would consider putting in a greek salad. Drizzle with tzaziki and enjoy!
Nutritional Highlights: These beat your everyday nachos in many ways. First, instead of a fried corn chip as the base, this recipe uses whole wheat, baked pita chips. Fiber from the whole wheat part, and less fat from the baked part. While in your traditional nachos, the majority of the toppings are high fat, high sodium, processed ingredients like ground meat, salsa, various cheese products, and sour cream, this recipe uses mostly veggies as toppings (tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion) and just a bit of cheese. You get the creaminess you are looking for from the tzaziki, but the base is non-fat yogurt, adding protein and calcium to the dish. So give your pizza delivery man a break this Sunday and whip these up!
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Greek Nachos
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What’s in it:
4 whole wheat pitas, cut into 8 triangles each (alternately you can use pre-made pita chips)
Salt and chili powder to taste
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (I like using yellow or orange to add another color!)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup tzaziki sauce (store bought or follow this recipe)
Optional additional toppings: chickpeas, chopped black kalamata olives

How to make it:
1. If making your own, first bake your pita chips. Preheat oven to 400. Spread pita triangles on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Flip triangles and repeat. Bake until the chips are golden brown and crispy, about 12-14 minutes.
2. While pita chips are baking, prepare your toppings. If making your own tzaziki, prepare that as well.
3. Once pita chips have had a chance to cool, assemble your nachos. Layer the pita chips on a platter. Sprinkle with your vegetables, olives and/or chickpeas, and crumbled feta. Drizzle the tzaziki sauce over the top. Enjoy!
What I’m really trying to say is that this dish is a home run, or a touch down, or something like that.