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Easy Appetizer: Zucchini Roll-Ups

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Eat cheese, lose weight. Wait, what? YES! Ok, it’s not carte blanche to eat as much as you want or can. However, Feta PDO is big on flavor but low in fat and calories. It’s a great fit and feta has long been one of my favorite cheeses. Feta PDO is a lot of “bang for the buck.” Its full flavor means you don’t need as much as you would with many other types of dairy products. Earlier this summer I was able to visit Greece and learn all about this amazing cheese. Read on to learn more!

feta PDO on virginiawillis.com

 

What Does PDO Mean?

First up, what’s PDO? PDO means Protected Designated Origin.

The simplest way to explain this is to consider Champagne. Only sparkling wine from the region of Champagne, France can be called Champagne. Sparkling wine from anywhere else cannot be legally nor rightfully be called Champagne. The European Union, made of 27 countries, each with multiple culinary and agricultural traditions, has codified many of these into rules and regulations based on the often ancient and time-honored history of the making of these products.

The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) indication identifies a product originating from a certain region, area or, in some exceptional cases, a country and whose quality or characteristics are mainly, or exclusively, due to the particular geographical environment.

The end result is that you want to only buy Feta PDO. Frankly, in my mind, eating fake feta or non-Feta PDO is the equivalent of using the “green can of parmesan” instead of Parmigiano Reggiano. Yes, I said it.

 

What Kind of Cheese is Feta?

The traditional method of producing Feta PDO is linked directly to the specific climatic conditions of Greece. With its steep mountainsides and its hot and dry climate, there was little land suitable for widespread cattle rearing. Instead, the Greek people turned to hardy sheep and goats that could thrive in these difficult conditions. Feta PDO, authentic Greek feta, is made from fresh or pasteurized sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk and up to 30% goats milk. These kinds of milk, more robust in flavor than cow’s milk are what give Feta PDO a slight peppery taste.

Last year the world lost its mind when a tiktokker baked a block of feta with cherry tomatoes and added pasta. Not kidding, there were dairies in Greece that ran out of Feta cheese. Salty and slightly acidic, Feta PDO is a cheese with a history as rich as its taste. A true product of its environment, its recipe and production method reflect the unique terrain of Greece and are grounded in the cumulative know-how of more than two thousand years. Yes — Feta cheese is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey! It is one of the oldest cheeses on record.

What are the Health Benefits of Feta PDO

Other than its rich and long history, what are the health benefits of Feta PDO? Feta is lower in fat than many other kinds of cheese and is a good option to eat in moderation. Because it’s not traditionally made from cow’s milk, but with milk from sheep and goats, it’s also easier to digest.

Feta PDO is:

  1. Great source of calcium – For women, especially this is important. According to Johns Hopkins, “As you age, your nutritional needs change. Before menopause, you should have about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. After menopause, you should have up it to 1,200 mg of calcium per day.”
  2. High in protein — I find that a high protein snack can quell my munchies quick.
  3. Feta cheese contains beneficial microbes including yeasts and bacteria which may help support gut health. Good gut health is key to losing weight.

Yes, you can eat cheese and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight — or any weight you want! My approach is to being “healthy and strong” is to eat what I want within reason, in reasonable amounts, and to eat the best possible version of that food that I can. It works for me. This is a real-life recipe of mine that’s an example. While feta cheese provides you with an excellent source of nutrients like calcium and protein, it also contains high amounts of sodium and saturated fat. So, remember all good things in moderation.

To learn more about Feta PDO please check out my video on Instagram!

 

Point it Out

If you are a WW follower, 1 ounce of Feta PDO is about 3 points. I don’t mind splurging a bit with these zucchini roll-ups because they are soooo good. The marinated Feta PDO is a great nibble to keep in the fridge even without the zucchini.

I’ve got few contests going on to celebrate my new column, Simple Sides in Allrecipes magazine. Head over to Instagram and enter to win a copy of my little book Fresh Start + a subscription to Allrecipes! For those of you not on IG, you can simply sign up to subscribe to this blog. The contest lasts until 8/31/22. Thanks for reading!

Bon Appétit Y’all

Virginia

 

PS Need another zucchini recipe? Check out my Turkey Meatballs with Zoodles! 

Marinated Feta and Grilled Zucchini Roll Ups

Prep Time1 d
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer, hors d'oeuvres, Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, greek
Keyword: easy appetizer, feta cheese recipes, grilled zucchini
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Feta PDO cheese cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 garlic finely grated or chopped
  • 1 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs dill more for serving
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 small zucchini
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Place the feta in a sealable airtight container or glass jar. Add the cumin, coriander, red pepper, orange zest, garlic, and olive oil. Tuck in the dill and bay leaves. Tilt or stir to coat and combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal fire using about 6 pounds charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn on all burners to high, close the lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Lastly, heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  • When ready to grill, slice 4 small zucchini lengthwise into even strips about 1/2 inch thick. Brush both sides of each strip with some of the seasoned feta oil. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to jona@virginiawillis.com and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

Note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication is prohibited. All photos and content are copyright protected. If you wish to republish this recipe, please link back to this recipe on virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much!

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 1 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kim Roden

    Hi there, assuming after grilling Zuchs, let cool to room temperature, place a feta square, roll up and secure with a pick? Do you drizzle any of the oil over the roll ups?

    1. Virginia Willis

      Hey! Thanks for reading! 🙏🏻 Yes, well, cool enough to handle. I don’t normally drizzle, but it’s a yummy idea!!

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