Aladdin Mediterranean Restaurant, 401 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611. Phone 610-685-6677

Aladdin is a wonderful Mideastern restaurant that offers a variety of delectable foods for the health conscious.  They have an extensive vegetarian menu to eat in or take out, and always use the finest fresh ingredients.  It is one of our favorite restaurants in Berks County — we have never been disappointed by the food or the service.  The atmosphere is very ethnic — almost like eating in a desert nomad’s tent or a Mideastern marketplace, complete with music. To add to the fun, Friday night usually features a live bellydancer.

Last night I ordered the Aladdin Makaleh which consisted of grilled cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant along with falafel topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, and tahini sauce.  It was delicious (and huge)! My husband had the Falafel Salad, which is a very generous serving of falafel, hummus, tabouleh, and tahini sauce.  At only $7.50 it is a bargain.  I have ordered the Falafel Salad in the past and can tell you that their tabouleh is the best!  Don’t let the word “salad” make you think this dish will leave you feeling hungry; it is definitely large enough for a satisfying entrée.  We had fountain drinks (free refills), and did not order dessert because it was a friend’s birthday,  and we had brought our own cake.  Aladdin supplied plates and silverware with a smile.  If you are looking for excellent vegetarian food in Berks County, then you won’t be disappointed with Aladdin.  If you don’t see exactly what you want on the menu, you can make your own combination platter or ask them to alter any item to suit your preference, and they will oblige.

Aladdin is truly a gem — a wonderful compliment to the Main Street revitalization program in West Reading.  Their prices are reasonable and parking is convenient.  Oh, they do serve meat dishes and have a Kids Menu, too 🙂

For more information online:  DineIndie.com/Aladdin

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ZOUP! Woodland Rd. in The Shoppes at Wyomissing, PA 19610, 610 372-6717

Zoup! is a new franchise restaurant in town.  If you follow Woodland Rd. east past the Berkshire Mall you will end up in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Wyomissing, an upscale strip mall where you will find Zoup! situated more or less in the middle of the strip.

My first impression of Zoup! was that is very clean and the staff was very helpful and answered all our questions — even offering free samples of the soup before we ordered. In appearance Zoup! is reminiscent of a scaled down version of Panera Bread; scaled down because they don’t have a bakery (or any desserts) on the premises.  Zoup! offers soups, salads, and sandwiches freshly made at reasonable prices.  They had four vegetarian soups on the menu the night we were there: vegetarian split pea, tomato basil, wild mushroom barley, and butternut squash (that is a larger selection than Panera, which usually only offers one, sometimes two). Any salad can be made into a wrap. Sandwiches can be ordered deli-style or grilled.

My partner and I both decided on the vegetarian split pea soup (large) and a “cali veg sandwich”, which we split (whole sandwiches are quite large). For an extra $1.99 any soup can be served in a bread bowl. We each had freshly brewed iced tea (free refills).  Everything we had was delicious.  With the soup you get a good-sized complimentary fresh roll (three choices: white, wheat, or multigrain), so there really is no need to purchase the bread bowl unless you really love bread.

Zoup! occasionally publishes coupons, and we had one that night for “buy one get one free soup.”  That was worth about $5.50 — what a deal!  With our coupon our entire bill for two, including tax, came to only $15.08.  We will definitely go back to Zoup!  It’s a nice place to go for a healthy lunch or casual dinner while shopping.  They also have free wi-fi. See them on the web @www.zoup.com

I thought Zoup! was a great value for the money. Plus, they have free internet!

Recipe: Greek Salad Dressing (+ Salad)

This is an easy dressing that you can mix up in minutes with common ingredients you already have in your kitchen. It’s the best!

Ingredients:

1/3 c. red wine vinegar

1/4 c. of chopped fresh dill OR 1 Tbsp. dry dill weed

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Whisk all above ingredients together until well blended.

Then add 2/3  – 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, and whisk again.

Serve over a salad that includes Romaine lettuce, sliced sweet onion, sliced green bell peppers, cucumbers, black Greek olives (Kalamata), and tomatoes. Top with crumbled feta cheese (look for vegetarian) if desired.

( Note: Sometimes I toss everything above with cooled cooked wholegrain pasta to make a complete meal.)

Coleslaw Crunch Salad

This is a recipe that has been making the rounds in Berks County for a couple of years now. I’ve made a few alterations to make it more acceptable for a healthy diet. The recipe makes a huge amount, so use a very large salad bowl to mix and serve. Easy to make and requiring only a few simple ingredients, it is perfect as a take along dish for picnics or group dinners. Everyone will love it!

Ingredients:

2 pkgs. vegetarian ramen soup noodles

1 16oz. bag coleslaw mix with carrots

1 c. raw sunflower seeds(Once I ran out of sunflower seeds and substituted 1/2 c. pine nuts and 1/2 c. pumpkin seeds, which worked just fine)

1 c. slivered almonds

1/2 c. sweetener (raw or white sugar, agave, or honey. Use honey only if you intend to eat all the salad that day — honey contains enzymes that will cause the slaw to wilt by the second day)

1/3 c. vinegar

1/4 – 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

diced scallions (optional)

Method:

Combine coleslaw, nuts, scallions, and crushed ramen noodles (reserve seasoning packets)

Just before serving mix together: oil, sweetener, vinegar, and the two ramen flavor packets. Pour this dressing over other ingredients in the bowl, and toss to evenly coat. Serve.

Tex-Mex Bean Salad

This is an easy salad to throw together the night before your event. We like it served with guacamole and tortilla chips. If you have any leftover you can add some cooked pasta (and a little extra salsa if necessary) to it and have it either cold or hot the next day.

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. can black or dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 16 oz. can corn, drained and rinsed

1 small can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed

1/2 – 3/4 c. chunky style salsa

1/2 chopped green or red pepper

3 sliced scallions

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss gently.  Refrigerate several hours before serving for flavors to blend.

Refrigerator Cucumber Slices

I took this to a covered dish picnic today and had several requests for the recipe. It’s really quite simple, so here it is for you to try:)

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

Combine in a cup:  1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. Nayonaise (soy Miracle Whip type dressing)

2 Tbsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. dry dill weed or one sprig of fresh dill

Pour sauce over cucumber slices and toss lightly until all slices are coated. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes before serving for flavors to blend. This recipe may be doubled or tripled — adjust salt measurement to your preference.

Recipe: Carrot Raisin Salad

This is a so-o-o simple recipe for times when you are out of greens (or just want a change from a green salad), but still want to have a fresh salad with your meal. There are only two main ingredients plus my favorite honey/lemon dressing which I use on many salads. It’s a sweet/tangy flavor that appeals to adults and kids.

Salad Ingredients:

3 cups grated raw organic carrots (about 3 large carrots)

1/2 cup organic raisins

Dressing Ingredients:

Juice of one lemon

Equal amount of honey

Whisk lemon juice and honey together, and pour mixture over grated carrots and raisins. Refrigerate until served.