Basic Mediterranean ingredients provide opportunity for health eating.

While watching a recent episode of International House Hunters I was reminded of the carefree, simple lifestyle of those living in the hillsides of northern Italy. My mother's ancestory is from a small province near Milan. I have yet to visit that part of Italy, but I am certain I would embrace the culture. Food and family are strong compenents in the Italian setting.

I've learned Italians embrace life in similar ways as the Spanish. Traditions are based on honoring family and friends around the dinner table. Meals are made from scratch with the freshest ingredients. Conversation is vibrant and passionate. This is the Mediterranean way.

While I was first introduced to Mediterranean-based ingredients on at trip to Spain, I have since learned these healthy items are staples throughout the entire Mediterraniean region. I enjoy cooking with the Mediterranean basics and insist no kitchen, even those in Kansas, should be without olive oil, garlic, fresh tomatoes, beans or legumes, poultry or fish, fresh herbs, baguettes and red wine.