Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Pesto Coated Quinoa

Pesto quinoa stuffed mushrooms 2

This post is about the delicious stuffed portobello mushrooms I made. The pesto gave the quinoa a rich flavor, while the avocado added a buttery texture to the dish. The quinoa complemented the flavor of the filling mushrooms. Read on for a recipe which promises not to disappoint  (unlike my style or spelling skills, which let me down fairly often).

Pesto quinoa stuffed mushrooms

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Pesto Coated Quinoa:

Ingredients:

1 cup of quinoa

2 cups of water

2 tsp of olive oil

4 portobello mushroom caps, rinsed, patted dry, and stems removed

salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste (for the mushrooms)

2 tbsp of pesto

1 tomato, diced

1/2 an avocado, halved and diced

1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Method:

1- Add the quinoa and water to a pot. I set the heat to medium and waited until the water was boiling before turning the heat down to medium-low and letting the quinoa simmer for about 20 minutes until the water was absorbed.

2- While you are waiting for the quinoa to finish and after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes, then add olive oil to a frying pan and let it heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms when the pan is hot. Sprinkle the spices on as the mushrooms begin to cook. Turn them when they start to brown on one side (about 5-7 minutes). Let them cook for another 5-7 minutes on the other side. Take them off the heat when they’re tender.

3- Add all of the rest of the ingredients to the quinoa when it is finished. Stir it and let it sit to let the flavors combine.

4- When all layers are finished and prepped, start by placing all of your mushrooms with the tops facing down. Fill each with quinoa mixture and finally top with the extra avocado pieces (if desired). Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Chicken soup’s vegetarian equivalent: Chickpea and wild rice stew

Chickpea soup 1

As I write this post, I’m home from work trying to nurse a cold that’s been lingering for the past few days. I almost felt guilty staying home today to try to feel better, but then I thought “Why do I feel this intense pressure to be at work, even when I’m not healthy or up to being there?” I think a lot of it has to do with the societal pressure of feeling like work should always come first. I shouldn’t have to be on my death bed to justify taking a sick day when I clearly can’t function as I normally could if I was there.

After reading a few of Anne’s posts on her blog, Balanced Living, I’m reminded by how important it is to manage stress within one’s life. The post, Mind over Medicine has a link to an interesting TED talk about stress and how to deal with it. Stress is probably what caused me to be sick in the first place.

Now, its’ time to heal with some healthy food and much needed rest. The chickpea and wild rice soup recipe posted below, is filling, nourishing, and delicious. It is just what my body ordered on a day like today.

Chickpea soup 2

Chickpea and wild rice soup:

*Serves 3-4

Ingredients: 

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic diced,

optional: 1 yellow onion, diced

1 medium sized potato, peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery, washed and sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 quarts of culinary vegetable broth

1/2 cup of a wild and brown rice mix

1/4 tsp each of salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp each of oregano and dried basil

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. When it’s hot, add the onion. After letting the onion soften for 3-5 minutes, add the garlic. After a minute or so, add the potato, carrots, and celery. Let those ingredients cook for about 5 minutes before adding the chickpeas, vegetable broth, rice, and spices. Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Then let it cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice and potatoes are tender. Enjoy!

A Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Pesto and Confessions of a Dog Mom

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich

Each night when I arrive home, I feel like a celebrity. My little fans try to paw their way through the door as soon as they hear the key. While Max and Layla are tiny (11 and 13 pounds), somehow they manage to jump up near the height of my face (which I suppose isn’t terribly difficult since I’m only five feet tall). It’s as if they’re hiding a little invisible trampoline beneath their furry feet.

In between trying to get my attention by jumping as high as possible, I get pawed and whined at. It’s as if they’re saying “Mom, what about me? Look at me. Look at me. No really, look at me. Don’t even bother with that other little dog over there.” At some point, Layla even dances on two feet trying to get my attention like a student who is very eager to answer a question.

After a few minutes, the dancing, jumping, and whining usually subsides. Already after only being home for a few minutes, I feel like the best dog mom in the world without having ever lifted a finger.

I am greeted with the same enthusiasm each morning when I lift the lock to their crate. They bounce up and down as I stumble around the house trying to get ready for the morning. Usually, by the time I’m ready to leave the house we’ve switched roles. They’re snuggled up on my bed without any motivation to get up as I’m running out the door on the way to work.

Max and Layla 2

I almost have as much excitement for this pesto sandwich as my dogs have for me when I get home each day. While the season for tomatoes has passed in the Northeast, green or yellow heirloom tomatoes will also work for this recipe. Enjoy!

A Pesto and Friend Green Tomato Sandwich

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

1-2 tbsp of olive oil

2-3 green tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1 cup of Italian style breadcrumbs

1 bell pepper, roasted and cut into strips (I just roasted mine in the toaster oven until it was soft – for about 10-15 minutes)

1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced

1/4 cup of pesto

4 slices of freshly baked bread

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. After slicing the tomatoes, coat each side with breadcrumbs. Place them in the frying pan until the side in the oil turns golden brown (2-3 minutes). Then, flip each slice and let the other side brown.

After frying the tomatoes, toast the slices of bread. Then spread each slice with pesto. Top with tomato, pepper, and avocado slices. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Almond Joy Granola

Almond joy granola 1

I’ll keep this post as short and sweet as the granola recipe that follows. Lately, it’s been like my life (outside of work) has been sucked up by a vacuum. Before, I had the entire summer to enjoy each of my hobbies. Recently, I’ve been trying to be better about making sure I take time for myself.

On the bright side, my kids have actually been using a math strategy I taught them to do multiplication. I noticed them using it one morning when they were doing the problems of the day, which are posted on the morning meeting white board. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. Something stuck with them. Even the little things that are taught, stick with them. I taught them something that was useful (for the moment until they’re repertoire of strategies and number sense increases). The feeling of seeing them use what they learned independently is nearly indescribable. Until the next light bulb moment happens, there is always almond joy granola, which is possibly my new favorite granola recipe (and when I say possibly I mean definitely because anything almond joy flavored is amazing – unless you hate coconut and then it’s less than amazing, but I’m not one of those coconut haters and therefore it’s amazing).

almond joy granola 2

Almond Joy Granola:

*Makes about 4 cups of granola

Ingredients:

2 cups of rolled oats

1/3 cup of walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup of almonds, chopped

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

4 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp of cocoa powder

1 tsp of vanilla

1/4 tsp of almond extract

Method:

1- To make the almond-flavored granola:

  • Mix together: 1 cup of rolled oats, the chopped almonds, and the coconut flakes. Then, in a separate bowl mix these liquid ingredients: 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and the almond extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until the oats are well coated.

2- To make the chocolate-flavored granola:

  • Mix together: 1 cup of rolled oats, the chopped walnuts, the coconut flakes, and cocoa powder. Then, in a separate bowl mix these liquid ingredients: 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil, and the vanilla extract. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and mix until the oats are well coated.

3- Add each mixture of granola to a baking sheet – keeping the two variations separate during baking (I put both on one baking pan, but kept the chocolate on one half and the almond granola on the other half). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the almond granola begins to turn golden brown around the edges of the pan.

4- Let the granola cool for about 25-30 minutes before serving with your favorite type of milk. Store in an airtight container. When I made this granola it lasted for about 4-5 days in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Almond joy granola 3

Watermelon Gazpacho

Watermelon Gazpacho

I knew this day would come. I knew that my clumsiness would eventually show itself. It can only stay hidden for so long. When my uncoordinated nature comes out, there isn’t just one tiny incident of tripping up the stairs or bumping into the coffee table. It consists of a day’s worth of clumsy moments. Each one slightly more embarrassing than the last.

Earlier in the day on Monday I’d been brushing up against every possible piece of furniture in my path (it’s no wonder that I have a collection of bruises that I can’t explain).  Therefore, Monday night’s plate incident came as no surprise.

I now have one less plate in my cabinet. Said plate has been transported to the garbage where it will reside for the rest of its days. As for me, my (accidental) plate throwing spell is over (I hope).

There wasn’t even anything I could have done to save the plate. As soon as it left my hands and shot through the air I thought, “Man down.” It was as if the action was unfolding in slow motion, but I still didn’t even have enough time to reach out for the plate to try to save it. It hit the ground. White pieces of glass went flying under the chair, into the kitchen, and under the end table. It was like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, except for that my plate smashing was unintentional.

After cleaning up the mess, I breathed a sign of relief (odd, I know) because for me this moment was inevitable. It was going to happen (I’ve got a history with breaking glasses, bowls, plates, you name it, I’ve probably broken it). The first plate was broken. The mystery of when and how it would happen was over. Now, I can move forward with the five plates I have left. Maybe they can all last longer than this first one (a few months isn’t a long enough life span for a plate).

Yet again, I’ve rambled on about the small moments of my life. All of which have nothing to do with the recipe found below. The watermelon gazpacho was not the culprit of the incident. It was however, very delicious and slightly more notable than my plate dropping accident. Sweet, spicy, and savory are all words that could be used to describe this cold soup. Enjoy!

Watermelon Gazpacho:

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 cups of watermelon, cubed

1 medium tomato, diced

1 small-medium cucumber, diced

1 jalapeno, diced with the seeds removed

1 tsp of dried cilantro or 1 tbsp of fresh cilantro (diced)

1 lime juiced

1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/8 tsp of garlic powder

Method:

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and blend on high until the soup is smooth. Chill the mixture for 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Optional: I made a fresh salsa out of the leftover ingredients (cucumber, watermelon, tomato, cilantro, and lime) to top the soup with. A suggested side dish would be jalapeno cornbread.

Baba Ganoush

baba ganoush

After a relaxing summer break, tomorrow is officially my first day back at work. Slowly, but surely, September has been creeping up on me. Now it’s here and I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow. My outfit has been picked out, my lunch was packed, my bags are by the door, and my keys are in the fridge on top of my lunch as a reminder.

Everything in this house is screaming “It’s time to go back!,” but me that is. My head is still in summer mode. It’s slowly realizing that summer is nearly over, but it isn’t quite there yet. Tomorrow will a reality check for my head anyways. I’m feeling a lot of excitement, but a bit of nervousness too.

It’s almost like I’m a school girl again with feelings of anxiety about what the first day will bring. I remember thinking “Will I have friends in my class?” and “Will my teacher be nice?” Now that the roles are reversed, I still have butterflies in my stomach. They will all be done fluttering at about 8:30 tomorrow morning, when I can finally relax and face the year ahead with open arms and a clear head.

Baba ganoush, was one more recipe I wanted to cross off my recipe to do list before the summer was over. This version was creamy like hummus, but the flavors of cumin and eggplant were the most predominant (they were balanced out by the tangy flavor of the lemon).

Baba Ganoush:

Makes 1-2 cups of baba ganoush

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of eggplant, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp of olive oil

1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and garlic powder

1/2 tsp of cumin

1 tsp of oregano

2 tbsp of tahini

1 lemon juiced

1 clove of garlic, diced

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then peel and dice the eggplant. Add it to a baking pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the eggplant. Mix by hand to ensure all of the spices and olive oil are evenly distributed. Then cover the pan with foil and stick it in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked through.

After the eggplant is cooked, let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before adding it to the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend on high until the baba ganoush is somewhat smooth in consistency. Serve with pitas, veggies, or crackers. Enjoy!

Watermelon and Kale Salad Topped with Oil-free Cilantro and Lime Dressing

Watermelon salad 2

It seems I have lost the ability to bake. In the past five hours I’ve attempted to make vegan cornbread and blueberry scones, as well as chocolate chip scones. Yet, all I’m left with is a terrible mess (three times over) and a trash can full of baked goodies that were actually supposed to taste good.

I made watermelon gazpacho for dinner tonight. I thought that cornbread would be a great starch to pair it with (little did I know how it would turn out). I subbed white unbleached flour for white spelt flour and while the corn muffins rose, they did not taste delicious (or even edible really). I’m blaming that cooking catastrophe on the spelt flour, which I’d used once before for baking biscuits and I was left with that same horrible flavor (maybe it had spoiled?).

The second and third baking mishaps were a mystery to me. I made the same scone recipe I’d made a thousand times before (or maybe at least a handful of times), but the “scones” (if you’re nice enough to call them that) came out perfectly flat. They looked like puffed up cookies. They’d spread so far the edges started to cook together to form one massive mama scone that looked reminiscent of Swiss cheese. As there were lots of holes in areas that didn’t manage to touch. I thought maybe the first batch was ruined by the frozen blueberries, but the second batch came out the same way. They were practically brown on the outside and yet they were flat and overly soft on the inside. The taste was not overly appealing either.

I even told myself to stop after that first batch of scones. I knew they’d turned out terrible and that wasting double the ingredients was bad enough, but I guess the third time is a charm (really it was for me and my garbage baked goods). I’m sensing you can feel my frustration here. I was really hoping for some scones tonight.

At this point, I’ve officially given up on trying to make yummy treats for tonight. I’ve surrendered to my possessed oven. I’m assuming it’s the only reason for all of the unsightly baked goods that have come out of it tonight. It’s also hot, 10 pm, and I’m beginning to get tired eyes. For tonight, the oven wins, but I will surely make another batch of my famous scones at some point.

I do apologize that none of this post actually had to do with the watermelon and kale salad recipe which you will find below. It was delicious and did not end up in the garbage, as everything else has tonight.

Watermelon & Kale Salad:

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

7-8 leaves of kale, rinsed, dried, and roughly chopped

1/2 cup of sungold tomatoes, quartered

1 cup of watermelon, diced (and seeds removed)

1/2 cup of cucumber, diced

1/2 a jalapeno, diced finely

1/2 of an avocado, diced (or the remainder not used in the dressing recipe)

cilantro lime dressing (recipe below)

Method:

After washing the kale, dry it and then give it a rough chop. Add it to the serving bowl. Sprinkle the quartered sungold tomatoes on top of the kale. Then mix the cucumber and watermelon together and add that to the salad as well. To finish the salad, sprinkle the jalapeno pieces on top, drizzle on the cilantro lime dressing, and finally top with diced avocado pieces.

Oil-free Cilantro Lime Dressing:

*Makes enough dressing for two salads

Ingredients:

1 lime, juiced

1/3 of an avocado, diced

1 tsp of dried cilantro or 1 tbsp of fresh diced cilantro (fresh would be best)

1/2 a jalapeno, diced

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp of cold water

Method: 

Add all of the ingredients (starting with 2 tbsp of water) to a small food processor and blend on high until the dressing is smooth and creamy. If the dressing is still too thick, add another tablespoon of water to the food processor and blend again. Add it to the top of the kale salad and enjoy immediately.

Pineapple & Black Bean Salsa

Pineapple Black Bean Salsa

As the end of summer nears, I find my mind still thinking about the foods of summer: fresh salsas, bountiful salads, grilled corn, chilled gazpacho, and colorful fruit-filled desserts. I’m not ready to let them slip away to the pumpkin and apple-flavored fall recipes. There is something so appealing about using produce in its freshest and simplest state.

Enter pineapple and black bean salsa. This refreshing and colorful condiment has a spicy flavor from the jalapeno, which is balanced out by the sweetness of the pineapple. It went paired well with tortilla chips, as well as in a agave and chili spiced sweet potato burrito. While it was simple to make, it’s usually the simple recipes that make me swoon. This salsa is both tasty and also made with the least amount of hassle. I’d say that’s a cooking success any day.

Pineapple & Black Bean Salsa:

Ingredients:

2 cups of fresh pineapple, diced

1 cup of black beans, rinsed

1/2 a red onion, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1 tbsp of cilantro, diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Dice the pineapple, onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro. Add all of those ingredients to a bowl. Also add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and black beans. Mix the ingredients together. Chill for about 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. This salsa keeps well for 3-5 days in the fridge. I enjoyed it on its own with tortilla chips and also in a sweet potato burrito (add a bit of chili powder, salt, pepper, and agave to the sweet potatoes after cooking).

Cucumber & Chickpea Salad, as Well as a Thousand Beautiful Things

chickpea salad

My life has been moving at a quicker pace lately. It almost seems as if time is actually slipping through my fingers as summer comes to an end. In the past few weeks I’ve been savoring every moment of the end of this season. From visiting Maine and spending time on a white sandy beach, to making ginger flavored peach pie (and eating most of it for breakfast!), to finally tasting the first tomato from my garden, every day and experience has really been a joy and I feel happier than I have in a very long time.

After returning home midafternoon from a wonderful family vacation in Maine, my stomach started grumbling and I knew I had to create something out of the (lack of) items I had in the pantry. That is how this cool and spicy cucumber and chickpea salad came about. For a simple salad, it was very flavorful. Find the recipe below.

Peach pie

Ginger peach pie.

Peach pie 2

A slice of the pie with blueberry compote.

tomato

My very first home grown tomato.

OOB maine 1

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Cucumber and Chickpea Salad: 

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed

1 medium sized cucumber, peeled and diced

1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced

1/2 cup of sungold tomatoes, rinsed and quartered

1 tbsp of minced fresh cilantro or 1 tsp of dried cilantro

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp of garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: add diced avocado (If I’ had some I would have)

Method:

After prepping the ingredients, combine all of the them in a bowl. Refrigerate the salad for 20 to 30 minutes if you’d like the flavors to combine more. Serve atop a bed of kale, or another leafy green, add it to a wrap, or enjoy this salad on its own.

Crispy Maple Flavored Tofu Paired with Peach-Jalapeno Salsa

Tofu 1

I’ll admit it. Until trying this batch of maple glazed tofu (a recipe I found on a vegan blog I subscribe to called Fried Dandelions), I never used to like tofu. My feelings may have even been stronger than that of dislike. I pretty much used to despise tofu in its original form. When I would see recipes with tofu I would just look the other way knowing they weren’t for me. That was until I found a recipe for maple glazed tofu, which actually was the first tofu recipe that sounded appealing to me.

I was a bit suspicious that I was immediately drawn to the recipe, but I knew I had to give it a try. A vegetarian who hasn’t made tofu, I thought those didn’t exist, until me (except now I’ve joined the masses in having made and enjoyed tofu). I gave in and made the recipe and it was damn good.

The soy sauce and maple syrup gave the tofu that winning combination of having both a sweet and salty flavor. I also overcooked my tofu strips a bit. This gave them a gorgeous dark golden-brown hue and a crispy exterior, which made me like this recipe even more. The peach salsa gave the tofu some color and a pop of freshness as it was full of fresh out of the garden fruits and vegetables: farmer’s market peaches, cooling cucumber, diced jalapeno, and some chopped cilantro.

Find the peach-jalapeno salsa recipe below and the recipe for the maple glazed tofu here. I couldn’t justify rewriting the recipe, as it was written so perfectly on Fried Dandelions. The only thing I did differently was to cook the tofu longer to get that crispy exterior you see pictured above. Other than that I followed the recipe (which is slightly abnormal for me). Do you like tofu? If so what is your favorite way to eat/prepare it? Have you given in and joined the masses that cook it on a regular basis?

Tofu 2

The tofu: nearly naked and rather unappealing to me in this state.

Peach-jalapeno Salsa:

*Makes about 1 cup of salsa

Ingredients:

1 peach, rinsed, patted dry, and then diced into small pieces

1 jalapeno diced

1/2 cucumber, peeled and then diced into small pieces

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon of cilantro, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tsp of olive oil

1/4 tsp of salt and pepper

Method:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Let the salsa sit in the fridge for about 10-20 minutes or more – just so that the flavors can combine. It is that simple. Enjoy alongside your favorite tortilla chips or give the maple flavored tofu recipe a try and serve with that.

Tofu 3

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