Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the category “Appetizer”

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!

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).

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

Mean Green Gazpacho

Green gazpacho 2

Since getting a food processor for my birthday in June, I’ve learned a few things:

1. Not everything tastes or looks better when made in a food processor (the only guacamole I wasn’t crazy about was made in a food processor)

2. Having a food processor opens up a whole new window of items that can be cooked or at least made much more easily (hummus or avocado pudding anyone?)

3. Gazpacho is amazing and is worth having a food processor to make it upon your convenience

Green gazpacho

Green gazpacho served alongside some jalapeno cornbread.

Mean Green Gazpacho

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced

1 green heirloom tomato, diced

1/2 an avocado, removed from skin and diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1 clove of garlic, diced

1 tbsp of freshly diced cilantro

1-2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of water

1 lime, juiced

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

Method:

After prepping all of the ingredients, add them to a food processor or high speed blender and blend on high until the mixture is smooth. You may need to occasionally scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula during blending. Top with a fresh salsa or sauteed/grilled corn (after cutting it off the cob, I sauteed my corn in a bit of olive oil, chili powder, salt, and pepper).  Chill before serving and enjoy!

Green Beans with a Ginger Sauce

Asian Green Beans

These ginger-flavored green beans were served on a bed of kale and white jasmine rice.

When I look at this blue plate full of ginger-spiced green beans, soft white jasmine rice, and crisp green kale, I think to myself “I got a little gypped in the bean department.” Now don’t get me wrong everything on that plate tasted amazing, but those green beans weren’t green when I bought them.

The darker beans were actually a deep eggplant purple color. As soon as I saw them at the farmer’s market, I snatched them up thinking how beautiful they would look in any dish I added them to. Sadly after cooking, the beans all just turned green. Were they still pretty? Yes, just not eggplant purple pretty. I guess at the end of the day, all green beans just want to be green.

Upon tasting the crisp beans, the flavor of ginger stood out the most. The soy sauce added a bit of salt and cut the sweetness of the agave. There isn’t one reason I won’t make this again and since the charade is up, next time I may even just buy normal colored green beans.

*Recipe for the rice and kale is not included here, but I seasoned the rice with with a little garlic powder, salt, and pepper. I also added a bit of Earth Balance buttery spread to it. The kale was made the same way, but I also added some fresh minced garlic when I steamed the kale.

Asian Green Beans 2

Green Beans with Ginger Sauce:

*Serves two as a side or main dish (if you make the rice and kale to go alongside the beans)

Ingredients: 

1 tsp of sesame oil (plus a little more for drizzling)

3-4 cups of fresh green beans, ends trimmed off

1 tbsp of water

1 – 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 tsp of soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp of agave nectar

1/4 tsp of freshly grated pepper and garlic powder

Method: 

Add the sesame oil to a frying pan or pot on medium heat. When the oil is heated add the beans. Stir them around and coat them in the oil, then put a lid on the pot and let the beans cook for about 5 minutes. After five minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well (at this time you can drizzle a bit more oil on if you would like – about a teaspoon of sesame oil). Add the lid back onto the pot and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes or until the beans are still crisp, but slightly more tender. Serve immediately and top with sesame seeds if you like. Enjoy!

Spicy Jalapeno Gazpacho Topped With Grilled Corn and Culinary Firsts

Gazpacho 2

Since becoming a vegetarian in February and later trying to eat an entirely plant-based diet, I have cooked, prepared, and tried many new foods. Eating a plant-based diet has helped me to become more creative in the kitchen and to avoid making and remaking the same recipes over and over again.

One of my latest firsts was making gazpacho. I’ve never made a chilled soup before, let alone eaten one. That is where my new(ish) food processor came in handy. After first tasting my spicy gazpacho creation, I was addicted. I gobbled up the whole bowl and vowed to make more in the near future. The flavor from the jalapeno was slightly spicy, but the cucumber helped balance the heat of the hot pepper. The lime added just the right amount of sweetness to the soup and the spices and garlic kicked it up a notch (as Emeril Lagasse would say). I also enjoyed the added texture of the corn with the smooth soup. Do you have a favorite summer soup?

Making gazpacho was a culinary first that paid off. The grilled corn was another foodie first of mine. If you missed the how to and recipe for grilled corn and chili-spiced snap pea salad, you can find it here.

Grilled Corn

“Grilled” corn without the grill.

Spicy Jalapeno Gazpacho Topped with Grilled Corn:

*Makes two small to medium bowls of soup or one large bowl

“Grilled” Corn Ingredients:

1 cob of corn, remove the husk

1 tsp of olive oil

1/2 tsp of dried cilantro and chili powder

A dash of salt and pepper

Guacamole Ingredients:

1/2 an avocado, diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 a lime, juiced

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

Optional: diced tomatoes, jalapeno, onion (I just kept mine simple using an avocado, garlic, lime juice, and several spices)

Gazpacho Ingredients:

2 1/2 – 3 cups of diced tomato

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 jalapeno, diced (or 2 for more heat)

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 – 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

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

1 tsp of dried cilantro or 3 tsp of freshly chopped cilantro

1 lime, juiced

Method:

The “grilled” corn was inspired by Shannon’s genius recipe for grilled corn made without a grill, which can be found on her blog Move Eat Create (click here for a link to her how to post and recipe for corn and yellow pepper relish). I followed her cooking instructions, just changed up the spices a little bit. If you have a grill obviously you can just use that!

To make the “grilled” corn without a grill, first remove the corn husk and turn the broiler on. Then, gently rinse the corn and pat it dry. Add the olive oil and spices to the corn cob and make sure they are distributed evenly. Put the corn cob on a broiler safe baking pan and put it about 5 inches away from the heat. Let it cook for about 5 minutes and then turn it 1/4 of the way. Do this until all sides of the corn have been “grilled.”  Set the corn aside to cool. When it is cool you can slice it off the cob and set it aside until the gazpacho is ready.

To make the guacamole, just halve the avocado and dice it small. Add the avocado to a bowl with the other ingredients and mash with a fork. Put it in the refrigerator to let the flavors combine.

To make the gazpacho, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Turn onto the highest speed and process until the mixture is smooth. Add additional spices to taste before serving (if needed). Chill for about 10-2o minutes before serving, if your ingredients were not chilled before adding them to the food processor.

When serving, add the gazpacho to a bowl. Then top the gazpacho with the grilled corn and top the grilled corn with the guacamole or avocado slices. All three recipes are very simple to make, yet they are still entirely delicious (especially when served together). Enjoy!

Gazpacho 1

“Grilled” Corn & Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Snow Pea Salad 2

This “grilled” corn and snap pea salad did not come to fruition without obstacles, but I persevered because I had an idea of how great the end result could be (and it was). It all started when I read Shannon’s post about how to grill corn without a grill (find the link to her post here: “No Grill? No Problem! Roasted Yellow Pepper Relish” and her blog link here:  Move Eat Create – her recipe looks delicious by the way!). She had the idea to “grill” corn under the broiler. Genius, right? The corn comes out of the oven “grilled to perfection,” perfectly cooked, with char marks and all.

The end result was so grand, I nearly forgot about the fires I was putting out along the way. I mean really, after the incidents I had, I’m seriously considering getting a fire extinguisher.

So, back to my story. I saw Shannon’s lovely post for her corn relish and grilled corn how-to and I knew I had to make that corn. I just had to add it to a salad. Several foods immediately came in my mind: snow peas (after just buying some from the local farmer’s market), black beans, lime, chili powder, and creamy avocadoes (because really, what salad is complete without avocado?). That was this salad’s inception.

Though, in the making it all nearly came crashing down. I prepped my corn by removing the husks, gently rinsing the cobs, and then patting them dry. I added a bit of olive oil, dried cilantro, and chili powder to the corn (just a tad different than Shannon’s recipe). They looked gorgeous already. As I turned the broiler on, I admired my tasty looking corn.

When the oven was heated, I put the baking sheet about five inches from the top of the oven. The corn cobs were close enough to brown after turning them every five minutes. At about the second turn, I went in to grab the baking pan and accidentally touched (and torched) the side of my arm to the oven rack. I pulled back hopping to and fro on one foot while blowing on my singed arm. After running it under some cool water, I went back to my post, turned my corn, and put them back into the oven.

I thought my bad luck was over, but not soon enough did I pull the corn out to turn it a third time, when I touched the tip of the oven mitt to the hot coils at the top of the oven. Immediately I saw a flame. I thought “Oh my gosh I’m going to light this house on fire before I even get a chance to taste my corn salad.” I also thought “Oh dear, what do I do?” Then almost immediately the flame put itself out. The oven mitt now had a small black badge of honor, similar to the size of the one now on my arm. After these first few unfortunate events, it was smooth sailing, mostly because the other ingredients were raw and there weren’t as many opportunities for me to be careless (as I can sometimes be while in the kitchen – something I need to work on).

 If you don’t have a grill and you try the broiler method, I’m 99.9% confident you will not encounter the problems I did. This is mainly because I have faith in all of you as home cooks and also because you’ve been forewarned. Read on for a completely delicious recipe (a little sweet, spicy, creamy, and somewhat tart).

Snow Pea Salad

Grilled Corn and Sugar Snap Pea Salad:

*Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 cob of corn, grilled (either in the oven or on a grill – I drizzled a bit of olive oil on mine, then added some dried cilantro, and chili powder)

2/3 cup of black beans, rinsed

1 cup of sugar snap peas, rinsed and ends removed

1/2 of an avocado, skin removed and diced

1 jalapeno, diced fine

1 large clove of garlic, diced fine

the juice of 1/2 of a lime (or more to taste)

2 tsp of olive oil

1/4 tsp of sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and garlic powder

1/2 – 1 tsp of chili powder (or more to taste)

Method:

Cut the corn off the cob by holding the cob upright as you carefully slice as close as you can to the cob, removing the kernels. Add the kernels to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix them well. It is that simple, which may even make this summer salad more delicious. Enjoy!

Spice Up Your Weekend with Chili Spiced Sweet Potato Fries and Spicy Chipotle Ketchup

Chipotle Ketchup

Admit it, back in the 90’s you listened to the Spice Girls’ music or if you’re a man, maybe you had a crush on one of those platform-wearing ladies.  Sadly, I’ll admit I used to listen to them too, but I took it a little farther than that.

As a preteen girl, I looked up to the Spice Girls. I went to one of their concerts, I used their signature peace sign in photos, and I even bought some of their apparel (which I wore to the concert). This is where it gets [more] embarrassing.

My cousins and I formed a girl “band” group based on the Spice Girls. I will not divulge the name of this so called “band” (if you could even call us that) because if you already weren’t in hysterics, you would be once you found out the name. As a “band” we combed through each others closets looking for outfits to wear to the lone photo shoot we had, which was basically just us getting together and having my grandma take pictures of us as we posed on her lawn (sad, but true). Oh we had it bad. We had the Spice Girl bug and it wasn’t going away.

We even held performances for our family during birthday parties or special occasions. Yes, I know this just keeps getting worse. We didn’t really sing, unless you count some bad lip syncing. We were more of a dance group. One of my cousins had been dancing for years and she made up all of our routines.

Looking back on those memories, I can laugh about the poses we made for the camera, the over-the-top outfits we wore, and the smooth (or lack there of) moves we made while grooving to the Spice Girls’ music. These are memories my cousins and I will share and laugh about for many years to come. 

In honor of those memories and of going to my first concert ever (yes, it was a Spice Girls concert) many years ago, I’ve made some tasty, chili-spiced sweet potato fries and a spicy chipotle ketchup to serve alongside the mild-flavored fries. I found the recipe for the chipotle ketchup on Shae’s blog titled Hello Homebody. She also recently featured a recipe for a cooling coconut, vanilla, and lime drink, which I may have to try. Here is a link to the recipe for the ketchup recipe (the only changes I made were to use 1/2 the sugar and to use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar). I didn’t feel the need to rewrite it because I made only very minor changes to her tasty recipe. This is one recipe I will surely use again and the leftovers from this last batch will last for the next few weeks, which means I’ll be making sweet potato fries again promptly.

Chili Sweet Potato Fries 1

Getting ready for the oven.

Chili Spiced Sweet Potato Fries: 

*Serves 2

Ingredients: 

1 large sweet potato, peeled, then sliced to 1/4 inch thick slices, then sliced lengthwise to make fries

1 tbsp of olive oil

1/2 tsp of chili powder

1/4 tsp of garlic powder, smoked paprika, and freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp of salt

Method: 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, slice the sweet potato into fries (after peeling it). Place the fries onto a baking sheet. Drizzle about half of the olive oil on the fries and mix them around on the baking sheet. Then add all of the spices except for the salt. Add the rest of the olive oil and mix around again. Arrange the fries so all of them are laying flat on the baking sheet. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Then stir them around or flip them and pop them back in for another 20 minutes to crisp up even more (they should be golden brown when done). While they are in the oven make Shae’s recipe (from Hello Homebody) for chipotle ketchup (find the recipe here). Her recipe was fantastic, which is why I didn’t rewrite it here. The only changes I made to her recipe were to use coconut sugar and to use half the amount of sugar. Enjoy!

Sweet & Spicy Mango Salsa and a Small, Personal Running Victory

Mango Salsa

As the word “start” boomed from the speakers, hundreds of women lurched forwards toward the starting line of the Red Dress Run. At the beginning of the race, the 90 degree heat didn’t phase the many runners. Women were moving swiftly past the starting line and through the beautiful park setting.

I passed the many multicolored roses in bloom, but I was more focused more on my pace, which was slow, but steady. This was, after all, my first week of returning to running.

A few years back I ran frequently, nearly everyday. There wasn’t a situation that could stop me. I ran in the rain, heat, and the cold. Then, winter happened and it was too cold for me. As I hibernated inside with a cozy blanket, I got away from exercising and running.

Years have passed and I have run on and off (mostly off), but I’m happy to be running again. I haven’t felt this good about myself in a long time. Running is action. I like that I’m finally moving again. I’m working towards a goal and becoming healthier.

I finished in the middle of the group, but for me, it was more about finishing than my race time. After a session of cramming in runs all week to try to prepare (as I found out about the race late and wanted to participate), I ran across the finish line wearing a smile. I was tired and hot, but mostly, I felt good. Running felt right.

Running something I want to keep as a part my life and in my daily routine, just like cooking (which I love). On July 4th I decided to experiment with a mango to make a refreshing salsa for a family pool party I was invited to attend. In one bite I tasted the flavors of the cooling cucumber, the spicy diced jalapeno, the mango which was slightly sweet, and the lemon juice and olive oil which tied the flavors in the fresh salsa together.

Mango Salsa 2

Sweet & Spicy Mango Salsa: 

*Yields about 3 cups of salsa

Ingredients:

1 small-medium cucumber, diced (about 1 cup)

1 mango, diced (try to use as much of the mango flesh as possible)

1/4 cup of red onion, diced

1 medium jalapeno, diced finely

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, diced

2 cloves of garlic, diced finely

1 lemon, juiced

1 1/2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp of salt and pepper

*Another possible addition to this salsa could be an avocado, which would add a creamy texture.

Method:

After dicing all of the veggies and fruits (not too large), then combine them in a mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients including the parsley and garlic. Then add the lemon juice, olive oil, and spices. Mix again and let sit in the fridge until serving (the longer it sits the more the flavors will blend together). Serve after about 15-30 minutes of chilling.  Enjoy!

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