Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the category “Appetizer”

Kale & Avocado Hummus Served with Paprika-Spiced Pita Chips and a Social Eating Weakness

Kale, & Avocado Hummus

When I think about going to college, I think about how much fun I had with my roommates. One of my roommates, Tanya, and I always had tons of laughs when we were together. At one point we also made Spongebob and Patrick shaped pancakes for breakfast.

One of the things Tanya used to make fun of me for was my social eating habit or at least that’s what we called it. I was never one to enjoy the cafeteria food and I always had a decent-sized stash of food in the apartment (though at that time I was famous for making English muffin pizzas and breakfast for dinner more than I was for making healthy meals).

A social eating weakness, for those of you who are wondering, is when you drop what you’re doing (at all costs – you could be writing an important paper or talking on the phone) to eat and chat with people. For me, this problem really made itself known while I was at college during my sophomore year living while with three roommates in a tiny apartment with white-painted cinder block walls (if you’re visualizing it now and thinking it looked like a prison, you would be half right – the other half was filled with mismatch college decor). While discovered this urge to eat with others while in college, I think it stemmed from my Italian roots (those people are always forcing food on you, whilst yelling usually).

I didn’t start college as a social eater. No, this problem developed when I moved into the apartment with a small kitchen-living area. As we were in college, we all had different class, work, and eating schedules, but if anyone went into the kitchen and was making a meal I was there too. I just couldn’t resist eating and socializing with others. I did this even if I wasn’t hungry. The act of eating and talking just came so naturally to me (the two seem to go hand in hand).

My social eating habits brought me to share this recipe because it is perfect to eat with others. The dip’s creamy texture and mild flavor balance out the spicy, crisp pita chips. I brought this kale and avocado hummus to a July 4th party and it was devoured by the many guests at the party, as well as by me. Appetizers are my weakness, as are desserts (as is social eating). Does anyone else have this problem or am I alone in this?

Kale & Avocado Hummus 2

Kale & Avocado Hummus:


1 can of cannellini beans or garbanzo beans (I used cannellini)

1 avocado, halved and diced

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

salt and pepper to taste (roughly 1/4 tsp of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, or more to taste)

3-4 leaves of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped (you could try another green like spinach or arugula)


Add all of the ingredients except for the kale into a food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is well combined and fairly smooth. Then add in the kale. Blend again on high until the kale becomes chopped into tiny pieces or is not visible at all. Serve alongside the spiced pita chips or for a gluten-free option serve with corn chips.

Paprika-Spiced Pita Chips:


1 package of pita bread, about 4-5 thick pitas

2(+) tbsp of olive oil (or more depending)

1 tsp of smoked paprika

1/2 tsp of garlic powder

1/4 tsp of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/8 of a tsp of cayenne pepper


1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then slice your pita bread into triangles by cutting each pita in half and than slicing triangular shapes by cutting from the middle out to the edge of the pita with a knife.

2- Once the pitas are cut, add them to a mixing bowl. Then drizzle the olive oil over the pitas (making sure not to only pour it in one spot). Sprinkle the spices over the pita. Then mix the pita with the olive oil and spices, making sure each pita piece is evenly coated.

3- Bake for about 15 minutes and then flip each pita piece. Bake for another 15-20 minutes (or until both sides are golden brown). Taste a pita chip and add a little extra salt and pepper if necessary. Serve alongside the avocado hummus. Enjoy!


Loaded Southwestern Bruschetta

Loaded Southwestern Brushetta

Just by looking at that picture, you know this is a messy recipe. If you mind getting your hands dirty,then your’e better off looking, rather than enjoying this loaded southwestern bruschetta. I am not afraid of getting my hands or face a little dirty and so I dug in. Like so many other foods, the messiness of the dish was entirely worth it. Think about it, would you avoid an ice cream cone or popsicle in the summer just to keep clean? I think not. Therefore, loaded southwestern bruschetta is a deliciously messy idea. What are some of your favorite finger-licking-good foods?

Thinking about messy summer foods reminds me of my favorite cold treat. Growing up, I was  nearly addicted to toasted almond ice cream (the kind that comes neatly wrapped, on a stick, and sprinkled with toasted almond flavored pieces). Anytime there was an ice cream truck that came by, it was guaranteed I would order a toasted almond frozen treat. I would sit at the beach eating my half melted ice cream pop, not even caring that half of it was on my hands and that the seagulls above were eyeing me. When I was finished, I only longed for more. Maybe that is why I’m also crazy for the Almond Joy.

*Find my Almond Joy Bar post here (recipe from Rawmazing) and my Almond Joy Popcorn recipe here. For an Almond Joy-inspired breakfast treat, try my Almond Joy Overnight Oats recipe (click here for the recipe).

Loaded Southwestern Bruschetta:

*Makes enough topping for about 1/2 a loaf of bread, sliced (I used a wheat loaf from Whole Foods, as I have yet to tackle making my own bread)


1 avocado

1/2 tsp of garlic or more to taste (1/4 tsp for the bean/corn mixture and 1/4 tsp for the avocado spread)

1/4 tsp of salt and pepper (for the avocado spread)

1/2 of a lime, juiced

2 tsps of olive oil

1 portobello mushroom cap, diced fairly small (1/4 inch pieces)

1/2 cup of black beans

1/2 cup of corn

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 tsp of salt and pepper (for the bean/mushroom mixture)

1/4 tsp of chili powder

a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 a loaf of whole wheat bread, sliced into thick pieces


1- First, make the avocado spread by halving the avocado. Then scoop out the green fruit’s ripe flesh into a bowl. Add the spices and the juice of  the lime. Mix well. Then set aside in the fridge to let the flavors combine.

2- Over medium heat, add olive oil to a pan. When the pan is hot, add the diced mushroom pieces. After a couple of minutes add the corn, tomato pieces, black beans, and spices. Stir and heat until the corn is warmed through (if using frozen corn) or until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Put a lid on for the last minute of cooking to moisten up the mushrooms.

3- Spread the avocado mash on the half loaf of bread. Then, slice the bread into thick slices. Top each slice with a generous helping of the corn salad. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Bites

Sweet Potato Bites

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me happy. I’ve gone through some major life changes over the past few months, which have caused me to think and rethink how I see the world and how I see myself. I broke up with someone I’d been with for three and a half years. He was a big part of my life and he helped me grow to be the person I am today, but as the last few months of our relationship wore on, it was more and more evident that we were not growing together, but apart. It didn’t feel right to me anymore and at my core, I knew I had to make the decision that was best for both of our futures (and feelings). It was difficult, but I am finally starting to feel at ease with the decision I made. That choice has made me think about what I really want in life and what I want in a partner. Right now, I’m not entirely sure about what I want out of life, but I do know I want to be happy. That is what is most important to me (and one thing I’m not willing to sacrifice).

On the eve of my 27th birthday, one of the things I am certain of are the things I enjoy doing most in life. They aren’t even complicated or extravagant things. Instead they are simple like as spending time outside, gardening, food (eating, cooking, and enjoying it with friends and family), writing, reading, and being creative (as well as appreciating others’ creativity).

Today, I was pulling up weeds in the garden, as well as planting a few extra squash plants my dad had given me and in one word, I felt content. I could have stayed out there for hours, but I had to come in and give my poodles some much-needed attention. Gardening just feels right to me. It is an activity I really don’t need to try hard to like. As Gretchen Rubin would say, “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.”

What are the activities that make you happiest and that keep you going? What makes you want to wake up each morning to see the new day?

Sweet Potato Bites: 

*Recipe  potato seasoning recipe (changed only slightly) from Thom’s blog, Don’t Switch Off the Light (I’ve used his recipe for Vegan Mexican Roasted Potatoes so many times, but I never tire of it)


For potatoes: 

2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices (width-wise)

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, diced

1/2 tsp of cumin and oregano

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

For black beans: 

1 can of black beans

1 tsp of olive oil

1 large clove of garlic, diced

1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and chili powder (adjust the amount of chili powder to suit your taste, if you like it spicier then add 1/2 tsp)

For guacamole: (*I made this recipe in the past and it was delicious)

*either use your favorite recipe for guacamole made from one avocado OR use the simple recipe below

1 avocado

1 clove of garlic

2 tsp of fresh parsley, diced

1 lime, juiced

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


1- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is preheating, slice the sweet potatoes and put them on a baking sheet. Then drizzle the olive oil over them. Sprinkle the spices on and then mix all of the potatoes together with the spices, until each slice is evenly coated. Bake the sweet potatoes for about 15 minutes before flipping them and cooking them for another 15 minutes. When finished, they should be tender and slightly browned on both sides.

2- While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil, black beans, garlic, and spices in a pot over low heat. Stir periodically. Take off the heat and cover when the beans are warmed. *You can save this step until when the potatoes have been in the oven for about 15 minutes already.

3- Make the guacamole by halving the avocado. Then take the seed out. Score the avocado with a knife by slicing tic tac toe shaped lines on the fleshy part of the avocado (all the way down to the skin – 1 cut per 1/4 inch). Then scrape or squeeze the fleshy part of the avocado out of the skin. Add it to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mash with a fork. Put the guacamole in the fridge until the potatoes are ready (to let the flavors combine). *If I’d had a tomato or cilantro, I would’ve added that to my guacamole too! I just happened to be low on ingredients since the next day was grocery shopping day.

4- Assemble the sweet potato bites by placing sweet potatoes on a serving tray. Then spoon about one teaspoon of black beans on each medallion-shaped potato. Top each with a small dollop of guacamole (Oh how the word dollop still reminds me of Martha Stewart). Serve immediately & enjoy.

Avocado & Tomato Bruschetta, as Well as Musings about Mothers & Mother’s Day

Tomato avocado brushetta 1

Have you ever held a baby and thought “What do I do with this thing?” On Friday night, I went to visit my sister and my nephew, Carter (who is 1 1/2). Her friend happened to be there with her little one, who was only eight months old. She asked me if I wanted to hold her and I said yes. I held her and it was fine, until she started to squirm. Then I had that recurring thought of “What do I do with this thing?” My maternal instincts (or lack there of) didn’t kick in. The situation just felt so foreign to me. I had no choice, but to give her back to her mother. In doing that, I think I saved both the child and myself from some discomfort. Somehow I think all the maternal-related genes went to my sister and skipped right by me!

One thing that was passed down to me, was the ability to cook. This Mother’s Day, I had my mom and dad, sister and her hunny, as well as my nephew over for dinner. I started the night off with avocado and tomato bruschetta. I saw the recipe posted on Thom’s blog Don’t Switch Off the Light (click here for the recipe) and knew it was the perfect way to start our Sunday dinner. Everyone raved about them. The only small change I made was using parsley instead of fresh coriander, which I had trouble finding at the grocery store. These were great as an appetizer, but I could also see them being an easy, yet portable lunch.

There is one bit of advice I have for you if you make them, don’t serve them on a plate. Serve them on a platter with edges at least an inch high. I made about six pieces of them and on the way outside my mom, my sister, and I managed to send two of them flying to the ground. Instantly avocado and tomatoes covered the floor and my shirt.  We just couldn’t keep them on the plate! In the midst of it all I also managed to bump my head on the door. It could have been a scene from The Three Stooges.

Aside from the short comedy act, dinner was delicious. My mom complimented each of the dishes served several times, which meant a lot to me, since she was the one who taught me most of what I know in the kitchen. I also consider her standards to be pretty high, but only because her cooking is amazing 🙂  Besides the bruschetta, I also made a crispy kale salad with balsamic vinaigrette, an avocado and chickpea salad (find the recipe to a version I made before here), and a variation of Angela’s coconut macaroon’s (from her blog Oh She Glows).

Tomato avocado brushetta 2

An Appetizer for the Virtual Vegan Potluck: Vegan Sushi

Sushi 1

Traditional veggie filled sushi rolls.

This is my first time participating in the semi-annual Virtual Vegan Potluck. I couldn’t be more excited to be bringing a sushi appetizer to the party.

Sushi and I have a rather short history, which I wish had been longer. For the longest time I wouldn’t try it. I was so afraid of eating raw fish that I shied away from any place that offered it. Then, I went on a date with a guy who suggested we both try sushi together. We happened to order sashimi. It was disastrous.  I was terrible with chopsticks and the pieces of fish were so huge I couldn’t even eat them in one bite (hint: I made a mess). Note to self: sashimi is not the best date food, unless your mouth is normal sized because apparently mine isn’t. Needless to say I didn’t really enjoy it all that much (in this case I mean both the sushi and the date – my date kept saying “that’s key” over and over, which I thought was as weird as eating raw fish for the first time).

While me and that date never met again, me and sushi did. Fast forward a few months and I met my now fiancee who loved sushi. He took me to a little place near his apartment. As we walked into the near empty restaurant, I noticed a statue of a gold-colored waving cat. I thought to myself “this isn’t going to be good.” We sat, he helped me order and I loved it. It became our new place.

As a new vegan, I began to think that sushi was now out of reach. I was sad about losing a newer food that I’d come to love, until I looked up vegan sushi recipes on the internet (I used this post as a reference for making sushi with brown rice). There was more than just plain avocado rolls out there. This vegan sushi roll was inspired by a restaurant I went to while on vacation in San Francisco, CA. It was a Japanese fusion restaurant (with excellent food by the way!). They showed me that vegan sushi doesn’t have to be boring. For the potluck, I’ve included three variations.

Citrus topped sushi (my personal favorite).

Citrus topped sushi (my personal favorite).

Vegan Sushi:

*Makes 3 rolls (each recipe makes three rolls – cut amounts into thirds if you want to make more than one type of roll)

Ingredients for citrus topped rolls:

1 cup of short-grain brown rice

1 tsp of sesame oil

1/2 tsp of sea salt

1 tsp of sesame seeds (I used black)

3 pieces of sushi nori sheets

1/4 of a cucumber, julienned

1  avocado, sliced (these slices will go on top of the roll)

3 tbsp of low-sodium soy sauce

1 lime, zested

Ingredients for traditional avocado-veggie rolls:

1 cup of short-grain brown rice

1 tsp of sesame oil

1/2 tsp of sea salt

1 tsp of sesame seeds (I used black)

3 pieces of sushi nori sheets

1/2 of a cucumber, julienned

1 carrot, julienned

1 avocado sliced lengthwise

soy sauce and wasabi for dipping

Ingredients for mushroom-avocado rolls:

1 cup of short-grain brown rice

2 tsp of sesame oil (one for the rice and one for the mushrooms)

1/2 tsp of sea salt

1 tsp of sesame seeds (I used black)

3 pieces of sushi nori sheets

1 avocado sliced lengthwise

3/4 cup of portobello mushrooms, julienned

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

soy sauce and wasabi for dipping


1- Rinse the rice and then add it to a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 45 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Then remove the rice from the heat and take the cover off. Let the rice begin to cool. While it is cooling add the sesame seeds, the sesame oil, and the salt. Mix and then let the rice cool fully. If you are making the mushroom rolls, cook the mushroom now and let it cool also (cook it in one tsp of sesame oil and season with 1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and garlic powder).

Sushi 5

2- When the rice is cooling prep all of the vegetables. Then when the rice is cool set up your sushi rolling area. I used a place mat, which I got from the Christmas Tree shop for $1. It was similar to a sushi mat with wood slats that rolled easily. I just placed parchment over top of it to avoid getting the mat dirty. Then I placed 1 sheet of nori on the mat vertically. Cover the first 3/4 of the nori with the 1/3 of the rice. Spread evenly on the nori. In the middle of the rice place the veggies of choice (for the veggie roll add cucumber, carrot, and avocado pieces/for the citrus roll add cucumber/ for the mushroom roll add avocado and mushroom) going horizontally across. Use enough so when they are placed the veggies take up 1/2 to 1 inch of space.

Sushi 4

3- From the front of the roll (the end with the rice), pick up the mat and begin rolling it forward. This part is sort of like rolling up a sleeping bag. Continue rolling the sushi until you’ve formed a roll. Cut into 1 inch pieces. *Repeat two more times to make 2 more rolls.

4- For the citrus topped sushi, drizzle a bit of soy sauce on each piece. Then top with an avocado slice and lime zest. For the other rolls serve alongside soy sauce and wasabi. Serve immediately.

To get to the next delicious appetizer in the potluck (which is one giant circle of blogging participants) use this link to Eat Pray Bake’s blog. To go back to the last appetizer which came before my post, click this link, which will take you to the appetizer made by Delicious Knowledge.

VVP go forward     VVP logo   VVP go back

Ratatouille Topped Polenta Rounds: A Simple Bruschetta-like Appetizer


Tomatoes, sauce, bread, meatballs, and pasta are all things that come to mind when I think of my Italian background. Testing the waters with a gluten-free diet doesn’t allow me all of the delicious foods I still crave. Just the smell of freshly baked bread could bring me to a heavenly state. Since I take such pleasure in eating and cooking, I’m certainly not one to only eat for sustenance, nor do I think it is okay to deprive my body of what it really wants to eat (in moderation of course). I decided to transform bruschetta by using baked polenta slices instead of bread (therefore avoiding gluten altogether). The outside of the polenta was crispy, while the center was still soft and chewy. The acidity of the ratatouille topping  added flavor to the normally flavorless polenta. I topped the rounds with a little bit of vegan cheese (which for the record did not compare to the cheese I’ve grown up eating, but it was okay for a nondairy alternative) and thin slices of aromatic basil.

Ingredients for Polenta Bruschetta Rounds: 

*Makes about 20+ pieces of bruschetta

You can use this recipe for the ratatouille 

Polenta rounds: 

1 log of polenta, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1-2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup of vegan (or your choice) of grated cheese

sliced basil, as a garnish

1 – Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2- After beginning to cook the ratatouille, slice your polenta log. Then spread the slices on a baking pan and drizzle 1/2 of the oil on top. Flip the rounds and drizzle the rest of the oil on. Then add salt and pepper to taste.

3- Leave the slices in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then carefully flip them with a spatula (they easily break apart). Allow them to cook for another 10 minutes. They should begin to brown. Then add the cheese within the last few minutes of cooking. Allow the cheese to melt before taking the slices out of the oven.

4- Top with the ratatouille mixture and basil.

For a more summery version of these small bites, make a topping that consists of diced tomatoes, cucumber, and garlic. Mix the three ingredients together with extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Finish the bruschetta with a sprinkling of freshly sliced basil and enjoy!

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