Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the category “Cilantro”

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.

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

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!

Southwestern Stuffed Mushrooms and Confessions of a Dog Mom

Southwestern Stuffed Mushroom 1

I feel slightly embarrassed to admit this, but I sleep with two tiny cockapoos. They’ve stolen my heart and now it seems that I can’t kick them out of my bed. Now you should know I never intended it to be this way. Oh no, since the day I adopted these two poodles (in my mind) I had them sleeping in their comfy dog beds, which were in their crate.

But then, (you know there’s a but coming on) they started whining, which made me feel like a terrible dog mom (sadly it’s what I think of myself as now). So I let them out of their crate and into the bedroom. In my head I made an agreement with myself that they could sleep on the floor by the bed. Of course what I didn’t think about was the fact that these two little creatures had a bit of terrier in them and they are good jumpers. They kept jumping up on the bed even after I told them to get down. It was like a three ring circus in the bedroom that night.

Finally, Max understood he was not to come on the bed, but then he gave me this terrible look and it was as if he said “Mom, don’t you love me?” So yet again, the dogs won. They started sleeping on the bed. Since December, which was when I first adopted them, they have gotten very comfortable on that bed. They even have their own “spots” now. Oh what is a girl to do? Do your four-legged friends have a place on your bed too? Is it something to be ashamed of? Most of my non-dog-owning friends don’t seem to understand that these two little poodles sleep on my bed (sometimes Layla even creeps up onto the spare pillow).

(Wo)Man's best friend times two.

(Wo)Man’s best friend times two. Getting very comfortable on what they’d like to think of as their bed. 

Aside from sleeping with two adorable creatures, this post is also about the Southwestern stuffed mushrooms I recently cooked and then promptly devoured. Anything with guacamole is delicious in my book. I’m also a sucker for portobello mushrooms and chili-spiced corn salad. So for me, this recipe was a winner. I hope you enjoy it too!

Southwestern Stuffed Mushroom 2

Southwestern Stuffed Mushrooms:

*Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the rice layer:

1 cup of short grain brown rice, or the rice of your choice

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

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

*1/4 tsp of dried cilantro, or 1 tsp of fresh cilantro, diced (optional)

For the mushroom layer:

2 tsp of olive oil

4 (or more-since the filling should fill more than 4) large portobello mushroom caps

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

For the corn salad layer:

2 tsp of olive oil

2/3 cup of corn

2/3 cup of black beans

1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder (or more to taste)

a tiny dash of cayenne pepper

a dash of smoked paprika

For the guacamole layer (four layers is pushing it, I know):

1 avocado, halved and then diced

1 clove of garlic, diced

1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, garlic powder

1 lime, juiced

1/2 tsp of dried cilantro or two teaspoons of fresh cilantro, diced

*optional: add diced tomato, red onion, etc. (I was low on the extras so I just kept it simple)

Method:

1- Make the rice according to the package or box. The type of short grain brown rice I use calls for about 2 cups of water per cup of brown rice. I set the heat to medium-high and waited until the water was boiling before turning the heat down to medium-low and letting the rice simmer for about 45 minutes until it was done (or when the water was absorbed).

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

3- While you are waiting for the rice to finish and after it has been cooking for about 30 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.

4- When you are starting the mushrooms, heat a pot over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients for the corn salad to the pot. Stir and let them heat up for about 5 minutes or so. Once all of the ingredients are warmed, take the pot off the heat.

5- Add all of the guacamole ingredients to a bowl and mash together with a fork or potato masher. It’s really that simple!

6- When all layers are finished and prepped, start by placing all of your mushrooms with the tops facing down. Fill each with rice, then the corn salad, and finally top with the guacamole. If you have an extra lime you can drizzle some lime juice over the top of each. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Southwestern Cilantro-Lime Corn Salad Served with Quinoa

southwestern corn salad

Life is like being on a seesaw: constantly moving, changing, striving for balance, and hopefully smiling the whole time it’s happening. There is that moment where the person on the other side of the seesaw is on the same level with you, but usually it’s just for an instant and it can be hard to maintain it.

At times, I feel like I have trouble balancing all of the different parts of my life. There are so many things I’m interested in, that at times I feel like I’m pulled in so many directions. Not to mention, being preoccupied with work and feeling the stresses of everyday life. It almost feels like a wave is crashing down on me, during those times where I’m going full speed, trying to do it all, but not doing much successfully. As Publius Syrus once said, “He who chases two hares will catch neither.” I find this quote very applicable to my life.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I need to make time for the things that are the most important: spending time with loved ones, exercising, and enjoying some of my other passions (especially cooking, eating, and reading). There isn’t enough time in life (or each day) to waste and you won’t have to waste any if you choose to make this salad dish for dinner as it’s a 15 minute meal.

Southwestern Cilantro-Lime Corn Salad with Cumin Quinoa: 

*Serves 3-4

Ingredients for the cilantro-lime corn salad:

1 can of black beans, rinsed thoroughly

1 cup of organic sweet corn, (I used frozen corn)

1 tomato, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1/2 an avocado, halved and diced

1 tbsp of fresh cilantro, sliced finely

1 garlic clove, minced

1 lime, juiced

2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

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

Ingredients for the cumin-spiced quinoa: 

1 cup of quinoa, rinsed

1-2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp of cumin

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

Method:

1- After rinsing the beans add them to a small pot with the corn and heat over low heat until the mixture is warm (and the corn is thawed). Remove from the heat and add to the serving bowl of your choice. Also add in the rest of the ingredients at this time. Stir well and chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

2- To make the quinoa, add the rinsed quinoa to a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low once it begins to boil. After about 12 minutes of simmering, the quinoa should be soft and all of the water should be absorbed. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well and serve the corn salad on top of the quinoa or mix the two together. Either way will be a delicious meal.

Feel free to post any quick-cooking recipes below. I’m always looking for tasty weeknight-friendly meals.

Cilantro-lime Chickpea Wraps

cilantro lime salad 2

The cilantro-lime flavored chickpea filling.

You may not believe your eyes when you read the end of this sentence, but all week I have been daydreaming about eating kale. Yes, it’s true. I admit it. I’ve thought about putting it in soups, making salads with it, and adding it to wraps. I craved kale’s distinct flavor. It is slightly bitter, yet it also reminds me of the familiar taste of raw broccoli. I’ve had a bunch of curly green kale in my fridge since Sunday and I have practically been counting down the seconds until I could use it.

For some of you, this may be a feeling you can’t relate to. I don’t think many people dream about eating kale, but if you’ve become a kale-addict as I have, then this feeling wouldn’t seem too far fetched.

This crisp leafy greens were nestled in between layers of the cilantro-lime chickpea wrap I made for dinner. While kale didn’t play a starring role, its crisp texture paired well with the creamy feel of the chickpea salad. At first bite, the flavors of lime, garlic, and cilantro mingled on my tongue. In two words, for me, this salad was simply perfection. It was just what I wanted at the time, a healthy meal that didn’t sacrifice any flavor. On top of all that, it was also pretty inexpensive to make, which my wallet is still thanking me for.

cilantro lime salad 3

The final product.

Cilantro-lime Wraps:

*Serves 2 if eaten just by itself / 4 if used as a part of wraps

Ingredients: 

1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and then rinsed well

1 tomato, diced

1 avocado, halved, peeled, and diced

1 large clove of garlic, diced

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

the juice of one lime

2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil

sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and garlic powder to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp of each)

2 leaves of kale, washed and then sliced into about 1 inch strips

1/2 cup of hummus for spreading on the wraps (I used jalapeno hummus, which was delicious with the cilantro lime dressing)

4 wraps

cilantro lime salad

Method: 

1- Drain and rinse the can of garbanzo beans. Add them to a bowl with the diced tomato, avocado, cilantro, and garlic. Then add the juice of one lime, the olive oil, and seasonings. Stir well. Add more salt or pepper depending. You could just eat this salad like this or add it to a wrap. It was very tasty on its own, but as I mentioned before, I had my sights set on eating kale.

For my expert wrap-wrapping technique read on.

2- I am no expert, but this method works. Lay your wrap flat and spread it with a layer of hummus (spread it all over the wrap as it acts like a glue keeping the wrap together). Then place the kale and chickpea salad on the right half of the wrap (leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space above and below where the kale and salad is). Then fold the top and bottom edges of the wrap in towards the center and begin to roll the filled side of the wrap towards the empty side, rolling it tightly as you go. Slice and serve!

Have you been daydreaming about eating any specific foods lately?

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