Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the category “Side”

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.

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!

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!

Aromatic Tomato-basil Potato Salad

Purple potato salad 2

This potato salad looks like a rainbow on a plate. There are shades of purple peeking out from the white flesh of the red-skinned potatoes, which are surrounded by bright red slices of tomato and green-hued pieces of aromatic basil. It was simple. It was delicious. It was everything I envisioned when I dreamed it up. Really, I have daydreams about food. This was one of the ideas that came to fruition and successfully, might I add.

Potato salad is such a versatile and summery dish. You can use mayo, add eggs, or skip the eggs and add veggies like onions and carrot slices. Growing up, my mother’s version of German potato salad always topped my list of my favorite picnic foods. Warm potatoes smothered in olive oil and garlic, what’s not to love? The potato salad I created tonight, is another version of hers, but with a bit of an Italian twist. What is your favorite version of potato salad? Do you have a favorite picnic or summer meal?

Tomato-basil Potato Salad:

*Serves 3-4 as a side dish

Ingredients: 

4 potatoes of your choice (I used one red skinned, one Yukon Gold potato, and two purple majesty potatoes), diced

1 large clove of garlic, diced fine

1/2 of a red onion, diced

1 tomato, diced

1-2 tbsp of fresh basil, sliced thin

1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (or more if the potato salad isn’t moist enough)

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

Method: 

1- Heat a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling add some salt to the pot (maybe a teaspoon of salt) and then add in the potato pieces. Let the water come to a rapid boil again, then let the potatoes cook for 10 minutes or less (depending on the size of the potato pieces). When they are tender, take them out (be sure not to overcook them).

2- While the water is boiling, cut all of your other veggies and the basil. Add it to a serving bowl with the olive oil and spices and stir. When the potatoes are done drain them and then add them to the serving bowl. Mix well and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Grilled Eggplant Salad

grilled eggplant salad

 

I wish I could say that every recipe I post is part of a well thought out plan, but the truth is that most of my recipes are created  based on what I have in the kitchen at that particular time. On Saturday, I had an eggplant and a red pepper that had been in the fridge for a week. It was also a sunny spring day outside, one which provoked me to have my hubby-to-be to drag out the grill and light it up!

The combination of the cumin and oregano made each bite of eggplant more flavorful than the last. The spices also paired wonderfully with the sweet tasting roasted red pepper. At least for me, couscous can do no wrong. Its versatility worked well with the eggplant salad. Read on for the tasty grill recipe.

Grilled Eggplant Salad: 

*Serves 4 as a side dish or 2-3 as a main dish

Ingredients:

1 eggplant, sliced into strips with the skin on

1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 – 1 tsp of cumin

1/2 – 1 tsp of dried oregano

1/4 tsp of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thick strips

Herb Couscous: 

Ingredients:

1 cup of whole grain couscous (sub quinoa for a GF recipe, just cook according to the instructions on the quinoa package)

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp of salt, oregano, and dried basil

1/4 tsp of garlic powder and freshly ground pepper

Method: 

1- While the grill is heating up halve a pepper and remove the seeds. Then cut it into thick strips. After cutting the pepper, cut the eggplant into long strips. Then toss the eggplant in the olive oil. Season the eggplant with cumin and oregano. Rub on the eggplant until the spices are evenly distributed.  Add both veggies to the grill. Turn them after about five minutes. Cook them a total of about ten minutes or until they are tender.

2- While the eggplant is on the grill, boil one cup of water. Once the water is boiling, add the couscous and then take it off the heat. Let it sit for five minutes, then fluff and add the oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic pepper, and olive oil.

3- Dice the grilled eggplant and pepper into one inch pieces and toss together. Put the couscous into a serving dish and top with the grilled eggplant salad.

As the spring continues to warm up, I long for summer-like foods. Feel free to post any of your favorite grill-recipes below!

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?

Savory Pesto and Fresh Tomato Quinoa

 

pesto quinoa

After stirring in a sweet basil pesto, mild-tasting quinoa became flavorful. The aroma of basil filled the kitchen. For texture, small cubes of a creamy avocado were added, as well as a small diced tomato. The pasta-like dish was even tasty as a cold salad for lunch the next day. For filling and fresh eats, read on below for the recipe.

Ingredients for savory pesto and fresh tomato quinoa: 

*Serves 4

1 cup of quinoa, rinsed

2 cups of water

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

1/3 of a cup of fresh pesto

1 organic tomato, diced

1/2 of an avocado, pitted and diced

1/2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

pine nuts (to sprinkle over the top)

1- Pour the quinoa and water into a sauce pan over medium heat. When the water starts to boil lower the heat to medium low. The quinoa should be done in about 12 minutes.

2- While the quinoa is cooking, add the spices and stir. Then dice the tomato and avocado.

3- When the quinoa is soft and all of the water has been absorbed, add all of the other ingredients. Stir the quinoa mixture up and serve hot or cold. Top with pine nuts to add a slight crunch and buttery flavor.

Quinoa might be my new favorite food. It is so versatile and healthy!

 

Ratatouille Topped Polenta Rounds: A Simple Bruschetta-like Appetizer

bruschetta

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!

Sweet Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

pear salad 2

 

Salad is such a versatile dish. You can have it as a side or a main meal. You can make it sweet or savory. You can dress it up with fancy ingredients like pecans and blue cheese or keep it traditional with carrots and tomatoes. As part of my effort to avoid dirty dozen produce items, I bought a package of organic baby spinach. I wasn’t in the mood for a traditional salad, so I decided to make a sweet Bosc pear and goat cheese salad. To create some texture, I toasted walnuts in a little bit of coconut oil, honey, and salt. They added a sweet crunch that was mellowed out by the soft goat cheese. The dried cranberries not only made the salad more colorful, but they also added a tart flavor that helped balance out the sweetness of the pears and walnuts, as did the tangy champagne vinegar dressing. It was simple, yet it looked elegant and it tasted delicious!

pear salad 1

Ingredients for sweet pear and goat cheese salad: 

*Serves 2 (double recipe for 4)

3 cups of organic baby spinach, washed and dried

1 Bosc pair, washed and sliced

1/4 cup of dried cranberries

1/4 cup of goat cheese crumbles

1/2 cup of walnuts

1 tbsp of coconut oil

1 tsp of honey

1/4 tsp of salt

Ingredients for tangy champagne vinegar dressing:

2 tbsp of champagne vinegar

1/4 tsp of salt and pepper

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 lemon juiced

1/2 cup of olive oil (not extra virgin)

1- I started off by making the dressing, which was very simple. I added the vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon to a mixing bowl. I briefly whisked them together before adding the olive oil slowly as I whisked it in. Make sure the dressing is well combined as you add more olive oil (otherwise it will separate).

2- Make the nut mixture by adding the coconut oil to a frying pan. When the pan is hot toast the nuts for about 2 minutes over medium heat before adding the honey and salt. Stir the mixture around and let the nuts toast for another 2 minutes.

3- Take the walnuts off the heat. Prepare the other salad ingredients by washing the spinach and pear. Dry the salad and add it to your serving bowl. Slice the pear and throw that in too. Then add the cranberries, dressing, cheese, and nuts (after they have cooled for a few minutes.

4- Toss ingredients and serve.

Feel free to post your favorite salad recipes below!

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