Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the tag “Healthy”

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!

Raved About Healthy Blueberry Scones Made with Spelt Flour

Blueberry scones 1

After reading the title, you already know these blueberry scones have been raved about. I made them twice in one weekend when I went up to Boston with my family and they were promptly gobbled up each time. I was also asked for the recipe multiple times, which I take as a good sign, but watch out, if you make them once you are bound to be asked to make them again (and again – and for good reason too).

This recipe produces light, fluffy scones that you don’t need to feel bad about eating. With only 1/3 of a cup of oil and 1/3 of a cup of agave nectar per recipe these are fairly guilt-free. The whole spelt flour produces a lighter scone than white or all purpose flour would and unlike wheat flour these scones don’t have the heartiness or the taste of being a whole grain (which I find as a plus when it comes to baked goods). They are also incredibly moist and a few anti-scone family members even enjoyed them (and came back for seconds). My dad (who sometimes acts like a foodie, but isn’t – but is still full of “helpful” criticisms) even said they were the best scones, which is what I consider a huge accolade coming from him. The word “best,” is uttered very sparingly by him.

I found the recipe on Shannon’s amazing blog (which you should check out if you haven’t – it’s full of wonderful recipes, musings on running, book reviews, and more), Move Eat Create, and only made a couple of changes. I used vegan buttery spread by Earth Balance instead of using hazlenut or coconut oil, which I found to produce a more flavorful and lighter scone (as I have used coconut oil in making these scones in the past, but I can’t speak to using hazlenut oil, as I haven’t used it). I also used fresh blueberries, which I felt made all the difference in the world. They just added this little pop of sweetness, as they are now in peak season in New England. Read on for the slightly altered recipe below.

Blueberry scones 2

Healthy Blueberry Spelt Flour Scones: 

*Recipe from Shannon’s blog titled Move Eat Create (find the link to the recipe in the paragraph above)

*Makes about 9-10 scones

Ingredients:

2 cups whole spelt flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of fine grain sea salt

1/3 cup of Earth Balance buttery spread, melted (sub with butter if you aren’t trying to make them vegan, and if you want to be a bit healthier but still not have them be vegan, you can use 1/6 cup melted butter 1/6 cup vegetable oil combination)

1/3 cup of light agave nectar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

3/4 fresh blueberries

Method: 

1- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2- Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to ensure they are well combined.

3- Then, after melting the 1/3 cup of buttery spread, combine the melted buttery spread, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Stir once and then pour over the spelt mixture. Gently mix together.

4- Add the hot water and again gently mix until it’s combined (try not to over mix spelt flour).

5- Gently fold the fresh blueberries into the batter. Use a 1/4 cup measure to spoon batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (to ensure that the scones will be the same size). Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown on top. These kept well in an air tight container for 3-4 days. I stored mine in the fridge and heated them in the microwave or toaster before eating.

If you missed my other scone recipes here are the links for my raspberry chocolate chip spelt flour scones and my ginger peach spelt flour scones. 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!

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:

Ingredients:

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)

Method:

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:

Ingredients: 

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

Method:

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!

You Pick: Almond Joy or Apricot-Chocolate Overnight Oats

Overnight oats 1

Since I’ve given up eating almond joys (and all foods that aren’t plant-based), it seems like  those little chocolate covered coconut bars have hijacked my thoughts. So far, I’ve made my own raw version of the candy bar (from a delicious recipe I found on Rawmazing) and almond joy flavored popcorn. Now I’m adding almond joy overnight oats to the list. Where will my pursuit of almond and coconut flavored foods end? I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think I’ve reached my recipe limit yet using both of those flavors. They are a timeless combination.

Aside from a recipe for almond joy flavored oatmeal, you’ll also find a recipe for apricot-chocolate overnight oats. It was inspired by one of my other favorite chocolate treats, which are dark chocolate covered apricots. My mouth is watering just thinking of them. If you’re anything like me, then you take no shame in having your dessert for breakfast. These recipes remind me of some of my favorite chocolate treats, but with a healthy (guilt-free) twist.

Overnight oats 2

Almond Joy and Apricot-Chocolate Overnight Oats: 

*Both recipes serve 1

Almond Joy Oatmeal Ingredients:

1/2 cup of rolled oats (GF or regular)

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp of ground flax seed

1 1/2 tsp of coconut sugar (or some other sweetener) *add more if needed

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp of unsweetened finely shreded coconut

1 tbsp of cacao nibs

1 tbsp of slivered almonds

Apricot Chocolate Oatmeal Ingredients:

1/2 cup of rolled oats (GF or regular)

1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp of ground flax seed

1 1/2 tsp of coconut sugar (or some other sweetener) *add more if needed

1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

1 tbsp of unsweetened finely shreded coconut

1 tbsp of cacao nibs

4 apricots, diced

Method: 

1- Mix the rolled oats, almond milk, flax seed, sugar, and vanilla extract together the night before you want to eat the oatmeal. Then put it into the fridge in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap.

2- The morning of, add the rest of the ingredients and enjoy! You can eat it cold or warm it up (I ate mine cold).

I am happy I’ve found a way to enjoy oatmeal even in the summer months. The consistency is not quite the same as hot oatmeal, but it was still delicious!

Get Involved From Your Couch: The Food Revolution 2013 Summit

Foodies, health-nuts, and herbivores unite! The Food Revolution 2013 Summit is only three days away. The summit starts this Saturday at 8 am PDT. Hosted by John Robbins, author of The Food Revolution and Diet for a New America, as well as by his son Ocean Robbins, CEO of The Food Revolution Network. The summit features interviews with 24 leading experts in  the health field. Some of the participants include Rip Esselstyn, creator of the Engine Number 2 Diet, Dr. Neal Barnard who was featured in the film Forks Over Knives, and wellness-activist Kris Carr, who wrote Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

As a closet health nerd, I could not be more excited about the opportunity to learn more from these experts. I’ve been on a documentary-watching-kick lately, which is fueled both by my curiosity about our food industry, how to stay healthy, and how to eat kindly. The interviews from the summit, will take care of all three of those topics and many more.

The summit is completely free. If you sign up (sign up here ), you will have access to three interviews per day, which are available for 24 hours following each of the interviews. The summit takes place from April 27th to May 2nd and you don’t even have to leave your couch to participate. Has anyone else joined in on the summit or participated in the last summit?

**Just a tip – if you do sign up, make sure to check your spam folder for summit-related e-mails, as one I received went to spam.

On another note, I’ve also signed up for the May 2013 Virtual Vegan Potluck, which features vegan recipes by vegan and vegan-friendly bloggers. I’m excited to be making an appetizer for the potluck and I can’t wait to see what other amazing vegan recipes show up at the potluck. In the past, Somer, of Vedged Out, has made macacdamia nut brie en croute (her blog is awesome if you haven’t already checked it out) and Alexander’s, of In Vegetables We Trust, much talked-about recipe for roasted rainbow carrot salad (his blog is also fantastic and has many drool-worthy recipes). If you’re a blogger who is interested in participating, sign up here. The potluck goes live on May 12th so stay tuned for some delicious vegan recipes!

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