Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

Archive for the tag “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


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


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.


My very first home grown tomato.

OOB maine 1

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Cucumber and Chickpea Salad: 

*Serves 2


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)


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.

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.


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.

*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)


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


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!

“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. A look of panic crossed my face. Almost instantly, 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


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)


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!

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


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)


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!

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


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


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


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!

Cucumber and Quinoa Salad

cucumber quinoa salad

This cucumber and quinoa salad reminded me of summer. The light taste of the organic cucumber paired well with the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Parsley added a pop of color to the normally bland looking quinoa, which felt tender compared to the crispness of the cucumber. I added Californian extra virgin olive oil to bring even more flavor to the dish, along with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (a repeat ingredient in most of my cooking experiments). The simple flavors of each of the ingredients combined well, as not to overpower one another.  I can imagine bringing this salad to a picnic on a hot summer day. What could be more refreshing than the flavors of lemon and cucumber all in one dish? I guess you could say ice cream (which is so true!), but I’ll tackle an ice cream recipe another day. For now, here is the recipe to this refreshing salad.

cucumber quinoa salad 2

Cucumber quinoa salad: 

*Recipe found at

*Serves 4 as a side and the cook/prep time of this dish was about 20 to 25 minutes

1 cup of organic quinoa, rinsed

2 cups of water

1 cup of organic English cucumber pieces (cut into small cubes about 1 cm in length)

1 – 2 tbsp of parsley, finely chopped

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 of a lemon, juiced

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

1- Rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear through the bottom. Then add the quinoa and  water to a sauce pan. Adjust the heat setting to medium-high. Lower the heat to medium-low as soon as the contents start boiling. Allow the quinoa and water to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes (or until the water has been soaked up and the quinoa is tender).

2- While the quinoa is cooking, chop and peel the cucumber and dice the parsley. When the quinoa is finished cooking, add the remaining ingredients and stir. It is ready to serve (unless you want to chill it). Simple and delicious.

Thanks to the filling and healthy quinoa (which, according to the package has 6g of protein in 1/4 cup of dry quinoa), I was satisfied after one serving. I would recommend using this as a cold salad in the summer and possibly adding some red bell pepper to the mix (to add even more color). Feel free to post your favorite quinoa recipes?

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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