September 21, 2009

Better Bites: Vegetable Soup with Basil

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Soup is an easy, yet healthy and delicious way to get a balanced meal all in one bowl! This version pairs fresh ingredients, with little work, and yields a fabulous end result that not only is great the day you make it, but is better the next day and can even be frozen for later! That's my kind of meal!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2-4 ears of corn, stripped from the cob 1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, sliced into rounds
2-3 yellow squash, cut in half and sliced
1-2 cups of green beans, chopped
3-4 ribs of celery, chopped
1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 quart of tomato sauce (Note: I used some I canned)
1 quart of diced tomatoes (Note: Again, I used ones I canned)
1 quart of water
Fresh basil, torn or cut into strips

In a large stock pot sauté vegetables in a little extra virgin olive oil, with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until onions are tender. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and water and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes.

Remove cover and add basil:

Vegetable Soup with Basil

Cook for an additional 5 minutes uncovered or until basil is wilted. Serve immediately.

Notes: Any vegetables will work. Zucchini would be a nice addition, as would leeks. This soup, made as listed is vegan.

Posted by Dianne at 1:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 31, 2009

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish

I love wild salmon. Growing up I wasn't so fond of salmon, because I had only been exposed to the canned variety and I was not impressed. Several years ago I decided to try a fresh fillet and I immediately fell in love!

Salmon is a very healthy option overall as long as you focus on wild salmon and not the farmed variety. It's also quick cooking and delicious! Both pluses in my opinion!

So what you should look for?

First follow your nose. If it smells fishy, then you don't want it! Next give it a poke. Is the flesh firm? You want it to be firm, with just a bit of give. And don't forget to read the label! Remember you're looking for a variety that was not farm raised!

This dish can be done year around, but it's especially nice in the summer when the vegetables are fresh. It takes about 4 minutes to throw together and 10-15 minutes to cook and assemble. How's that for quick? There is just nothing better than a quick, healthy, delicious meal!

bbdd2

What You'll Need for the Salmon:
A nice sized salmon fillet (Note: The one I used would feed roughly four people.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large skillet over medium heat a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle a salmon fillet with sea salt and black pepper. Right before you put it in the skillet drizzle the top with freshly squeezed lime juice and place it skin up in the pan until brown nicely browned:

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish: Browning

This take about 1-2 minutes:

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish: Ready For Oven

Flip the fillet over, with the skin down and place in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until almost done through.

Remove from oven and place on a cutting board:

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish: Salmon Resting

Let sit for 5 minutes. It will continue cooking as it sits.

When ready to serve, cut into individual servings and top with relish. (See below.)

Now move on to your relish.

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish: Relish

What You'll Need for the Tomato Avocado Relish:
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (Note: Any kind of tomatoes will work, but I like to use the smaller variety for this.)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/3 cup of fresh dill, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of freshly squeeze lime juice

In a large bowl toss together all ingredients to mix well. Place a nice sized scoop on top of the cooked salmon fillets.

Notes: This relish is good on most any fish or even grilled chicken. Don't add the avocado until the last minute. The salmon is also good by itself cooked this way.

Posted by Dianne at 11:09 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 24, 2009

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille

For a while now I've been meaning to make a Ratatouille type dish, but just never got around to doing just that. This time of year is just perfect for this because you have so many fresh, local, healthy ingredients right at your finger tips! By pairing a few vegetables and some herbs you've got a fabulous meal that tastes amazing. I love simple, yet delicious!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Red potatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Tomatoes
Thyme
Rosemary
Zucchini
Yellow squash
1 small eggplant
Red onion
Garlic scapes

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Brush a pie plate with olive oil and place a layer of potatoes of the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Potatoes

You want to add just a little salt. You're going to be seasoning each layer, so you want just enough salt for the layer in question. Don't let yourself get to heavy with the salt, or you'll end up with a dish that is too salty to eat. You want somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 a teaspoon per layer spread evenly.

Next add a layer of sliced tomatoes on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and rosemary:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Tomatoes and Herbs

Be generous with everything but the salt. This picture was taken mid sprinkling. Make sure to get lots of herbs on this layer!

For the top layer you want to place zucchini, squash and eggplant to cover the top. Top this with red onion and garlic scapes. (Note: If you don't have garlic scapes you can use 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic instead.) Next drizzle the top with a bit more olive oil and then sprinkle with sea salt, more freshly ground black pepper, thyme and rosemary:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ready to Bake

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover at the 30 minute mark and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until slightly browned and vegetables are tender:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Baked

Serve immediately.

Now let's have some fun with leftovers!

When the leftovers sit in the fridge overnight the mixture breaks down a bit, especially the tomatoes and it forms something that resembles more like a chunky Ratatouille Soup:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ratatouille Becomes Soup (The Next Day!)

You can reheat and eat this as is, or you can throw in some chicken to make it an more hearty soup:

Better Bites: Dianne's Take On Ratatouille: Ratatouille Becomes Soup (The Next Day!)

I love taking left overs and making them slightly different!

Notes: You could add shrimp or beef to the "soup" the next day too. Or as I said before you could just enjoy it as is for a vegan treat. Also oregano could be added in place of, or in addition to the herbs used.

Posted by Dianne at 11:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2009

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

I love veggie burgers! My favorite kind to buy from the store is just your standard Boca Burger, but you can easily make them at home with various ingredients for a healthy alternative when you want to cut out a little meat.

This version pairs summer vegetables, that some of you probably have coming out of your ears, with beans and rice to make a hearty, yet healthy alternative to the standard burger. Dress it up however you like it, pair it with some oven fries and/or a side salad and you've got the perfect meal!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1 portabella mushroom cap, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped
Extra virgin oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ear of corn, stripped from the cob
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup of cooked black eyed peas
2 cups of cooked chick peas
2 cups of cooked brown rice
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 F. (Note: I like to do this part in my toaster oven. It doesn't heat up the house as much!)

Better Bites: Veggie Burgers: Veggies Ready To Roast

Chop zucchini, yellow squash, mushroom and onions and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground sea salt. Place veggies in a preheated oven and roast until veggies are tender. About 20-30 minutes. Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a food processor (or if you don't have one with a potato masher or food mill) process chick peas and black eyed peas until smooth. (Note: If you want you can use a little of the liquid from cooking the beans if it doesn't smooth out well. If you are using canned beans you can use a little liquid from the can.)

In a large glass bowl mix together corn kernels, shredded carrots, roasted vegetables, processed beans, rice and eggs until completely incorporated.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Next spray a 2/3 cup measuring cup with non-stick spray and place the filling into it packing it tightly. Turn the "burger" out of the cup into a baking dish that has also been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers Ready To Bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers Baked

I like to serve these on toasted flat bread with a little mayo:

Better Bites: Vegetable Burgers

But you can top them however you like!

Makes 11-12 veggie burgers.

Notes: You can add in other vegetables if you like, or season the mixture to your liking. Cajun seasoning it good, or even Old Bay.

Posted by Dianne at 8:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2009

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips

First up be sure and stop by over at the Greenists today. It's my day to post and this time I'm sharing some great ideas for what to do with your bounty of summer vegetables! Pop over and take a look and then let me know what your favorite things are to do with your summer veggies, because I love to see what others do and you may give me a new idea or two!

bbdd2

Now let's get started with Better Bites!

Fish and chips...What's not to like? This combo is one of my all time favorite comfort foods! I don't make it often though because although I don't have an issue with frying from time to time, it's a lot of work! It would be nice to have fish and chips more often so I started thinking about ways to take them and make them a little lighter, all while having a fabulous meal and not losing any of the taste! That's just what this oven version does!

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Chips

What You'll Need For the Chips:
2 pounds of potatoes, cut into wedges roughly the same size (Note: I used Yukon Gold, but you can use whatever you like.)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Wash potatoes and cut them into wedges. Make sure the wedges are roughly the same size so they'll cook evenly. Place them in a glass bowl.

Pour olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and some finely ground pepper over the potatoes and toss to coat:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Coated

Add potatoes to a 13 X 9 inch dish and spread out evenly:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Chips Ready to Bake

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until "chips" are golden brown and fork tender:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Chips

Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Notes: These are fabulous sprinkled with a little malt vinegar just before eating.

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Baked Fish

What You'll Need For The Fish:
1 lb of cod, cut into 4-5 pieces (Note: Any firm fish will work.)
Sea salt
Hot sauce
1 1/4 cups of stone ground yellow corn meal, divided
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of fine ground black pepper
2 heaping teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (Note: If the Cajun seasoning you are using has salt, then omit the teaspoon of sea salt.)
1/2 to 3/4 ups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F. (Note: If you're making "chips" too then you can just add the fish toward the end of the baking time for the "chips".)

First rinse your fish and pat dry. Cut into 4-5 pieces:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Cod

The little one there is for Lex.

Place the pieces of fish on a plate and sprinkle generously with sea salt and hot sauce on both sides:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Hot Sauce

Set fish aside and prepare your batter. (Note: You can do this step the night before if you like and place the seasoned fillets in the fridge in an air tight container until ready to cook the next day.)

Mix one cup of corn meal with sea salt, black pepper and Cajun seasoning. Stir to mix. Add buttermilk slowly until a very thick batter forms. (Note: Depending on humidity you may need part of the buttermilk or all of it...Just keep an eye. Your batter should support the weight of your fish without sinking much.) Let sit for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the fish with the remaining 1/4 cup of corn meal on both sides of the fish:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Sprinkled with Corn Meal

Once the fish is sprinkled place one piece in the batter:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Ready to Coat

Next turn the fish over and make sure both sides are coated well with the batter:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Coated

Place coated fish in a baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Better Bites: Oven Baked Fish and Chips: Ready to Bake

Repeat this process until all of your fillets are coated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until fish is golden brown and done through.

Notes: Surprisingly the hot sauce and the Cajun seasoning doesn't make the fish "hot". It just gives it a nice over all flavor. You could really do this with any seasoning....Old Bay, Soul Food Seasoning, etc. Jamison's dad makes his fish this way and then fries it. We like the method so well that we do all of our breaded fish that way!

Posted by Dianne at 9:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 27, 2009

Better Bites: Corn Salad

Better Bites: Corn Salad

One of Lex's all time favorite foods is corn on the cob, so I often have a few ears hanging around in the fridge. This time of year corn is so fabulous because it's fresh, so sweet and not to mention cheap! The going rate around here is about 6 ears for a dollar. Now that's what I call sweet! ;oP

The traditional ways of cooked corn on the cob are great. You can grill the ears, boil them, roast them, etc. But as with many things I get bored with eating the same thing the same way over and over and over. The kernels of the corn actually make a great base for salads! Throw in some other vegetables and you've got the perfect, healthy meal in no time!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
2-3 ears of corn, cooked, cooled and kernels removed from the cob
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 green tomato, chopped
1 carrot, cut into small bits
1 cucumber, cut into chunks
2 sprigs of thyme, stripped from the stem
2 sprigs of rosemary, stripped from the stem and chopped
The juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup of parsley, chopped

First you want to strip the corn kernals off of the cob. You can do this several ways. They have handy dandy corn strippers that do the trick (though I don't have one of those) or you can use a serrated knife. Whenever I strip corn off the cob it reminds me of my grandfather who always ate it that way.

Anyway....

Dump the corn kernels into a glass bowl along with the other vegetables and toss to mix. Sprinkle the top of the vegetable mixture with thyme, rosemary and parsley and toss again. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste. Next squeeze the juice of one lime over the top of the mixture, along with the olive oil and toss to coat.

Better Bites: Corn Salad: Ready to Serve

Serve immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.

Notes: The flavors of this salad become better with time as they meld. You can keep it stored in an airtight container in your fridge for several days.

Posted by Dianne at 9:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 20, 2009

Better Bites: Chicken Asparagus Bake

Better Bites: Chicken Artichoke Bake

I like dishes that have several elements in the same dish. This is especially true of healthy dishes. When you have several components coming together it just makes the flavor pop!

This dish takes chicken breasts, pairs them with onion, herbs and asparagus to give you a healthy, yet hearty dish, that tastes superb! It also comes together very quickly and takes less than an hour to bake. (I like to bake it in my toaster oven!) Quick, healthy and delicious...You can't get better than that!

What You'll Need:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, stripped from the stem
2 springs of thyme, stripped from the stem
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place chicken breasts in an 8 X 8 inch dish. Top with onions and asparagus. Sprinkle the dish with sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Better Bites: Chicken Artichoke Bake: Ready to Bake

Bake for 25-30 minutes until chicken is done through and vegetables are tender.

Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Notes: You can use other herbs if you like. You can also add in other vegetables. Squash and zucchini would be good this time of year. Or how about some mushrooms? The possibilities are endless.

Posted by Dianne at 8:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 13, 2009

Better Bites: Two For One: Gazpacho Salad or Gazpacho Soup

Gazpacho Soup

As I mentioned before I'll be contributing over at Allie's Answers once a month or so. Today is the day! So stop over and say hello. It's a great place to get a lot of green tips and ideas!

In the summer it is so easy to eat healthy, local, fresh produce! Some of us don't have the luxury of being able to have fresh, local produce year round, so we really enjoy it when we do! But if you're like me after the initial thrill of having a vine ripe tomato all by itself, or fresh cucumbers sliced for a snack, or any other variety of summer garden goody right from the garden/farmer's market all by themselves has worn off you want to do something else with the natural bounty.

For years I've wanted to make some gazpacho, but I always get side tracked. (And in all honesty try...How is it possible that I had never had gazpacho before now?) Gazpacho is the perfect summer time treat! By taking a few simple ingredients and about 10 minutes you've got dinner in no time! It's cool (which is fabulous on a hot summer day), it's no cook so you don't have to heat up your house to eat (also great on a hot summer day), there are no animal products or by products (making the dish vegan, for those of us trying to eat less meat and thus reduce our overall impact) and it's a delicious, not to mention healthy, way to have a filling meal, without eating anything that is too heavy. Overall it's a very earth friendly recipe and that is always a plus.

Another great thing about gazpacho is that it's quite versatile. You can add in other vegetables that you like, throw in some herbs, or even add in some bread crumbs if you like. If you aren't in the mood for soup you can eat the vegetable combination before it's processed smooth as a salad. Also the proportions don't have to be exactly the same each time. It's a forgiving recipe that allows you to experiment each time. It's quick, easy and delicious and sometimes in the summer that is just what you need!

Gazpacho: Ingredients

What You'll Need:
6-8 tomatoes
4-6 small cucumbers, cut in half and sliced (Note: You want the pickling size. If you can't find these you can use one large cucumber.)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a large red onion, sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar

Chop tomatoes and place in a large glass bowl:

Gazpacho: Tomatoes

Next chop cucumbers and add them in with the tomatoes:

Gazpacho: Tomatoes and Cucumbers

And then the green peppers:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Green Peppers

Red onion:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Red Onion

Garlic:

Gazpacho: Vegetables and Garlic

And last your black pepper, salt, oil and vinegar:

Gazpacho: Vegetables, Pepper, Salt, Oil and Vinegar

The really great thing about this is that everything can be roughly chopped. It doesn't have to be uniform or perfect, just chop and go!

After everything is in the bowl you want to stir to mix everything together and let the oil and vinegar coat the vegetables:

Gazpacho Salad: You Can Stop Here or Proceed to Make Soup!

At this point you can do one of two things...You can stop right here and have Gazpacho Salad or you can proceed to the directions below to make soup.

Place vegetable mixture in your food processor or blender:

Gazpacho: Vegetables Ready to Process

Process until smooth and place in a serving dish:

Gazpacho Soup: Ready to Serve

Repeat this process until you have processed all of your vegetables into soup.

You can chill this soup or eat it immediately. It's great topped with parsley or fresh herbs.

Makes 4-6 main course servings.

And look at this:

Gazpacho Soup

The color and texture is fabulous! Not to mention the taste! You get a zing from the onion, garlic and black pepper, coupled with a coolness from the other vegetables. It's just the perfect combination!

Notes: If you want a chunkier soup then don't process for as long. You could also add herbs in with the vegetables. Rosemary, thyme and/or oregano would be great or how about dill? These subtle changes can make it so you have something different, yet similar every time!

Cross posted at Allie's Answers.

Posted by Dianne at 9:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 6, 2009

Better Bites: Zucchini and Squash

Zucchini and Squash

It's that time of year, the time where you start having fresh vegetables either from your own garden, or at the Farmer's Market or even your local markets. It is so easy to eat healthy and fresh during the summer!

One of my favorite side dishes during the summer, when squash and zucchini are in season, is a very simple dish that utilizes the naturally buttery taste of the squashes, paired with a sweet onion, that makes the perfect side dish or main course that tastes decadent, but is anything but.

I'll say it again...Who says eating healthily has to be boring?

What You'll Need:
3 zucchini, cut in half and then sliced
3 yellow squash, cut in half and then sliced
1 sweet or red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Zucchini and Squash: Ready to Cook

In a large pot over medium heat add zucchini, squash, onion, a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. (Note: You don't need more than a tablespoon or two of oil at most.) Stir ingredients to coat and cook over medium heat until squashes and onion are tender.

See how easy and quick that was? Quick, easy and delicious...Now that's my kind of dish!

Notes: You can eat this as a side dish or you can serve it over rice as a main course.

Posted by Dianne at 8:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 22, 2009

Better Bites: Stir Fry

bbdd2

I like stir fry. It's a fun dish to whip up, takes very little time, yet gives a delicious, healthy result that you could easily share with others. You can include anything you like. You can make an all vegetable version or you can use chicken, shrimp, beef, etc. If you like it, you can add it to your stir fry! It's all a matter of making it to your tastes.

Today we're going to take a look at two versions...One made with shrimp and one made with chicken. The only difference between the two are the components, the "sauce" is the same. This is a very basic, very simple way to have a great stir fry in minutes! And you get two dishes that are practically the same, yet totally different too!

Stir fry is such a versatile dish. You can make it many ways, switch up the ingredients and always have something slightly different, yet similar. This dish is satisfying, healthy and delicious! Paired with some brown rice you've got the perfect healthy, yet hearty meal!

Better Bites: Stir Fry Two Ways: Shrimp

What You'll Need for the Shrimp Stir Fry:
Sesame oil (Note: You can also use extra virgin olive oil)
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 cup of snow peas (Note: I measure these by standing them up on their ends in the measuring cup.)
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
1-2 cup of broccoli (Note: More if you're a big fan of broccoli, less if you aren't.)
1/3 cup of soy sauce (Note: You can use any type you like. I used a gluten free version.)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (Note: Use more if you like it hot, use less if you don't.)
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined (Note: You can buy them this way if you don't want to do it yourself.)

In a large skillet sauté onion, snow peas, mushrooms and broccoli until just tender. Add soy sauce and peppers, along with shrimp and stir to coat. (Note: Soy sauce is salty by itself. No need to add more salt.)

Cook until soy sauce starts to evaporate/thicken and shrimp turns pink.

Serve immediately over brown rice.

Makes roughly 2 dinner sized servings.

Better Bites: Stir Fry Two Ways: Chicken

What You'll Need for the Chicken Stir Fry:
Sesame oil (Note: You can also use extra virgin olive oil)
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into chunks
1 small onion, cut into strips
1 cup of snow peas (Note: See note above on measuring.)
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of asparagus, chopped
1/3 cup of soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (Note: Use more if you like it hot, use less if you don't.)

Sauté chicken in a little sesame oil until slightly browned and done through. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Sauté onion, snow peas, mushrooms and asparagus until tender. Add a little more sesame oil before sautéing if needed.

Once vegetables are tender place chicken back to the pan, along with soy sauce and peppers and stir to coat. Cook until soy sauce is absorbed and serve immediately over brown rice.

Makes 2 dinner sized servings.

Notes: You could easily leave the meat out of either of these and add in other vegetables and/or tofu. Shredded carrot would be great or how about some bamboo shoots or water chestnuts. You could even do all three!

Posted by Dianne at 9:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms

First off let me say again (as you can see!) things are a little different around here this morning! I finally got around to the redesign. I'm very happy with everything so far and things seem to be going smoothly!

Also I'm still in search of Maryland food bloggers. As you can see I've added a section on my blog roll to compile a list of those of us here in Maryland that blog about food. So if you are a Maryland food blogger or know one let me know! Also if you see something a little wonky around the site let me know that too!

On a totally different note I will be doing a cross post entry for Allie's Answers tomorrow about the importance of eating local when possible with a great recipe with ingredients straight from my CSA! I'll be joining Allie and Courtney once a month or so to blog a little green food so stay tunned....You won't want to miss that!

Now let's talk some mushrooms!

As I've mentioned before I like to substitute mushrooms for meat. They are a hearty, yet healthy alternative that are fun to play around with. This version pairs the mushrooms with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and onions to give you a savory combination that is just perfect when you want something satisfying, yet want to give the meat a rest.

What You'll Need:
2-3 large portobello mushroom caps, cut into slices
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Dried onions
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush a baking dish with a little olive oil or spray with non-stick spray. Place mushrooms in baking dish and drizzle with olive oil (roughly 1-2 tablespoons) and balsamic vinegar (about 2-3 tablespoons). Next sprinkle with onions, sea salt and black pepper.

Better Bites: Balsamic Mushrooms: Ready to Bake

Bake for 25-30 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: Leftover mushrooms make a great topping for baked potatoes, rice or pasta. You could use fresh chopped onion if you liked, but I had some dried onions I wanted to try.

Posted by Dianne at 9:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 8, 2009

Better Bites: Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes

Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes

As I mentioned last week I was really excited to see garlic scapes in our CSA package last week. I had always wanted to try them, but could never find them anywhere. This was my first taste and I have to say...I'm hooked! They are garlicky, with just the right punch!

We also got some chard in our things last week and I decided it would be interesting to combine the two. They really went well together! This makes a fabulous side dish, or even a main dish if you're in the mood for something a little different. Either way it's delicious!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
8-10 chard leaves, cut into strips
2 garlic scapes, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (Note: If you don't like things spicy, use less, if you like it spicy, use more. You can leave this out all together if you want.)

Wash chard and lay leaves flat, one on top of the other, and cut into long strips:

Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes: Chard

Next chop garlic scapes:

Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes: Garlic Scapes

Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil. Add chard, garlic scapes, a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes and give a little shake or stir to mix:

Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes: Cooking

Sauté until scapes are just tender and chard is wilted (about 4-6 minutes):

Spicy Chard with Garlic Scapes: Cooked

Serve immediately.

Makes 2 side servings or 1 main course serving.

Notes: You could add some chopped onions to the mix if you liked, or possibly some chopped mushrooms too.

Posted by Dianne at 9:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 1, 2009

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt

I've always wanted to make some frozen yogurt, but I never had. I don't know why...The process couldn't be simpler, yet something always kept me from actually making a batch. When I decided to have another ice cream week since last year was so much fun, I decided I would finally try to make some frozen yogurt. Then I just had to decide what kind I wanted to make.

Some of the versions that flitted through my head included peach, blueberry and just your basic vanilla, but I finally decided that strawberry was the way I wanted to go. Frozen yogurt is a bit healthier than your standard ice cream, but it's enjoyable none the less. You can utilize fresh, local fruit and make a healthier, cool treat that really hits the spot!

bbdd2

Note: This recipe is designed to fit this ice cream maker. You could easily double or triple it or whatever to fit in a larger machine.

icwdd2009

What You'll Need:
2 - 16 ounce containers of plain fat free Greek Yogurt (Note: I like Oikos.)
2 cups of strawberries, chopped (Note: I like chunks of frozen fruit in my ice cream/frozen yogurt. If you prefer you can mash the berries for a smoother consistency.)
2/3 cup of organic cane sugar

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt: Strawberries

The day before you plan to make your frozen yogurt chop (or mash) your strawberries and pour sugar over them. Place in an airtight container (I like to use a canning jar) and place in the fridge overnight to let juice form:

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt: Strawberries and Sugar

Once juice has formed combine strawberry sugar mixture with yogurt in a large bowl and stir until mostly mixed:

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt: Ready to Freeze

Don't worry about getting it completely mixed unless you just want to. The ice cream freezer will do part of the mixing for you as it turns.

Place mixture in the bowl of ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine's directions. Once the mixture hits the soft serve stage you can serve immediately or place in the freezer in an airtight container to harden fully.

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt: Soft Serve

Once you put this mixture in the freezer it gets quite hard, so you'll have to let it sit on the counter for a bit to be soft enough to serve.

Notes: You could use a Greek yogurt with a higher fat content if you wanted. You could also do this with any fruit that you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 8:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 25, 2009

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps

I like pizza and while pizza can get heavy/fattening, in moderation it's not a bad thing. In fact take a look at your ingredients you've got the food groups represented all in one slice! But occasionally I like to lighten things up and make pizza with a base that consists of something other than dough like I did with these Mini Eggplant Pizzas.

My favorite pizza topping are vegetables. My ideal pizza consists of dough, sometimes whole grain, sometimes not, sauce, fresh mozzarella torn into small pieces, grated Parmesan, red onion, bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, green olives, black olives and mushrooms, topped with some dried oregano and a drizzle of olive oil. When I make pizza nine times out of ten some variation of what is listed above is what I end up making for myself. But I also like goat cheese versions, chicken pizza and even BBQ pizza. Pizza is good!

This version takes an element you might find on a pizza and turns it into the base. It makes the pizza much lighter over all, given that the dough adds a lot of calories to the pizza in the first place. Portobello Pizza Caps are quick, delicious and gives you that pizza feeling, when you want pizza, but don't want as many calories in the process!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Large portobella mushroom caps, washed and dried
Pizza or marinara sauce
Mozzarella
Parmesan
Pizza topping of your choice such as:
Chopped onion
Chopped bell pepper
Sun dried tomatoes or regular chopped tomatoes
Olives
Mushrooms
Oregano

Preheat oven to 425 F. (Note: I actually made this in my toaster oven. When it gets hot outside I use my toaster oven a lot because it doesn't heat up the house as much.)

Place a portobello mushroom cap on a baking sheet bottom up:

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps: Portobello Cap

Top center with pizza or marinara sauce:

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps: Sauce

Top sauce with cheese:

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps: Cheese

I used about a half ounce of each type of cheese.

Then top with your favorite toppings and a sprinkle of dried oregano:

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps: Ready to Bake

Bake for 20-30 minutes until portobello mushrooms is tender and then serve!

Better Bites: Portobello Pizza Caps: Dig In!

Notes: I had originally thought of this as a grill recipe, but we don't actually have a grill (boy do I miss having a grill!) so obviously that didn't happen. You could use meat toppings too if you liked, but as I said I like veggie versions of pizza the best.

Posted by Dianne at 10:31 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 18, 2009

Better Bites: Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

How was everyone's weekend? Ours was good. On Saturday we went to Alexis' art class and then out for lunch and to run some errands. On Sunday Jamison and Alexis went to church and I stayed behind to do my weekly cleaning. It's amazing how much you can get done when you don't have to stop every two minutes or so to read a book, or play a game! ;oP Jamison and I even found time to watch a few movies this weekend. When does that ever happen??

Yesterday winter came back to our part of Maryland for a bit. It was a bit nippy! We even had a threat of frost last night, but luckily it didn't happen. I covered all my herbs, veggies an flowers just in case though! Today the high is supposed to be in the 60's and then tomorrow and the rest of the week we're supposed to be back in the 70's. I like the 70's...I wish they'd stick around a bit longer!

Now let's talk some tomatoes!

When Jamison's parents came to see us a month or so ago, Jamison's dad brought me a big bag of tomatoes from south Georgia! Talk about getting on my good side! ;o) Alexis and I enjoyed tomatoes for a week after they were here...Big, ripe, juicy tomatoes! We had tomato slices, tomato sandwiches and I even made a salad or two. This salad is one that I threw together, but it came out so good!

With just a few simple ingredients you've got a fabulous salad that tastes amazing and takes no time to make. There is just nothing like a fresh tomato and when a dish tastes great, but is healthy too it makes it that much better!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
4 cups of chopped tomatoes
2 cups of chopped cucumber
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cups of freshly dill, chopped
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of rice vinegar

In a large glass bowl toss together tomatoes and cucumbers until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Next add chopped dill and toss to incorporate.

In a bowl or canning jar stir or shake together oil and vinegar until mixed. (Note: This is so easy to do in a canning jar. Just slap on the lid and shake and you're ready!) Pour mixture over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately or let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Notes: As with any salad you make with vegetables and vinegar this really is an eat it now sort of dish. If you let it sit for too long the vinegar starts to break down the flesh of the vegetables. Also you could add in some steamed shrimp or roasted turkey or chicken if you wanted to "beef" it up a bit. I tried it one afternoon with turkey for lunch and it was great!

Posted by Dianne at 9:36 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 11, 2009

Better Bites: Mexican Chicken

Mexican Chicken

Let's get back on track today! We'll start out with Better Bites and proceed to recipes throughout the week. Friday Link Love will be back, I'll update you on what is going on in my container garden and tomorrow you'll get a recipe, plus a post that will help you get to know my new blog daughter Teri from Make a Whisk a little better too! That should be fun!

How was everyone's weekend? Did you have a good Mother's Day? I did! Alexis woke me up to give me an adorable card that she made for me and then we spent the day just hanging out and doing fun stuff. Jamison picked up lunch from OutBack, and then after Lex's nap she and I went out and sat on the front porch to blow bubbles. After that I had fun "playing in the dirt" and got some tomatoes and peppers planted in my hanging containers and I also got some more herbs and flowers planted as well. It was a very nice day! With all the excitement of last week I had sort of forgotten about Mother's Day and yesterday proved to be a very fun, very relaxing day for me. It was just perfect!

One the Alexis front I want to thank you all again for your thoughts and prayers. She is soooooooo much better! Still not 100%, but she's definitely on the right path. Her appetite is slowly coming back and her energy level has rapidly multiplied until she is back to her bouncy little self. Her fever still keeps popping up here and there, but I'm hoping that will sort itself out in the next day or so.

Now let's talk some chicken!

I love spicy dishes and it's fun to play around with ingredients to make a Mexican themed dish, yet still be able to put something on the table that isn't so bad for you in the long run. This dish pairs the spice, but leaves out the fat and other aspects that are sometimes not so great for you otherwise. Don't get me wrong...Full fledged Mexican cooking is always a fun treat, but as much as I would like for it to be, it's not always that good for you! This way you get the flavor and the spice, without all the stuff that is bad for you. What's not to like about that?

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks or strips
2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika (Note: If you don't have the smoked variety, the regular type will work too.)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of adobo chilies powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4-1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Note: This is all according to how hot you like things. If you don't like heat then leave it out all together!)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into strips
1 large bell pepper cut into strips

Note: To make this dish you will need two skillets going at once. It isn't difficult, so don't let the two skillet idea seem daunting. It mostly is just stirring each of them here or there. Neither skillet needs constant attention.

In a large skillet add chicken, water and spices and pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper. Bring mixture to a quick boil. Cook on high, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and chicken is done through. Once water has disappeared cook for 2 minutes stirring often to brown the chicken a bit.

Mexican Chicken

While chicken is cooking in another skillet sauté onion and peppers in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir occasionally and cook until tender.

Once chicken is cooked place it on a plate. Top with sautéed peppers and onions and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Notes: This make an excellent filling for fajitas. You can also do this process with beef. For a vegetarian option you could do the same process with slices of portabella mushroom.

Posted by Dianne at 9:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2009

Better Bites: Ten Minute Tomato Soup

Better Bites: Ten Minute Tomato Soup

First up for those of you who were not around this weekend, let me direct you to the post where I introduced my new blog daughter...Teri from Make a Whisk! Be sure and stop by and say hello!

This weekend flew by for us! I'm always amazed at how fast the weekends actually go, especially as of late! There were play dates to be had, an art class for Miss G, errands to be run, chores to be done, church, and so on and on. I didn't get half of what I hoped to get done, done, but I accomplished some stuff I hadn't thought I would get to this weekend either, so that's always good too.

Now let's talk some quick, delicious, yet healthy tomato soup!

Healthy food doesn't have to take an inordinate amount of time, nor does it have to taste like cardboard. Healthy recipes can be whipped up in no time and you don't have to worry about losing taste either. This soup is the prime example. If you like tomato soup you can have a fabulous version in about ten minutes....How great is that?

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
2 - 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sized pot add tomato sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Makes roughly 4 servings.

Better Bites: Ten Minute Tomato Soup

Notes: This truly is a whip it up fast kind of soup. It goes perfectly by itself or even better pair it with a grilled cheese on whole grain sandwich!

Posted by Dianne at 11:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 13, 2009

Better Bites: Carrot and Cucumber Salad

Carrot and Cucumber Salad

All this Easter stuff this past week made me think of carrots, because you know the Easter Bunny, he loves him some carrots! He gobbled up the one we left out for him Saturday night! ;oP

Many of you probably remember (and possibly even like) that old timey carrot salad that is mayonnaise based, with shredded carrots, raisins, and possibly sometimes some sort of nut depending on who made the dish. I was never a fan. It looked pretty to me, but taste wise it just wasn't up my alley.

So I started thinking of other ways you could make a carrot type salad, without using mayonnaise or raisins and I started playing around with ideas using an oil/vinegar base instead. I also wanted to add something else in to compliment the carrots instead of raisins and finally decided cucumber would be just perfect with the carrots and vinaigrette.

Then I had the base of the salad, but I wanted to add in some sort of herb and even use something you might not necessarily immediately think of when you think of brown rice vinegar.

My first thought was rosemary, but I decided that was a bit too powerful. Ah rosemary...I LOVE rosemary! But for this dish it just wasn't what I had in mind.

I thought briefly of basil, but put that aside as well. I'll readily admit I'm not a huge fan of basil. I think it is a nice compliment and I like it in things, but I don't like it that much as the main flavor component. It's just a bit to strong for me.

I finally decided to go with dried thyme and I was extremely pleased with the result! The thyme brings out just the right flavors overall and blends well with the overall dish.

Try it...I think you will be pleased too!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
4-6 large carrots, shredded
1 English cucumber, cut into fourths and chopped
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of brown rice vinegar
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large glass bowl toss together carrots and cucumbers. Set aside.

Carrot and Cucumber Salad: Vinaigrette

In a small glass bowl stir together olive oil, vinegar, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until completely mixed. (Note: I like to do this with a fork.)

Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss to mix. Serve immediately or chill for up to an hour before serving.

Notes: You could add some chopped parsley to the mix if you liked.

Posted by Dianne at 10:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 6, 2009

Better Bites: Spicy Asparagus

Better Bites: Spicy Asparagus

Asparagus is one of my all time favorite vegetables. Nine times out of ten if you take a peek in to my fridge you'll find a bunch of asparagus sitting there ready to be devoured! It's a constant for me.

The first time I had asparagus was actually when I was pregnant with Alexis. Jamison had to go on a business trip to Islandia, NY and I tagged along. We stayed in this really great hotel and given I was miserable 99.9% of the time that I was pregnant, unless I was in a swimming pool, we ordered room service for dinner several of the nights that we were there. They had an amazing roasted vegetable mix that included asparagus and I fell in love right then and there!

Most of the time when I make asparagus I make it by simply by drizzling it with some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkling it with some sea salt and black pepper and baking it for about 10 minutes at 425 F. But sometimes I like to play around with this very versatile vegetable! Another way I like to make it is with a little chopped garlic and tomatoes as a pasta topper. This version came about because I was in the mood for something a little spciy and what's better for spicy than a little wasabi?

The best part, aside from being delicious, is how quickly this dish comes together! In no time you'll have an amazing, healthy side dish with a kick...How fabulous is that?

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 large bunch of asparagus (Note: This is about 20-30 spears.)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of wasabi powder
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat until hot.

While skillet is heating trim asparagus and have it ready to go in the pan. Set aside.

Better Bites: Spicy Asparagus: "Sauce"

In a bowl whisk together olive oil, wasabi powder, a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until completely incorporated. Set aside.

Brush the bottom of the hot skillet with a little of the wasabi/oil mixture. Place the asparagus into the pan and drizzle the rest of the wasabi/oil mixture over the top of the asparagus. Cook asparagus, turning often, until slightly tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Notes: You could do this in the oven too at 425 F for about 10-15 minutes or until tender.

Posted by Dianne at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2009

Better Bites: Tomato Sauce

Better Bites: Tomato Sauce

Have you ever read the labels on most pasta sauces? A lot of them have high fructose corn syrup in them and the rest of them have sugar, which is better than the HFCS, but still why cover up the flavor of the tomatoes by adding sweetness? Most of the time they aren't so acidic that you even need to add sugar, so why add it if they don't need it? Making you own sauce, is not only very simple, it's also extremely tasty as well!

This version of tomato sauce is my "winter" version utilizing dried herbs and canned tomatoes, but in the summer you can even utilize fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs! We'll get to that version this summer, but for now let's talk about the "winter" version instead!


bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained (Note: You can use regular or fire roasted.)

In a medium sized stock pot sauté garlic and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until onions are tender. Be sure to keep an eye on this so you don't burn your garlic.

Next add the herbs and then the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for at least an hour. (Note: The longer you cook it the more the flavors meld.)

Once cooked you can store it in the fridge in a glass canning jar for several weeks. Use to top pasta or as a sauce for pizza.

Notes: You can add other vegetables into the sauce. I like to add mushrooms and bell peppers if I'm using it as a pasta topper. I tend to leave it more plain, as in this state, when I'm going to use it for pizza sauce.

Posted by Dianne at 12:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 23, 2009

Better Bites: Breakfast Week Edition: Do It Yourself Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Better Bites: Breakfast Week: Do It Yourself Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

So let's start off Breakfast Week with a healthy alternative that covers Better Bites as well!

As a child I loved apple cinnamon oatmeal, but as I've gotten older I've gotten more into a do it yourself way of thinking when it comes to food. It ends up tasting better and it's better for you than the highly processed alternatives.

A few years ago I started making my own apple and cinnamon oatmeal and really loved the results. Big chunks of apples...Lots of yummy cinnamon...What's not to like? Who says a healthy breakfast has to be boring or taste like cardboard?

ddbw2009

What You'll Need:
1/2 an apple, chopped
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of honey (or any other natural sweetner that you like...Natural brown sugar or maple syrup work well too!)
1/2 cup of whole grain oats
1 cup of water

(Note: This version is completely in the microwave....Healthy and quick...How fabulous is that?)

Better Bites: Breakfast Week: Do It Yourself Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal: Apples

Place your apples in a microwaveable glass dish with cinnamon and honey. Cook for 1 minute or until apples are tender.

Add oatmeal and water and cook for 1-2 minutes until water is absorbed and oatmeal is soft. Stir to mix and serve immediately.

Better Bites: Breakfast Week: Do It Yourself Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Notes: You can add in 1/3 cup of raisins if you like.

Don't forget to check back tomorrow as Breakfast Week continues for something a bit more sinful! ;oP

Posted by Dianne at 3:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2009

Better Bites: Mediterranean Chicken

Mediterranean Chicken

First up I want to thank my guest bloggers from last week again! Thanks to you all for letting me have a little break. We had a nice little mini-vacation and that is always fun!

This dish is extremely easy to make. It's basically a pour and go sort of recipe. I wasn't sure what to call it, but since all the ingredients are rather Mediterranean I decided to call it Mediterranean Chicken.

This is just perfect for a week night when you want something delicious and healthy, but don't want to go to a lot of work. Serve it over a bed of rice or some whole grain noodles and dinner is served!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
2 chicken breasts, bone in, skin removed (Note: If you don't want to remove the skin that's ok too, but it will have more fat content that way.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1- 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (Note: Any version you like would work. Fire roasted would be especially nice!)
1 - 6 ounce can of black olives, drained
1 small container of button mushrooms
1 - 14 ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a glass baking dish that has a lid. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Next pour the diced tomatoes into the dish. Top the tomatoes with the black olives and mushrooms. Place the artichoke hearts around the edges of the dish and then sprinkle the whole thing with garlic.

Mediterranean Chicken: Ready to Bake

Next add just a bit more sea salt and black pepper. Once everything is in the dish cover with the lid and bake for 1 hour and then serve.

Mediterranean Chicken: Baked

See how easy that was? Not to mention delicious!

Notes: You could use sliced olives if you liked, but I prefer whole. You could also use olives off of the olive bar in place of the canned variety. This is normally what I would use, but I had a can of olives I needed to use so I went with those. Though I have never tried it, this would probably be perfect in the slow cooker too!

Posted by Dianne at 8:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 9, 2009

Better Bites: Nut Loaf From Allie

Nut Loaf

Today begins a new series of Guest Bloggers! Please welcome Allie from Allie's Answers, who brings us a fabulous Nut Loaf for this week's edition of Better Bites! She's helped me out before, but this time Allie took time out of her busy schedule editing to help me out so be sure and stop over at her blog and say hello! She has some fabulous tips and ideas about everything green!

bbdd2

This recipe for nut loaf is one of my favorite meals. It's from the Slow Cooker One-pot & Casserole Cookbook by Catherine Atkinson and Jenni Fleetwood. The book is fantastic, but sadly, I don't believe it's in print any longer. The recipe is a little labor intensive, but well worth it. Nut loaf is a great vegetarian main course, but meat-eaters will enjoy it too. And using the slow cooker instead of the oven saves energy.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
2 celery sticks
3 cups mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 15oz can of lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup mixed (unsalted) nuts - I used cashews, pecans, and hazelnuts - finely chopped 1/2 rice flour (original recipe calls for all-purpose, but I used rice flour to make it gluten-free)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 egg slightly beaten
3 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Put a saucer upside down in the slow cooker pot. Add 1 inch of hot water to the pot. Set heat to high and begin cooking.

Grease base and sides of a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Heat water (enough to fill the rest of the slow cooker) just short of boiling.

Chop onion, leek, celery, mushrooms, and garlic finely in the food processor. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add chopped mixture and cook until veggies are soft, but not browned. Turn off heat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Press the mixture into the loaf pan, leaving the top smooth, and cover the pan with foil.

Balance the pan on the saucer in the slow cooker pot, and pour the hot water in until it reaches the halfway point on the loaf pan. Place the cover on the slow cooker and cook on high until firm to the touch (3-4 hours). Cool for 15 minutes.

Slice and serve. The nut loaf is great hot, but even better the next day for lunch. I enjoy it cold over a mesclun mix salad.

Thanks Allie! Check back tomorrow for another great entry from my fabulous line up of guest bloggers!

Posted by Dianne at 9:01 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 2, 2009

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup

Soup is a very easy way to pack a vegetable punch, all while being relatively healthy, yet at the same time hearty. You can make a really great soup with fabulous flavor by simply roasting some vegetables in the oven and then making your soup from there. This method is extremely easy, yet the taste is amazing. What's more perfect for dinner (or even lunch!) on a cold winter day?

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
1 large sweet potato, cut in half
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into wedges
3-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Celtic or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup: Vegetables Ready to Roast

On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet place prepared vegetables and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place pan in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until vegetables are tender. (Note: The garlic will only take 20-25 minutes so go ahead and remove it then. You don't want to let it go the whole time or it will burn.) Once the vegetables are done remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup: Roasted Vegetables

Once the vegetables are cooled it's time to start "mashing" them up. You can do this one of three ways: 1) In the food processor (which I highly recommend...It's the easiest!), 2) With a potato masher or 3) With a food mill. I went the food mill route since I still haven't replaced my food processor.

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup

First start with the carrots, onion and garlic, since you don't have to do anything but put them in and go. Once they are mashed then cut the sweet potato into chunks and do it next. (Note: No need to remove the skin...Mash it all!) Lastly scoop the butternut squash pulp out of the skin process it last.

Better Bites: Roasted Vegetable Soup: Mashed Vegetables

Once you have all the vegetables "mashed" place the mashed mixture into a pot and stir in vegetable broth. Simmer for about 15 minutes and serve.

Notes: This soup is really fabulous with just the vegetable flavors and salt and pepper, but sometimes I do add thyme or dill. The soup is also vegan in and of itself. You can top it however you like, or you can eat it plain. I like a dollop of sour cream on top, which may or may not be vegan depending on the brand.

Posted by Dianne at 8:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 23, 2009

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crab Cakes

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes

With the Chesapeake Bay right in our backyard, Maryland is sort of the home of the crabcake. Sometimes though those crabcakes get really heavy because they are either pan or deep fried. A few years ago I decided to try my hand at making a baked version and this is what resulted. Everyone I've ever served them to that is a crab cake fan has loved them!

Overall I have to say that I like my crab cakes a little lighter. You still have all the flavors that meld so perfectly together, but they are a little less heavy and a whole lot less greasy! Who says you can't have your "crab" and eat it too...(Yes I went there! ;oP)

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 small red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (Note: I usually use 1/2 a red and 1/2 a yellow bell pepper. You can use one pepper of any color or mix it up. It's your choice.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of whole grain bread crumbs (Note: You want unseasoned for this dish. If you can't find whole grain then regular bread crumbs will work too or even panko.)
2 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning (Note: I prefer Old Bay, but any seafood seasoning will work.)
16 ounces of crab meat, rinsed and picked over for shells (Note: You can use lump, backfin, claw, whatever you can find. Artificial crab will not work for this.)
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes: Peppers and Onions

In a large skillet over medium heat sauté onion and bell pepper with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes: Peppers and Onions Cooking

In a large bowl mix bread crumbs and Old Bay Seasoning until completely mixed. Stir in cooked onions/peppers and crab meat and mix until incorporated. Add eggs to bind together the mixture and then it's time to form the cakes.

I like to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make the cakes. Spray the cup with non-stick spray and then dip it into the bowl with the crab cake filling. Mash the mixture into the cup to give it good shape:

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes: Ready to Put In the Baking Dish

Then turn the cup over and dump the cake into a large baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes: Ready to Bake

Repeat this process until you run out of the crab mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes about a dozen crab cakes.

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes: The Inside

Notes: These crab cakes freeze beautifully. Freeze them fully cooked and then thaw and reheat and you are set to go! You can serve them all by themselves or pair them with some dill tartar sauce.

Posted by Dianne at 9:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 16, 2009

Better Bites: Chunky Tomato Soup

Better Bites: Chunky Tomato Soup

I remember the day when weekends were blissful, relaxing things...Do you remember those days?? This weekend, as has been the case of late, was anything but! I did however find the time to make some soup on Saturday evening. I wanted something quick, yet healthy and delicious and this soup definitely fit the bill!

There is something infinitely pleasing about tomato based soups. They are very versatile and you can make something very quickly that still has a bit of a wow factor to the dish.

Another good thing about this soup is that it is not only vegetarian, it is also vegan too, which is especially nice when you are concerned about cholesterol and such. It's not only healthy, it's also very "green" as well. You could easily pair this with a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad and have a fabulous meal in a short period of time.

Who says healthy has to be boring?

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of sliced mushrooms (Note: I used a mixture of button and baby portabella.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 - 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (Note: You can use what ever variety that you like. I used plain this go around, but fired roasted would be great too!)

In a medium sized pot sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms with a pinch of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper in a little extra virgin olive oil until onions are tender. Add oregano and thyme and stir to mix. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stirring to incorporate, and bring to a quick boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Better Bites: Chunky Tomato Soup

How easy was that? Look at all that chunky vegetable goodness! ;oP

Notes: You could use different herbs if you liked. Rosemary is always good, as would be dried basil. You could also add other vegetables. I sometimes use leeks and/or carrots. Alexis even suggested celery and I think she may be on to something there.

Posted by Dianne at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 2, 2009

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche

I love white whole wheat flour! It gives you the perfect way to take whole grain and make it a little bit more appetizing than straight whole wheat flour. It's finer, yet still whole grain, so it gives the baked good you are making a better texture, yet still gives you the added fiber. It works with bread, so I thought "Why not try it in a pie crust?" and you know what...It was fabulous!

Quiche can be anything you want it to be, but a slice of quiche, especially this one with its whole grain crust, is a perfect element of a healthy meal! Pair it with a nice green salad and you've got a meal that has your grains, protein, dairy and vegetables all rolled into one!

bbdd2

What You'll Need for the Whole Grain Crust:
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 sticks of very cold butter, cut into small pieces (Note: If you wanted to make this even healthier you could forgo the butter and use olive oil instead. I've never tried it with white whole wheat flour, but it should work just the same.)
1 cup of ice water

In a bowl stir together flour and salt to mix. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is pebbly. Add water and stir until ball forms. (Note: Depending on the humidity you may need more or less water. Add water slowly and when the ball forms stop. If you need more than a cup don't sweat it.) On a floured surface roll the dough out into a circle. Press into a pie dish, crimping the edges and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill.

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche

What You'll Need for the Quiche Filling:
10-12 eggs
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 cups of mushroom slices
1/2 cup of light swiss, shredded
1/2 cup of light, sharp cheddar, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche: Zucchini

In a large bowl beat eggs until completely mixed. (Note: If you use large eggs you'll only need 10. If your eggs are smallish then you'll need to use 12. Don't worry though you can't mess it up either way...There is not such thing as too many or too few eggs when it comes to quiche! You want enough to cover your ingredients. If they aren't then whip up another egg or two with a touch of salt and pepper and pour them over. It will all come together in the end.) Stir in salt and pepper.

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche: Mushrooms

Stir in mushrooms, zucchini and cheeses until mixed. Pour into chilled pie shell. Bake for 20-240 minutes until done through and slightly browned. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Better Bites: Whole Grain Zucchini and Mushroom Quiche

Notes: Quiches are very subjective things. You can add whatever vegetable you like, you can leave the cheese out all together or you can even add in herbs or spices. I really like dill in quiches. So go nuts and experiment! It's all about coming up with something you like.

Posted by Dianne at 2:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 26, 2009

Better Bites: Beef and Barley Soup

Beef and Barley Soup

There is no reason you can't have lean beef and some potatoes in a healthy well rounded diet, if you eat them properly. That doesn't mean they have to be boring either. This soup is simple, yet hearty and healthy, all while being delicious and easy. It's just perfect when you want something that tastes good, that isn't all that bad for you, yet tastes amazing. You can make it straight up or you can play around with the ingredients and make something a little different every time, but trust me you can't go wrong!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped into cubes
1 medium sized potato, chopped into cubes
1 small onion, chopped
1 - 1 pound lean steak, sliced into bite sized bits
A pinch of sea salt
A generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
1 quart of broth (Note: Beef or mushroom broth would be best, but whatever you like will be fine! I used some homemade beef broth this go around, but I've used mushroom broth in the past as well.)
1 -14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained (Note: Fire roasted tomatoes really give this soup a nice overall flavor,but you can use plain, or even the ones that are seasoned with basil and oregano.)
3/4 cup of barley

In a medium sized pot over medium heat sauté carrot, potato and onion in a little extra virgin olive oil until onions are tender. Add the steak and cook until just browned. Next add a pinch of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add broth, diced tomatoes and barley and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes or until barley, potatoes and carrots are tender. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add any sort of herb you like to this soup. I prefer just salt and pepper because I think the soup is fabulous as is, but if you wanted you could add some thyme, rosemary and/or basil. To mix things up you could use a sweet potato instead of a regular potato. You could also add in other vegetables such as mushrooms, leeks, corn, peas, etc.

Posted by Dianne at 8:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 19, 2009

Better Bites: Whole Grain Banana Bread

Whole Grain Banana Bread

Banana bread...Most people like it...What's not to like? It's just the right mix of fruit, yet it still has that satisfying aura of bread. On the other hand, bread isn't something you want to over do. But who says you can't take a classic and make it better for you, by using natural, whole grain ingredients? And of top of that it's also sinfully easy to make! It's still not something you want to go overboard on, but this takes banana bread to a whole new, healthier level!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
3 very ripe bananas
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl mash or beat bananas until smooth. Next add sugar, eggs, vanilla and apple sauce to the bananas and mix until smooth. Add sea salt, baking powder and baking soda to the banana mixture an stir to mix. Slowly add flour and mix until just incorporated.

Whole Grain Banana Bread

Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray add the batter. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes until bread is done through. Let sit in the pans for 5-10 minutes and then turn out to cool.

Notes: You can add 1 cup of nuts if you like.

Posted by Dianne at 8:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 12, 2009

Better Bites: Vegetable "Lasagna"

Vegetable "Lasagna"

First of let me just say that I'm not a fan of "low carb" anything and in fact I didn't take the noodles out of this dish to make it that. To be completely honest when I hear the term "low-carb" I cringe. Any "diet" (also another word I'm not that fond of...Focus on healthy eating not starving yourself to death on some "diet"!) that tells you it's ok to eat a slice of fatty bacon over an apple has more than a few issues! All things in moderation and if you want a piece of bacon, then plan for it, but all of that to say I can't tell you the carb content of the dish...I could figure it out if I wanted to, but I won't. I can however tell you my way of thinking...I believe in good carbs (whole grains, vegetables, fruits) versus bad carbs (refined sugars, flours, etc.). In fact you can make a perfectly healthy pasta dish using whole grain pastas just as easily, but I thought it would be fun to shake things up a bit.

Second, let's touch on the subject of dairy. Most fat free dairy is just nasty. It tastes like cardboard. The exceptions to this are skim milk, ricotta and some cottage cheeses. Low-fat dairy on the other hand isn't half bad and in some cases you can't even tell the difference. It's still something you want to use in moderation, but then again the key to these sort of things to begin with is moderation.

This dish pairs low-fat dairy, with zucchini to take lasagna to a whole new level. Who says you can't have "lasagna" when you're trying to eat right? This is just the dish for you!

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
1 - 16 or 18 ounce jar of marinara sauce (Note: Read the label. You want something that is made of tomatoes, perhaps some garlic and some herbs. If it has sugar, or god forbid high fructose corn syrup, put it back!)
3-4 large zucchini, cut in half and then cut into long slices roughly 1/4 of an inch thick
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of sliced mushrooms (Note: I usually slice them myself, but you can buy them sliced if you like.)
1 red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 a small container of fat-free ricotta
8 ounces of part skim mozzarella, shredded or sliced thing (Note: I buy a 16 ounce package and cut it in half and then shred or slice thin. Lately I've been slicing it.)
6 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Vegetable "Lasagna": Vegetables

In a large skillet sauté mushrooms, onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

(Note: This next step you can follow as written, BUT the next time I make this I am going to roast the zucchini FIRST. When you cook zucchini, as with most vegetables, they let off moisture, so it made the dish a bit most overall. It won't affect taste, but for presentation value it would be nice to roast it first. To do that you would simply pan "fry" or roast in the oven until tender and then cut the cooking time for the "lasagna" to 15-20 minute to just heat through and cheese is melted.)

Now to assemble the "lasagna"...

Spray an 8 X 8 inch dish with non-stick spray or brush it with olive oil. Layer it with a single layer of zucchini slices:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready for Ricotta

Next add some ricotta:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready for Marinara

Then a layer of marinara:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready for Vegetables

Next add the sautéed vegetables:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready for Cheese

Next add a little mozzarella and Parmesan:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready for the Next Layer

Repeat this process two more times and the top the top of the "lasagna" with the remaining cheese:

Vegetable "Lasagna": Ready to Bake

(Note: I like to go sparingly on the Parmesan on the in between layers and put the majority of it on the top.)

Bake covered for 35-40 minutes if you didn't cook the zucchini first or 15-20 if you did. In the last five minutes of cooking take off the cover so it can brown slightly. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes: You could add in herbs if you like, but the marinara sauce that I used was nicely herbed to start with. You could also make your own sauce. As with anything, even though this is lighter than the original dish, it's still something to be eaten in moderation, but it's much lighter than other versions! This is also gluten free.

Posted by Dianne at 1:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 5, 2009

Better Bites: Black Eyed Pea Salad

Black Eyed Pea Salad

There is a false assumption out there that if something is good for you then it tastes like cardboard, but that doesn't have to be the case. Since we just rang in the New Year I thought it would be fun to take your basic black eyed pea and kick it up a bit. Black eyed peas are a great source of protein, not to mention various vitamins. They really are a great way to ring in your New Year!

Funnily enough I wasn't always a fan of black eyed peas. If you told me before I got pregnant with Alexis that I would willingly eat them I would have laughed in your face. I was the same way with pinto beans...I just wasn't a fan! But when I was pregnant with Alexis I craved beans and peas of all sorts and I've never gone back! Now Alexis and I eat beans and peas quite often. She's a big fan and I must say that I now am too.

Traditionally (or at least in the south) black eyed peas are cooked with some sort of pork product or other type of fat, but really black eyed peas are quite flavorful in and of themselves and don't need much more than a little salt and pepper. The way I like to cook them is simple...Soak them overnight and then drain and rinse. Place them in a pot, cover with water, cook until tender AND THEN add some sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. You can eat them plain or you can use them in the salad below...You could even use the canned variety if you wanted. Go crazy why don't you!??!? ;oP

bbdd2

What You'll Need:
2 cups of cooked black eyed peas
1 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels (Note: Want to thaw them fast? Run them under a little warm water!)
1 cup of thawed frozen peas (Note: See tip for frozen corn above!)
1 small sweet onion, chopped (Note: I actually had one Vidalia left over from this summer, but any sweet onion will do.)
1 large carrot, chopped into cubes
1/4 cup of freshly squeeze lemon juice
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper (Note: More if you like it spicy, less if you don't.)

Black Eyed Pea Salad

In a large bowl toss together black eyed peas, corn, peas, onion and carrot until well mixed. Gently stir in lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper until just incorporated. Chill for at least and hour and serve.

Notes: You could add in any vegetables that you like. Mushrooms would be a good addition, or maybe some edamame and/or celery. This dish is also not only vegetarian, but vegan as well.

Posted by Dianne at 7:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack