Better Bites: Vegetable Soup

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!

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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 saute 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.

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon with Avocado Salsa

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!

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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.

Better Bites: My 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!

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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.

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!

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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.

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!

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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!

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! 😉

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!

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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 kernels 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.

Better Bites: Two for One: Gazpacho Soup or Salad

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.

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.

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!

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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.

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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.

Better Bites: Portabella Mushrooms 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!

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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.