Tag Archives: Vegetarian

A Warming Winter Dinner: Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans

It’s no secret that for the past week or so, the weather in the Bay Area has been pretty crappy. Gloomy, rainy, and really cold! (well, cold for the Bay Area, that is). So a few nights ago I decided to make a really hearty, warming recipe that I found on EatingWell.com – for Skillet Gnocchi. I had never made Gnocchi before so I thought it would be a fun experiment – and it turned out really well!

Tell me that doesn’t make your mouth water 🙂 It was surprisingly easy to make, and didn’t take very long at all. Of course, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly – so my modified recipe is below. You can find the original here. To anyone who’s a “Gnocchi virgin” or hasn’t enjoyed Gnocchi in the past, I’d really encourage you to try this dish! My husband has never enjoyed Gnocchi before – but he loved it. The dish is also really balanced and healthy – tons of fiber and protein from the beans & veggies, balanced with carbs from the reasonable portion of Gnocchi.

The Ingredients

A couple of notes:

  • The original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp of EVOO to fry the gnocchi before you add it to the dish. I just used EVOO cooking spray to pan fry the gnocchi and it worked perfectly! That was one main modification.
  • I also substituted frozen spinach for the chard in the original recipe – mainly to save time & prep work.
  • AND – I found whole wheat gnocchi at Trader Joe’s so I substituted that for the regular gnocchi.
  • I also added 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper and fresh basil to the dish to amp up the spice & flavor.

My ingredients list:

  • EVOO cooking spray
  • 1 tsp EVOO (to pan fry the onions)
  • 1 package whole wheat gnocchi
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings added
  • 1 15oz can white beans
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup part skim Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 tsp fresh basil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions. Drain, cool, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large skillet, and add the onion – cook for a few minutes
  3. Add the garlic and water – cover and cook until the onion is soft (4-6 min)
  4. Meanwhile, using EVOO spray, pan fry the gnocchi in a separate skillet until lightly browned
  5. Add the spinach to the skillet with the onion in it, and cook until the spinach defrosts/starts to wilt
  6. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, pepper, basil, crushed red pepper and salt to taste – bring to a simmer
  7. Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
  8. Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3-5 min.

Pictures – step by step:

Slicing the onions & pan-frying the gnocchi

How cute do those gnocchi pillows look? Once they were done cooking, I set them aside in a bowl

Meanwhile, the veggies were cooking

Don’t the colors look beautiful? When they were almost done cooking, I added in the gnocchi

And then, the best part – the cheese.

Look at all that melted, gooey cheese. With all the wonderful smells filling our house and the bubbling sauce & cheese in the dish, we couldn’t wait to dig in!

Amazingly satisfying, healthy and delicious. The perfect meal for a cold winter day.

I finished off my meal with a HUGE chunk of Fearless Chocolate – the Hibiscus & Ginger flavor to be exact. To try your own sample of Fearless Chocolate – enter my giveaway here.


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A Tale of Two Lasagnas

Food Bloggers visit other sites quite frequently to support, inspire, comment and learn. A couple months ago, I received a wonderful comment from Sanura of My Life Runs on Food complimenting the style and tone of my blog. I was thrilled to receive her comment, and clicked through to her blog to check it out. What I found was a beautifully written, healthy food blog that seemed really aligned with my philosophy on food. I decided to email her to request a guest post for my site – I thought she’d bring a wonderful and fresh perspective on food and health. After several emails were exchanged, we agreed to collaborate on writing about lasagna. Both of our versions are relatively healthy and they have plenty of vegetables and cheeses. My version is an “Old World” traditional recipe with the classic tomato sauce, and Sanura’s version is a “New World” traditional recipe sans the tomato sauce. To be historically accurate, both tomatoes and squash are ingredients from the “New World.” It’s the techniques and stories that separates our recipes, which makes them endearing and comforting to both of us.

Sanura’s “New World” Traditional Lasagna

The basic traditional lasagna dish we all know consists of pasta, plenty of cheese, and a rich Bolognese sauce. Occasionally, it’ll have a Basil Pesto sauce, too. The richness of the dish makes it the ultimate comfort food we all crave. The ingredients are basically the same, but every household’s technique for preparing the dish varies. The result is usually deliciously satisfying every time it’s served. Who would dare recreate another version with drastically different ingredients? One afternoon, I happened to catch a food show hosted by Tyler Florence. He’s a lucky guy, who travels around the world in search of the origin of classic dishes of popularity. Between Anjali Shah of The Picky Eater: A Healthy Food Blog’s recipe for lasagna, and watching Tyler Florence travel to Italy of which lasagna originates, both provided some inspiration. For a while, I was seriously thinking about breaking from the traditional holiday dishes to making a classic lasagna dish. When I mentioned the idea to the boyfriend, he begins telling me how to make the best lasagna, “It should have at least three types of cheeses…”

“Well, babe…” I thought. Tyler Florence had an Italian guest whose lasagna interpretation was not quite the same as our American classic. His version uses a freshly made basil pesto sauce, layered with freshly made sheets of pasta, blanched green beans and potatoes. Those ingredients on the show demonstrates the time of year the visit took place, in which everyone in the background were relaxing in short sleeves and shorts. My version uses a winter vegetable, acorn squash. I paired it with sauté mushrooms to add more texture. They’re plenty of differences between this freshly made Italian-Inspired and the American version. One, this recipe is not baked. Two, this dish is refreshingly light, but it’s still hearty. Lastly, it’s made sans tomato sauce. It’s a dish best serve at room temperature. With a nice Winter Salad, this Italian-inspired dish is also beautiful as an elegant meal to serve.

The Recipe: Roast Acorn Squash, Sauté Mushrooms, and Basil Pesto Lasagna


  • 3 to 4 Lasagna sheets, cooked and al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions, gently tossed with olive oil
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • Fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • Basil Pesto Sauce (see recipe below)
  • Roast Acorn Squash (see recipe below)
  • Sauté Mushrooms (see recipe below)
  • Good quality olive oil


  1. Gently take one lasagna sheet and visualize it into three sections forming an “S” curve. That is the structure of this lasagna dish.
  2. Smear 4 tablespoons of Basil Pesto Sauce on a plate.
  3. Lay the first third of it on top of the Basil Pesto Sauce on the plate. The excess two-thirds lasagna pasta will hang over the plate’s edge. Gently smear a tablespoon of Basil Pesto Sauce on top of the first third section of the lasagna pasta. Spoon a couple tablespoons of Roast Acorn Squash on top of the Basil Pesto Sauce that was smeared on the first third section of the lasagna pasta. Sprinkle a little basil on top. Fold second third of the lasagna noodle over the Roast Acorn Squash.
  4. Spoon a tablespoon of the Basil Pesto Sauce on top of the second third section of the lasagna pasta. Lightly smear a couple tablespoons of the sauté mushrooms on top of the pesto sauce. Sprinkle a little basil on top. Fold the last third of the lasagna noodle over the mushrooms.
  5. Spoon more Basil Pesto on top of the lasagna. Garnish with basil leaves, fresh black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Repeat to serve more people or for seconds. Enjoy!

Roast Acorn Squash


  • 1 Acorn Squash; slice in half horizontally, discard seeds (or toast as a snack), sliced a half inch wide thick
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • A dash of crushed red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • A drizzle of red balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove; minced


  1. Preheat an oven at 400°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier clean up.
  3. Toss all ingredients together. Place on baking sheet.
  4. Roast squash for at least one hour, or until it is soft.
  5. Remove from the oven. Let cool before handling. Either use your hands or a paring knife to remove and discard the skin. Roughly chop roast acorn flesh.
  6. Place aside for the lasagna.

Sauté Mushrooms


  • 3 to 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove; minced
  • 1 lb. white button or baby bella mushrooms; cleaned and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup white wine
  • A dash of red balsamic vinegar


  1. Over a medium-high temperature, heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the red onions. Sauté until the onions are almost translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, salt and fresh black pepper, and stir for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the mushrooms, wine and a dash of red balsamic vinegar.
  5. When the mushrooms are soft, remove from the pan.
  6. Set aside for the lasagna.

Basil Pesto Sauce


  • 2 cups of Basil Pesto
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup thick Greek yogurt
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Whisk all ingredients together until fully incorporated.
  2. Set aside for the lasagna.

About Sanura Weathers of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com

Since 2009, Sanura Weathers manages and creates sweet, savory, buttery, green and healthy food-related stories and recipes. With 15 years of combined experience in graphic design, social media, and project management, Sanura has a background of working with marketing, publishing, educational, non-profit, financial, and public relation organizations. Writing and managing MyLifeRunsOnFood.com is a project of passion inspiring people to prepare healthy, well-balanced meals using seasonal and fresh ingredients on a busy schedule. Read more about Sanura at MyLifeRunsOnFood.com/aboutme.

Anjali’s “Old World” Traditional Lasagna

One of my husband’s favorite meals is vegetarian lasagna, but we rarely ever ate it for two reasons:

1) It’s usually hard to find at most restaurants. Lasagna will often have a Bolognese sauce–which has meat in it!

2) Any veggie-friendly lasagna is often made with white pasta (no fiber), with egregious amounts of cheese (too much fat and calories), and barely any veggies (that’s just no fun).

So one day, soon after we had gotten married and before I had really learned how to cook, I decided to experiment and create a vegetarian lasagna that was both healthy and flavorful.

To try to recreate the lasagnas we’ve craved in the past, I decided to stick to more of the “traditional” route: using a tomato based sauce and traditional Italian cheeses, and baking it in the oven. I made healthy modifications without losing any of the flavor–e.g. using whole wheat lasagna noodles instead of white and adding more veggies to increase the nutritional value. I was really nervous as I served this meal, as I hadn’t really cooked before and I had no experience creating recipes from scratch. The good news is–it was a HUGE hit. And, I was able to stay true to my healthy mission–a double bonus! This meal has quickly become a favorite at dinner parties and potlucks, and is a great one-dish crowd-pleaser. After I created this dish, I started looking for alternative vegetarian lasagna dishes, and I came across My Life Runs On Food‘s approach to a creative and non-traditional lasagna. I love her take on modernizing and modifying the “old-world” lasagna, and I look forward to trying her dish!

The Recipe: The Healthy “Old-World” Traditional Lasagna


  • Whole wheat lasagna noodles (uncooked)
  • 4 fresh, organic zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 bag of organic baby spinach
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • Garlic; minced
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
  • 1-28oz. can of crushed tomatoes (with Italian spices added–like basil, oregano, etc. if you can find that)
  • 1 jar ready-made spaghetti sauce (I like the tomato basil marinara from Trader Joe’s!)
  • Olive oil & cooking spray
  • Fat-free ricotta cheese
  • Low-fat shredded mozzarella
  • Shredded Parmesan or 4 cheese blend (I used this shredded 4 cheese blend from Trader Joe’s that has Parmesan, Asiagio, Mozzarella and Fontina)

Directions – Noodles

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions (leave them al dente)–salt the water, if you like.
  2. Once they’re done, lay them flat on foil and set aside.

Directions – Vegetables

  1. Quarter all 4 zucchini and thinly slice.
  2. Thinly slice one of the red bell peppers (I cut the slices in half so they’re not so long).
  3. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.
  4. Heat about 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat (I might have used a little less–maybe 2-3 tsp), saute the garlic, zucchini, red pepper together.
  5. Add the whole bag of baby spinach at the end (when the zucchini/red pepper are almost done cooking).
  6. Sprinkle oregano and dried basil to taste on top, stir, and let it cook a couple more min.
  7. When the spinach is cooked, turn the heat down to low.

Directions – Sauce

  1. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic.
  2. Dice half a red onion (If it’s a small onion, dice the whole thing).
  3. Dice the other red bell pepper.
  4. Heat 2-3 tsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  5. Saute the red onion, garlic, and red pepper for a few min (until the onion starts turning a little translucent).
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes.
  7. Add dried oregano (I’m not sure how much I put–I basically sprinkled it over the top and stirred it in–maybe 2 tsp.).
  8. Once the sauce is heated through, turn the heat down on low.

Directions – Cheese

  1. Combine 1.5 cups of the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella, 1 cup of the Parmesan (or 4 cheese mixture if you can find that at Trader Joe’s) in a bowl.


  1. I used a casserole dish to assemble the lasagna in–and sprayed the bottom of the dish with cooking spray.
  2. Put a layer of sauce at the bottom of the dish (I did about half of the pre-made spaghetti sauce and half of the sauce I made myself–I did this for every layer except the top).
  3. Put a layer of the lasagna noodles.
  4. Put another layer of the sauce (1/2 pre-made, 1/2 self made).
  5. Put a layer of the veggies.
  6. Take the cheese mixture, and put little crumbles of the cheese mixture all over the veggie layer (don’t try to spread it out, the little crumbles seemed to work well).
  7. Put another layer of the lasagna noodles.
  8. Layer of sauce (if you have enough use the self made, otherwise add in the pre-made as needed).
  9. Layer of veggies.
  10. Cheese mixture crumbles.
  11. Layer of lasagna noodles.
  12. Layer of sauce (only self made).
  13. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top.
  14. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.
  15. Uncover and bake for 5 min. longer until the cheese has melted.

“The Picky Eater” sends a special thank you to Sanura Weathers of MyLifeRunsOnFood.com, for collaborating on this special feature post. Visit her food blog for additional flavorful recipes for healthy eating. Follow her on Twitter here, and check out her Facebook fan page here!


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Banana Bread Oatmeal!

This morning, I was really craving banana bread for some reason. It was really random – I don’t usually crave baked goods in the morning but I suppose today was just one of those days. And of course, I wasn’t going to make banana bread before I left for work – I had about 20 minutes for breakfast today! So, I decided to try to recreate the “essence” of banana bread using one of my morning breakfast staples: oatmeal.

I have to say, it turned out to be AMAZING. It totally tasted just like banana bread! And it was the perfect way to start off my morning.

The Ingredients

The ingredients here are pretty simple:

  • 1/2 cup Whole rolled oats (although I like to use the multi grain oats from Trader Joe’s because it has oats, barley, rye and wheat – and has a great nutty flavor!)
  • 1/2 banana sliced
  • 4-5 walnuts chopped
  • Unsweetened almond breeze (use up to 1 cup)
  • Organic soy milk (use up to 1/3 cup)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Stevia


Cook the oats according to package directions (I cooked mine in the microwave with 1 & 1/4 cup water). The thing I love about the multi-grain oats is that they cook just like regular oatmeal but have a nice variety of grains.

Top with bananas, walnuts, cinnamon and stevia and stir to combine

Pour the almond milk & soy milk over the oats until they have reached the consistency you want (for thicker oats, use less milk)

Stir to combine. Breakfast is served!


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Foodie Friday Giveaway: All Natural Protein Shakes from Svelte!

Woohoo – it’s Friday again! Which means two things: 1) Time to announce the winners of my DOUBLE giveaway and 2) Time to launch our new giveaway for this week! Fridays really are fun aren’t they? 🙂 For our last giveaway, we had two winners (one for each product). Congrats to Jeanette and Jen!

Jeanette won the Olive Oil Giveaway

And Jen won the Rudi’s Gluten Free Bread Giveaway

Congrats to both of you!! If you both could send me your mailing addresses, I’ll forward them on to the folks at Olivari and Rudi’s and you should receive your products soon. I’d also like to say THANK YOU to everyone who entered – this was one of our most popular giveaways yet! And now, on to the next giveaway: All Natural Protein Shakes from CalNaturale Svelte.

I was contacted by Svelte a few weeks ago, with the offer to try their products and partner on a giveaway. Initially I hesitated – mainly because protein shakes in general freak me out. They’re usually FILLED with sugar, random chemicals, ingredients that I can’t pronounce, and soy protein isolate which I try to avoid. But when I spoke to the folks at Svelte and read about their products, I was really impressed. They have based their products on a mission to create all natural, organic, nutritious drinks that are nourishing and healthy!

Their protein shakes are made with whole, organic soy beans / soy milk and don’t have any weird ingredients or chemicals in them. Each HUGE shake (16oz) has ~260 calories, 16g protein, 9g sugar and 8g fiber (from inulin). And the best part is, they taste GREAT. All of their flavors are really creamy, delicious, and slightly sweet (but not too sweet).

The drinks are really energizing and great as a snack after a workout or with breakfast in the morning. They have four flavors: Chocolate, French Vanilla, Cappuccino and Spiced Chai. The Cappuccino flavor tastes just like a Frappuccino but is way healthier for you.

For this giveaway, THREE lucky winners will receive Svelte’s products for free!

  • Winner #1: The GRAND PRIZE Winner will receive a 12 pack of Svelte’s drinks (a variety case, so 3 of each flavor)
  • Winners #2 & 3: The two runners up will receive a 4 pack of Svelte’s drinks (so one of each flavor)

Now the important part:

To Enter: You can enter in one of three ways –

  1. Subscribe to The Picky Eater via RSS or via email
  2. Follow me on Twitter (@pickyeaterblog)
  3. Like The Picky Eater on Facebook

Leave a comment letting me know which option above you chose! Note – if you already are a subscriber, follower, or like The Picky Eater on Facebook, just leave a comment indicating that – it will count as one entry :)

For Extra Entries:

  • + 1 Entry if you share this post on Facebook or Twitter
  • + 2 Entries if you invite 5 or more of your friends to like The Picky Eater on Facebook!

This giveaway will close on Thursday, February 10th at 11:59pm PST. I will be selecting the winner at random (via random.org) and will contact them via email. I’ll be announcing the winner on Friday, February 11th when I launch my next giveaway! Be sure to enter today – these protein shakes are amazing!


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Five Different Ways with Veggie Burgers!

One of my favorite cooking experiments is to take a pretty simple/standard (boring) base, and dress it up with a bunch of different ingredients to make it feel fancy, gourmet and restaurant-quality! Last night, my husband and I were craving veggie burgers from our FAVORITE burger place in the Bay Area: Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers.

The unfortunate thing is, we don’t get to go to Barney’s often because it’s a pretty decent drive away from our house. So, I decided to bring Barney’s to us by “dressing up” the standard veggie burgers we buy: Gardenburgers. I actually LOVE Gardenburgers because they have a few different varieties – all with really wholesome and natural ingredients, and they have great nutritional stats: each patty is 100 calories and has 5g fiber and 5g protein. They also provide a great “base” for transforming the homemade veggie burger into something gourmet and delicious – in less than 30 min (which is the best part)!

So last night, I made two of the five versions I’m going to outline in this post – but while I was making them came up with three more ideas I thought I’d share with all of you! I’m going to combine the ingredients/directions in this post because it’s really standard to make (cook the veggie burger patty on the stove, toast the buns, and top with ingredients). It’s really about the variety you can get with these few basic ingredients.

Ingredients I used for my two versions (three additional versions at the bottom of this post)

Burger #1: The Sports Bar Burger: This is the burger I made for my husband.

Ingredients you’ll need: Whole Wheat Burger Buns, Gardenburger patties (original), grilled red onions, jack cheese (or pepperjack is ok too), Barbecue Sauce, Sliced Tomatoes, Baby Spinach or Romaine lettuce (optional)

Grill the burgers over medium heat with some cooking spray

While the burgers are cooking, grill the sliced red onions on medium to medium-low heat with 1 tsp EVOO

Once the patties are done, melt the jack cheese over the patty and the bottom burger bun in the toaster oven

Once the cheese is melted, pull the burger out of the oven and top with grilled onions

Then top with sliced tomatoes and baby spinach or lettuce (the spinach/lettuce is optional)

Spread 1-2 Tbsp of the BBQ Sauce on the other half of the bun, and finish your veggie burger. Enjoy!

Now, onto Burger #2: The Spa Burger: This is the burger I made for myself 🙂

Ingredients you’ll need: Sprouted wheat bread or sprouted wheat burger buns, Gardenburger patty (original), 1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Cheese (original/creamy swiss flavor), Sliced red onions, Sliced tomatoes, Baby spinach, Sprouts (I didn’t have these but I think they would taste really good in the burger), Organic Ketchup (optional), Salt & Freshly ground black pepper

Directions are the same as above: Cook the patty according to the package directions – on the stove with cooking spray, Spread 1 wedge laughing cow cheese on on slice of the sprouted wheat bread/bun, top with burger patty, top with red onions, tomatoes, spinach, sprouts, salt & pepper to taste. Serve with Ketchup if you like!

Here it is: the finished Spa Burger

It was sooo tasty, light and delicious! My husband also loved his version – he said it tasted exactly like Barney’s which was a HUGE compliment 🙂 Now – for the fun part. Three other veggie burger variations, with the same base (whole wheat buns, Gardenburger original patty).

Burger #3: The Fiesta Burger: You’ll need — Whole wheat burger buns, Gardenburger original patty, guacamole or sliced avocado, pico de gallo, shredded jack or cheddar cheese, sliced red onions, baby spinach or romaine (shredded). Melt the cheese on the patty while you’re cooking it and top with the rest of the ingredients.

Burger #4: The Mediterranean Burger: You’ll need — Whole wheat burger buns (or you can even use whole wheat pita!), Gardenburger original patty, low fat or fat free feta cheese, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, diced red onions, and hummus (or tahini). Spread the hummus on the burger buns, top with patty, feta and rest of the ingredients.

Burger #5: The Grilled Veggie Pesto Burger: You’ll need — Sprouted wheat burger buns (or regular whole wheat is fine), Gardenburger original patty, 1-2 Tbsp Pesto, swiss cheese, grilled zucchini, grilled red onions, sauteed mushrooms, grilled peppers –You can basically use any combination of grilled veggies that you like. Spread the pesto on the buns, melt the swiss cheese over the patty, and top with grilled veggies.

I can’t wait to try these versions next week – if it goes well we might make one night each week “burger night” as long as I can keep inventing different varieties! What’s your favorite burger & toppings combination?


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Cheesy, Beany, Veggie Quesadillas

After our lazy Saturday of not doing much of anything, I decided to get up off my butt and make something for dinner last night. It helped that the hubby went and did our grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, and that I was STARVING after 5 hours of dance rehearsals earlier that day. So I decided to make my healthified version of cheese quesadillas.

Doesn’t my healthy version look just like the real thing?? I promise it tastes just like it too! We LOVE quesadillas, but I hate how the restaurant versions are full of fat (from the oil used to cook them + the egregious amounts of cheese added) and minimal nutritional value (barely any fiber, no veggies, etc.). My version takes care of all those problems – with a fiber & protein packed meal that’s sure to satisfy even the most die-hard quesadilla fans!

My four main swaps are: 1) Adding veggies for fiber, anti-oxidants, and great texture. I like peppers, tomatoes, and red onions.

2) Adding black refried beans for extra fiber and protein. I like the Trader Joe’s variety because it only has like 4 ingredients, no oil or extra fat added, and no ingredients you can’t pronounce! I like mixing the beans with some taco seasoning to give it a great, smoky, spicy flavor.

3) Using EVOO cooking spray instead of oil to cook the quesadillas. You get the same crispy texture on the outside without adding all that extra fat!

The Trader Joe’s one is my fav. And my last swap (#4) is using high-fiber tortillas (that still look like the “white” tortillas you get at the restaurant). You can also use sprouted wheat tortillas – which is what I made my quesadilla on. Or even regular whole wheat tortillas. I use the high-fiber white ones because the husband is quite attached to the tortillas of his childhood 🙂

With these swaps you won’t even be able to tell how much healthier these quesadillas are! Each one should have about ~300 calories max (assuming you use 1/4 cup of cheese and 1/4 cup of beans in each). And they are huge – I can usually only finish about 1.5 of them!

The Ingredients List:

  • Sprouted Wheat or High Fiber / Carb Balance Mission Tortillas (Soft Taco Size)
  • Mexican shredded cheese blend
  • Refried black beans
  • Taco Seasoning
  • 2-3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 red/orange/yellow pepper, diced
  • Salsa (I like pace picante)
  • Guacamole (I like the pre-made kind from Trader Joe’s – tastes super fresh like you made it yourself at home)


  1. Heat beans over the stove on medium heat. Add taco seasoning to taste and stir until combined
  2. Heat a large pan over medium to medium-low heat, spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Assemble quesadillas: one layer of beans (use up to 1/4 cup per quesadilla), one layer of cheese, a layer of onions & peppers, and another layer of cheese (don’t use more than 1/4 cup of cheese total per quesadilla)
  4. Grill the quesadillas in the pan until both sides are browned and crispy and the cheese has melted. Top with diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp guac and 2 Tbsp salsa. Enjoy!

Here’s what the assembly looks like

Finished quesadillas, fresh off the stove (I love how all the ingredients just melt together)

Can’t forget about the guac – I told you it looks & tastes like it was homemade!

And dinner is served. Look at all those layers of yummy goodness.


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Saturday Night Take Out

Have you ever had one of those weekend days when you don’t really feel like doing anything productive? My weekends are normally PACKED with activities – either running errands, or catching up on stuff I slacked on during the week, or going to dance rehearsals, or going out / hanging out with friends. But yesterday (Saturday), I didn’t have any of those things to do! My husband was out of town for a conference during the week, so my only activity was to pick him up from the airport in the afternoon… which took a whole hour…. which left like 15 hours of free time in the day!

It was awesome. We watched TV, relaxed, read, and somehow ended up killing time without even realizing it. Soon, it was 8:45pm – we hadn’t eaten dinner and had no groceries (since neither of us went out to get groceries yesterday either). Which meant that eating out was our best bet if we wanted to have dinner anytime in the next few hours. But we were in our PJs, and not really in the mood to dress up and go “out,” so we decided to get takeout from a small Thai place that we had never tried before (with fingers crossed that it would be a good experience). And I have to say, we were pleasantly surprised! It was probably the best takeout I’ve had in a while – the food tasted like it had literally been made to order, and the restaurant was really open to all of my “healthier” customizations, which I’ll get to in a sec. But first – I have to show you what we ate!

I ordered the Veggie and Tofu Stir Fry with Garlic

The veggies were really fresh, cooked perfectly (so they were still a bit crispy), and I loved how the restaurant didn’t skimp on the amount and variety of the veggies! I also appreciated that they let me substitute soft tofu for fried tofu (a much healthier alternative with the same amount of protein but fewer fat & calories than fried tofu).

My husband’s dish was a Thai Staple: Veggie Pad Thai

So, yes, Pad Thai is not a healthy take out option at all. But this one happened to be very well made and they even added some veggies in with the noodles which I appreciated.

I managed to make my takeout healthier by following a few simple rules when ordering Thai food:

  1. Stick to stir fries that have light sauces (avoid cream sauces or curries if you can)
  2. Substitute soft tofu for fried tofu
  3. Ask for extra veggies if the restaurant will oblige
  4. Ask for less oil (I did that with my takeout dish and the sauce ended up being very flavorful but without those little oil beads you sometimes see floating on top of sauces that have tons of oil in them)

These four simple rules gave me a much lighter but still very flavorful and satisfying dish! All in all, it was a great meal, and we were both really satisfied with our decision to spend Saturday night at home with some good takeout 🙂


Now – time for two quick reminders as a bit of a non sequitur:

1) Please vote for me in The Kitchn’s Best Home Cooking Blog contest! Click here to vote for The Picky Eater

2) My giveaway is still open: specialty olive oil +gluten free bread! Click here to Enter


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Spiced Potato and Curried Yogurt Flatbread!

Ok – so for some reason this week I’m really into flatbreads 🙂 I think it’s just because you can make anything you want with them – it’s like customizing your very own personal pizza hehe. This recipe was another one of those “rummage through my fridge and pull something together” dinners. I think my husband was a little skeptical when I pulled out the Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Masala Burgers from our freezer and said I was going to make an Indian “pizza” on naan with them. The good news is – it took less than 30 min to make and turned out to be SUPER tasty and flavorful! And, my husband LOVED it! So here is my recipe for Spiced Potato and Curried Yogurt Flatbread – hope you enjoy it!

The Ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers (you need one patty per flatbread – the great thing about these burgers is that they are mostly made with potatoes and spices – so it tastes like a spiced potato patty instead of a veggie burger!)
  • Trader Joe’s whole wheat Tandoori Naan (Note: you can also use sprouted wheat tortillas for this – which I did for my portion! I gave my husband the Naan though because he likes it better :). But using the sprouted wheat tortilla tastes great too!)
  • Fage 0% Greek Yogurt (I didn’t have 0% in my fridge so I used 2%, but I’d recommend 0% if you can find it!)
  • 1 Roma Tomato, diced
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 Red Onion, diced
  • Trader Joe’s Mango Ginger Sauce (optional: I thought we’d end up using this, but the curry yogurt was so good we didn’t need it!)
  • 1 tsp curry powder (I used the one from Trader Joe’s – of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder


  1. Cook burgers according to package directions. While they are cooking, heat the naan in a toaster oven.
  2. Create the curry yogurt sauce: Combine the Greek Yogurt, curry powder, cumin, salt and garlic powder – stir until fully combined. Take about 1/3 of the yogurt and put into a separate bowl. Mix that part of the yogurt with a bit of water (1-2 Tbsp) until the sauce has thinned out slightly. After this – you should have two types of yogurt sauce – a thicker version and a thinner version.
  3. Once the burgers are done cooking, chop them up so they will fit on the flatbread.
  4. Spread the thick yogurt sauce on the flatbread. Top with the burger, tomato, onion and romaine. Drizzle the thinned out yogurt sauce on top. Eat and enjoy!


The curry yogurt sauce, before separating into two bowls…

Veggie patties cooking

Flatbread assembly part 1` (yogurt sauce spread, and veggie burger crumbled on top)

Flatbread assembly part 2 (veggies piled on, and thin yogurt sauce drizzled on top)

Ready to eat! YUM!


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Easy, Healthy Vegetarian Flatbread!

A few nights ago, I was totally craving pizza. But I was pretty full from a very late lunch, and didn’t want to make a whole pizza to eat for a snack/dinner. After rummaging around in my kitchen a bit, I realized that I had Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat tortillas in the Freezer. These tortillas are super nutritious (170 calories for a HUGE burrito size tortilla, with ~5g fiber and ~5g protein) and when baked, end up being really nice and crispy. So, I decided to throw together a flatbread with some veggies & cheese I had in my fridge. This recipe is SUPER easy to make, has only about 300-350 calories (depending on how much cheese you use) for an ENORMOUS flatbread pizza! It definitely satisfied my craving!


  • 1 Trader Joe’s or Ezekiel Sprouted Wheat Tortilla – Burrito Size
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup yellow, orange or red bell pepper, diced
  • Pizza sauce: I get the one from Trader Joe’s because it has very little added sugar. That’s the key here when buying pizza sauce – make sure it has very little (<8g) sugar!
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan cheese – or any other favorite cheese you have!


  1. Bake the tortilla in the oven or toaster oven until slightly crispy (not 100%complete)
  2. Take the tortilla out of the oven, and top with sauce, veggies & cheese
  3. Put the tortilla back in the oven and bake until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted. Eat!!

This is a great dish that takes only 15 min (max) to make! As you can see, you get a HUGE portion for a really balanced meal 🙂



On a totally separate note – be sure to check out our latest giveaway for specialty olive oil and/or gourmet gluten free bread here!


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DOUBLE Friday Giveaway! Specialty Olive Oil and Gourmet Gluten Free Bread!

Hi Everyone! I’m very excited to announce my first giveaway of the new year – and given that it is my first giveaway this year, I thought I’d kick things off with a DOUBLE giveaway! I received so many great products over the holidays that I just couldn’t wait to space them out into multiple giveaways 🙂

So how does a double giveaway work? Well you can enter to win one or BOTH of the products: you just have to specify which products you’d like in your comment. I’ll run my random selection of the winner twice (so if you are super lucky and enter for both products you could win both!)

Ok – so first up – we have amazing Specialty Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Olivari. They sent me a wonderful gift package complete with 1 bottle of EVOO – with a super cool pop-up pour spout! They also sent me a garlic press, a few coupons for their other olive oils, and some fun recipe cards.

Their olive oil is amazingly smooth and very fruity – you can smell the wonderful olive flavor as you’re pouring it on a salad or into a pan! Their ingredients are 100% natural and they are proponents of the beneficial Mediterranean diet: known for fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and lighter proteins! One lucky reader will win this exact same gift box courtesy of Olivari!

My second foodie giveaway is in partnership with Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery! They were kind enough to send me a sample pack of three of their gluten free breads: the original, multigrain and cinnamon raisin. I have to say – the cinnamon raisin was my personal favorite, but all three of the varieties were great!

While they don’t taste EXACTLY like regular bread – they are pretty close and the best gluten-free breads I’ve ever had! [Recent Update: I just tried the bread again after toasting it in the toaster oven on low. After warming the bread, it became even softer and fluffier with a really great, slightly crispy texture on the outside! I was really impressed. It actually tasted exactly like toast I’d eat in the morning – with a nice cakey texture to the bread. And my husband who normally hates gluten-free bread, asked me to make a sandwich for him with Rudi’s bread – and he LOVED it. Way to go Rudi’s!!] Bread lovers won’t be disappointed with this product – and the best part is, they are 100% natural as well. Many of the ingredients are organic and all the breads are freshly baked in Rudi’s bakery. One lucky reader will win this exact same gift package and all 3 breads courtesy of Rudi’s Bakery!

Now the important part:

To Enter: You can enter in one of three ways –

  1. Subscribe to The Picky Eater via RSS or via email
  2. Follow me on Twitter (@pickyeaterblog)
  3. Like The Picky Eater on Facebook

Leave a comment letting me know which option above you chose, and please specify which product you’d like to enter for (or if you’d like to enter for both!) Note – if you already are a subscriber, follower, or like The Picky Eater on Facebook, just leave a comment indicating that – it will count as one entry :)

For Extra Entries:

  • + 1 Entry if you share this post on Facebook or Twitter
  • + 2 Entries if you invite 5 or more of your friends to like The Picky Eater on Facebook!

This giveaway will close on Thursday, January 27th at 11:59pm PST. I will be selecting the winner at random and will contact them via email. I’ll be announcing the winner on Friday, January 28th! Be sure to enter – these products are amazing and totally worth trying out!


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