Category: no added sugar

Vegetable antipasto

vegetable antipasto | happyfoodbites

I have a ravenous appetite for vegetables these days, especially in this antipasto form, but as a child I had an insatiable appetite for books and read a bit of everything including a phase in high school almost too humiliating to record when I read the kind of books that showcased a glistening muscular man (complete with a flowing golden mane) gazing over the horizon while a woman of well-endowed proportions swooned in his arms. If there are any redemptive qualities by comparison, I was also the kid that read the dictionary for fun. Less embarrassing than either of those examples are books I read like Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon and Redwall which overflowed with characters who grew into better versions of themselves. To me, that’s the real power of books and the reason I’m an optimistic girl is because I live my life as a story. I have my own primary narrative filled with good and bad characters, with trials and tribulations, and with joyful surprises, but I also relish the times when I get to be a supporting character in other people’s stories.

In all the tales I’ve read and which now live tangled together in my mind, things perpetually end well. “Well” doesn’t always mean a happy ending but that’s okay because it turns out we humans are very bad at calculating how much happiness we actually gain from the things we think will make us happy. The best thing about that is that we are also terrible at the opposite: we over-estimate how bad the bad things will be.1

My childhood idols, mentors, and heroines raced and thrashed across the pages, danced through lines and twirled between words, cried in frustration, screamed with disappointment, but always persevered. The moments that are toughest to live in, those times when you howl I don’t care anymore I’m done, when you want to spend every day sheltered beneath your covers, those are the days when you turn just one more page. You lift your foot and take one more step. And one more after that. You need to know what happens next in your story. Soon you’re not even aware of your steps because you’re not counting them anymore, you’re not giving yourself ultimatums anymore, suddenly you realize you’re actually DOING that thing; the thing that’s uncomfortable, nagging, painful, or boring. The thing about those moments, however long they last, those are the moments you look back on and think about most. Those are the moments when you see your grit and perseverance shine through and those are the chapters where you learn the most about yourself. There are a lot of steps in the prep for this vegetable antipasto but use your moxie and like most things that require time and effort, you will be rewarded (in this case with some happy food bites).

fennel peppers and carrots

The great thing about antipasto is much like a frittata, you can use up any vegetables you have on hand. For this one I used fennel, red and yellow bell peppers, and multicolored carrots as the big veggies.

cut fennel in half

Lop the green stalk and leaves from the top of the fennel and cut it half.

slice fennel into strips

Slice each half into strips.

dice fennel strips

The rotate ninety degrees and dice into large chunks. Once the fennel and carrots are chopped to pieces, add them to a large pot of boiling water and cook for three to five minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and plunge directly into an ice bath until completely cooled.

char pepper over oven flame

Roasted peppers have an extra smoky layer of flavor and you can use jarred ones but it’s so easy to roast your own! Just like charring tortillas, put the pepper directly over a high flame and rotate every thirty seconds until blackened all the around.

fully charred pepper

Once your peppers looks like this, put them in a paper bag with the top folded down a few times for five to ten minutes. As they cool in the bag, the steam will loosen the skin and it will slide off with a gently push from your fingers.

skin removed from peppers

When the skin is removed the peppers will be soft and shiny and almost slimy.

peel open peppers and scrape out seeds

Peel the peppers open and scrape out the seeds, then dice into medium-sized chunks.

additional veggies | happyfoodbites

This would be a very long and very boring post if I had pictures of all the chopping so here are the supporting flavor characters, all sliced and diced: shallots, black olives, marinated artichoke hearts (jarred), pimento stuffed olives (jarred), sun-dried tomatoes (jarred), and fresh grated parmesan cheese.

mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar into spices and minced garlic

Once all the veggies are chopped and tossed together in a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

SONY DSCPour marinade over vegetables and toss until well-coated. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator at least twelve hours before enjoying. Antipasto is wonderfully versatile, toss with pasta, serve on oat biscuits, or just eat it by heaping spoonful right out of the bowl! Keeps up to one week in the fridge.

Below is your printable recipe with nutrition information included

vegetable antipasto
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 1 cup diced roasted bell peppers
  • ½ cup black olives, chopped
  • ½ cup pimento stuffed olives, chopped
  • ½ cup diced marinated artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, vinegar, spices, and olive oil until well-blended. Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add carrots and fennel at the same time and cook about 3 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and blanch immediately in ice bath until completely cool.
  3. Drain carrots and fennel and combine with shallots, roasted peppers, olives, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan in a large bowl. Pour marinade over vegetables and stir until vegetables are coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours and up to 1 week.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¼ cup Calories: 138 Fat: 10 Saturated fat: 1 Unsaturated fat: 8 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 11 Sugar: 4 Sodium: 398 Fiber: 3 Protein: 2 Cholesterol: 3


Human beings are works in progress who mistakenly think they are finished.

Dan Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

  1. This is one of my favorite ted talks about happiness by Dan Gilbert

Creamy mushrooms

creamy mushrooms | happyfoodbites

The first time I ate an entire pizza by myself was in seventh grade. Sheesh that is a sad sentence. It gets much happier, though! Many, many years after middle school, when I finally started to eat less processed food, one of the first things I noticed was the decrease in the amount of food I was actually eating. As the rich aroma of these creamy mushrooms wafted through the kitchen while I was cooking, I thought there’s no way this is enough for four people, I’m going to eat this all in one sitting. And then I served myself a heaping scoop, making sure to accidentally knock a few extra pieces onto the plate. But what happens next is something wonderful: I feel full before I’ve finished my serving. And I’m not talking about the “food baby” kind of full, I mean honest-to-goodness satiety. I don’t know why I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how genuinely satisfied I feel after a handful of bites of minimally processed and nutrient dense food1

The thing about appetite is it’s an intricately complicated process. Did you know there are nearly a dozen hormones that affect hunger? The cells that produce these hormones are located in several organs including the stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, and both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract; and each of these hormones interacts with a variety of “regulation centers” in the brain to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full.2 In addition, the sensing organs also send their own signals to the brain through the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue (for both taste and texture).3 When I eat highly processed foods, it feels as though my brain is being bombarded with so many clusters of contradicting signals that instead of wasting processing power, my brain throws up her hands and says look, I can’t figure out which ones are real, just put some food in your mouth and I’ll give you some of those feel-good endorphins. Eating “real food”, on the other hand, is like a lazy swing in the hammock for my brain. There are no distractions and I hear right away when my body says hey that’s good for now, that’s all I really need.

Remember the phrase perhaps made most famous by Spiderman’s uncle Ben: with great power comes great responsibility. The power, in this case, is knowledge of the science of eating. Those in charge of creating and marketing processed foods understand the complexity of this science but they do not choose to wield their power responsibly. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food explores this subject and is such a great article I didn’t want to bury it in a footnote. It highlights the elaborate engineering undertaken to design the most profitable processed food. I won’t even be sad if you go read it now before moving on to the creamy goodness of these mushrooms.

a variety of mushrooms | happyfoodbites

Okay, are you back and feeling like a more informed consumer? Excellent! Now on to the recipe. Start with a variety of mushrooms, any kind will do. I had shiitake, button, and cremini. Slice the larger mushrooms into thin strips and quarter the smaller ones.

mushroom closeup | happyfoodbites

Have you ever looked closely at the underside of a mushroom? While you’re slicing and dicing, take a peek under a few mushroom skirts. Real food is stunning.

add mushrooms to hot skillet | happyfoodbites

Heat one half tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add all sliced and chopped mushrooms to the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook for five minutes, until mushrooms are beginning to brown.

remove to bowl and let juices drain | happyfoodbites

Remove mushrooms to bowl and let juices drain. Add shallot and garlic to skillet and cook over medium heat for about three minutes until soft.

add cream | happyfoodbites

Meanwhile, whisk together cream, flour, salt, and pepper. Once shallots and garlic are soft, pour cream mixture into skillet and let bubble for about one minute.

stir constantly and let mixture thicken | happyfoodbites

Once mixture has thickened (it will happen quickly) return mushrooms and their juices to the skillet and cook for about five minutes until mushrooms are hot. Serve immediately.

Below is your printable recipe with nutrition information included.

creamy mushrooms | happyfoodbites

Creamy mushrooms
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 4 oz shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms
  • 8 oz button mushrooms
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Thinly slice shiitake mushrooms and chop cremini and button mushrooms into quarters. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat until water drops sizzle. Add all mushrooms and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are beginning to brown.
  2. Transfer mushrooms to small bowl and reduce heat under skillet to medium. Add shallot and garlic, cook for 3 minutes or until softened.
  3. Whisk together cream, flour, salt, and pepper and pour cream mixture into skillet, bring to a boil and let bubble for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Once sauce has thickened, return mushrooms and their juices to pan. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ½ cup Calories: 104 Fat: 6 Saturated fat: 2 Unsaturated fat: 4 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 9 Sugar: 1 Sodium: 160 Fiber: 1 Protein: 5 Cholesterol: 10

Adapted from Marilyn Bentz-Crowley

The limits of my words are the limits of my world.

-Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian-British philosopher



  1. A 2010 study on how nutrient dense foods change perceptions of hunger, Nutrition Journal

  2. Here’s a 2006 study that gives a brief overview of most of the hormones involved in appetite regulation, Archives of Diseases in Childhood

  3. The Taste Science Laboratory

Greek yogurt meatballs


Greek yogurt meatballs | happyfoodbites

Previously, the most adventurous food I’d ever eaten was whole chicken feet. This weekend I added a new one to the list when I had a taco lengua, or a beef tongue taco, oh my. Upon close inspection the taste buds were visible on many of the rectangular chunks of meat. It was unadorned except for a few rainbow-shaped onions lounging in a salty marinade spooned on top. The meat was less chewy than I expected, almost like hard jello, and otherwise pretty bland wrapped in two doubled over, plain flour tortillas. On the other hand, these Greek yogurt meatballs I made were a decidedly more delicious though sadly, less adventurous dish.

Adding a new item to my “life adventure list” got me thinking about what defines an adventure. The answer is elementary, my dear Watson. Risk. There is no adventure to be had if there is no risk involved. Most people will tell you to analyze risk in terms of gains versus losses but try thinking about it this way: once you’ve been presented with a risk, your life is already changed. Whether it’s the chance to try a tongue taco, quit your job, move your bed to the opposite wall, or run away and join the circus, every risk leaves its mark. Even if you choose not to take a risk (which absolutely is the correct choice in some situations) you are already changed merely by being presented with the option. Another fragment of a fingerprint is etched into the marble slab of your soul with every risk offered to you. Your decision isn’t if you want to change but rather how you want to change. You are already the person who has been issued the opportunity of risk so you only need to decide if you want to be the person who declines the invitation or the one who embraces adventure. If you’ve never adventured before, start by trying this recipe, you’ll always find delightful chances for risk in the kitchen!

zest or grate the onion and garlic on top of meat | happyfoodbites

Start by slapping the meat into a medium bowl and using a microzester, or the fine side of a box grater, add shredded garlic and onion on top of meat. Set aside.

one half cup of oats | happyfoodbites

Use one half cup of oats either whole or whirled in the processor to a fine breadcrumb consistency.

oats and yogurt | happyfoodbites

In addition to a creamy one third cup of Greek yogurt (or sour cream).

whisk wet ingredients together | happyfoodbites

In a small bowl, whisk together the oats and the wet ingredients: yogurt, egg, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce.

add yogurt mixture and spices to meat | happyfoodbites

Drop wet mixture and spices on meat. I used two tablespoons of a Sicilian spice mix containing fennel, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, basil, roasted garlic, sea salt, carrots, and sesame. Use any of those flavors currently on hand or make a risqué blend of your personal favorites.

combine gently | happyfoodbites

Gently combine all ingredients by using your hand like a play-doh spaghetti factory toy. Let the ingredients gently squish against themselves as they slide through your fingers.

place raw meatballs on lined sheet and freeze for 2 hours before transferring to ziploc bag | happyfoodbites

Meatballs are great for easy additions to a variety of meals. I use my cookie scoop for mini meatballs that are about tablespoon sized. Lay meatballs on a lined baking sheet and place in freezer for a few hours until frozen solid then transfer to a freezer-safe storage container or ziploc bag.

meatballs in skillet

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees with cast iron skillet inside. Once oven is heated, add half of tomato sauce to skillet and plop meatballs directly into sauce. No need to thaw meatballs if using them frozen.

tomato sauce | happyfoodbites

I found this bottle of Italian-made tomato sauce hiding in the back of the cupboard but use whatever tomato or spaghetti sauce your pantry hands over. Pour the rest of your sauce-of-choice over the meatballs and bake until internal temp is 165 degrees, about twenty minutes if meatballs are fresh, thirty minutes if frozen.

Greek yogurt meatballs | happyfoodbites

Below is your printable recipe with nutrition information included.

Greek yogurt meatballs
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 30
  • 12 oz ground beef
  • ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup oats, ground
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Sicilian mix
  • 1 cup tomato sauce, divided in half
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with cast iron skillet inside.
  2. Add ground beef to medium bowl. Zest garlic and onion directly on top of meat and set aside.
  3. In small bowl, whisk together yogurt, ground oats, egg, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce until well combined.
  4. Pour liquid mixture onto meat and work gently with hands until meat is coated. Add 2 tablespoons of spices and mix again with hands until just combined.
  5. Remove skillet from oven, add ½ cup of tomato sauce and place meatballs in pan with space between. Once all meatballs are in pan, pour remaining sauce on top. Bake for 20 min or until no longer pink in center.
Be gentle when mixing meat, don't overwork it.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 meatball Calories: 36 Fat: 2 Saturated fat: 1 Unsaturated fat: 2 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 1 Sugar: 1 Sodium: 15 Fiber: 0 Protein: 3 Cholesterol: 16

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.

-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums