Pesto Andouille Sausage Quesadillas

One of my go-to quick lunch and dinner options is the ever-faithful quesadilla. Delicious with just plain cheese or dressed up with whatever veggies and meat I have on hand, it’s quick to put together and reasonably healthy assuming I don’t go overboard with the cheese and sour cream. Served with a salad it’s a well-rounded meal while still being less than 20 minutes from conception to consumption.

My standard concoction involves the usual flavors like cheddar, black beans, bell peppers, and possibly whichever ground meat I have in the freezer. Sliced olives are also great if M is not eating them and I remember I’m “allowed” to use them. These are things I pretty much always have around so it’s a great standby when I’m in a rush.

Pesto Andouille Sausage Quesadilla {{Baking Bytes}}

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to mix up the old standbys with some new flavors. A favorite at a local pizza parlor and brewery inspired this particular flavor palate. They have many delightful combinations but one of my favorite Bridger Brewing pizzas is the pesto and lamb sausage. I’m always a sucker for sausage on pizza and the addition of pesto is a nice change-up from the usual white or red sauces.

Pesto Andouille Sausage Quesadilla {{Baking Bytes}}

With a package of local Andouille sausage in the fridge and a Costco container of pesto demanding to be opened, I decided a fancier quesadilla experience was in order. Bell peppers go with everything, in my personal opinion, so I sautéed a few for added color and flavor. Since quesadillas cook pretty quickly, I opted to warm my sausage slices beforehand to ensure they were hot all the way through.

Pesto Andouille Sausage Quesadilla {{Baking Bytes}}

Layers of pesto, sausage, peppers, and melty cheese are delightful experience both in flavor and texture. Mild cheese and spicy sausage, sweet peppers and a smothering of pesto come together for a great juxtaposition of flavors in every bite. This is not what I would consider a particularly healthy assortment as it’s pretty high in both oil and salt content, but it is delicious and a great treat dinner for what would be an otherwise casual evening. I served mine with a spinach salad to help balance the meal, and overall felt pretty great with the whole thing.

The next time you’re looking to change up a standard favorite, try this one out, and let me know what you think.

PS – you may have noticed this is neither dessert nor a cake. I have not yet had time to photograph last week’s delightful dessert, but never fear it will be on this blog someday.

Pesto Andouille Sausage Quesadillas

Makes two half-size 8″ quesadillas
Serves 1-2

Ingredients

2 8″ tortillas
2 Tbsp pesto

1 Andouille sausage (pre-cooked)
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1/2 cup grated cheese (I used mozzarella)

Directions

  1. Spread half of each tortilla with 1 Tbsp pesto. Set aside.
  2. Slice the sausage into approximately 1/4″ slices.
  3. In a medium or large saucepan, heat sausages over medium-high until warmed through (no need to add oil, just add them to the cold pan while it warms).
  4. Remove sausage from pan, and set on a paper towel.
  5. Drain most of the oil from the pan and then sauté the peppers to your desired doneness. (I like mine soft and a little charred.)
  6. Remove peppers from the pan and set aside with the sausage.
  7. Wipe the excess oil from the pan and reduce heat to medium.
  8. Place a tortilla in the pan, then layer half of the sausage and pepper slices on the pesto side. Top with 1/4 cup cheese and fold. (If you have room, repeat with the other tortilla and cook them at the same time.)
  9. Fry until golden brown and cheese is melted, about three minutes. (I like to put a lid on to aid in the melting.)
  10. Flip and fry one more minute or until the other side is golden. Repeat steps 7-10 with your other tortilla if you didn’t have room to cook them simultaneously.
  11. Slice each half into 2-4 pieces and serve immediately.

Notes

I find them much easier to flip when they are folded (and usually I’m only making one half), so I cook mine in halves. Feel free to make one large quesadilla instead if you prefer.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

February is a strange month, equally full of obnoxiously pink items and overpriced flowers as it is dreary days and bluebird skiing. Long-time readers will know I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day but as it is my anniversary with M it becomes more special. Each year I bake a cake to celebrate and this year will be no different – check back in two weeks for this year’s (hopefully successful) endeavor. Valentine’s desserts are typically quite indulgent, which makes today’s recipe a great option if you’re planning to eat in this “holiday”.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

As part of last month’s Mindful Eating challenge I was looking for recipes that were delicious and wholesome and things that I felt good about eating, emotionally and physically. This soup definitely fits the bill. It’s fairly light which makes it pair great with bread or even grilled cheese, and requires simple ingredients and relatively chill preparation.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I used a whole package of the large bell peppers from Costco, but if yours are smaller you may want closer to 8. Once flattened they should completely fill the cookie sheet to make sure you have plenty of red pepper flavor. The addition of crushed red pepper flakes adds a little kick, and a dollop of sour cream is a great garnish. This recipe is easily made vegetarian or vegan by using vegetable broth (and nixing the sour cream), which makes it versatile for a whole slew of different diets.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I served mine with some quick drop biscuits, but you could invite added flair with some fancy grilled cheese (think sourdough bread and Gruyère, or focaccia and brie) or a whole grain loaf. Add a side salad or some roasted veggies and you have a complete meal – with plenty of room for dessert and leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Adapted from House of Yumm
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

6 large red bell peppers

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat your broiler to high and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the bell peppers into flat strips, removing seeds and membranes.
  3. Place the peppers skin side up onto the prepared baking sheet, flattening them as much as possible.
  4. Broil until skins are at least half blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and place immediately into a sealed container to steam.
  5. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent.
  6. Retrieve the bell peppers, peeling off the charred parts of the skin, and add to the pot. Add broth and spices and bring to a simmer.
  7. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender1 to puree the soup completely. Taste and adjust spices as necessary.
  8. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream (optional) and some extra crushed red pepper flakes or oregano for garnish. Goes great with a hearty bread.

Notes

If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender to puree the peppers, onion, and garlic before adding the broth and spices (thinning with some of the unheated broth if necessary to get a fine puree), then return to pot and follow directions as normal.

Bulletproof Coffee (Pods)

One of the biggest struggles of long distance running is nutrition. It’s a constant experiment to see what works best for your body. Running on an empty stomach vs with a light snack; fueling mid-run; post-workout energy boosts; all a matter of preference and can vary by day and type of run.

Running

For me, I can run on an empty stomach (minus coffee…I do love coffee) if it’s a shortish morning run and I don’t have a lot of time to kill between waking up and starting to run. Contrastingly, on half marathon race days I need to eat a pretty full meal to keep me satiated but not overstuffed, and even then I often need 100-200 calories during the race. As I become a stronger and faster runner I find I need less to keep me going, but it’s still something I play with a lot during training runs or the “off”-season.

Once per week I run up a set of hills near the office. The usual route is only 4.3 miles (unless I add onto it to align with a training plan) but if I push myself it’s a pretty challenging 40+ minutes. I’ve discovered I *can* run the course without eating but it’s a better workout if I have a little something. I’ve tried a number of the standard suggestions (a piece of toast; banana and peanut butter; etc) but they all made me feel a bit heavy and I never felt like I found *the* item that works the best for me. Enter: bulletproof coffee.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Although I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, I often read about them out of curiosity or to see if there are any pieces I want to pull into my own life. Bulletproof coffee comes from the Bulletproof Diet, which is a high-fat and low-carb situation. I was not inclined to take up the diet itself, but after reading about the coffee and people who had tried it, it intrigued me as maybe a good pre-run snack.

Since I always drink coffee before running anyway, this kills two birds with one stone by getting my calories and my coffee all in one. Since it’s liquid, it doesn’t make my stomach feel heavy, and the ~200 calories is a good amount of energy for me. Coffee blended with butter and coconut oil sounds, frankly, pretty terrible, but surprisingly it tastes more like a really creamy and mild latte than actual butter and oil.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

Using a blender is key here, whisking or stirring by hand won’t work to properly blend everything together. I like to use slightly stronger coffee than normal, and add a dash (heap) of cinnamon because I love cinnamon. It also fits nicely into my Mindful Eating challenge, as it’s something that not only I enjoy drinking, but it makes me feel solid for running.

For me this would never be a regular breakfast substitute, and I eat another smallish breakfast after I run (toast or oatmeal with peanut butter and banana, usually), but it works great for an early morning pre-workout energy boost. I found I preferred slightly less than a 1:1 ratio of oil to butter, so definitely play with the ratios a little. Feel free to make your pods smaller if you typically drink less coffee in the morning, or just don’t need quite that many calories to fuel your early morning activities.

Bulletproof Coffee {[Baking Bytes}}

If you’re an AM exerciser looking for a lighter way to rev up your cardio sessions, and you like coffee, I highly recommend you give bulletproof coffee a try. I like to make the pods ahead of time so there’s no measuring required the morning of running, but until you figure out your perfect ratio you can always make them individually – just make sure your coconut oil and butter are chilled and solid before blending.

Bulletproof Coffee Pods
Makes 8 pods

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
7-8 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions

  1. Melt butter and coconut oil in a microwave safe container and stir to combine.
  2. Divide between 8 wells of a silicon tray or ice-cube tray.
  3. Freeze until firm (or overnight), then remove pods from tray. Store in the freezer until ready to use (or in the fridge if you’ll use them fairly quickly.)

Notes

I preferred it with 7 Tbsp of coconut oil for a slightly richer taste, so feel free to play with the ratios a little.

Bulletproof Coffee 
Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

10-12 oz hot coffee
1 bulletproof pod (above)

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc (optional)

Directions

  1. Optionally, add a dash of spice to a mug.
  2. Add coffee and bulletproof pod to a blender, and blend until extra frothy (about 15 seconds).
  3. Pour blended coffee carefully into mug to stir in the cinnamon, then enjoy immediately.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones

Hello my lovely readers, I hope the beginning of the new year is going smoothly for everyone. (If you want to get straight to the recipe, feel free to skip to the non-italicized text.) With regards to resolutions, this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Alongside my usual set of running/baking/professional goals, I’ve decided to set a theme: mindfulness. Each month I am going to focus on being more mindful about something in my life. After reading the cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow I have been inspired to make January’s theme into Mindful Eating.

This doesn’t mean counting calories or following a list of restricted items, but it’s more about improving my relationship with food. It’s easy to feel guilty about eating (or not eating) certain things, to rush through meals in order to move onto something else, to just make things because they’re easy and fast and not because I’m particularly excited to eat them. This month I’m going to focus on food in a way that makes me happy, both mentally and physically: taking the time to make things from scratch as well as actually slowing down and enjoying what I’m eating; having fewer meals in front of a screen; enjoying decadent items as treats not cheats; focusing on what makes me feel happy and energetic and ready for the days to come. 

This is intended to be a long-term change in the way I really think about food. Although I’m not one to be exacting about my diet, I do often feel restricted by what society is touting as healthy these days. Healthy doesn’t necessarily mean low-fat or low-calorie, carbs are not the devil and sugar isn’t the end of the world. Certainly I am going to be mindful of eating unnecessary added sugar, but I already know a low-carb diet doesn’t work that great for me, fats are important for flavor and staying power, and I want every calorie I eat to come from something I enjoy. I will no longer be describing anything as “guilt-free” because food should not be inherently shameful. I would love to hear your thoughts on this endeavor, should you be willing to share them. (Also I highly recommend the book, and you can expect to see some of those recipes on here in the coming months.)

In light of that, today we have another recipe that I made mostly out of curiosity. Consistent readers (and anyone that knows me in real life) will know that I don’t bake anything dairy-free, gluten-free, flourless, or vegan with any amount of regularity because these are not food traits I personally find important. I am, however, often intrigued by such recipes and will make them on occasion just for funsies.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

The original recipe called for things I don’t buy, like self-raising flour, coconut sugar, and almond meal, but I followed her modification suggestions and made a few of my own to tailor the recipe for myself. I replaced some of the flour with ground oatmeal for a heartier flavor, nixed the almond meal in favor of chia seeds, and used regular ole’ brown sugar instead of coconut sugar. I cut the sugar way back since I was figuring the banana adds a fair amount of sweetness (and because I already have my favorite sweeter scones) and added some whole oatmeal for texture.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

A few weeks ago I found some cacao nibs on massive clearance, and bought two of the bags. They were a great addition to these scones, no extra sugar but a little bit of chocolate flavor to enhance the banana. However they are definitely not cheap so feel free to leave them out or use mini chocolate chips as a more decadent replacement.

These scones are fairly dense but soft and moist and delicious. They are also pretty healthy, with low amounts of added sugar and a little bit of protein and good carbs from the oatmeal. Probably you shouldn’t eat three of them, but one is a perfect light-ish breakfast, especially when paired with a cup of coffee.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

I made these a few times and below is my favorite of those iterations. It can be baked into regular size or mini scones, depending on your preferences and whether you plan to serve them solo or as part of a fuller breakfast. They’re also easily portable and a great brunch option, although I think they’re best slightly warmed.

The banana and oatmeal combination is delicious by itself or topped with any number of toppings. Jam or butter and cinnamon sugar were my favorites, but mostly I ate them plain. I especially like the less sweet version if it’s going to be spread with a sweet topping anyway, but you can definitely increase the sugar here if you prefer.

Banana Cacao Nib Scones {{Baking Bytes}}

Give these a try and let me know what you think, and if any of your friends could guess they were vegan.

PS – These can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and uncontaminated oats, and they are vegan/dairy-free unless you use normal chocolate chips, although I’m sure there are vegan/dairy-free versions of those out there you could substitute with.

Banana Scones

Adapted from OmNomAlly
Makes 12-16 mini or 6-8 large scones

Ingredients

2 overripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 – 1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (use almond flour for gluten-free options)
1 1/2 cups oatmeal, finely ground2
1/2 cup oatmeal, whole
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs, optional3

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mash banana completely. Add coconut oil (microwave briefly if it’s not already mostly liquid), brown sugar, chia, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined, then let rest at least 3 minutes, or until chia seeds have softened.
  3. Add flour, both ground and whole oatmeal, baking powder, salt, and cacao nibs (or chocolate chips), and stir until completely combined. Mixture will be a little loose and quite sticky, but should be solid enough to hold its shape.
  4. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and shape into rounds about 1″ tall. Use two rounds for mini scones, or one for large scones. Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut rounds into 6 or 8 wedges.
  5. Bake until golden on top and slightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Be careful not to over bake; they are better slightly too moist than slightly too dry.
  6. Serve warm. Great plain, with butter and cinnamon sugar, or your favorite jam. Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter up to 3 days, but they are best on day one.

Notes

For sweeter scones, especially if you’re going to enjoy them plain, use the larger amount, or up to 1/2 cup. For less sweet scones, especially if you’re going to doctor them with jam, use the smaller amount. I personally like 1/4 cup best even plain, but the masses may prefer a sweeter option.

Use a blender to grind 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a powder. Leave 1/2 cup as normal for texture. =)

Cacao nibs are a great way to add a little chocolate flavor without the sugar and calories of chocolate chips. They are quite mild but delicious in baked goods. However for a more decadent treat, or if you don’t have cacao nibs on hand, you can substitute mini chocolate chips for delicious results, or leave them out entirely.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Happy almost New Year and hope everyone had a merry winter holiday, for those of you that celebrate it. I spent Christmas with M’s family in Oregon, which was a little weird given the lack of snow, but nice to spend the time with his family. We did not celebrate with the cinnamon rolls I posted two weeks ago, but I did make pie for Christmas Eve dinner with the grandparents. Maybe I’ll get the blueberry recipe up sometime next year.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This week I’m posting a nice cozy soup, great for the week between Christmas and New Year’s where all you want to do is hang out inside and relish those last few days off work or school. This is a simple recipe, and pretty quick to make, but it’s hearty and creamy and with all that broccoli in there it masquerades as vaguely healthy.

I like to use sharp cheddar in soups, but some pepperjack or gouda or any combination that strikes your fancy is sure to be delightful. A creamy base with generous amounts of cheese is intertwined with a hefty amount of broccoli, sure to please your cozy palate without feeling too much guilt about it.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I added a little celery as filler, but it’s just fine without it if you don’t have it on hand. Likewise you could throw a little zucchini in there. Since it’s puréed anyway, it’s a great soup for sneaking a couple extra neutral veggies into a meal.

When I was making it, M frowned at the idea of a meatless soup, so I added some diced turkey at the end to satiate him. It certainly is not necessary and the soup is great in its original vegetarian state, but if, like me, you have some carnivores to appease, some chicken or turkey is a great addition.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

It goes great with a side of whole grain bread for either lunch or dinner, and reheats nicely if you have leftovers. If you’re looking for a simple and classic meal that’s maybe a little less extravagant than typical holiday fair, make a batch of this soup.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 2 quarts (a little more if you add meat)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 small stalks celery, finely diced (optional)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.5 pounds broccoli, chopped small (about 8 cups)
1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)

1-2 cups cooked, diced chicken or turkey breast (optional)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

  1. In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Add onion and celery and sauté until softened and onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in flour until no lumps remain, then stir in half and half until smooth.
  4. Add broth, garlic powder, and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer over medium-low about 10 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly.
  6. Add broccoli and carrot, and simmer until softened, about 20 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to puree the soup to your preferred texture. I like it mostly smooth with a few chunks of broccoli, but you can blend as little or as much as you like.
  8. If using poultry, add it now and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until meat is warmed through.
  9. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely incorporated.
  10. Serve hot with an extra pinch of cheese, a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, and a side of savory bread.