Tuna Pasta Salad

  We have reached that point in the summer when I don’t like cooking anything complicated, especially if it will heat up the kitchen at the hottest part of the day. Grilling is always an option, but sometimes you just want something light and cool for supper. Enter this salad! It has a lovely combination of protein and carbohydrates that will leave you satisfied, but not sluggish. It keeps well for about 48 hours in the refrigerator, so if you have a small family, you can have leftovers for lunch the next day with no problem!

This salad is meant to be served at room temperature or a little warm, but it is also very good cold, especially if you add an extra squeeze of lemon.

A note about canned tuna. I try to buy the most sustainable tuna I can afford, and prefer tuna packed in olive oil. Trader Joes has a very affordable Skipjack tuna that is dolphin safe. If you decide to use tuna packed in spring water, you may need a bit more olive oil to keep the salad from getting dry.

Tuna Pasta Salad (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 2 cans of tuna, drained
  • 1 head of butter or Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.
  2. Drain pasta and toss with the olive oil. Set aside to cool about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the tuna, lettuce, olives, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the cooled pasta to the bowl. Toss all ingredients together.
  5. Correct seasonings as needed.
  6. Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

Enjoy!

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Protein Recovery Smoothie

  After a long run or intense training, I’m usually pretty hungry, but also pretty lazy. I don’t want to cook anything and sometimes even a sandwich just seems to take too much effort. I started making these delicious protein smoothies and they fit my post-run needs perfectly: they are easy, quick, delicious, and healthy. With no mystery ingredients or preservatives, these smoothies taste like a chocolate milkshake (more like a Wendy’s frosty), but fit into a clean eating diet. Win-win!

Full disclosure: Learn from my unfortunate experience. Bananas can have a laxative effect on some athletes. If your tummy is sensitive to banana (mine definitely is) have this AFTER your workout, not before 🙂

Speaking of bananas, I freeze my bananas in little bags and use them in smoothies right from the freezer. This prevents me from finding gross, rotten bananas in my fruit bowl and they thicken the smoothie more if they are frozen. If you don’t have any bananas frozen, just use a room temperature banana and maybe add a little more ice. No big deal.

Raw cacao is an incredibly healthy, minimally processed cocoa powder that retains its antioxidant properties because it is not heat processed. It is more expensive than regular Dutch processed cocoa powder, but it has an amazing, rich chocolate flavor without bitterness. Worth the extra pennies, but you can use other unsweetened cocoa powder as well if that is what you have.

Enjoy these warm, summer months, but keep yourself hydrated and your body fed!

Protein Recovery Smoothie (makes 1-2 servings, depending on how hungry you are!)

  • 1 peeled banana, frozen
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of organic peanut butter (any nut butter will work)
  • 1 tablespoon raw, hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic, raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1-1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk
  1. Put all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately with a straw or a spoon.
  4. Enjoy!

Blueberry Lemon Pie with Stuffed Crust

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Blueberry and lemon are definitely fruity BFFs. I love blueberries, but sometimes they are too sweet for me. Lemon is the perfect balance to that sweetness. Like all good best friends, these fruits compliment and bring out the best in each other, and the praline stuffed crust adds a lovely, crunchy surprise! Served chilled, this pie is the perfect, refreshing antidote for the hot days of early summer.

We use fresh berries for this, but you can substitute frozen berries, just add a few minutes to the cooking time–no need to defrost them. I like turbinado (raw) sugar for the crust filling–it’s richer flavor is terrific with the pecans. But, if you have regular, granulated sugar, you can use that instead.

Enjoy berry season! It is short and sweet, but always very tasty!

Stuffed Crust Blueberry Lemon Pie

  • 2 pie crusts from your favorite recipe
  • 1/4 cup organic, raw turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup organic butter, melted
  • 1 cup toasted pecan halves
  • 3 cups organic or pesticide-free blueberries
  • Lemon juice and zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 2 teaspoons quick cooking tapioca
  • 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • 8 ounces lemon curd
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Add turbinado sugar, pecans, and cinnamon to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until finely textured, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
  3. Roll first pie crust into a 9″ pie pan, making sure crust connects with the sides. Brush entire crust with the melted butter.
  4. Add remaining melted butter to the sugar mixture and blend well. Cover bottom of the crust with the cinnamon/pecan mixture.
  5. Top with the second crust, pressing crust down to make contact with the cinnamon/pecan mixture and the sides of the first crust. Crimp edges and trim extra crust.
  6. Use a paring knife, cut small slits in the crust (this will allow steam to escape when baking).
  7. Bake crust for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour.
  8. When crust is cool, combine 1 cup of the berries, lemon zest, juice, tapioca and cane sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium. Mash berries well and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Add remaining blueberries, stir well and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
  10. Spread lemon curd over cooled crust. Spread blueberry mixture over the lemon curd.
  11. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days (if the pie lasts that long!),

Mediterranean Hummus Bowl

 We are very big on the bowl meal these days–not only are they healthy and delicious, but they help use up lots of little bits of vegetables and occasionally meat that we have left over from other meals. This Mediterranean bowl came about in just that way. I had the leftover feta and some hummus and some orzo. Why not put them all together and call it lunch? You could add a meat protein if you like–chicken or fish would be terrific–but it’s great without as well.

A note here on salting your salad. Have you ever wondered why salads at a restaurant taste so much better than salads you make at home? Guess what? They salt the greens. Not like making pickles or something, but just a sprinkle of good quality salt. Try it–you will love it.

What makes a good bowl meal? Here is a little formula I use to make sure I’m getting a balanced meal:

2 cups greens + 1 cup raw or grilled vegetables + 1/2 cup protein + 1/2 cup cooked grains + sauce or dressing of your choice

Mediterranean Hummus Bowl (Serves 1)

  • 2 cups fresh baby greens (I used arugula, kale and spinach), washed
  • 1/2 cup cooked orzo
  • 1/4 cup spicy hummus
  • 1 small, ripe tomato, cut into chunks
  • 1 small, ripe cucumber, peeled, sliced and cut into quarters
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette dressing

In a large serving bowl, layer the greens and the next 6 ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy!

Pasta alla Ceccha

Pasta alla Ceccha

  Some summer days just beg for easy cooking, and this past week was full of them! Sometimes serendipity intervenes and provides you with what you need. At a race I ran last week, one of the vendors was giving away yellow tomatoes. Tomatoes!!! So we came home loaded down with little packages of delicious tomatoes, just in time to make a dish that is summer simplicity at its best. 

Italian cooking makes the best use of simple, ripe, seasonal foods and this dish  is one of my favorite ways to get our pre-run carbs without turning the kitchen into a sauna. The sauce is a raw tomato sauce that is flavorful and satisfying without being heavy. Tossed with hot pasta, it fills your kitchen with the amazing aroma of basil and garlic. Try this with your best, ripe summer tomatoes! This recipe is based on one from Giada deLaurentis and is a favorite summer staple.

Pasta alla Ceccha (serves 4)

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes or the equivalent in ripe, regular tomatoes
  • 3 green oinions, white parts and a little of the green
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese
  • A generous handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1″ pieces
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.
  2. In a food processor, combine all remaining ingredients except mozzarella. 
  3. Pulse until all is combined but still chunky. Don’t puree ( although if you do, it’s not the end of the world).
  4. Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta.
  5. Add the fresh mozzarella and serve immediately.

See? Easy peasy! Enjoy!

Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken

IMG_2013While summers in North Carolina are known for peaches and watermelon, the sweetest peaches actually come to market in the early fall, around Labor Day. We’ve enjoyed our peaches in smoothies, in both sweet and savory jam and cooked with chicken and pork. This spicy chicken dish is made easy in the crock pot, which keeps my kitchen from getting hot during these late summer, humid days. It brings together some of late summer’s stars–sweet peaches and bell peppers–along with fresh onions and garlic. Fresh corn off the cob would be terrific in this dish as well! We have eaten this chicken in homemade tostadas (above pics and recipe below), over rice and just plain. You could also make tacos with it. It is very flavorful and a nice, spicy dish before chili weather kicks in.

I did use some canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, but you could also roast your own chili peppers and use them and that would be delicious as well!

Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken (makes about 6 cups)

  • 2 Tsp. organic coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 sweet, bell peppers, trimmed and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 quart fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (vary to your taste)
  1. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat until melted.
  2. Add onion and bell peppers, stir, and saute for about 10 minutes. Vegetables should be soft.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Put the vegetable mixture into the bowl of a crock pot.
  5. Layer the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the chicken thighs with the chopped peaches and chilis/adobo sauce.
  7. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Chicken should be cooked through and tender enough to shred with two forks.
  8. Drain extra liquid from the chicken mixture (discard liquid), shred the chicken with two forks and use in recipes as needed.

Chipotle Peach Chicken Tostadas (serves 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 tsp. organic coconut oil
  • 2 cups organic black beans, cooked (or canned)
  • 4 cups Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken (above), warmed
  • 2 cups Queso Fresco or farmer’s cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. One at a time, add the tortillas to the skillet and cook about 1 minute on each side. Set the tortillas on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Top each tortilla with 1/2 cup black beans, 1 cup of the chicken mixture, 1/4 cup of the cheese.
  4. Bake tostadas for about 10-12 minutes. Cheese should be melted and the tostadas should be hot.
  5. Serve immediately topped with avocado and chopped green onion.

 

 

Eggplant Tomato Stacks

IMG_2011I think I made it all the way to adulthood with an intense dislike for eggplant. To me, eggplant was a bitter, slimy, vegetable that was typically served fried and greasy in some version of eggplant Parmesan. I’m not sure when my eggplant revelation came about, but eggplant is now one of my favorite summer vegetables. I love it grilled, roasted with garlic and especially baked in this wonderful, healthy re-make of eggplant Parmesan.

Here is the secret to great tasting eggplant–buy it fresh from your local farmer’s market. The longer eggplant sits, the more bitter it can become. Also, eggplant picked for grocery stores is often picked under-ripe, before it’s true sweetness is developed.

This recipe makes the most of fresh, local eggplant, tomato and basil–all in abundance in North Carolina during the summer. We used local mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company, so only the Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil and salt were store-bought. We used some of our yummy Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is my favorite discovery from last summer (well, maybe it’s a tie with Mae Farm Bacon Onion Marmalade).

Think of this recipe as lasagna with eggplant replacing the noodles. This is no greasy, fried, chain restaurant dish–it is flavorful, nourishing and rich in antioxidants and fiber. And your house will smell A-MAZ-ING while it is baking. Tom commented several times that it is hard to believe this is a meatless dish. If you substitute vegan cheese, it would be a completely vegan dish. Like it’s lasagna cousin, this freezes and reheats well, making super tasty leftovers. Healthy, local and delicious. Win-win-win. Yum-yum-yum!

Eggplant Tomato Stacks (makes 6 servings)

  • 3 medium eggplant (we used several baby eggplant and one medium)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce (or 1 jar from the store)
  • 2 c. mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use part-skim to reduce the fat)
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Wash eggplant and slice into 1/4″ or so slices. Put slices on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast eggplant slices for about 12 minutes–until they are fork tender.
  5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add one layer of the eggplant. Top with 1/3 of the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil leaves, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times, ending with cheese on top.
  6. Bake in oven for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly and golden brown on top.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Strozzapreti with Mushrooms and Ricotta

IMG_2649An essential component of eating locally is being prepared when the local food universe brings you something delicious, even if it wasn’t planned. Such was the case when some absolutely lovely shiitake mushrooms came my way from a local farm. Since they are very delicate and have a short shelf life, we needed to make something amazing with them…very quickly. I could have used my usual stir fry recipe and added them in, but when I have something special and delicate, I like for it to have the chance to be the star. Enter Bon Appetite online! THIS wonderful recipe found its way into my Facebook news feed and it was like the food universe was in agreement that I must eat mushrooms this week. In case you’re wondering, when the food universe speaks, I usually listen. Sometimes the universe tells me I need some Five Guys, in which case I also listen and EAT, but mostly it tells me nice, healthy things.

This is my adaptation of the Bon Appetite recipe (the original is HERE). My version doesn’t look as beautiful, but such is life. Basically, I cut the pasta required in half and increased the vegetables in the sofrito, but I pretty much followed the basic recipe. It is absolutely delicious, with a delicate flavor and a light dish that is perfect for these late summer evenings. We will definitely make this again!

Strozzapreti with Mushrooms and Ricotta (serves 2)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 large, organic carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, cleaned, trimmed and diced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground, black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 lb. (8 ounces) strozzapretti pasta
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh, shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 soft-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
  1. Make a sofrito by sauteing the onion, carrot and celery in 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Vegetables should be soft. Add salt, pepper and smoked paprika and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Add sofrito to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Boil water for pasta in a stock pot. Add a handful of Kosher salt to the pot. Add the pasta and stir.
  3. In a deep saute pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the garlic to the saute pan and stir, cooking for 3o seconds.
  5. Add the sofrito to the mushrooms and stir well.
  6. When pasta is done (about 9 minutes), add the pasta, Parmesan cheese and a bit of pasta water if needed. Combine all ingredients well.
  7. Plate the pasta by topping each serving with dollops of ricotta cheese and egg halves.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

Fettuccine with Salmon, Peas and Corn

IMG_2001Some days, I just crave salmon. I can’t explain it, really, but when I have that craving, there is nothing to do but give in and enjoy. I’ve learned to listen to my body, and when it wants protein, I usually give in. Typically, we buy locally produced seafood and meat, but salmon isn’t local to North Carolina, so I make an exception for it. We purchase wild caught salmon, not farm raised, which ups the price for dinner. So, instead of giving up on it or blowing my budget completely, I like to add it to pasta, which stretches our meal out a bit. To save money, we also bought wild salmon pieces (the leftover pieces from trimming fillets) instead of pricey steaks or fillets. Since we were cutting them up anyway, it didn’t seem worth the price to buy a larger cut.

We tend to eat pasta dishes on Fridays or Saturdays, the day or two before our long runs. In our marathon training, we are up in the 20+ miles now (when the oppressive humidity allows), so we need the carbs to help us fuel through our running schedule. We agreed that this recipe is a keeper.

This pasta dish is wonderfully satisfying. It includes wild caught salmon pieces fresh, local organic corn, which is super good right now and peas. If you thought ahead and froze spring peas, this is a terrific use for them! This dish also uses a creamy faux alfredo sauce made from cauliflower–yes, you read right. Cauliflower! This genius recipe was posted by a talented food blogger on Pinch of Yum. HERE is her recipe. It is amazingly awesome.

Fettuccine with Salmon, Peas and Corn (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 lb. organic fettuccine noodles
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 lb. wild-caught salmon pieces, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 cups fresh, raw, organic corn (you can use frozen as well)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 recipe cauliflower alfredo sauce
  • Kosher or mineral salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the cauliflower alfredo sauce and set aside.
  2. Heat water in a stock pot for the pasta. When the water boils, add a healthy amount of salt to the water. Add the pasta and cook according to directions (about 10 minutes for fettucine).
  3. While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.
  4. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, or until onions are soft. If onions begin to brown, turn the heat down.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add the salmon and cook with the onions for about 4 minutes or until salmon is opaque on the outside.
  7. Add the corn, peas and cauliflower sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.
  8. Heat the sauce until all is warmed through–about 4-5 minutes.
  9. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss all together to combine.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

 

Eggs in Purgatory

IMG_1999It’s been a long, crazy summer for us, and I am finally getting back to posting. Actually, I’m finally getting back to cooking, which means I finally have something (anything) to post!!! I feel as though I am emerging from a period of great darkness, into a beautiful sunshine-y day. So, cheers to new beginnings, great friends and daily miracles. Speaking of miracles, this has been an amazing summer for tomatoes in North Carolina. We’ve had plenty of rain (but not too much), lots of sun and warm (but not scorching) temperatures. Tomatoes are rocking our world this summer!

If you check the popular lists of superfoods out on the internet, you may not find tomatoes on the list, but they should definitely be there. Chock full of vitamins and lycopene, tomatoes are little powerhouses. What is lycopene? Lycopene is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family and may help protect the body from prostate and breast cancers as well as protect the blood vessels around the heart. While lycopene can be taken in pill form, it is most highly effective when eaten in cooked tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes breaks down the plant fiber and releases lycopene in a form more easily absorbed by the body.

This dish is pure, summer simpleness, although it does involve turning on the stove–not my favorite thing in the hot summer–but it is worth heating up the kitchen a bit. The tomatoes, zucchini and onions are stewed down until very thick, then topped with eggs, covered and simmered until the eggs are done to your liking. Voila! Totally good for you, with a bit of protein and a hit of spicy.

This version is a takeoff of an Italian breakfast dish and the “purgatory” in this case comes from red pepper flakes and sriracha chili sauce. This combination of tomato and eggs, however, has variations in Middle Eastern, Jewish and Chinese cooking as well, so it has been around (and loved) for a very long time. We had this for supper and it was delicious. You could add other vegetables as you like and experiment with new combinations that work for you! I want to try this with some freshly roasted red sweet peppers for more of a smoky flavor!

Eggs in Purgatory (serves 2-3)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 small, fresh zucchini, washed and diced
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce or harrisa (optional)
  • 4-6 fresh farm eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil, to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh ciabatta or other good quality bread
  1. In a large, deep saute pan or non-cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onion and saute for about 5-6 minutes or until onions begin to soften.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan, stir well, and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Check on the tomatoes frequently. If they are scorching, turn the heat down to medium low and continue to simmer.
  5. Add the diced zucchini, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir well and simmer for about 15-25 minutes or until most of the liquid from the pan has evaporated. This could take longer depending on the heat of your stove, your pan, and the amount of water in the tomatoes.
  6. Drizzle the tomato mixture with the sriracha, add chopped, fresh basil and stir.
  7. When the mixture is very thick, use a spoon to make 4-6 small nests in the tomatoes. Crack one egg into each nest, cover the pan and simmer until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
  8. Check for seasonings and serve immediately topped with cheese and with warm bread on the side for dunking!

 

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