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!

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!

Chicken Hummus Power Bowls

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Sing with me…

I like big bowls and I cannot lie,
We running mothers can’t deny
When a meal has power and yummy, yummy taste
And helps you trim your waist
We feel young!

Apologies to Sir Mix a Lot. Truly. And to you, because now you will have Baby Got Back stuck in your brain for some time.

But back to big bowls. Big bowls of happy, healthy goodness have our tastebuds singing these days. These one bowl power meals are super hot on the west coast and I can see why. They are healthy, easy to make and the delicious combinations are endless. This power bowl was based on a meal I had at Panera recently and it was a hit with everyone! It uses roasted chicken, hummus, cucumber and a nice helping of ancient grains to give us a terrific protein boost with a fresh taste. Just what we need to help get our spring miles in now that the weather is warming up.

Try this and adapt it to your taste preferences. We’ll add more bowls as we create them!

Chicken Hummus Power Bowls (serves 4)

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
8 cups fresh greens (baby spinach, baby kale, fresh lettuce)
2 cups cooked ancient grains, quinoa, sprouted rice or other high protein grain
1 cucumber, washed and sliced
1 tomato, washed, cored and chopped
1 cup washed and chopped sugar snap peas
Sliced onion
1 cup hummus
2 lemons

Assemble the dish in four large salad bowls (we use the ginormous, restaurant sized bowls, but this will work in whatever you have).

First, divide the greens between the four bowls, making a little well in the center for the grains.

Next add the warm or cold grains to the center of the bowl.

Working your way around the bowl, add each of the remaining ingredients except the lemon.

Lastly, cut each lemon in half and add a lemon half to each bowl. Serve immediately.

Squeeze lemon over the bowl and dig in!

Warm, Brussels Sprout Salad

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This salad wasn’t on my weekly menu, but I made it anyway. Those of you who are Brussels sprout haters will not understand, but I was completely craving these little cabbages. This is one of my favorite winter salads because it is packed full of flavor and served warm, which is comforting on a chilly evening. I am not sure where this recipe originated–I thought I dreamed it up, but it is everwhere, so I’m guessing I am not such a genius!

One note: use FRESH sprouts, not frozen. It makes all the difference in the world. We can get Brussels sprouts fresh at our farmers markets during the cooler months, but we also buy them still on the stalk at Trader Joes for about $2.99, making this a very economical as well as nourishing meal. If you can’t find fresh sprouts, you could substitute broccoli, and that would be tasty as well!

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad (serves 4)

  • 4 cups cooked grains (quinoa, barley, or rice)
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 strips local, pasture-raised smoked bacon
  • 1 cup new crop pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zested and and juiced
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, gently stirring sprouts every 10 minutes.
  3. While sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions to the bacon fat and sauté for 20 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When sprouts are roasted and browned on the edges, remove them from the oven.
  6. In a large bowl, gently toss the sprouts, onions, blue cheese, cranberries, crumbled bacon and pecans.
  7. Divide cooked grains among serving bowls and top with warm salad mix.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

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We don’t get a huge selection of autumn fruits here in NC. Once grape season is over, we have apples and that’s mostly it until strawberries make their appearance in April. Not that I don’t like apples, but it’s nice to have something different. So I was very happy when Asian pears showed up on our Produce Box menu for this week! I had never eaten Asian pears, which are a bit crisper than Bosc pears and not as cloyingly sweet. These pears though, they have a visual marketing problem. Asian pears look like brown apples, so even if I had seen them at the market, I probably wouldn’t have purchased them. And that is too bad because they are delicious, refreshing and healthy.

We used one of our awesome pears to make this fresh, fall salad of organic, local lettuce, kale, dried organic cranberries, and goat cheese. It was delicious, and a nice break from all the squash we’ve been eating!

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad (makes two servings)

  • 1/2 head of organic, bibb lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of organic, red kale, washed, trimmed of stems and chopped
  • 1 organic pear, washed, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 2 organic radishes, trimmed and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup dried, organic cranberries
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup candied pecan halves (you could also use toasted pecans)
  • Dressing of your choice
  1. Toss together the lettuce and kale and divide among two serving plates.
  2. Top each plate of greens with equal amounts of pear, cucumber, radish and cranberries.
  3. Divide the goat cheese and sprinkle over the plates.
  4. Top each plate with pecans and serve immediately with dressing on the side.

 

Week 47 Budget and Menu

A packet of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Our weekly menu will no doubt include some of this. Not vegan, organic or local. But still…

 

Happy Halloween! This week, we are back to spring-like temperatures. It’s crazy, this weather, but great for trick or treating, running and yard work! Our shopping this week reflects a super busy mom–not only are we hosting a group of teenagers for Halloween, but Tom and I are running in a Day of the Dead race and I’m working late a couple of nights. So, we have more grocery store items this week, but we’re still focusing on the organic and making healthy choices.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween! Here is what is on our menu when we are not sneaking Reeces Peanut Butter Cups.

Budget [$103.42]

  • The Produce Box (pears, organic kale, organic bibb lettuce, organic radishes, organic beets, pesticide free persimmons, pasture-raised ground beef): $40.00
  • Trader Joes (mushrooms, steel cut oatmeal, chicken sausage, organic pumpkin, organic beans, goat cheese, frozen pizza, candied pecans, organic yogurt, frozen fruit): $63.42

Menu

  • Wednesday–Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
  • Thursday–Pizza (and, probably, candy)
  • Friday–Swiss Chard , Beet Greens and Mushrooms with Egg
  • Saturday–Chili with Buttermilk Cornbread
  • Sunday–Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale
  • Monday–Leftover chili
  • Tuesday–Pumpkin Coconut Ginger Soup

Tutorial Tuesday #8–Reducing Your Meat Consumption

Starting a garden is a good way to increase your vegetable intake!

Starting a garden is a good way to increase your vegetable intake!

If someone told you there was one secret to losing weight, improving your health and keeping more of your money in the bank, would you be curious?

Believe it or not, there is one thing you can do to both improve your overall health outcomes and reduce your family food budget. That one thing is:

Reduce the amount of meat your family consumes.

Really. When I look at our food budget, it is obvious when we have a meat-heavy week and when we have a lighter week. Meat is expensive to produce and expensive to purchase. And reducing the amount of meat we eat in our diet has contributed to some major improvements in our weight and health statistics.

Am I telling you to become a vegetarian? No, and for the record, I am not a vegetarian, although I do love plant-based meals. And not all vegetarian fare is healthy (see: French Fries and Funnel Cake). Reducing the amount of animal protein you consume is not the same as eliminating it. You could try one night a week and move it to two or maybe three. How do you do this without a family riot? Here are some suggestions!

Reduce! Use smaller amounts of meat combined with lots of vegetables.

For centuries, humans used meat primarily as a seasoning for vegetables and other carbohydrates like grains. The concept of the large roast dinner (roast beef, full ham, steak and potatoes) came primarily after WWII, when war rations were lifted and middle class Americans suddenly had access to factory farmed (less expensive) meat. Before that, home cooks were creative in stretching a little bit of meat a long way. Actually, most of the rest of the world still does. How do you do that? Here are some ideas:

Collards and hoppin' john uses very little meat for a very satisfying meal!

Collards and hoppin’ john uses very little meat for a very satisfying meal!

  •  Stir fry—protein + vegetables + rice
  • Stews—protein + vegetables + potatoes
  • Pizza—protein + vegetables + dough
  • Casseroles—protein + vegetables + noodles + sauce

Go Meatless and Fun!

Meatless Monday has taken off in homes, hospitals, schools and corporate cafeterias across the country. Going meatless can be a fun challenge! Think your family won’t eat a vegetarian entrée? Check out these ideas:

Family Pizza Contest—We make our own whole wheat crust and family members can make their own special (often secret) pizza using ingredients from the farmer’s market. Once the pizzas are cooked we convene for a pizza tasting and vote for the best pizza. There is always a good time and often a lot of smack talk among contestants. Usually we are surprised—kale on pizza? Yes!

Salad-Palooza—Sometimes family members (especially younger members) just want to have some control over their situation. We shred some fresh lettuce and cut up small bowls of all kinds of vegetables and toppings. Then, everyone makes their own salad their way. No judging. Some of our favorite topics include broccoli, chopped cucumber, chopped red peppers, hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, shredded cheese, olives, and dried fruit. This is a great way to get rid of small amounts of leftover vegetables as well!

Building your own salad puts each diner in control!

Building your own salad puts each diner in control!

Rediscover a favorite—You probably already eat some vegetarian dishes and just didn’t think of them that way. Seeing them in a new light not only makes going meatless seem less intimidating, but it also makes us appreciate some foods we don’t often think about. These familiar dishes are all meatless (although they do involve dairy):

  •  Spaghetti with marinara sauce
  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Corn and potato chowder
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Salad
  • Peanut butter (or almond butter) and jelly sandwiches
  • Refried bean burritos and guacamole
  • Homemade or vegetarian egg rolls
Pasta with marinara sauce is always a great bet!

Pasta with marinara sauce is always a great bet!

Find Something New—With all the food porn on Pinterest, have your family search for vegetarian dishes that are beautiful and look delicious. Then make them! Again with the control, children aren’t asked very often to choose what everyone eats. They may really get a kick out of it. You could even make the person who chose the dish a dinner ambassador or some other honor. If you have teenagers, let THEM make dinner (you will be surprised).

Go with Stealth—Just don’t tell them. You don’t have to make a big production over going meatless. Sometimes I wait until everyone is finished eating and announced, “Hey, isn’t that amazing–that was a VEGETARIAN dinner!” At first, we had some surprised looks, now it’s just funny.

Use Unusual Cuts of Meat

Steaks, roasts and chops can be a bit pricey. But what about oxtail, shanks, hangar steaks or cheeks? There are cuts of meat that traditionally are underused and much less expensive to buy. Why? Some require longer cooking times and other cuts have just gone out of popularity with the rise of the steak. With a little love, these can be some of the most delicious meals around. Braised Beef Shank Ragu is one of our all-time favorites and makes the most of a less popular (and often less expensive) cut. Don’t know what to try? Ask your farmer or butcher. Anyone selling meat at your farmer’s market will know and will be able to give you some great recipes (and, there’s always Pinterest, right?).

Week 26 Budget and Menu

It is officially hot here in North Carolina. Summer came in with the customary heat and humidity that defines much of the South. I don’t care though, I love summer. Love it, love it, love it. We’re moving our cooking outdoors and to the fridge this week, with more grilling and chilling and less oven cookery.

Crazily, I signed up to run my first real 10K tonight,when the temperature will be a muggy 90 degrees. Will I make it? Will a thunderstorm wash me away? And what was I thinking??? Stay tuned to find out if I gas out or actually cross the finish line. Really, it could go either way at this point.

Have your farmer’s markets gone berserk with produce? Our farmer’s markets are bursting with goodness right now and I am planning to carve out time next week for some full-on canning and freezing. Can’t wait!

Our budget this week is horrible!!! Whaaaat??? $145.54 is way above our usual spending. I am finding that food prices–even at Trader Joes–are increasing quite a lot. The Ezekiel bread I love to eat for breakfast has gone from $3.99 a loaf to almost $5.00. Milk, cheese, yogurt have all increased as well. We are stocking up a bit on organic beans to use in salads and such, but still. Oi! So, chalk this week up to a menu win, but a budget fail! With July 4th on the horizon, I’m not sure next week will be much better.

Budget [$145.54]

The Produce Box (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, bell peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, smoked cheddar): $34.60

Trader Joes (frozen fruit, almond milk, Ezekiel bread, organic canned beans, organic lemon, canned tuna, guacamole, shredded pepper jack cheese, taco seasoning, organic chicken, buttermilk, organic corn chips, organic lime, yogurt, raw almonds, shredded cheese): $62.34

Locals Seafood (shrimp, fresh yellow fin tuna): $32.60

Black Hoof Farm (organic ground beef): $6.00

The Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, tomato salsa, pickled jalapenos, frozen peppers): $12.00

Menu

Wednesday–Out, pre-race dinner
Thursday–Tuna white bean salad–10k race and softball night!!!
Friday–Shrimp and string bean pesto pasta
Saturday–Softball team party (healthy taco salad)
Sunday–Grilled local hamburgers w/smoked cheddar, summer corn salad, eggplant
Monday–Grilled soy tuna steak kabobs, roasted potatoes, eggplant
Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Summer Egg Salad

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Egg salad. Oh yes, summer is here.

When the days are warm and no one feels like cooking (well, not me anyway) and the thought of something cool and creamy for dinner makes everybody happy, it is time for egg salad. This is one of those dishes that is quick, easy, delicious and very budget-friendly–even if you buy farm fresh eggs like we do.

Any dish where eggs are the star deserves farm fresh eggs. We buy our eggs from farmers who pasture raise their chickens–not only do the egg yolks look healthier in color, but the eggs themselves taste noticeably better than grocery store eggs. They are also healthier for you, providing more omega-3 fatty acids than factory eggs and packing more protein as well.

I know people who don’t like to make this dish because they have a hard time peeling their hard boiled eggs. The recipe below details my system and I have never had this go wrong. Yet.

You can make this cold salad up to 24 hours ahead. Keep in the refrigerator with a slightly damp paper towel or piece of plastic wrap covering (touching) the surface of the egg salad to prevent any discoloration. Egg yolks, like avocados or bananas, react quickly to oxygen in the air and can turn brown. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it won’t be as appetizing.

We serve our egg salad with locally made sourdough from La Farm bakery or honey whole wheat from Great Harvest Bread Company. Pumpernickle is good, too, if you can persuade your children to eat it (if you can, please send tips). It is also delicious served on a bed of greens. Good sides for egg salad include homemade pickles or pickled okra, celery sticks, carrot sticks or even kale chips!

Egg Salad (makes about 3 cups)

  • 6 farm fresh eggs
  • 2 stalks organic celery, trimmed and diced (optional)
  • 1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (we used Dukes)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  1. Gently put the eggs in a stock pot or large saucepan. Add water to cover eggs by 1″ and cover pot with lid.
  2. Heat pot over medium high heat until water starts to boil. Remove from heat, and let sit for 12 minutes.
  3. Unocover pot and remove eggs to a colander. Run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking process.
  4. One at a time, take each egg and gently tap it all over its surface so that the surface of the egg has small cracks all over it.
  5. Holding the egg under a stream of cold water, gently peel the shell from the egg. The running water helps a lot. If some of the white sticks to the shell, that’s ok. You’re going to mash them up anyway. Put the peeled egg in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  6. Continue with all your eggs until they are all peeled and in the mixing bowl. With the back of a fork, mash the eggs so you have a rough mixture of egg whites and yolks.
  7. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix together with the fork until you have a thick, yellow mixture. Add more mayonnaise if your mixture seems too dry. Taste for seasoning and correct as needed.
  8. Serve on bread, toast or on a bed of greens!

Week 21 Budget and Menu

We are gearing up for another exciting, busy week. Softball season is keeping us hopping and we are enjoying every second of it! Our menu this week reflects not only our need for quick dinners, but also our celebration of Memorial Day! We haven’t had beef on our menu in a long time and we are going to enjoy every bite of these grilled hamburgers!

Our budget is under budget, even with wine from Trader Joes 🙂 Happy Memorial Day, everyone! Let summer begin!

Budget [$88.58]

  • The Produce Box (asparagus, romaine lettuce, garden peas, cilantro, strawberries, spring onions, kale): $27.50
  • Locals Seafood (crab cakes): $10.20
  • Mae Farm (smoked pork): $6.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6.00
  • Black Hoof Run Farm (heritage, grass-fed ground beef):$6.32
  • Trader Joes (burger buns, organic onions, organic chicken, frozen fruit, wine): $27.56
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (roasted pepper ketchup, jam): $5.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas
  • Thursday–Pasta with smoked pork and garden peas
  • Friday–Salad with strawberries, pecans and goat cheese
  • Saturday–NC crab cakes, creamy grits and asparagus
  • Sunday–Grilled beef burgers with bacon-onion marmelade, green salad, fruit parfaits
  • Monday–Barbecued chicken, deviled eggs, broccoli salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet
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