I could sit down with a good cookbook like a good novel. A nice night in, to me, is poring over a new cookbook, imagining each step of each recipe, and picturing the delicious finished product. It’s basically the equivalent of fantasy fiction for cooks.
With a fairly large collection of cookbooks (plus compulsively checking them out from the library, as I do) there are always those recipes I bookmark during my perusing and think, I’ll make that eventually. But time goes by, I find new and exciting ideas on Pinterest, and sometimes things I think I’ll make fall by the wayside.
These Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes are one such recipe.
For years I’ve been a fan of Real Simple’s line of cookbooks, and this recipe called out to me from Meals Made Easy as long ago as–dare I admit it–2009. I thought it looked healthy, easy, and bit unique. I mean, how often do you put fish in a tomato? Sounds kinda weird…but not in a bad way. Plus, I find the idea of food as its own serving container ADORABLE and kind of a genius way to minimize on doing dishes.
The thing is, though, heirloom tomatoes are only in season so often. And even when they are, I usually pass them by in the grocery store, thinking they’re just a little too fabulous for me. They’re the fine china of vegetables: Fancy and gorgeous, but really? For everyday?
You know what, though? Yes! Why NOT splurge on something as healthy (not to mention gorgeous) as heirloom tomatoes? I picked up these multi-colored models yesterday determined to finally put fish in a dang tomato!
The results were worth the wait. (Of ten years, haha.) I really enjoyed not only the process of stuffing these heirlooms for unique presentation, but also the fun of eating them. The tuna mixture is flavored with a Mediterranean profile of lemon juice, olive oil, capers, parsley, and pepper, but could be played with any way you like. Plus, if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free or dairy-free, these fit the bill.
Give them a try for a tasty, healthy, seasonal summer lunch!
Herbed Tuna in Heirloom Tomatoes
- 3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
- 2 6-oz. cans tuna, drained, preferably albacore packed in olive oil
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- 1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- drizzle olive oil, if you used tuna packed in water
- Using a paring knife, slice a circle in the top of each tomato. Scoop the flesh out of tomatoes, leaving about a 1/4 inch-thick tomato "shell." Drain any excess water out of the flesh you've scooped and dice it into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.
- Place diced tomato in a mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
- Scoop the mixture into your tomato shells and serve.
Ever find yourself in a sandwich rut? Let’s be honest, most of us have made enough peanut butter and jellies or turkey and cheeses in our lifetimes to feed a small army (in my case, the small army of my own children). And after awhile it can get b-o-r-i-n-g, an endless loop of the same old, same old.
Now that I work from home, I’m especially motivated to make my lunches a little more exciting. I don’t generally do anywhere or do anything special for lunch–and I rarely even see other people (cause I can get kind of hermit-y). Mostly, when lunchtime comes, if my husband isn’t working from home along with me, I sit on my back patio and scroll through Facebook or listen to a true crime podcast over a sandwich or salad.
So when I have an impressive lunch to look forward to, it’s kind of big news. And the lunch I’m talking about is none other than one of my very favorite sandwiches: a Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissant.
I first had this sandwich at a little cafe on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle when we took a trip there a few years ago. The juxtaposition of salty ham, creamy goat cheese, and sweet, chunky mango chutney rocked my world–why had I never thought of this combo before?–and ever since I’ve enjoyed making it on my own. Today, since I just made a Trader Joe’s run yesterday, I had all the ingredients on hand to make it. (If you’re not familiar, TJ’s makes a mean mango chutney for about $2.)
There’s no reason, of course, you couldn’t have a Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissant for an easy dinner, or serve it in mini-croissants as part of a buffet. For me, though, it’s a favorite lunch that makes my workday a little bit more inspiring (and delicious).
Ham, Goat Cheese, and Mango Chutney Croissants
- 1 croissant
- 3-4 slices ham, sliced medium-thick
- 1 Tbsp. creamy goat cheese
- 2 Tbsp. mango chutney
- Halve croissant lengthwise. Place ham on one side and spread the other with goat cheese and mango chutney. Assemble and eat!
Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.
Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)
Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.
Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.
That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken
For the salad:
- 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
- 1 green apple, diced
- 1/2 c. pomegranate arils
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 1/3 c. sliced almonds
- 1 1/2 c. shredded chicken
- 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
For the dressing:
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon
Make the salad:
- In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
- Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.
Make the dressing:
- In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
Cauliflower is, as they say, “having a moment.” More accurately, it’s having a decade. Everywhere you look, cauliflower versions of food products have cropped up in the last few years, whether it’s cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza crust, or cauliflower cake. (Yes, really.) Apparently our national fear of carbs and/or gluten has driven us to conclude that cauliflower is the miracle vegetable that will save our dietary souls. I’d say this tweet I saw this morning pretty well sums it up:
One easy life hack is to replace potatoes 🥔 with cauliflower-
Then slowly replace starches with cauliflower
Gradually sub cauliflower for favorite TV shows, friends’ baby showers, life events
Replace your friends and family with cauliflower
now all is cauliflower, rejoice!
— Nutrition Wonk (@NutritionWonk) August 13, 2018
I haven’t jumped on the cauliflower bandwagon (I still think bread and potatoes have their own nutritional benefits), but cauliflower does boast plenty of nutrients of its own, including fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. So bear with me as I add to the Cauliflower Conversation with these Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli. I think you’ll forgive me when you taste them.
Cauliflower steak sandwiches have actually been on my mind for about six months. Back in February, our family took a trip to Disneyland. At the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland (formerly the Village Haus pizza restaurant) I was trying to be healthy and ordered the Enchanted Cauliflower Sandwich.
And it ROCKED. MY. WORLD.
As described on the menu, it’s a “grilled cauliflower steak, spicy lime aioli, tempura-battered green beans, lettuce and tomato on a toasted roll.” But the description doesn’t do justice to the amazing combination of flavors and textures this plant-based dish had to offer. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Ever since, I’ve wanted to re-create it at home, but couldn’t find any copycat recipes online.
Sooooo I had to make my own. I started with roasted cauliflower steaks (I don’t grill; it’s my personal cooking Waterloo)…and seasoned them with lemon juice, olive oil, and red pepper. These cauliflower cross-sections emerge from the oven crispy and sandwich-ready.
From there, whipping together a chili-garlic-lime aioli wasn’t too complex. Added to a toasted ciabatta bun with lettuce, it totally fulfills my Fantasyland-inspired craving. (I will admit, though, that I haven’t gone to the trouble of making tempura-battered green beans like the Red Rose Taverne. I do enjoy putting Snapea crisps on top, however!) Now I don’t have to go all the way to Disney for my favorite sandwich.
But I think I’ll keep going anyway. 😉
Cauliflower Steak Sandwiches with Garlic-Lime Aioli
For the cauliflower steaks:
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the aioli:
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
For assembling the sandwiches:
- 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half and toasted
- 4 large leaves romaine lettuce
- 1 tomato, sliced
Make the cauliflower steaks.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice cauliflower head lengthwise through the core into 4 slabs. (It helps to leave a bit of the core on to hold them together.) Place on greased baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on the upward-facing side of the cauliflower. Roast for 15 minutes.
- Flip cauliflower steaks and brush the other side with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting another 20 minutes or until browned around the edges.
Meanwhile, make the aioli.
- In a measuring cup, combine all aioli ingredients and mix with an immersion blender (or whisk vigorously) until well combined.
Assemble the sandwiches.
- Assemble to your liking with cauliflower steaks, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the toasted ciabatta rolls.
I’ll be honest. This is a rather polarizing salad. At least in my house it is. I contend that the flavors of tart grapefruit, mild mahimahi, creamy avocado, and a lime-honey vinaigrette all mixed up together make for an explosion of deliciously contrasting flavors and textures. The rest of my family, on the other hand, is not so keen.
Grapefruit isn’t just an acquired taste. Apparently our taste perception of it and several other bitter foods depends on our genetics. (So I can give my husband and kids a pass.) But if you’re one of those fortunate people who can enjoy grapefruit, now is the time to do so–at least in Arizona, where we live.
This grapefruity recipe comes from Real Simple, a magazine that generally lives up to its name. But to take a simple recipe and make it even easier for weeknight dinnertime, I swapped out grilled fresh mahimahi for Trader Joe’s frozen mahimahi burgers. They may not be quite as pretty as grilled fillets, but these burgers, diced, turned assembly of this salad into a total breeze. Plus, they’re a WHOLE lot less expensive than what my regular grocery store charges for mahimahi.
I enjoyed this flavor combo so much on Thursday evening that I recreated it for my Lenten Fish Friday. If you observe Lent or just need a light, refreshing, easy lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with this healthy salad…
…unless you’re genetically predisposed to hate grapefruit.
Spinach Salad with Mahimahi, Grapefruit, and Avocado
For the salad:
- 1 package 4 frozen mahimahi burgers, such as Trader Joe's
- 8 c. fresh spinach
- 1 grapefruit, sliced into 1/2-inch segments
- 1 avocado, diced
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 2 tsp. honey
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Prepare mahimahi burgers according to instructions on box. Meanwhile, spread spinach on a large platter. Top with grapefruit segments and diced avocado. When mahimahi burgers are done cooking, slice them into pieces and spread over salad.
- Make the dressing: in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Toss salad with dressing or serve on the side.