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.
Need a dessert to feed a crowd? This Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake with yogurt icing is just the ticket!
Every other Sunday for the last fifteen years, my husband and I have had Sunday dinner with his family. Coming from a New York Italian family as he does, Sunday dinner is almost more of a religious observance than a simple meal. Barring an act of God, it WILL happen. And it will probably involve sausage.
Over the years, as we’ve gotten together, the family has seen many changes. While Sunday dinner started out at his parents’ house every week, we’ve now transitioned to rotating between the homes of his mom and his siblings. And whereas, fifteen years ago, there were seven of us around the dinner table, there are now eighteen adults and kids. When it’s our turn to host, you can find me searching for recipes that feed a crowd.
I’ve assembled a handful of go-to entrees to serve for dinner, from chili to casseroles to barbecue chicken sandwiches (thank God for the Crock Pot). But sometimes the course that leaves me stumped is dessert. A single pan of brownies no longer suffices for this many people, and forget about a single pie–or even two. One dessert I come back to time and again is the ample, flexible bundt cake. It’s easy to slice and serve for any portion size, it doesn’t require the effort of frosting of a layer cake, and it always turns out so pretty. Plus, who doesn’t like cake?
I made this Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake for our most recent Sunday dinner. Lately I’ve been digging in to a bit of “research” (aka baking and eating) on replacing butter or other fats with heart-healthier olive oil. This particular olive oil baking experiment was certainly a success! The cake turned out slightly–but not overly–dense, with a delightfully almost-crunchy crust. Drizzled with a yogurt icing with a hint of orange, each slice was a little bit of citrus heaven, especially when accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
To complete a Mediterranean-themed meal, I served this after my Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale. (See? I told you sausage would be involved.) For Sunday dinner or to feed any crowd, I’d say you can’t go wrong with bundt cake–especially this one.
Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 c. high quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. orange extract (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh orange zest
- 6 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
For the orange-yogurt glaze
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 Tbsp. full-fat plain yogurt
- extra orange zest for garnish
Make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan.
- In a large bowl, mix sugar and eggs with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add olive oil, vanilla, and orange extract and mix until smooth, then repeat with orange zest and juice.
- Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix with hand mixer until no lumps remain.
- Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Make the glaze:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and yogurt until smooth.
- Drizzle icing over cooled cake. Garnish with additional orange zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Last weekend, while I was out at the toddler cooking class I teach once a month, my husband got together with a group of guys for a Sausage Festival. I’m not being gross. They literally hung out for several hours making sausage. I kinda wish I could have been there, because this is one aspect of food production I have never personally experienced…and, though it’s not terribly glamorous, it’s pretty interesting! So before I dive into this tasty Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale–which, of course, uses the sausage from the Sausage Festival–here’s a little glimpse into the process.
Apparently it all starts with pork shoulder, cut into chunks.
Then the pork goes through a grinder…
And gets mixed with a blend of spices–in this case, parsley, garlic, fennel, and red pepper flakes.
And finally, the part everyone knows and loves: filling the casings with the meat to make links!
Pretty floral apron optional.
As far as I’m concerned, the best part about the Sausage Festival is that we now have homemade sausage to last until Kingdom Come. The guys made both links and bulk sausage, so I was only too happy to use some of the bulk kind up in this hearty, Mediterranean-style Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash.
It all starts with yourr basic giant yellow squash, baked and scraped to get those signature squiggly strings so reminiscent of pasta. In the meantime, you’ll brown some sausage and wilt some kale in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil on the stovetop. Toss these yummy goodies–plus some sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and cannellini beans–with the squash strings. Refill the shells, top with a sprinkle of mozzarella, and bake one more time for the finished product!
As a one-dish meal, this Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash is full of nutrients from the kale, beans, tomatoes, and squash, makes a ton, and reheats well. I think you’ll enjoy it, even if you don’t have the luxury of homemade sausage.
Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale
- 2 large spaghetti squash
- 3/4 lb. mild sausage
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch kale
- 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
- 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick both spaghetti squash all over with a fork and microwave each one for about a minute, to soften.
- Slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place squash halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.
- While squash bakes, prepare the rest of the filling. In a large pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbled. Remove from the pan and place on paper-towel lined plate.
- Using the grease left behind by the sausage (or supplementing with olive oil), saute garlic and kale until kale begins to wild and garlic begins to brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan and cook an additional minute or two. Place mixture in a large mixing bowl, along with cooked sausage.
- When squash has finished baking, remove from oven and scrape most of their contents into the mixing bowl, leaving a small border of flesh. (Be careful, squash will be hot!) Mix squash strings, sausage, and kale mixture thoroughly.
- Divide the mixture among the four squash halves and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and filling is warmed through. One serving equals half of a squash boat.
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.
In the past, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using tahini. It’s just so expensive, I thought, and what on earth would I do with an entire jar of sesame paste? Sure, I like hummus like any red-blooded Millennial, but I just couldn’t see making that much of it from scratch.
Little did I know that tahini can be used for other things besides hummus.
A few weeks ago I came across this helpful post on Babble that set me straight. Twenty-eight ways to use tahini that AREN’T hummus? The mystery! The intrigue! Turns out the sesame flavor and smooth texture of tahini lends itself to salad dressings, pestos, and even…brownies? While that particular suggestion may be going a bit too far for my tastes, the idea did broaden my horizons. When I ended up buying a jar at Trader Joe’s (for only around $3–far cheaper than I expected) it was with plenty of options on my radar.
This amazing all-purpose tahini sauce started its life as a dressing for a to-die-for roasted cauliflower salad over at Budget Bytes, but in my house, it’s turned into so much more. This week I put it on baked salmon, dipped pita in it, and have been seriously considering its possibilities as a sandwich spread. (With a bit of deli turkey, sprouts, and cucumber, it sounds like Mediterranean perfection.) I could see it working well on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, or on falafel.
And, if you’re really adventurous, I suppose you could even use it in brownies.
Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce
- 1/3 c. tahini
- 1/3 c. water
- 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- In a measuring cup, mix all ingredients until well combined. Keep covered in the refrigerator.