Want to recreate restaurant-style poke bowls on the cheap? Use canned tuna and canned crab in this easy canned tuna poke bowl!
Not long ago I posed a question on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page:
I love asking open-ended questions on social media because, not only does it get plenty of engagement from readers, but usually gets me thinking. When I asked this particular question, friends and followers had PLENTY of answers. And, seeing as how most of us have been deprived of the restaurant experience for weeks, if not months, I get it. I’m chomping at the bit as much as anyone to actually go OUT to eat.
In fact, for me, the Covid-19 restaurant ban has actually been a proving ground for determining which restaurants actually have good food and which I apparently go to for their ambiance or other factors. If all I can get is takeout, that takeout better be worth it! One type of restaurant whose food I’ve realized I genuinely miss? Poke bowl joints.
A wee bit of backstory: It took me until about age 30 before I ever acquiesced to eating sushi. Like most sushi-averse folks, the thought of eating raw fish seemed SO VERY WRONG. But eventually my husband convinced me to try a local sushi place with famously fresh rolls and my eyes were opened to the amazingness of this culinary wonder. After getting on the sushi bandwagon, you better believe poke bowls were an easy next step. I love their combo of mild and spicy flavors, and they can be surprisingly healthy, too!
Besides that, poke bowls are the Chipotle burritos of Asian food–convenient, customizable, and uncomplicated. And, even though we can’t eat them at restaurants at the moment, they’re pretty easy to make at home. This version is super budget-friendly, using canned tuna and canned crab (I know, it could be a lot fancier with sushi-grade tuna, but we’re going for inexpensive here, mmkay?) Topped with a spicy sriracha aioli–my favorite part of any poke bowl–these are a tasty at-home version of the fast-casual favorite.
So add what you like, take out what you like, and enjoy!
Easy Canned Tuna Poke Bowl
For the sriracha aioli:
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- salt, to taste
For the poke bowls:
- 1 1/2 c. dry white rice
- 10 oz. frozen edamame
- 5.3 oz. can albacore tuna packed in water, drained
- 6 oz. can white crab meat, drained
- 1 c. shredded carrot
- 1 c. cucumber, diced
- fried onions, for garnish
- sesame seeds, for garnish
- sliced green onions, for garnish
Make the sriracha aioli:
- In a measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the bowls:
- In a large pot, make rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, microwave edamame according to package directions and prep all other ingredients.
- Assemble 4 individual bowls, dividing rice, edamame, tuna, crab, carrot, and cucumber among all. Garnish with fried onions, sesame seeds, and green onions. Top with sriracha aioli.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving food? I’m not sure I could pick just one. If truly pressed, I might say mashed potatoes, but there are SO many other tasty options: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and more. (And let’s not even START on desserts.)
Fortunately, this healthy Thanksgiving Grain Bowl offers the flavors of several turkey day favorites all in one! This easily modifiable recipe works well for throwing together a bowl full of leftovers–or for when you just want something a little lighter. Roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and feta come together with high-fiber, protein-packed quinoa and a sweet-and-tangy olive oil dressing.
Sounds just about right for the day after Thanksgiving, yes?
And while we’re talking Thanksgiving, let me pull out my nutritionist hat with a little dietary advice. It’s all too easy to overdo it at Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, try to remember that how much you eat is up to YOU. Just because it’s a tradition to down every single item in the family buffet, it’s not actually required. You can enjoy a great meal without getting to the end of it feeling like you’re about to burst. Choose what you really want to eat and let the rest go. And just say no to food pushers! If Grandma or Aunt Carla says you absolutely must eat her marshmallow-sweet potato concoction, indulge her with a bite, not a giant scoop. It’s your body, your meal, your decision.
Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! And check out my post on 10 Ways to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving Grain Bowl
For the grain bowl:
- 1 c. brussels sprouts, sliced in half
- 2 1/2 c. butternut squash, diced into small pieces
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 c. quinoa
- 3 c. vegetable broth
- 1/2 c. dried cranberries
- 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
- 1/3 c. pepitas
For the dressing:
- 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread brussels sprouts and butternut squash in two separate groups. Drizzle both with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle butternut squash with nutmeg and thyme. Roast about 30 minutes, stirring once.
- While veggies roast, cook the quinoa. In a medium pot, bring quinoa and veggie broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
- Make the dressing: In a small measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients, or blend with an immersion blender.
- Assemble the whole thing: In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, cranberries, feta, and pepitas. Stir in dressing and toss to combine.
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.
I’ll level with you. Although this recipe calls itself “Thai” Peanut Chicken Pasta, I’m really no expert on determining what defines Thai food. I’ve never been to Thailand, and my experience with Thai cuisine has been limited to a few very tame menu choices at a local chain of Thai restaurants. For all I know, people in Thailand don’t even eat chicken. Or pasta. Or peanuts. (In fact, according to the Internet, peanuts are more of an Indonesian ingredient.)
You’ve probably heard how, when Asian people come to the U.S., our “Asian” food is unrecognizable to them. I can attest that the two times I’ve eaten truly authentic Chinese food, it was NOT your run-of-the-mill sweet and sour pork. We’re talking beef tendon, tilapia peppercorn soup, and basically a real-life version of this scene from A Christmas Story. Truth be told, probably the only reason I finished was to not be rude to my gracious hosts.
So, again, an Asian food expert I am not.
What I do know, though, is that this recipe is a winner of a chicken dinner. With whole grains for fiber, chicken for protein, carrots and cabbage for veggies, and a sweet peanut sauce, it’s the whole package. It came to the rescue this past Monday night when our family was running around like crazy with various busy-busy December activities. A one-dish meal that gets on the table in 30 minutes? Exactly what I need this time of year–don’t you?
So whether it’s truly Thai or just truly tasty (and easy and quick), I’m a fan. I think you will be, too.
Thai Peanut Chicken Pasta
- 14 oz. thin spaghetti
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. honey
- 1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
- 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
- 1 1/2 c. carrots, cut into 1/8-inch by 2-inch matchsticks
- 2 c. cabbage, thinly sliced
- 8 green onions, sliced
- 2 c. cooked diced chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
- 1/2 c. peanut pieces (optional garnish)
- 1/4 c. sesame seeds (optional garnish)
- 1/4 c. green onions, sliced (optional garnish)
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta cooks, make the peanut sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger.
- Drain pasta and toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil to keep from sticking. Set aside.
- Wipe out pasta pan and heat the other 1 Tbsp. sesame oil on medium heat. Add carrots and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and green onions and saute another minute or two until the cabbage begins to soften.
- Add the pasta back to the pan, along with the chicken and peanut sauce. Stir well to combine and continue cooking on low until heated through.
- Garnish with additional green onion slices, peanut pieces, and/or sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
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.