Don’t you love the British pronunciation of the word “tuna”? It’s right up there with “awesome” and “mobile”.
Tuna itself, however, can make for a pretty gross, gloopy lunchtime salad. Unless you make it like THIS. I’ve been making this salad about once a week for the last month or so, now that the weather has officially warmed up, and happily munching away for 2-3 days at lunch while my kiddo naps. It’s a wonderful way to spend my downtime!
This tuna salad recipe is super fresh and light, contains no mayonnaise, and is open to interpretation. Do you love scallions? Great, throw some in there too! Do you hate celery? Don’t use it!
As far as which kind of tuna to choose, it’s a bit of minefield. The cheapest cans of tuna are absolutely a reflection of quality – unsustainably sourced, full of mercury, low in flavor. If I can’t find a can or jar of wild-caught tuna, then I always go for one packed in olive oil. Sure the calories are higher, but you’re also getting a far more flavorful product. If you’re concerned about mercury, pick Chunk Light or Skipjack tuna, which generally contain lower levels (at the higher end of the spectrum are Albacore and Yellowfin). Wild Planet is a good choice, and can be found at any major supermarket and specialty health food store in the US.
- 2 cans of wild caught tuna packed in olive oil (can also substitute one can of tuna for one small can of drained & rinsed white cannellini beans)
- 3-4 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard (or other mustard of your choice)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp drained capers
- 1 tbsp sweet relish (optional)
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, making sure to break up the larger tuna chunks and coating everything in the mustard and vinegar. Add seasoning if necessary to your taste. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Cooking when you’ve just had a baby sometimes feels like the very last thing you want to think about. And here I am, with a 7-month-old baby, and still struggling to get dinner on the table most nights! So Phil and I stick with the dinners we feel comfortable making, week in and week out. Eventually there will be room for creativity in the kitchen once again. But for right now, we’ve found what works for us. It’s funny, but the idea of dishes you make over and over again, recipes you know by heart, is something I always envisioned I’d do when I became a Mom. It might be a far cry from the way I cooked before, but hey – most things change when you have a kid!
One such dinner we’ve got memorized is a delicious Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad that is slightly adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. We have probably made this for dinner once a week for the past 4 months. It’s that good. And that EASY.
And its ease is precisely why it’s the perfect dinner for new parents. It only requires a few ingredients, takes about 15-20 minutes to make, and gives you plenty for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day (which we always enjoy).
The adaptations we made to Mollie’s original recipe:
- Added grated ginger to the sauce
- Used wide rice noodles rather than vermicelli-style
- Added red bell pepper
- Cooked tofu
Are there any go-to dinners you make every week?
Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Keywords: saute boil salad entree gluten-free vegan vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 cup organic peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 4 tbsp brown rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 inch ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 14 oz extra firm tofu, cut into bitesize blocks
- 1 lb wide rice noodles
- 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
- 6 scallions, finely sliced
- 3/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
- handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Make the sauce: combine the peanut butter, boiling water, vinegar, garlic, ginger, honey, tamari/braggs, crushed red pepper flakes and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk well and pour over the noodles.
Toss the cucumber, pepper, and scallions in with the noodles and sauce.
In a large frying pan, heat some coconut or sesame oil and cook the tofu for a few minutes until lightly browned.
Serve the noodles with a few cubes of tofu and a generous sprinkle of peanuts and cilantro.
Keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Fresh herbs. A true sign of Spring springing. While our garden is slowly starting to grow back into its lush old self, the huge mint patch is still a dead heap of brown stalks. So the next best thing was to buy a little bunch of organic mint leaves from the store. I used it all up in two delicious meals – and can’t wait for our own mint to grow again!
As well as being a wonderful stomach soother, fresh mint offers many other health benefits, including:
- Antimicrobial properties in peppermint oil, inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria and types of fungus
- Natural breath freshener
- Relief from nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies
- Excellent source of vitamins C & A, and the mineral manganese
- Nerve soother, especially in the form of fresh mint leaf tea
Mint livens up a grainy salad like no other. The first dish I made was a farro salad with a classic combination of mint, feta, and pomegranate (although not in season, if you can find a package of the arils – the juicy red seeds – they are such a nice treat every once in a while). Watermelon chunks would be great as an alternative when we’re in the thick of summer, or slices of fresh peaches.
Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Feta & Mint
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Keywords: simmer entree salad side wheat free vegetarian soy-free nut-free spring summer
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 1/2 cups farro
- 3-4 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 cup pomegranate arils (or diced watermelon or 1 peach, sliced)
- 1/2 cup sheep or goat feta, crumbled
- 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cook the farro according to package instructions (usually takes about 25-35 minutes in twice the amount of water). Leave to cool slightly before tossing with the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm, or place in the fridge to cool completely for a refreshing summer salad.
Another fabulous use of mint is in homemade pesto. I saw a wonderful recipe in the May issue of Real Simple magazine that I had to try – and all of a sudden I’ve found a new love. Mint Pesto is bright, fresh, and zesty and takes all of 5 minutes to make yourself. It came paired with steamed artichokes in the magazine recipe, but you could also serve it with fish, lamb, or in a salad with thinly sliced zucchini.
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
As you read this, I’ll be on the tropical isle of St Thomas, soaking up some much needed sunshine before our baby arrives in June! And with that warmth in mind, I thought I’d offer you a salad recipe that requires very little effort and time but is worth making any day.
Even if it’s still Arctic temperatures where you are (and believe me, that’s how it was when the above photo was taken), you’ll feel a little lighter and brighter when you make this salad. The idea here is to keep everything simple and green, combining a decent amount of leafy greens, a bit of protein, and some healthy fats, along with some great flavors in the dressing.
Making your own salad dressing requires nothing more than a little glass jar (next time you buy capers or olives, wash out the jar and keep it!) and some everyday condiments I know you have already! If you made too much for this one salad, which happily serves two, keep the rest in the fridge for another salad.
Romaine salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Keywords: raw salad gluten-free nut-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 head of organic romaine lettuce
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- handful green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1 tsp German mustard
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and ground black pepper
Slice the romaine into 1-inch strips and throw in a big salad bowl. Cube the avocado flesh and add that to the romaine, along with the pumpkin seeds.
Make the dressing in a small glass jar by combining all ingredients, placing the lid on top, and shaking vigorously for a few seconds to incorporate.
Just before serving, toss the salad with the dressing and serve!
I’ve been teaching a four-week nutrition and wellness class at Samadhi in Newton Centre, a wonderful integral health center from where I now operate my nutrition consulting business. This week’s class focus was “Allergy-Free Eating”, a hot topic to say the least. I feel as though, after eight years of living with a restricted diet due to food sensitivities and two years of studying holistic nutrition, I can finally offer some sort of guidance on this to the many out there with question marks. Several of the students in Monday’s class either avoided foods themselves for health reasons or had children with food allergies. It was interesting to talk to each of them about their personal experiences with this – one had children who were diagnosed with food allergies by blood testing at their doctor’s office. Another simply connected the dots between her son eating cashews and immediately noticing a reaction and has been monitoring his cashew (and other tree nut) intake ever since. He avoids eating them and that’s that!
But what about those of us with less obvious reactions – ones that take several hours, maybe even several days to appear?
It is important to note here that, generally speaking, a reaction to a food that occurs immediately (i.e. within the hour) is a true food allergy. One that occurs several hours later, up to 48 hours later, is considered a food intolerance or food sensitivity.
These sensitivities aren’t usually life-threatening, but they do come with their own uncomfortable and frustrating symptoms, many of which affect our daily lives.
For example, one of the most common symptoms of a gluten sensitivity is fatigue. People who can’t tolerate gluten find that they feel drained of energy within a few hours of ingesting a gluten-containing food. Sure, this isn’t the same as someone who is allergic to peanuts and runs the risk of their throat closing up when they breathe in peanut particles, but that’s no reason to ignore it.
I understand how difficult it can be, avoiding a food. Believe me! But the impact of reducing or eliminating a food you’re sensitive to far exceeds the difficulty it presents. It is difficult to measure over time, but the benefits will be there. I spent eight years avoiding eggs and soy after I was diagnosed with intolerances to both. Today, I happily consume both with no reaction at all! (I should note that I am careful and moderate with the soy I do eat, for reasons beyond my own health).
If you suspect that you are allergic or intolerant to a food, please don’t self-diagnose! Work with a professional caregiver, such as a nutrition consultant, who will be able to help you pinpoint your particular food sensitivities. I would love to work with you, whether you live here in the Boston area or abroad (Skype is a wonderful thing!) – please do get in touch.
To ease the challenges associated with a restricted diet, I do my best to provide plenty of “allergy-friendly” recipes here (meaning recipes that avoid the most common food allergens or are easily adaptable to avoid them). And here is another one! I created this recipe for a food demo at the Allergy-Free Eating class this week and the students loved it! It showcases quinoa and some delicious fresh fruits and veggies (organic of course, given their Dirty Dozen status), creating a Waldorf-esque salad that is perfect for this time of year. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the finished product, though I did use a beautiful local organic apple, just like the ones you see in the basket above!
Quinoa Waldorf Salad
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Keywords: simmer salad entree side gluten-free soy-free vegan vegetarian wheat free fall
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- 2 stalks organic celery, diced
- 1 organic apple, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup organic seedless red grapes, sliced in half
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
- handful fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- optional: 1 tbsp organic Greek yogurt
Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Make the dressing by whisking the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small dish. For a creamier dressing, add the yogurt.
Combine the cooled quinoa with the celery, apple, walnuts, grapes, dressing, and parsley. Toss to coat.
Serve cool or keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.