Tuna Pasta Salad

The other night I really wanted to make Tuna Spaghetti (I will blog this sooner or later, don’t worry, as it’s a frequent repeat in my menus) but I went to the store and they were OUT of green onions.  Who runs out of green onions?  Anyways, I didn’t feel like stopping at another store so decided to make a tuna pasta salad recipe that I had seen on Pinterest.  I made some changes to make it a bit healthier, cut the recipe in half and made some additions and adjustments.  The result was absolutely fantastic!  Not only was it great for dinner that night but it was even better today for lunch after sitting over night.    Some of the changes I made were the addition of the celery, additional pickles, used low fat mayo and less of it and extra lemon juice (still used a half a lemon even though the recipe was basically cut in half).  I was a bit worried that the dressing may be too lemony and that there would not be enough to get a good coating but it worked rather well.  You can find the original recipe here or here is the recipe for the variation that I made.

Tuna Pasta SaladIMG_20131028_181813

½ lb bow tie pasta

½ cup frozen peas

¼ diced red onion

½ cup kosher dill pickle diced

¼ cup chopped celery

1 5 oz can of tuna

Juice of half a lemon

1/3 cup low fat mayo

½ tbsp. dried dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Stir in frozen peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain pasta and peas. If you want room temperature pasta salad, don’t rinse. If you want cold pasta salad, rinse with cold water.

In a small bowl combine the mayo, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper to make the dressing.

In a large bowl combine onion, pickles, celery, tuna, the pasta and peas.  Add dressing and stir until everything is evenly coated. Serve or refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

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Pickled Pears

When I originally got the Asian pears from Apple Annie’s I was going to make pear sauce with them.  However, after thinking on it some I decided that cooking them beyond recognizable form just doesn’t do justice to a pear that is so crisp and crunchy.  After some searching I found a recipe for Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon.  You do lose some of the crispness of the pears but you still have a nice solid pear.  They are quite yummy but I honestly think they are little on the sweet side and would probably cut the sugar back a little bit but the after tang from the vinegar and the hints of lemon and ginger are divine!  I made roughly two batches and cut the pears into smaller than quarters as they were on the large side and I got 5 jars out of the batch.  Here is the recipe

Pickled Asian Pears with LemonIMG_20131021_182537

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Asian pears, or any other sweet, firm pear (3-4 pears)
  • 4 (2-inch) pieces of lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 slices pickled ginger (or several slices of fresh ginger if you don’t have pickled)
  • 11⁄2 cups sugar
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin

Instructions

  1. Select pears that are firm and on the small side. Peel them, cut them into quarters, and core them.
  2. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, salt, vinegar, and mirin in a medium nonreactive saucepan off-heat; don’t worry that the sugar is not yet dissolved.
  3. Add the cut pears to the pan to coat them in the acidic brine.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a second medium saucepan with water and bring it to a simmer.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to the simmering water, leaving behind as much of the brine as possible.
  6. Simmer the pears until they turn white and are just cooked through but still quite firm, about 6 minutes.
  7. The pears should be pierced easily with a fork, but you don’t want them to overcook and get mushy.
  8. Drain the pears and transfer them to 2 clean pint jars (I used a single quart jar), packing them tightly and tucking them under the curved “shoulders” of the jar.
  9. Bring the brine pot to a boil, uncovered, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes.
  10. Once it’s boiling, turn off the heat. Divide the ginger and lemon zest between the two jars.
  11. Pour the brine over the pears in the jars to cover completely (reserve the leftover brine).
  12. Tighten the lids on the jars immediately and let them rest on the countertop for 1 day before moving them to the refrigerator.
  13. The pears are ready to eat in 3 days, but taste even better after 5.
  14. They will keep their flavor for about a month in the refrigerator, but the color will begin to change after 2 weeks

Notes

This recipe is reprinted from Karen Solomon’s e-book, Asian Pickles: Japan, published by Ten Speed Press.

Kiss Me Dirty!

This weekend my sister and I participated in the Kiss Me Dirty Mud Run with a group of wonderful women!  It was a blast as usual.  The KMD races raise money for local gynecological cancer research.  In Tucson the race helps the University of Arizona Cancer Center.  So not only are you getting dirty and having fun but you can feel good about the reason.  This is the second race our group has done and one of the best parts is coming up with the team names and themes.  In March we were the Lady Bits: League of Extraordinary Women and we all went dressed as superheroes (and a few villains 🙂 ).

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This time we were the Tartan Tatas and has some fantastic shirts made.

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Although I do have to say the competition is tough and we need to step up our game with team names like the Baracooters and the Desert Clitortises.

1395371_10200727568820050_830592557_nThe race itself is a lot of fun.  There are several obstacles along the way including fireman’s poles, rope ladders, teeter totters, a color station, and obviously a lot of MUD! 1392040_10200727574980204_1476717589_n We always have a great group of ladies doing the race.  We have pooled people from friends, family and co-workers.  My favorites are when we have our mother-daughter pairings and of course sisters and cousins are always awesome.

The age range for the team ran from teenage to almost 70.  The older ones are absolutely amazing and I hope that when my sister and I are that age that we are still doing these events!  Even though they said they felt like they were going slow or holding us back (and they were not doing that in any way) my sister pointed out that all of us were winning over those still on the couch.  So kudos to Jan and Peg you are heroes to all of us!!!!!

1374146_10200727582820400_862231528_n1393456_10200844997669032_1127349105_nSo check out the runs in your area.  They don’t have to be a competition they just have to be fun and maybe you can raise a little money for a good cause.  Get out there and be healthy!

 

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Another squash down!  Tonight I used the spaghetti squash from Apple Annie’s and it was delish.  I made a dish that I haven’t made in a very, very long time.  I can’t guarantee that this is the exact same as the original version as I tend to be one of those that throws things together and then doesn’t write it down so can never remember exactly what was done.  This is changing though as I will now be able to reference my own blog :).  I like to call it Spaghetti Squash Lasagna because it is made in layers however, there is no pasta involved.  It’s a hearty dish and is excellent with a salad, some bread and a glass of wine.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

  • large spaghetti squash
  • jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • pack of chicken sausage (I used garlic and herb from Trader Joe’s and there were 4 sausages in the pack)
  • onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (8oz) containers of mushrooms sliced (I used cremini but regular button are fine)
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

DSC00739Cut squash in half, scoop out and throw away the seeds.  Place half the squash in a pie dish with enough water to cover the bottom and then cover with saran wrap.  Microwave on high for 8 minutes.  Scoop out the inside of the squash into a bowl with a fork.  Perform same process for the second half of the squash.  When done mix in enough sauce to coat all the squash to your satisfaction (I tend to go a bit lighter on the red sauce due to personal preference).  Set aside.

DSC00740Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Dice up the sausage and add to oil and cook for a few minutes.  Add diced onion to the sausage and cook until browned and tender.  Add in garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.  Add in the mushrooms and cook until tender.  Add the wine (use a wine you like to drink, I prefer a semi sweet Riesling) and stir to get the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add in the pine nuts, salt and pepper and simmer until wine is almost completely reduced.

Spray a large baking dish with spray (I use coconut oil spray from Trader Joe’s but any non-stick cooking spray is fine).  Use about one third of your squash mixture and spread it out on the bottom of the baking dish.  Sprinkle evenly with grated Parmesan cheese.  Top with 1/2 of your sausage mixture.  Repeat the layers with a layer of squash, a layer of cheese, the rest of the sausage mix, the rest of the squash and top with the cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let set for about 5 minutes and serve.

DSC00742

Butternut Squash Soup

I am a huge fan of winter squash; butternut, acorn, buttercup, kabocha, spaghetti, pumpkin they are all fantastic!  When we went to Apple Annie’s a few weeks ago I picked up some butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash and have been waiting for the opportunity to make them.  Today was the first day this week that I’ve been home at a decent time which means that I was actually able to cook a meal.  It is also finally starting to cool off in Tucson which means the beginning of soup weather!  One of my favorite healthy and quick go-to soups is a savory butternut soup that I developed several years ago and I hope you enjoy it as much as do.

IMG_20131017_172428Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2-3 ribs of celery chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 box of chicken broth (32oz)
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • fat free sour cream or fat free plain yogurt

Poke your squash several times with a sharp knife.  Microwave for about 3 minutes.  This will make the squash much easier to cut up.  Slice in half, remove seeds, peel and cut into chunks.

In a large pot heat up the olive oil and then add carrot, onion and celery.  If you are short on time or just don’t like chopping veggies you can buy already chopped mirepoix from Trader Joes.  Sauté for a few minutes until vegetables start to get tender then add garlic and sauté a few minutes longer.

Add squash, red pepper flakes and chicken broth to pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If you like more or less kick you can adjust the amount of pepper flakes.

Simmer covered until squash is soft and easy to smash with your spoon, about 20-30 minutes.

Blend the soup with either an immersion blender or you can use a regular blender and blend in batches.  If the soup is too thick for your liking you can thin it out with additional chicken broth or water.

Top your soup with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt before serving.  If you over did the pepper flakes the sour cream or yogurt is a great way to mellow it out a bit.

Pickle Me Sweet (and Spicy)

One of the projects that came from the Apple Annie’s visit was to make some home made pickles with the cucumbers I had picked.  I am a pickle fanatic.  I love dill pickles, sweet gherkins, garlic dills, kosher dills, bread and butter, spicy dills, pretty much if it’s a cucumber and it’s pickled I’m going to enjoy it.  Unfortunately, this love for all things pickle made it difficult to decide on my “first” pickle recipe.  After hunting Pinterest for a few days I decided on a sweet AND spicy refrigerator pickle.  You can find the original posting of the recipe here or you can see below with some of the changes that I made (some were for preference and others due to the amount of cucumbers I was staring with).

Sweet & Spicy Refrigerator Pickles IMG_20131015_193716

  • 4 1/2 pounds of pickling cucumbers, 1/8th inch slice
  • 4 1/2 tsp salt (divided)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 Tbs mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 Tbs celery seed
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, halved and smashed (I’m a garlic fanatic so I do have the tendency to up it in any recipe)
  • 3 jalapenos, sliced {I removed the ribs and seeds so they wouldn’t be TOO spicy but if you prefer more heat you can leave them in}
  1. Begin by running your jars, lids and rings through your dishwasher to sanitize them. Make sure they are very clean before moving on.
  2. In a large bowl add the cukes, 1 cup at a time, and lightly sprinkle each layer with 1/8 tsp of salt. Continue this layering until you have all of the cukes and have used 1 1/2 tsp of the salt.
  3. Add the onion and gently toss to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for one hour. This will draw the excess moisture out of the cukes so you will have a nice, crisp pickle. Drain of all liquid at the end of the hour.
  4. The brine: Combine the remaining ingredients, including the remaining salt, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently until the sugar dissolves. This only takes about 2 minutes.
  5. Pour over the cukes and let stand for 10 minutes. Divide among the jars and top with extra vinegar if you find that you need more liquid in the jars. Allow to cool and then top with the lid and ring.
  6. Once cooled, place in the refrigerator and wait one week before enjoying.  Since these aren’t processed, they will only keep fresh in the fridge for 6 weeks.
This filled about 8-9 half pint jars
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I kept a few jars of the pickles and distributed the rest of them due to the short shelf life and they have gotten nothing but rave reviews so far.  I think next time I may either add an additional jalapeño or just remove the seeds and no the veins to add a little more kick.  They are great plain but I used mine in tuna tonight and it was just awesome (made sure to throw in some of the pickled onions too!).  So for a first time pickle this was definitely a success and a recipe that I will repeat in the future I’m sure.  The original blog called them wickedly delicious and they were right.
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IMG_20131013_131808On  a non-pickle side note this weekend project apple butter was completed and between all 4 batches we ended up with a whopping 24 pints!  They are going to make great presents come Christmas time and there will also be the pleasure of always finding a new one in the pantry for a while 🙂