Category Archives: Lunch

Lemon-y Salmon Cakes

Well today I want to share with you one of my favorite, quick and easy, go-to dinners!

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I always keep canned salmon in the house just for this purpose. First of all, it can be hard to find Wild-caught Alaskan salmon in the fresh seafood department – and when you do find it, it can be really pricey. Most of the time what you see is Atlantic Salmon, which is all farmed and significantly lower in nutrients (and usually dosed in antibiotics). However, most canned salmon (and it will specify right on the label) is wild-caught Alaskan salmon. I was so excited when I found this out! And I was even more excited when I finally perfected my recipe for these salmon cakes – they really are a perfect quick and easy dinner!

Sidebar: I’ve seen recipes like this that call these Salmon Burgers, and you can do that if you like but to me – if it has breadcrumbs in it, it’s a cake, not a burger. Sidebar over.

Lemon-y Salmon Cakes
Makes four cakes.

    – 2, 5 ounce cans of salmon, drained
    – 2 eggs
    – 1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped onion (or 2 teaspoons granulated onion)
    – 1 tablespoon lemon juice + 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    – 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon granulated garlic)
    – 1/4 cup fresh dill or parsley, chopped (or in a pinch use a few teaspoons of dried dill)
    – a pinch of red pepper flakes
    – 1/4 – 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (start with 1/4 and add until the cakes come together, it seems like I need a different amount of breadcrumbs every time)

Mix all ingredients together, adding the breadcrumbs at the end. Start with 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs and continue adding until the mixture comes together. Form the mixture into four cakes. The cakes are relatively delicate – so just form them the best that you can. Heat a few tablespoons of oil (I use olive) in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Serve the cakes on buns, by themselves, or on top of a salad – all three options are delicious! I also like to mix a little lemon juice into some mayo and serve that on top. These salmon cakes plus a quick vegetable side or salad make for a quick and nutritious dinner!

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Freezer Cooking: Mixed Grains and Veggies Side Dish

Last night for dinner I pulled one of my all-time favorite side dishes out of the freezer – my ‘Mixed Grains and Veggies.’ I developed this recipe about a year ago based on a side dish I had purchased from Let’s Dish. I fell in love with the combination of couscous, rice and veggies and it’s such a quick side dish to pull out of the freezer and whip up for dinner. The thing that makes this recipe hard to blog about is that I never just cook up a batch and eat it for dinner. I cook one huge batch, split it into dinner-sized portions and then freeze them for later dinners. So the recipe as-is makes a ton of food, and I’m not sure it’s the most dinner-friendly on it’s own since it requires cooking up couscous and rice. But – on a positive note – it’s great for using up leftover rice/couscous/even quinoa! And if you’re like me, and you like to have a “freezer cooking” day where you make a bunch of food for later dinners – this is the recipe for you.

The original side from Let’s Dish had red rice in it. I had never had red rice before, but I instantly fell for it! It’s got such a nutty flavor, and chewy texture – there really is nothing like it. Unfortunately, the only red rice I found in my supermarket is this mixed rice packet with red, black, and wild rice.

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I do really love this mixed variety – but if you find red rice in your grocery store definitely feel free to substitute that!

Mixed Grains and Veggies Side Dish
Makes approximately 9 (large) servings, I split it into three freezer bags of approximately 3 servings each.

    – 1 1/2 cup couscous, cooked (I’ve used both regular and pearl for this recipe – I prefer pearl but they’re both delicious)
    – 1 1/2 cup rice, cooked (red rice, wild rice, or some mixture)
    – 1 red bell pepper, diced
    – 1 shallot, diced
    – 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    – 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or dried basil or parsley)
    – 1/2 cup frozen peas
    – 1/2 cup frozen carrots
    – salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté the red bell pepper and shallot over medium heat in a little olive oil with the thyme and Italian seasoning until tender, approximately 3 minutes.

To cook this dish for immediate consumption:
Add the couscous, rice, peas and carrots to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil as necessary and let the mixture cook over medium heat for approximately 8 minutes until parts of the rice/couscous get toasted and crunchy (think paella).

To prep for freezer storage:
Set out three freezer bags (I use a medium size – about half the size of a gallon bag). Divide the rice, couscous, and frozen vegetables evenly in between the bags. Do the same with the red bell pepper/shallot mixture. Seal and freeze. To re-heat, add the entire contents of the bag to a sauté pan over medium heat and cook until heated through and crunchy on some parts, approximately 8 minutes.

This is a great side dish for a variety of foods, but my favorite way to eat it is as a side to chicken sausage. I’m in love with this spinach and feta chicken sausage from the grocery store – and it makes for a quick and easy heat-and-eat, and healthy, dinner! 🙂

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Today’s Healthy Living Articles…

~ Best Drink to Recover from Post-Workout Soreness (Women’s Health> I know Monica from Run Eat Repeat is excited about this one!

~ How to Run Your Fastest Race (Women’s Health)

~ 8 Foods You Should Always Buy at the Farmer’s Market (Rodale News)

“Greek-Style” Tabbouleh Salad

This weekend I had some cucumbers and other veggie odds and ends to use up in my fridge so I decided to make a tabbouleh salad. Based on some of the items I needed to use up, I decided to make a Greek version. Plus, making tabbouleh salad means I have a great excuse to buy naan bread (yum!) and make my favorite – tandoori chicken! I also whipped up a batch of my classic hummus because I feel like all these foods go together in my mind. I love spreading a little hummus on some warm naan bread, adding some tabbouleh and chicken and eating it all together.

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This version was 100% based on the items I had available to use up in my fridge – but it turned out great!

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”Greek-style” Tabbouleh Salad
Serves six to eight.

    – 1 cup bulgur wheat
    – 2 cucumbers, chopped
    – 1 lemon
    – 1 tablespoon grated shallot or onion (or you can substitute a tablespoon of granulated onion)
    – 1 clove garlic, minced or pasted
    – 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used about 5 Roma tomatoes)
    – 3 green onions, chopped
    – ½ red bell pepper, chopped
    – 1, 6 ounce container feta cheese
    – ½ cup olive oil (or less, just enough to coat the salad)

First, start by preparing your bulgur wheat. Combine a cup of bulgur wheat with one cup boiling water in a heat-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the bulgur wheat has absorbed the water.

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While the wheat is working, chop the ingredients for the salad. Peel and seed the cucumbers. The way I do this is to peel the cucumbers, then slice them in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. They will look like this:

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Then chop them into bite-sized pieces and mix into the wheat.

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Next, add the grated garlic, grated shallot or onion, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

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Core, seed, and chop the tomatoes and add to the bowl. Do the same with the red bell pepper. Finally slice the green onion (greens and whites) and add to the bowl. Add the feta cheese and olive oil and stir to combine. At this point I was almost overflowing the bowl so I had to stir carefully! 🙂

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Delicious! I love the addition of the salty feta! Cheese isn’t usually an ingredient in tabbouleh but I had some in my fridge that I wanted to use up, and I’m glad I did. 🙂

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As I mentioned at the beginning on this post, this salad is great as an accompaniment to tandoori chicken – but it’s also great served on top of some lettuce leaves as a salad (that was my Meatless Monday lunch this week! :-)) I’m sure it would also be delicious stuffed into a pita with some hummus and chickpeas. Yum 🙂 I might have to make that next!

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If you like this recipe, you might also like my recipes for:
~ Classic Hummus
~ Tabbouleh Salad
~ Tabbouleh Salad, Remix

Green Smoothies and Race Readiness!

Last night I tried out the Aqua Fitness class at my gym with my friend Heather. It was actually on the schedule as Aqua Zumba, but they had a last minute substitution to Aqua Fitness. I was kind of thankful for this because the idea of Zumba doesn’t really appeal to me. It was a blast! We did some cardio running around the pool and holding on to the side and kicking – and did some exercises with foam weights that really provide some resistance once you’re in the water! It was a neat way to change it up and get a work-out in. At one point, we did an exercise where we ran across the pool with a partner holding on to a noodle around our waist, to add resistence. (Hopefully that painted a decent mental image) It was a ton of fun – a lot harder than I thought – and Heather was such a great cheerleader!

During my research on training for races, I read time and time again that you need to incorporate non-running cardio into your training. Non-running cardio? That was definitely not a part of my life before and sounded sort of, well, terrible. My solution? Just start taking every fitness class I could fit into my schedule to find something that I love – or even if I hated all of it then I would at least get myself through several weeks of cardio in the “taking classes” process.

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So far the experiment has been a big success. I’m in love with the cycling classes – especially now that I have my new gel bike seat cover! And I’m going to invest in a pair of cycling shoes in the next couple of weeks. Because I enjoy cycling so much, I don’t know if I’ll get around to all the classes. Zumba and step have never really appealed to me, but who knows? Maybe I’ll take them and they’ll end up being favorites too! 🙂

This morning, I whipped up my usual green smoothie for breakfast – but I’ve made some big changes to the recipe this week because of my cold. I’ve been leaving out the yogurt/milk since that always seems to make my throat feel worse. I’m losing a lot of protein due to this, but I figure it’s ok for just this week – and look at the awesome green color!

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Tropical Mango Green Smoothie
Serves one

    – 4 cups spinach, loosely packed (I use the cup measurement on the side of my blender)
    – 1 cup apple juice (or juice of your choice)
    – 1 frozen banana
    – ½ cup frozen mango

Blend together and enjoy!

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This afternoon I drove to Pacers in Arlington to pick up my race packet for the Crystal City Twilighter 5k race tomorrow night in Crystal City. I can’t wait! It’s my first “real” race – meaning it’s timed and there’s not going to be anyone throwing anything at me – at least not officially! 😉

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Included in my packet is a glow stick – which I’m pretty excited about wearing and then fully intend on bringing home to put in my freezer to try to keep some glow in it until the next day. Did anyone else do that as a kid? 🙂 I’ve also heard a rumor that there might be some dogs from a local animal shelter at the finish line to greet the runners. I hope this rumor is true! I can’t pass up petting a dog anywhere I see one, and I’d love to soak up some puppie-lovin’ post race! It’s so sad I can’t have a dog in my apartment.

Keep up with all the happenings as they go down by following me on Twitter and Instagram!

Slow Cooker “Refried” Beans

I took my second-ever spinning class last night and I think I’m in love. My first-ever class was last Wednesday, and I really enjoyed it but boy was my butt sore from that hard, plastic seat! A trip to Sports Authority to buy myself a gel bike seat cover ($20 – totally worth it!) fixed that problem and I was back in the saddle last night.

I’m a big fan of my instructor for this class. He’s got such a great positive energy! 🙂 And his music choices are fantastic. Instead of just one song after another, the songs are all remixed together DJ-style. Last night we did intervals to a mix of “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and “TNT” by AC/DC. I’m not sure if this is a remix he bought already made, or if he’s awesome enough to be mixing it together himself. I feel like I should make friends with him and find out. Like, “Hey, be my friend…a.k.a. please send me your playlist”

I’m feeling a little burnt-out on running lately, so I’m thinking of taking the months of July and August “off” (meaning running only once or twice a week, low mileage) and focusing on some new classes like spinning. I find taking a new fitness class to be so refreshing, and it really motivates me to keep up with fitness. Plus, it’s finally entered that time of summer in Virginia where it’s so hot and humid outside that even the drive home from work leaves you needing a shower. I think some indoor-fitness is just what the doctor ordered.

Sidebar: it was only a week ago I announced I was going to try for a “50 Mile July.” Oh how things change so quickly! The “50 Mile July” idea was supposed to bump me out of my running rut but I think since I start official 10k/half marathon training in September that it might be best to take a break until then so I’m not completely sick of running before I even start training.

Now for the recipe I promised you – “refried” beans in the slow cooker! 🙂

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This is one of my favorite recipes – and it’s so easy! First of all, I love refried beans. They were one of my favorite parts of “taco night” growing up. And while the kind that comes in a can are perfectly tasty and convenient – these are even tastier, cheaper, and so easy to make! Every few months, I make a big batch and then freeze smaller portion sizes. That way, I can just pull them out a day or two ahead of time when I need beans for dinner. And taco/burrito/nacho night is a pretty frequent occurrence at my house, so I always need beans for dinner.

This recipe makes a huge portion size of beans – I would say 18 to 20 portions. I usually split it into five freezer-safe containers that would serve about four people each.

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Slow Cooker “Refried” Beans
Makes 18-20 servings.

    – 1, 32 ounce bag dried pinto beans (approximately 4 cups)
    – 1 onion, halved (leave the root end intact)
    – 2 jalapenos, diced (remove the seeds and ribs if you don’t like your food too spicy)
    – 3 teaspoons cumin
    – 12 cups water

First, dump the beans into the slow cooker. Always make a quick check through the beans for any rocks or other debris that might have snuck through. I actually found a corn kernel in mine once!

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Slice your onion in half and remove the outer skin. Throw the halves into the slow cooker (you’ll remove them when the beans are done). I’m actually thinking of trying a new approach next time where I chop up the onions and leave them in the finished beans – it seems like a waste to throw the onion away! 🙂

Next, slice the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds/ribs (if you want to tone down the spice). You may want to use gloves to handle the peppers, as I learned the hard way this weekend. Spice burns are no fun.

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Yep, those innocent looking peppers did me in

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on high for 8 hours. No need to soak the beans first! That’s one of my favorite parts of this recipe! 🙂 At first it looks like a lot of water, but over time the beans really soak it up. I took some pictures throughout the afternoon:

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Beans don’t photograph very well, do they? 🙂 Sort of a brown mush…but they are delicious! And nutritious!

At the end of the eight hours, pull out the onion and mash the beans with a potato masher to your desired consistency. Drain off a few spoonfuls of water if it looks like there’s a lot, you can always add it back into the mashed beans until they come to your desired consistency. I get mine pretty smooth with a masher, but I suppose if you like really smooth beans, you could use a blender.

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Then, I package up my beans for the freezer! They freeze really well and are great to pull out for a variety of Mexican dishes, but they are also great as a dip or on top of salads.

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Questions of the Day!
Has anyone else gone through a fitness rut? How did you break out of it?
Is “taco night” a frequent occurrence at your house? What are your favorite taco toppings?

Caprese Pasta Salad

For Fourth of July weekend, I went camping with my parents down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I always try to split the food duties with my mom, so I brought down hot dogs and hamburgers for our 4th of July BBQ, as well as some pasta salad and succotash to have on the side.

I got the idea for this pasta salad because of my deep love of the combination of mozarella, basil and tomatoes (see my margherita pizza and bruschetta recipes). I absoluetly love when summertime comes and fresh, local tomatoes are in abundance. I used to have some success growing my own tomatoes on my apartment balcony, but last year I moved and my new balcony doesn’t get enough sunlight. My new apartment is terrible for growing plants, in fact – it’s where plants go to die.

I thought a Caprese Pasta Salad would be quick and delicious, and it would travel and sit outside well since the dressing is oil and vinegar. Perfect! And the recipe really couldn’t be any easier!

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Caprese Pasta Salad
Serves eight.

    – 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
    – 1, 8-10 oz container mozarella balls (you can halve them if they are large, mine were super petite so I left them whole)
    – 1/4 cup shredded mozarella (optional)
    – A large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
    – 1-2 cloves garlic, pasted
    – 10 ounces pasta, cooked and cooled (I used rotini, but any short-cut pasta would work)
    – 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    – up to 1 cup olive oil
    – Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta and set it in a colander to cool. Halve the tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Chop the basil and add to the bowl.

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Add the mozarella balls, halving them if necessary. I would usually cut them in half, but this time the mozarella balls were super tiny so I left them whole.

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I also added in about a 1/4 cup of shredded mozarella because I was worried there wasn’t enough cheese. Is there such thing as enough cheese? 🙂 At this point, I also added the garlic, salt, and pepper and stirred to combine.

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Add the cooled pasta, and dress with the balsamic vinegar and oil. Stir thoroughly. We ate this pasta salad for lunch several days in a row on the camping trip and it was a big hit! I’ll definitely be making it again.

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Margherita Pizza & 50 Mile July!

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July holiday weekend!

I did my best to “unplug” for the weekend and went camping with my parents down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We had beautiful, although very hot and humid, weather. We spent most of the weekend relaxing in the campground at the pool, or fishing off the pier but we also ventured out to two of our favorite wineries that happen to be on the Eastern Shore – Chatham and Holly Grove – and into the town of Cape Charles to a wine and cheese shop. Of course, I couldn’t unplug completely so I did Instagram a few photos. Follow me on Instagram if you want to see some of the food and other fun stuff that doesn’t make it to my blog.

Thanks to the insane traffic on Sunday it took me 6 and a half hours to make the 3 and a half hour drive home. My nerves were fried by the time I made it back to DC, but I forced myself to make a quick trip to the grocery store for smoothie making essentials and a few other items. When I finally made it home, all I wanted to do was relax and watch The Walking Dead marathon on AMC – but of course my cable was out. I made do with binge-watching my Game of Thrones DVDs.

When I got to the campground on Thursday, they were hosting a 10 a.m. 2 mile “fun run” which my family participated in. Actually, my parents were in the walker category and my sister ran most of the 2 miles with me before walking the last bit. It was my first two miles of July – which is good because I’m trying a “50 mile July” challenge. I read on Active that challenging yourself to get 50 miles in a month is a good way to establish a solid weekly base mileage. The months of July and August, I’m going to focus on running three times a week, establishing a solid weekly mileage, and getting in one hour per week of non-running cardio (i.e. swimming, elliptical-ing, or cycling). I’ve read that this hour of cross training is important to increase your cardio thresholds, without the wear and tear of running. Currently, the only cardio in my workouts is running so this is going to be a new challenge for me.

For Meatless Monday last night, I whipped up a quick pizza from a store-bought whole wheat crust, some tomato sauce, and sliced mozzarella. I drizzled the pizza crust with olive oil and some pasted garlic, because I can’t cook anything without adding garlic – seriously, I’m an addict.

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Then I topped the crust with sauce and sliced fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of dried herbs (parsley, oregano, dill). Easy peasy! And delicious!

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It was a quick and easy dinner that my friend Heather and I shared while catching up on our holiday weekends. After a long few months of traveling, I’m looking forward to staying around the DC area for the next two months.

Question of the Day
What is your favorite form of cardio?