Tag Archives: recipes

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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Things I’ve Been Eating Lately

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been a very work-heavy few weeks for me. While I’ve resisted the urge to do a lot of eating out and ordering in, I’ve been mostly cooking other people’s recipes (mostly other bloggers!) instead of coming up with stuff of my own. But along the way I’ve discovered some great recipes – which I wanted to share with you! 🙂

Up first, this recipe for Light Sesame Chicken from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as the take-out version, or to be able to stop my cravings for take-out at all but I was pleasantly surprised! This chicken was easy to pull together and absolutely delicious! Now I just need to perfect a fried-rice recipe to go with it, and maybe I can be free of my Chinese take-out cravings forever! 🙂

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This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Up next, I decided to make Beef Stew in the crock-pot one day because I had some great grass-fed beef in the freezer that I wanted to use up. Plus, when the weather starts to get cold there’s not better than soups or stews in the crock-pot! I following this recipe from Real Simple almost exactly as is and it turned out great! I just made a few basic changes: I used my own homemade chicken stock instead of beef stock, I added a few cloves of garlic (because I’m incapable of making anything without garlic), and I didn’t bother with flouring the meet before browning it.

This is a great basic Beef Stew recipe to keep around as a go-to. And it’s easy to change up with other vegetables as you’d like! Sidenote: I had enough carrot skins, carrot tops, onion scraps, and garlic bits left over from this one recipe alone that I’m going to have to make another batch of my homemade stock very soon!

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Another sidenote: I completely forgot about the peas until after I took this picture, then I stirred them into the remaining stew

Speaking of soups and stews, I took a trip for work earlier this year to a very small town in Georgia. There were very few restaurants in this town other than chains – and I think all the restaurants were in a row on the road my hotel was on. One night, I ate at Olive Garden and I really loved their chicken gnocchi soup. Apparently a lot of people like this soup too because once I started searching for it I noticed about a million copy-cat recipes on Pinterest. I used this recipe from Pass the Sushi and really loved it!

Here are the changes I made:
– I used some home-cooked poached chicken and homemade stock from my making homemade stock post.
– I used frozen spinach (defrosted and wrung out) instead of fresh because frozen, organic spinach is seriously one of the best deals in the supermarket. Seriously, with how much spinach cooks down – just think of how much fresh spinach it takes to make that bag of frozen spinach! Unless you’re making a spinach salad, I don’t see any reason not to always use frozen spinach.
– Finally, instead of using half and half or cream I used one of my favorite healthy-eating substitutions! Puree a half cup of white beans with a 1/2 cup of milk in the food processor and use that instead of a cup of cream. It adds great fiber and other nutrition!

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Finally, on to dessert! I finally ran out of the cookies I was keeping in my freezer (for those of you who don’t know, another trick of mine is I like to make a batch of cookies and freeze the un-cooked dough in little balls so I can pop a cookie or two into the oven when I’m craving one). I really enjoyed the last recipe I used, but this time around I decided to try a new one for Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies from Kitchen Food Recipes. I forgot to take a picture of them, but I made little dough-balls exactly like before and they are delicious! (Note: I used all whole wheat flour instead of half wheat and half white like in the recipe)

Speaking of cookies, the other night I tried the “3-Minute Oatmeal Raisin” cookie recipe from Carrots’N’Cake the other day and it was ok. I much prefer my method of making a batch and freezing the dough to bake individual cookies later. Just my preference.

Recipe Roundup: Slow Cooker Recipes

Happy Friday everyone! Yesterday afternoon was absolutely beautiful here in the DC area, so I decided to skip the working-out part of my day in favor of laying by the pool catching up on my Entertainment Weekly magazines (however, the stack of Time magazines on my coffee table remain untouched). It was really peaceful and a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Then, I decided to be super blog-productive in the evening and make myself a new header, courtesy of Pic Monkey. What do you think? I think it’s a big improvement over the old one!

Today I decided to do a recipe roundup post (inspired by Julie at PB Fingers and the Healthy Living Blogs weekly emails). I’m hoping to make this a monthly post (each with a new category) as a chance to highlight some of my past recipes, and to give you all an opportunity to share some of your favorites.

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(Image Source)

Slow Cooker Recipe Round-Up

slow cooker recipe roundup

Cincinnati-Style Chili

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Homemade Chai Tea Concentrate

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Indian-Spiced Lentil & Vegetable Stew – Vegan and Vegetarian!

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Slow Cooker “Refried” Beans – Vegan and Vegetarian!

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Each of the pictures above is linked to the post with the original recipe. Feel free to share your favorite slow cooker recipes in the comments! 🙂

Also, I found this very applicable article from Prevention about making a pork roast in the slow cooker – then using it in recipes for a whole week!

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)

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?

Banana-Walnut Baked Oatmeal

In addition to the succotash and Caprese pasta salad that I took camping, I also made a batch of baked oatmeal to take along for breakfasts. I figured baked oatmeal would be an easy thing to make ahead of time, and reheat when it was time for breakfast. Plus, it’s easy for everyone to customize with their favorite toppings! 🙂

I was inspired by a baked oatmeal recipe that I saw on PB Fingers, but changed it up a bit to incorporate some of my favorite things (walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds) and exclude the things I’m not crazy about or didn’t have in the house (flavored almond milk, coconut). I was so happy with how it turned out that I made another batch as soon as I got back from the camping trip! It’s such a convenient breakfast or hearty snack to have prepped and ready to go.

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After combining all the ingredients, I just cut the oatmeal into eight squares and store them in Tupperware containers. I’ve been eating this as a mid-morning snack at work because it’s nice and hearty and helps me not eat lunch until early afternoon, instead of scarfing it down at 11:30 like I usually do.

And it couldn’t be easier to make! Just combine all the ingredients and then bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. The oatmeal gets nice and crispy on top which is a great texture in the finished product. The first batch I made, I didn’t grease the pan and it was a mess to get out of the pan, as well as to clean the pan – it definitely reduced the number of crispy pieces! I don’t know what I was thinking not greasing the pan, like the oatmeal was just going to pop out on its own? 🙂 Craziness. The second time around I used a small piece of paper towel and “greased” the pan with about a tablespoon of coconut oil. It worked great! Nice, square, crispy pieces of oatmeal!

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Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal
Makes eight servings.

    – 3 cups rolled oats
    – 2 teaspoons baking powder
    – ½ teaspoon salt
    – 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon (I’m a little cinnamon-crazy so I probably put it more than this! :-))
    – 2 cups soy milk, or milk of your choice
    – 1 egg
    – 1/3 cup applesauce
    – 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
    – 2 bananas
    – ½ cup sunflower seeds, not in the shells
    – ½ cup walnuts
    – 1 tablespoon chia seeds
    – 1 tablespoon flax seed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together, mashing the bananas up really well (I found that using my hands is the most effective, and messiest, way to do this!). Grease a 2 quart dish with coconut oil or other fat. Pour the oatmeal into the pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Cut into squares and serve with your favorite toppings. I personally like mine with a scoop of Greek yogurt, a little honey and some fresh fruit (this time I went with blueberries). My mom likes hers with some slivered almonds, milk, and fruit while my dad prefers his with just honey on top. It’s also delicious with maple syrup!

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Feel free to mix it up and add whatever nuts/seeds to the dish that you like! I’m already dreaming about a pumpkin version for the fall… 🙂

Question of the Day:
What are your favorite oatmeal toppings? If you don’t like oatmeal, what is your favorite go-to breakfast food

Using Lentils As A Meat Substitute & Burrito Filling Recipe!

One of my favorite discoveries on my journey to healthier eating habits has to be lentils. They are now one of my go-to foods, when a year or two ago I definitely would not have been able to tell you what they were. Lentils are part of the legume family and come in a variety of colors (my personal favorite right now is red lentils). Lentils are a great vegetarian source of protein and are also an excellent source of fiber and iron – all important nutrients for proper health! 🙂

Although I love cooking lentils in dishes on their own (see my Indian-Spiced Vegetable and Lentil Stew), another great use for lentils is as a meat substitute. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I do try to take a “meat on the side” approach to eating in which vegetables are the focus. I haven’t entirely replaced meat with lentils in a recipe, but I do use lentils to supplement the meat in many of my favorite dishes. Here’s the general rule:

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Cook the lentils according to their package directions. For my particular brand, this involves boiling them for about 30 minutes. Drain and add to whatever meat you’re using. One cup of dry lentils makes approximately 2 to 2 ½ cups of cooked lentils. For example, when browning meat for tacos, or meat sauce I add the lentils at the point that the meat is browned – just before I add in other ingredients and spices. For dishes such as meatballs, burgers, or meatloaf – add the cooked lentils to the raw meat with your other ingredients before shaping into the final product. Usually I use lentils in a big batch of a recipe as half of the meat component. For example, the Bolognese recipe I use calls for two pounds of ground meat. I substitute one cup of cooked lentils for one pound of meat. This lightens up the final product, without affecting the flavor or texture of the finished dish. I promise you can sneak some lentils into your next lasagna without anyone noticing! 🙂 Some of the recipes that I’ve tried using lentils in so far are: burritos, tacos, Bolognese (meat) sauce, lasagna, and meatballs.

Last night, I decided to make one of my other favorite lentils-enhanced dishes – burritos! I picked up some ground chicken at the store and was once again shocked at how expensive organic meat is. I really should pay better attention and try to stock up when it’s on sale because this pound of ground chicken was $6.50. Phew! And a pound of ground meat just doesn’t go as far as it should, even in my household of one. But that pound of ground meat mixed with cooked lentils…now that’s a feast! I love that the lentils can really stretch the meat portion of your meal, while adding some great health benefits.

Check out how much the lentils bulk up this meal! Here’s a picture of just the ground meat:

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And then the meat with the lentils added:

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What a difference!

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Chicken, Lentil and Bean Burrito Filling
Makes enough filling for approximately 10 burritos.

    – 1 pound ground chicken
    – 1 cup dry lentils, cooked (approximately 2 ½ cups cooked)
    – 3 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning
    – 1 cup chopped onion
    – 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    – 1 can pinto beans

Brown the meat with the onions and garlic in a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cooked lentils and seasoning to the browned meat and cook for 10 minutes. Add the pinto beans and stir to combine. Allow the beans to heat through (approximately 5 minutes).

Serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings – I went with cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt and some sliced avocado!

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As usual, this recipe made a ton of food so I froze half of the filling mixture in a freezer bag for a later date. This mixture freezes really well and makes having a healthy dinner option on hand a snap! 🙂