Healthy Tuna Snacks

Every weekend we meet up with our friends. We used to get dinner out but since COVID we’ve had to be more creative. We’ve eaten our share of takeout but also do a good deal of cooking. Sometimes at our place, sometimes at theirs. A few weeks ago we decided to all make appetizers and make that our regular Friday dinner.

I wish I’d taken pictures along the way but instead I’ll list out steps and show the final product. Since that night I’ve made tuna with this method a few times and eaten it with mustard and raw spinach on a low carb wrap.

In early March my doctor warned me in no uncertain terms that I needed to lose weight and lower my cholesterol by June or she was putting me on medication. The main problem is the triglycerides for me. Up until my recent visit, I thought triglycerides were caused only from sugar, not healthy high grain carbs or excess fat on me. All my other numbers went down to almost normal levels, but my triglycerides were really high. It was partially do to the Valentine’s Day Candy, the case of Ice Cubes of which I ate about a dozen before I removed them from my home. But, I learned, that all the carbs I was eating, healthy or not, were adding up. Being a vegetarian it’s hard to find protein that’s not a carb. I was eating a lot of hummus, chick peas, all sorts of beans. And yes I ate sugar too but not a ton of it.

I was scared straight at the doctor’s office and will note I’ve lost 10 pounds since the visit. I’m looking forward to my June redo of the blood work and being able to show here that I can lose weight once I’m threatened with meds.

One compromise I had to make was eating tuna. I’m not a vegan but rarely eat eggs because of the cholesterol. I eat cheese only rarely because I feel bad for the cows and some dairy makes me sneeze. I almost exclusively use non-dairy milks and ice cream. And I don’t eat any fish. So pretty much a vegan but I’m not picky about it. If there’s chicken broth in healthy veggie soup I don’t lose sleep over it.

But reading up on it, it seems that tuna will help my lipid levels and fill me up. So in the short term I’ve added it to my diet so I have some non-carb protein. I eat a lot of tofu too but there’s only so much tofu and Impossible Burgers I can eat in a week. I’ve also given up pizza until I get down to a reasonable weight which is one of the only times I have real cheese. Admittedly I’m cheese fiend when I’m not careful, with a particular weakness for Cracker Barrell Aged Cheddar. Since cheese is high in calories and fat and cholesterol, it’s something I’m avoiding as much as possible for now.

Here’s the easy recipe for my tuna spread.

-1 large can of solid white tuna in water

-1 small avocado

-1 stone ground mustard (use enough to make the tuna creamy. I didn’t measure but maybe 3 tbs. I squirted it into the food processor)

Add tuna and a soft avocado to food processor and blend, adding mustard until you get the creamy texture.

Meanwhile, peel two cucumbers and run a fork down the sides to make grooves. Cut in thick 3/4″ slices. If you have a pastry bag, use that. I prefer to use a plastic sandwich bag with the end cut off. this way I don’t have to clean it. I cut a corner off a sandwich bag and added a frosting tip inside followed by all the tuna. If you don’t have a frosting tip, you can still squeeze the tuna through the bag and it’ll look like little tuna poops, but you know, in a cute way. I added some tomatoes as a garnish.

I’ve been making the tuna, avocado, mustard mash every week, without the fancy piping part, and it’s really been keeping me full. My arteries will thank me I’m sure.

Happy Cooking!

Tracy

Twice-baked Cornbread Avocado Toast

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Ojai with some friends. These are the only friends we see since the quarantine, and generally we go to each other’s houses and cook or get takeout. Indoor dining has been closed for nearly year now with only a small break in between. The governor allowed limited indoor dining briefly but took it away just as quickly. Since it was a beautiful day we decided to take a Sunday trip somewhere besides our homes.

Ojai is beautiful and scenic and filled with cute shops and pretty parks. After a long time of walking (with our masks, of course) we stopped to get takeout food. We ended up at a trendy, cool place called The Nest. We stood in line for a bit before we realized we could order online. If you go there, order online and wait for food. The line is long and moves slowly. We brought our food to the park down the street.

Being a vegetarian surrounded by carnivores, I don’t always get the best food options out, but this place was FANTASTIC. There were so many choices on the menu for meat eaters and plant eaters that I couldn’t wait to try something. I decided on Avocado Polenta Toast. The website lists the ingredients as: jalapeño polenta toast, smashed avocado, kale, quinoa, crispy chickpeas, pepitas, hemp seeds, pomegranate seeds + almond garlic dressing. It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in years so I set out to replicate it at home but with ingredients that were handy, and in an appetizer, finger food format. Basically I changed all the ingredients so think of their menu item as inspiration for what I made. You can change any ingredients to taste more like theirs, or to your liking, but mine is a simple, quick recipe that was devoured in minutes, both times I made it. I have no doubt The Nest is making things from scratch, but I prefer easy and “Semi-homemade” wherever possible.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I used my convection setting. If you use Bake, it may take a minute or two longer.

I got several of these ingredients at the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. I can’t say enough good things about that store.

-One box Jiffy Cornbread Mix

-Spring mix or any greens, You only need about 1/4 of a cup. Cut them in pieces with scissors or a knife.

-One large or a couple of smaller avocados, softened

Package of guacamole mix. Split in half. I used this brand but any basic one will do.

Sage

Lemon Juice. I use the bottle as it’s easier.

One egg and 1/3 cup milk per the Jiffy cornbread instructions. I used coconut milk because real milk makes me sneeze.

Make the cornbread as instructed, just the mix, one egg, and 1/3 cup milk. Mix together and add half a package of the guacamole mix. Spray a cookie sheet (I use a liner) and spread out to about 1/2 thick. Based at for 10 minutes or until the center bounces back when you touch it.

When they’re done and cooled, use a circle cookie cutter (I used a wine glass) to make as many circles as you can. Set them aside for later.

Mashed up the avocados and add a little lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Refrigerate until you need this.

Snip up the greens and mix in a small bowl with pumpkin seeds (and anything else that appeals to you). Set aside.

Preheat the over to 400 again. These are best warm so do the step two part of the cooking shortly before you plan to eat them. They’re fine room temperature for a party or gathering but warm, straight from the oven are best.

Spray the cooked circles with cooking spray. I used Olive Oil spray, and sprinkle generously with ground sage. Cook for five minutes until they are crisp at the edges and get golden brown.

Spoon the avocado/guacamole mixture on top of each one, add another few drops of lemon juice, and top with the greens and seeds. Delicious!

Happy eating!

Tracy

Healthy Grape-nut Pudding

One thing I really miss about living in Massachusetts is the Grape-nut Pudding. For anyone who doesn’t live there, it’s a thick custard with soft Grape-nuts on the top, and pieces mixed in throughout. It has a special taste, like Grape-nuts so a little hard to describe. When I was growing up, we’d buy it at the deli. I tried to make it at home once, many years ago, but it wasn’t the same.

About six months ago I discovered agar agar. It’s a thickening agent like gelatin but made from seaweed, and not horses. Being a vegetarian, gelatin isn’t something I eat anymore. Even when I did, it was always Jell-O brand, and fruit flavored. The recipes for agar agar range from sweet to savory and I’ve used it dozens of times since I discovered it. I made a lot of mistakes with it during this time and learned what not to do, how much to use, and some tips along the way that avoids getting a mouthful of what feels like plastic. I know, I’m making it sound unappealing. Seaweed? Plastic? Forgot all that and instead think of how nice it would be to have a large portion of Grape-nut pudding that’s only 100 calories, 6.5 carbs (5 net carbs if you subtract the fiber) and 15 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

Use half of the Grape-nuts, and spread them into the bottom of 4 small ramekins.

Add all ingredients except the Grape-nuts and agar agar to a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Whisk (you need a whisk or the agar agar will clump) as you sift in the agar agar. You don’t need to use a formal sifter, just add it in gradually as you whisk.

Whisk quickly. For five minutes it will seem fruitless but then it thickens all of a sudden. Keep whisking for another 2 minutes or so until it just starts to come to a boil. Pull off the heat and add the rest of the Grape-nuts and whisk those through. Pour into the ramekins carefully, so as not to upset the Grape-nut layer. Leave them to cool for about a half hour and then refrigerate.

If you eat it warm there’s a weird gluey texture. Wait until they’re completely chilled, a couple of hours or the next day, even better. Use a knife to loosen the edges and pop them out. Top with whipped cream or whatever you like.

There are endless possibilities you can make with protein shakes and this thickener so use your imagination.

Happy Low Carb Eating

-Tracy

Yin Yang Vegetarian Rice and Beans

yin rice 1

Though I gave up eating meat about six months ago, I was still eating a lot of unhealthy foods. A little under a month ago I decided to really buckle down and take a hard look at what I was putting into my body. Sure I had no meat and almost zero dairy or eggs, but I will still eating a lot of sugar, and a lot of refined carbs.

There were a few factors that pushed me into this new healthy eating, which I’ll cover in another blog, but what matters is that in the 28 days or so since I gave us everything that was bad for me, I’ve lost 12 pounds! Since I’ve still got quite a bit more to lose, and since everything I’m making is vegetarian, probably even vegan if I’m honest about it, I wanted to share some of my recipes that have made my new lifestyle fun, and a lot more enjoyable than my standard white bread. fake bologna sandwich with chips that I called healthy before.

I’m always on Pinterest and the Internet scouting out new recipes so I want to give some back.

Today’s recipe was inspired by something I saw online, but except for two ingredients (black rice and hazelnuts) and the overall concept, mine is completely different.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked black rice (I bought this in a bulk bin at Sprouts and got about 2 cups for $3)
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts (also bought from the bulk bins and found inexpensive for the small amount I needed)
  • 1 can white cannellini beans, washed and drained
  • jar of roasted red peppers (I used about 1/4 cup of peppers plus 1/2 cup of the juice)
  • 1 tsp of juice from a jar of capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted pepper and garlic seasoning
  • 1/2 vegetable broth for the rice, about 1/4 cup for the beans
  • Water
  • avocado for garnish (optional)

The steps-

Soak the rice in a glass or metal dish. The rice will emit a purple dye and this may stain a plastic container. I soaked it for a few minutes then rinsed it several times in a strainer.

yin rice 3

Drain the rice and add it to the rice cooker with 1 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. Hit the Brown Rice button. If you don’t have a Brown Rice button, I read that 25 minutes should do it.

Meanwhile, add the hazelnuts to a food processor and turn it on while adding small amounts of water until it’s creamy. I ran into an issue here because it was a small amount of nuts and my machine didn’t cream it well but did chop. I added about 1/4 cup of water but this can vary so add a little at a time. Ideally this will be like a nut butter.

When the rice is done, mix the creamed nuts to the rice. It needed more flavor so I added the teaspoon of caper juice to it. That did the trick for me but feel free to add other flavors. For me, this was just the right amount of saltiness to meld the nuts and black rice. Set this mixture aside.

yin rice 2

Rinse the beans under the sink and add to a food processor. I added a half cup of juice from the roasted red pepper jar.  It still needed something so I went though my spices and found roasted pepper and garlic seasoning. I added a 1/2 teaspoon. That brought everything together but it was still not right. I finally chopped up 1/4 cup of the red pepper from the jar and added that in. Perfect!

yin rice 4

With all my flavors exactly how I wanted them, I shaped them into the Yin Yang symbol. I didn’t use all the rice mixture, maybe about 2/3 of it, but I can eat the rest another time. You could probably use it all so long as the shape doesn’t lose its integrity. I know the colors are off (not black and white) but it was flavorful and pretty. I used a shot glass to make a perfect circle in a piece of pepper, and a slice of avocado for the other side, as shown.

This made a delicious dinner which even my vegetable resistant boyfriend tried and enjoyed.

yin rice 1

Happy healthy eating!

 

 

 

Chicken Seitan-Easy Recipe

finished chickenAbout six months ago I became a vegetarian after being scared straight by the movie Okja. I was scared almost straight several years ago after watching Forks Over Knives, and again when I visited my doctor and was told I need to get my cholesterol down. But this time it stuck. Maybe it’s because I have a house full of animals now and just had a couple back then, or because I’m older, or because I’m a Californian now.

I’ve been doing well with the life change and have no interest whatsoever in going back to real meat. Sometimes though, I enjoy a meat substitute. I bought some  Primal Strips “beef” jerky online recently and really liked it. I read that it was made from Seitan. I’d never heard of this before and did quite a bit of research to figure out what it was, how to make it, and how to pronounce it.

For starters, I think it’s pronounced (Say-tahn) accent on the second syllable. My BF calls it Satan because he hates meat substitutes.

Through much trial and error I am posting my recipe and directions for Chicken Seitan. It came out good on the first try and I’ve made it twice since. You can eat it straight out of the steamer, sliced or chopped, but it’s better mixed into something.

Two variations I’ve tried were making into “Chicken” salad. For that I put one of the four hunks of cooked “meat” into the food processor and mixed it with mayo, some BBQ spices and chopped celery. It tasted and felt a lot like real chicken salad.

chicken salad

Another variation was for Buffalo Chicken Dip which I’ll show directions for in another blog entry. We ate it all and I forgot to take pictures.

Below is the recipe for the Chicken Seitan base. Change the spices around as you see fit. Substitute it anywhere you’d use chicken and it should come out just fine. I’ve tried it in stir fry and cold salads and it’s perfect!

Chicken Seitan

chicken seasoning.jpg

  • 1.5 cups cold broth
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1.5 cups vital wheat gluten (You can get this at any grocery store in the baking aisle)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (I got this at my Sprouts-your grocery store may not have it)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tsp poultry seasoning
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp onion powder

Whisk together broth and oil, set aside.

rib mix

Mix dry ingredients and then knead for 3 minutes. I start mixing with a spoon to cut down on mess, then used my hands once it pulled together. It’ll be elastic and you won’t need flour or oil. It’s not sticky.

knead

Let it rest for 10 minutes then knead for 15 seconds. Cut in 4 pieces.  Wrap loosely in foil and steam for 30 minutes. I used my rice cooker on Steam. Super easy.

steamer

Let it cool for 30 minutes before putting in fridge.

Store it in zip lock bags. These pieces will stay good in the fridge 2 weeks. You can freeze them for months..