May 252011
I spend a lot of time trying to dream up inventive dishes for this blog, and I think I do a pretty good job representing a lot of different types of food (except for maybe red meat/pork…I swear I’ll try to expand my horizons into that portion of the farmyard one day).  But, I realized recently I’ve been completely neglecting one very important food group–sandwiches!  Yes, it’s a food group.  How could I have been so disrespectful as to completely ignore and take for granted something I eat almost every day.  So here it is, a cook tush original Tuna Salad Sandwich. 
I always loved tuna salad growing up, and didn’t realize until later in life how it can be secretly really terrible for you…sneaky chicken of the sea.  This version replaces almost all of the mayo with plain yogurt to keep the creaminess without adding the fat and a little lemon juice keeps it from being “fishy” and brings out all the other flavors.  I wanted to make mine a “harvest” tuna salad so I added chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, apple chunks (but you could easily stay traditional and do onion/celery type tuna).  
Nutritional Highlights:  This tuna salad sandwich literally fills every food group–protein from the tuna and walnuts, fruit from the apples and cranberries, vegetables from the fresh greens, healthy whole grains in the bread, and a tiny bit of dairy from the yogurt.  A lot of us don’t get the 2 weekly servings of fish that we need and this is a great way to get it.  Although water-packed tuna doesn’t have quite as many Omega 3’s as a fresh pieces of salmon, it’s still a great source (and might be preferred to people who don’t consider themselves “fish” eaters).   

Healthy Harvest Tuna Salad Sandwich

  • 1 – 6 oz can of tuna
  • half of a green apple, diced
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • juice from 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon low-fat or fat-free mayo
Directions:  Mix all of the above ingredients and season with a little salt and pepper.  Add additional yogurt or mayo if you reallllly need it to be more moist.  Make sandwich with lots of greens and toasted whole wheat bread.  Enjoy your guiltless tuna!!

May 162011

One of my favorite restaurant genre choices these days is Thai.  It has so many of the components that make a perfect meal to me–lots of vegetables, flavorful sauces, and a whole lot of spice.  One of my go-to’s when I eat out is spicy thai basil sauce, and I’ve been wanting to recreate it for a while.  It had all the things I look for when I get it at a Thai restaurant, but it had two extra benefits: I knew exactly what went into it, and I didn’t pay $15 dollars for it! Win, win.

The process was incredibly simple: mix a sauce that was water, soy, fish sauce, and a touch of sugar.  Then saute ginger, garlic, and chilis, and add the shrimp.  Remove the shrimp, add the veggies, and once those are cooked put it all together again with the sauce.  Let the sauce reduce, toss in the basil and lime juice, and you’re good to go.  Then eat it, and be happy.

I wasn’t able to find “thai” basil (whole foods, I’m disappointed in you) but regular basil seemed to taste just fine.

Nutritional highlights:  This is an amazing, balance meal.  Shrimp for protein (you could easily sub chicken or tofu too), and a big mixture of veggies, amped up by plenty of garlic, ginger, chile, and a sweet/salty/savory sauce.  Served with some brown rice, brown rice noodles, or soba, it’s a really filling meal that gives you a great variety of nutrients (fiber/protein/vitamins/carbs).  It’s also an easily adaptable meals, so include the vegetables that you like!

Spicy Thai Basil Shrimp

adapted from Food Network


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons Southeast Asian fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced into rounds(or use red pepper flakes)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut in thin slices
  • Vegetables I used:  Red pepper, baby bok choy, green beans, zucchini, and mushrooms
  • Other options: broccoli, snap peas, yellow squash, carrots….
  • 3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Serve with: brown rice or brown rice noodles


In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, fish sauce, and sugar; set aside. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until pink but still translucent in the middle, about 2 minutes (do not over cook because they get more time in the pan at the end). Transfer the shrimp to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the vegetables to the skillet, and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan along with the soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir-fry until the sauce glazes the shrimp, about 1-2 minute more. Remove pan from the heat, stir in the basil and lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish, serve immediately.

May 082011
I consider myself pretty athletic (cough, for a girl)–I’ve always been able to throw a ball, can sink some surprising shots in a game of horse, and can swim like nobody’s business–but I’ve just never been able to call myself a “runner”.  I really admire runners, and the kind of fitness it requires, so this spring, I’ve decided I’m going to try to become one of them.  Nothing crazy, no marathons in my future, but I’d just like to be able to run 5+ miles without stopping (or passing out).  And with every new goal, comes a new snack…at least that’s how it works in my world.  So I made these quinoa energy bars as a perfect pre or post run snack (or even a high energy breakfast for any day of the week).  

Nutritional Highlights:  These bars are great fuel for a runner: plenty of protein from the quinoa, healthy fat from energy-dense nuts and seeds, and carbohydrates (the body’s preferred source of energy) from the oats, flour, and sugars in the dried fruit.  When you make an energy bar yourself, you know exactly what’s going into it…no crazy preservatives you can’t pronounce, no corn-syrup, just good natural ingredients.  This recipe is also incredibly versatile to fit your tastes–switch up the dried fruit and nuts to include your favorites.  

Quinoa-Nut Power Bars
adapted from Bob’s Red Mill
makes 15 bars
2 cups oats, rolled, quick cooking
1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup soy protein powder (optional…I’m kind of afraid of protein powder, plus I’m not trying to beef up so much)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup raw nuts:  combination of walnuts, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds (or any other nut you have/like)
1/2 cup dried fruit: I used a mixture of dried blueberries and cranberries but any combination would work
1/2 cup sweetened coconut, shredded  (if you don’t like coconut, just use more dried fruit)
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice (I didn’t know what this was, so I used 1/4 cup honey instead)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup oil (can also replace with applesauce or mashed banana for a lower fat version)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions: Cook dry quinoa according to directions. While this is cooking, combine oats, flax, protein powder, baking soda, evaporated cane juice, flour, walnuts, seeds, cranberries, coconut and sea salt in a large bowl.
Once quinoa is cooked, add to the pan the oil, vanilla and water. Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together.
Spread mixture into greased 9 x 13-inch pan, pressing down with hands to fit into pan. Dough may seem slightly dry, but this is okay. Bake for 20 minutes at 350ºF. Allow to cool and cut into pieces.  Freeze extras that you won’t eat within 1 week.  

Enjoy your bars and your jog!!

And sorry for my lack of posting lately…finals in my grad classes this week!  I’ll be back in full force next weekend…likely, with a cocktail recipe :)
May 022011

You know what’s hot right now?  Meatballs.  You may be thinking, what are you talking about…those things have been around forever.  But I’m telling you, meatballs are making a huge comeback.  Take, for example, the Meatball Shoppe in NYC.  A dry erase menu of design-your-own-meatballs allows you to mix and match balls, sauces, and sides.  And the simple perfection of this place has caused it to have a constant 2-hour wait (annoying).   As much as I love it there, I’m impatient…so I decided to try making their famous vegetarian “meat” balls myself.

These meatless balls were made mainly of cooked lentils mixed with sauteed veggies (onion, carrot, mushroom, spinach, garlic), fresh herbs, tomato paste, bread crumbs, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and eggs.  Although they were pretty easy to make, be warned that the mixture really needs to cool completely before forming the balls (something my friend and I didn’t realize when we started this process at 8:30 pm).

And since we were mixing it up with the meatballs, we thought, why settle for ordinary pasta.  Shreds of zucchini, lightly sauteed, are a great stand in for pasta if you’re watching your carbs and trying to increase your veggie intake.  I really loved these meatballs–incredibly flavorful with a good texture and very filling (although I’m not sure they would really fool a true meat eater).  So, if you’re ready to just on the trendy meatball bandwagon, this is an awesome way to do it.  

Nutritional Highlights:  This meal is amazinggg for you.  The “meat”balls are filled with high protein lentils, walnuts, and eggs and have lots of carrot, mushroom, onion, and spinach so you’re getting your vegetables without even realizing it.  They are also an amazing source of fiber which is great for so many reasons (protects your colon from cancer, reduces blood cholesterol levels, and, um, you know what else).  Served over zucchini strands rather than pasta keeps your carbs down, and since lentils will give you the carbohydrate fuel you need, it’s ok to skip the pasta.  Tomato sauce is high in vitamin C which is a natural antioxidant, protecting you against all those free radicals in your body.  Plus, swapping out red meat for vegetarian options once in a while is a great way to improve our health in many ways.  

Meatball Shoppe’s Vegetarian Meatballs

  • 2 cups lentils
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, minced (I omitted because I didn’t have it)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I used less, but obviously didn’t measure)
  • 1 clove garlic (would up to 2 next time)
  • 4 sprigs thyme, picked, about 1 tbsp
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (we used basil instead cuz I like it better!)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • optional: we added about a cup of chopped baby spinach to the veggie saute…you can add almost any vegetables you like/need to get rid of!
1.  Preheat oven to 400.  
2.  Cook lentils according to directions and drain any excess liquid by straining through a colander.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt, stirring often for about 10 minutes.  When veggies are tender and beginning to brown, add the tomato paste and continue to cook for three minutes.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently for 15 more minutes.  Remove vegetables from the pan and allow to cool.
4.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl with the cooked vegetables and lentils and mix throughly.  Place the mixture in the fridge or freezer until it is completely cooled.  
5.  Drizzle olive oil onto a baking dish (or use nonstick spray), making sure the entire sheet is coated to prevent stickage.  Roll the mixture into golfball sized meatballs and place onto the baking dish.  
6.  Roast until firm and cooked through (about 30 minutes).  Allow meatballs to cool for 5 minutes before removing.

I served over zucchini shreds (using a mandolin would be best but I just cut it really thin) that I sauteed in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 3 minutes just to slightly soften.  Top with your meatless balls, your favorite pasta sauce, and some parmesan cheese and enjoy!!