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Archive for the ‘entrées’ Category

pesto change-o!

Posted by culinaryneophyte on September 3, 2013

pesto tuna tomato

Quickly snapped substandard lunchtime photo. Didn’t need judgment from co-workers.

Despite being fairly busy in the kitchen, I’ve been lax on the posting. I won’t make excuses; I’ll just shut up and post something good for you to make: pesto tuna-stuffed tomatoes.

This was the brainchild of weeknight leftovers and a bread detoxification. I whipped up some homemade pesto to make pesto chicken wings (recipe to come), and when I had 1/4 cup left over, I started searching for uses. ‘Pesto and… tomato goes well together — yeah!’ It just so happened I decided to throw out all the bread products in my house at the same time, and was looking for creative ways to eat enjoy my meals sans the “evil” bread. If I can’t use bread or crackers as a vehicle for the tuna, maybe I can use a tomato? Lo and behold — it worked! And I didn’t miss the bread too much…

♦2 c. basil leaves
1/3 c. pine nuts (or almonds if you prefer)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. EVOO
1 can tuna
2-3 tomatoes

Combine all dry ingredients in food processor. (I used an immersion blender.)  Slowly add olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Add to dry tuna (no mayo needed!). Carefully slice a cone shape out of top of tomato, angling knife so you’ll be able to scoop out top and leave hollow to hold tuna. Fill with tuna. Slice and enjoy!

Calories? The pesto recipe will yield way more than you need. For one serving, I used half a can of tuna (45 calories), one large tomato (33 calories) and 1/10 of the pesto yield (90 calories).
Total time? 10 minute for pesto, 5 minutes prep for meal.
Cost? $1 tomatoes, $1 tuna, $6.99 pine nuts (won’t use entire jar – store in fridge!), $2.99 basil
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out of 10. If you’re a bread fiend, this isn’t going to satisfy you’re craving, but if you’re weaning yourself off stuff, then this is a good alternative. You don’t need to add any mayo to the tuna — just the pesto — so you save calories there, and even though that alone isn’t as dry as you’d think it is, using the tomato adds some juiciness to the meal. Overall, this is a nice summer dish, and can open the doors to more tuna add-in and/or non-bread experimenting.

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quinoa sushi

Posted by culinaryneophyte on July 4, 2013

Whatever the day, whatever the meal, if you ask me where I want to eat, there’s a really good chance the answer involves sushi. I can’t really pinpoint when my love affair with sushi began, but at one point after college, I was eating it two to three times a week. Obviously, that can get quite costly and not all sushi is that good for you, so I’ve had to cut back quite a bit.

quinoa sushiBUT THEN! A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a photo on Instagram where someone had used quinoa (my 2013 obsession) in place of white rice in their homemade sushi, and I had to try. Oh. My. Goodness. This has changed my life. It tastes great, doesn’t cost much and keeps much better as leftovers. Replacing white rice with quinoa makes the dish “cleaner,” adding protein, iron, magnesium and more. It’s also gluten free. The possibilities are endless in terms of filling, but I’m sharing my favorite so far — bacon, avocado and carrot quinoa sushi.

Makes two rolls
♦3/4 c. cooked quinoa
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 avocado
2 slices cooked bacon (I used turkey)
1/8 c. carrot shavings
2 sheets of nori
bamboo roller

For sriracha sauce
2 tbs. mayonnaise
1 tsp. sriracha
1/4 tsp. sesame oil

Heat vinegar, sugar and salt over medium heat until dissolved. Add to cooked quinoa a little at a time. (You don’t want this too wet or it will make for messy sushi.) Lay out bamboo roller and cover one side with plastic wrap. Lay down nori sheet. Add layer of quinoa to the lower third of the nori and flatten. Top with bacon, avocado and carrot. Hold the edge  of the mat with your thumbs, then lift nori and roll sushi away from you. Roll tightly. (For more visual instructions, click here.) Let roll sit a minute before cutting. Use a sharp, moistened knife to slice. Mix sriracha ingredients together to taste. Top each roll with a dollop. You could also skip the sauce and use more traditional soy sauce and/or wasabi.

Calories? About 200 calories per roll (not including sauce)
Total time? About 15 minutes (less if all ingredients are pre-cooked)
Cost? $2.99 nori, $6.99 quinoa (per package), $1.25 avocado, $2.99 turkey bacon
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. I very rarely make the same thing more than once, but I’ve made this on multiple occasions, and then used the second roll for lunch at work because it keeps well as leftovers. If you make a big pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week, you can get a make a few of these rolls with just a small amount and still have plenty left for other assorted dishes. Quinoa AND sushi? I am in love.

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lemon almond chicken

Posted by culinaryneophyte on June 12, 2013

So… It’s basically summer now. I don’t know where the time went, but I blinked and it was suddenly time for barbecues and bikinis. And because it’s the season for those itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny threads, I’m sharing another clean eating recipe for those of you working on getting that summer bod in effect: Lemon almond chicken — bright, light and tasty. The lemon provides a summery tang and the almonds give it a nice crunch.

lemond almond chicken
Lemon almond chicken
Adapted from
Makes about two (small-ish) servings

Three cooked chicken tenderloins, shredded
1/2 medium carrot, grated
1/8 c. organic plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
♦1/2 lemon (juice and rind)

Cook and shred chicken. (I seasoned mine with minced garlic and fresh ground black pepper prior to baking.) Combined ingredients in small bowl. Cut lemon in half, remove fruit and squeeze juice into mix. If you want to be fancy, use the lemon rind as a serving vehicle.

Calories? About 140 calories per serving
Total time?
 20 minutes to cook chicken, 5 minutes prep
Cost? $2.99 Greek yogurt. $3 chicken, $1 carrots, $2.59 almonds
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out of 10. I’ve been tending toward a pescatarian lifestyle lately, so I somewhat subconsciously sabotage the enjoyment of meatier meals these days. In any event, this was a light, tasty chicken dish that filled me up kept well as leftovers (served on whole grain or straight out of the Tupperware). The presentation is lemon rind serving vehicle makes for a super easy, summery presentation, so this serves well as a party dish, too.

lemond almond chicken 2

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how grating

Posted by culinaryneophyte on April 15, 2013

I need to invest in a nice grater. I recently set out to grate three beets with my craptastic grater, got 3/4 of the way through the first one and gave up. Luckily, that was more than enough to feed myself, but it lent itself pretty poorly to a 1/3 yield of the recipe I was making. Boy, were my arms sore. I think I know now how Robert Irvine got those guns.

Those beautiful beets made their way into some quinoa, beet and chickpea burgers — an awesome vegetarian dinner or leftover lunch to take the work. There are a lot of steps in making these, but the payoff is worth it. It’s a healthy, low-cal, vibrant meal. Just make sure you’re wearing old clothes whilst grating the beets because they spray and stain. Sounds like a personal problem.

beet quinoa burger

Adapted from Bojon Gourmet
Makes three large patties
♦1/3 can chickpeas, drained
1/4 c. raw quinoa 
1 beet, grated
1/2 tbs. olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tbs. cider vinegar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 egg (eyeball it)
1/4 c. quick oats

For serving
Multigrain English muffins (or buns of your choice)
Alfalfa sprouts
Burger fixings (tomato, mustard, etc.)

The original recipe says to cook chickpeas, but recommended 30 minutes, which was too long for my lack of patience, so I went raw with the chickpeas. If you’d prefer they be cooked: Cover chickpeas in medium saucepan with 3 inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Add 1/2 tsp salt. Simmer for 30 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to cool in water.

Rinse quinoa in mesh strainer. Add quinoa and 1/2 c. water to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until water has been absorbed (10-15 minutes). Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and cover until you’re ready to use.

Peel beet with potato peeler, then grate. Heat teaspoon of oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender (5 minutes). Add garlic, pinch of salt and beets. Stir, then cover until beet is tender (5 minutes). Remove from heat and add vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, quinoa and beet mixture and mash until combined. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, oats and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Divide the mixture into rounds (I got three out of it, but you might get more or less depending on the size of the bun you’re looking to match.) Heat oil over medium heat, add burgers and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. If the burger browns too quickly, reduce heat. Serve on bread and with toppings.

Calories? 260 calories include multigrain English muffin
Total time?
 35 minutes simultaneous prep and cook
Cost? $1 beet, $1.25 chickpeas, $5 quinoa (use only a fraction), $2 English muffins, $1.50 avocado
Overall success relative to expectations? 8 out 10. My favorite part of this meal was the color (and the fact that it looked like raw meat on my burger – probably freaked out my coworkers). The flavor wasn’t as powerful as I hoped, so don’t skimp on the lemon. I added avocado and sprouts (not pictured) to mine, and it made for a filling, low-calorie meal. If you’re a meaty burger fan, I wouldn’t recommend these; but if you’re big on veggie burgers and clean eating, they can’t be beet. (Sorry.)

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hummus melts

Posted by culinaryneophyte on March 7, 2013

hummus meltsThis post is going to be quick and easy, just like my new favorite meal: hummus melts. I make these for lunch or dinner when I’m short on time, or on the weekend for a more substantial snack. You could do this with homemade hummus, but if you’re a cheater like I’ve been lately, I highly recommend the Sabra basil pesto hummus; it’s got great flavor that works well with here.

♦1 Thomas Multigrain English Muffin
1-2 tbs. Sabra basil pesto hummus
2 c. spinach, raw
1/8 c. skim mozzarella shredded cheese
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. minced garlic

Toast English muffin. In a small pan over medium heat, heat oil and garlic. Add spinach and sautée. (Spinach will cook down immensely). Remove from heat. When muffin is toasted to your liking, spread hummus on both sides, add spinach and top with sprinkles of mozzarella cheese. I eat mine open face so it feels like more, but it’s up to you.

Calories? 254 calories per serving.
Total time?
 10 minutes
Cost? $1.50 spinach, $2.69 English muffins, $1.99 cheese, $2.50 hummus.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. I’m sure this sandwich would be enjoyable without it, but the basil pesto hummus takes it to another level. I love how quickly such a delicious meal can come together, and a 250-calorie lunch or dinner ain’t too shabby. 

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portobello parm

Posted by culinaryneophyte on February 11, 2013

I’ve been on a vegetarian kick lately, so when I stumbled upon this portobello parm recipe on Pinterest, I had to try it out. This is a super satisfying meatless alternative to chicken or veal parmigiana. It’s easy to make and surprisingly tasty. I paired mine with some quinoa and a red pepper and spinach salad for a healthy weeknight dinner. (And it kept well as leftovers, too.)


Adapted from One Perfect Bite
2 stemmed portobello mushrooms, cleaned (I used pre-packaged from ShopRite)
♦1/4 c. Italian-style bread crumbs
♦1/2 c. Parmesan cheese (I used grated Kraft, but fresh is better)
♦1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
♦1/8 cup parsley flakes, divided
♦1 tsp. seasoned salt, divided
♦1 egg
♦1/4 tsp. fresh ground black peppercorn
♦1/2 tsp. garlic powder
♦1/2 tsp. Italian seasonings
♦1/2 tsp. oregano leaves

♦1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
♦1/2 c. low-sodium tomato sauce
♦Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line roaster tray with aluminum foil. (You can also use a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack on top.) Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.

In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, parm cheese, half the parsley, paprika and half the salt. In a separate bowl,  combine egg, remaining salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Dip both sides of each mushroom in egg wash, then dredge in dry mixture, coating completely. Transfer to the roaster rack, stem side down. Spray mushroom tops with cooking spray and bake about 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Set oven to 450 degrees. Carefully turn mushrooms over (stem side up). Sprinkle parm cheese onto mushroom, then top with sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes until cheese melts. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Calories? 177 calories per mushroom
Total time?
 25 minutes cook, 10 minutes prep
Cost? $2.99 mushrooms, $2.19 mozzarella, $1.25 tomato sauce, $1 breadcrumbs + assorted spices.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out 10. I had no idea how much I would love this dish. The flavor was fantastic (I mean, I felt like I used 75% of the spices in my cabinet.) The gooey insides spilled out on the first cut, but the outside maintained a nice crispness without frying. Definitely a satisfying vegetarian option, and less than 200 calories!


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