Friday, January 30, 2015

Tuna Burgers, perfected!

It only took about 3 tries, but I finally perfected this recipe. The proportions of tuna to breadcrumbs to egg is pretty crucial, so I included 2 different scaled versions of the recipe. The great thing about these tuna cakes is that they go great on a bun, roll or pita, but they are also good alone with tartar sauce, just like crab cakes. Deck them out with plenty of lettuce, tomato or cheese, and enjoy! 

This recipe has the added bonus of including a lot of pantry staples, being relatively affordable when you're eating on a budget, and super quick to make!

Makes 2 burgers:                                     Makes 7 burgers:
1 3 oz can tuna                                         2 1/2 5 oz cans tuna
1/8 cup of finely chopped onion              1/2 cup tuna
1 egg                                                        4 eggs
3/8 cup breadcrumbs                               1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp black pepper                                1 tsp black pepper
Lettuce (optional)
Tomato (optional)
Cheese (optional)
Tartar sauce (optional)

Mix drained tuna with onion, egg, breadcrumbs and pepper, or your favorite seafood seasoning. Form into patties, then cook in a pan with 1 tbsp oil for 4 minutes per side or until browned and heated through. Serve on hamburger buns with mayonnaise or tartar sauce. Add lettuce, tomato and cheese, if desired.

Allergens: Tuna, egg, wheat, gluten, milk (optional)
Nutrition (1 tuna burger with whole wheat hamburger roll and tartar sauce): 330 calories, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 588 mg sodium, 258 mg potassium, 41 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 20 g protein, 11% vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 5% calcium, 20% iron, 13% folate, 14% manganese, 10% phosphorous, 11% riboflavin, 15% thiamine
Cost (1 tuna burger, plain): $0.83
Cost (3 sliders with cheese and tomato on potato rolls): $3.99

Adapted from: Meijer's Simply Give Cookbook (

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Butternut Squash and Spinach Enchilada Casserole

This recipe totally made me rethink enchiladas - the nontraditional ingredients really worked well together! I felt like the original recipe could use even more vegetables, so I changed the recipe to double up the veg for next time.

8 (5 inch) corn tortillas
1 unpeeled butternut squash, seeded
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup enchilada sauce
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup sour cream, for topping (optional)

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. Lay the tortillas flat onto a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place the butternut squash half into a microwave-safe dish cut-side-down, and pour in the water. Cook in the microwave until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and dice; place into a mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Continue cooking until the spinach wilts. Gently fold the spinach mixture into the diced butternut squash.
4. Arrange four crispy tortillas on the baking sheet. Divide the squash mixture among the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of goat cheese over each tortilla, then top with the remaining tortillas. Pour the enchilada sauce over top, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of cotija cheese.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until hot, about 10 minutes. Garnish each enchilada with chopped cilantro leaves and a dollop of sour cream to serve.

Adapted from:

Allergens: Milk
Nutrition (1/4 recipe): 377 calories, 15 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 732 mg sodium, 372 mg potassium, 51 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 13 g protein, 292% vitamin A, 60% vitamin C, 24% calcium, 22% iron, 19% vitamin B-6, 15% copper, 17% folate, 19% magnesium, 21% manganese, 11% niacin, 12% phosphorus, 12% thiamine
Cost (1/4 recipe): $3.18

When live gives you bananas... you make banana bread

I found about 10 bananas on the back shelf of my freezer, so naturally, I made lots and lots of banana bread. Do you sense a theme this week?! I'll give you a hint - it's food found in the depths of my freezer.
I thought I should be healthy or something, and I bought sprouted wheat flour to use in this recipe. It was VERY WHEATY, and not really an improvement in my opinion, so the recipe and nutrition analysis below uses all-purpose flour. Oddly, when I changed the flour in the recipe from whole wheat to all-purpose, it added vitamins because the white flour is enriched - funny how that works out sometimes. Additionally, the fancy flour cost more than a dollar more in this recipe. Definitely going to stick with all-purpose flour on this one.

But I toasted up the bread with a little butter and it was pretty darn good with a cup of coffee on this cold, snowy morning!

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon fine grain salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon bourbon
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flour through baking powder) together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a sturdy fork or in a Kitchen-aid until it’s lightened in color and texture. Mix in the flour mixture until well blended and the consistency of brown sugar. Gradually beat in the eggs.

Fold in the mashed bananas, walnuts (if desired), and bourbon. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350° F for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 – 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely.

Adapted from:

Allergens: Wheat, gluten, milk, egg, nuts
Nutrition Info (1/8 loaf): 240 calories, 7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 113 mg sodium, 147 mg potassium, 39 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 4 g protein, 6% vitamin A, 5% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 7% iron, 10% vitamin B-6, 12% folate, 10% riboflavin, 11% selenium, 12% thiamine
Cost (1 loaf): $2.33 (with all-purpose flour), $3.34 (with sprouted wheat flour)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chesapeake Shrimp & Grits

I truly believe in food destiny. These shrimp, marinated in Chesapeake Lemon dressing, and tucked away in the freezer, were meant to meet yellow grits. Today, that destiny became a reality. I had the hardest time finding a recipe that even resembled my mental image of Shrimp & Grits. I imagined creamy, salty, bright yellow grits, with colorful veggies and perfectly seasoned shrimp. I wanted peppers, and onions, softened and perfectly blended with the shrimp. 

But so many recipes saturated the grits with cheese, packed in the bacon, and ignored the vegetables altogether. I think all the cheese, bacon grease and mounds of butter take away from the simple, delicious taste of this meal. My mother's side of the family is from the south, and we eat our grits with a little bit of milk and salt and it is perfection.

When costing out this recipe, I was caught unaware by the price of the shrimp (especially since I bought and froze this particular shrimp back in September). For the convenience of having large, uncooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, you can expect to pay almost $20 per pound! All of a sudden, shrimp seems like a luxury item.

So, how might you save money on this meal? Buy smaller shrimp, and peel and devein them yourself. Replace the red bell peppers with green peppers. Consider canned diced tomatoes, instead of fresh. With all these substitutions, the cost per serving goes down by $1.85 to $3.08. I will have to try these substitutions and let you know how it goes! 

For the grits:
1 cup yellow grits, Bob's Red Mill 
4 1/2 water
1 1/4 kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp Tabasco

For the shrimp:
1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 bottle Tessemae's Lemon Chesapeake dressing
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup green onions, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup chicken stock
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce

Marinate the shrimp in Tessemae's Lemon Chesapeake dressing for several hours or overnight.

Combine the grits, water, salt, and 1/2 Tbsp of the butter and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer. stirring occasionally, until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. If the grits become too thick, add more water. Remove from the heat and stir in another 1/2 Tbsp of butter, the Parmesan cheese, pepper, and Tabasco.

Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp. Toss the shrimp with flour to coat evenly. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbsp butter. Brown the shrimp until almost cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the bell pepper, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the shrimp, green onions, tomatoes, stock, lemon juice, and Tabasco. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque throughout and the vegetables are heated through.

Divide the grits among 4 bowls and top with shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.

Adapted from:

Allergens: Shellfish, milk
Nutrition (1/4 recipe): 400 calories, 20 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 128 mg cholesterol, 259 mg sodium, 374 mg potassium, 41 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 18 g protein, 13% vitamin A, 21% vitamin C, 7% calcium, 21% iron, 16% vitamin B-12, 10% vitamin B-6, 14% vitamin E, 10% copper, 25% folate, 10% magnesium, 10% manganese, 22% niacin, 16% phosphorus, 13% riboflavin, 46% selenium, 22% thiamine
Cost (1/4 recipe): $4.93

Friday, January 2, 2015

Chilaquiles For One

Some dishes, you just don't forget the first time you had them. In particular, the egg chilaquiles I had at Lauriol Plaza have been stuck in my mind:

Three scrambled eggs with tortilla chips, and green tomatillo sauce. Topped with Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream. Served with seasonal fruit. Recommended for a hang over.

It came to my table still piping hot and comforting after a late night on the town. So, now that I have the time, I had to try my own version of it, perfectly portioned for 1.

1/2 cup salsa 
3 oz chicken or vegetable broth
1 large egg
3 corn tortillas, in pieces, baked til crisp at 375 degrees
OR 2 oz tortilla chips
.75 oz queso fresco
Nonstick cooking spray 

1. Heat salsa and broth in large saucepan to medium-high. Stir in the chips, coating all of them well with the mixture. As soon as the salsa mixture is at a boil, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes (no longer).

2. Once the chips are in the salsa, cover small nonstick skillet in cooking spray and heat to medium. Break the eggs in the skillet and cook sunny-side up on one side just until set.

3. Uncover the pot and check that the chips have softened nicely - they should be a little chewy, definitely not mushy. Spoon onto a warm plate. Sprinkle with sliced onion and cheese. Transfer the egg and serve right away.

Adapted from:

Allergens: Egg, milk
Nutrition (1 recipe): 375 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 192 mg cholesterol, 977 mg sodium, 110 mg potassium, 54 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 16 g protein, 41% vitamin A, 27% vitamin C, 17% calcium, 11% iron, 10% vitamin D, 11% phosphorous, 11% riboflavin
Cost (1 recipe): $2.52

P.S. In retrospect, my dream chilaquiles came with scrambled eggs and tomatillo sauce - sounds like I have some work to do!

Happy New Year!!

It's a New Year, so I thought I would point out some new things about my blog (and myself) in celebration!

First, I have added meal pricing, in addition to the food allergies and nutrition facts that I was already posting. After doing cooking demonstrations with low-income patients and struggling to provide meals that are reasonably priced, I feel it is important to be aware of the cost of our favorite foods. It makes us aware of how fortunate we are to be able to afford healthy food, and encourages us to consider low-cost alternatives along the way.

The Food Stamp challenge is one way to increase your awareness of this issue. Check out the Food Research and Action Center for more information.

Second, I have a renewed commitment to home cooking. After gaining weight since starting graduate school, cooking at home has allowed me to enjoy new foods, while still being able to control my portions. So, hopefully you will be seeing more posts real soon!

Check out this article from the New York Times, if you don't believe me!