The Family Food Blog

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A Healthier Tuna Salad Sandwich

by mukwritesbooks

Until very recently, my first reaction when I heard the phrase “tuna salad sandwich” was a mix of disgust and confusion. The idea of taking the texture of tuna and mixing it with mayonnaise and celery into a salad, and then smushing that concoction between two pieces of bread – there wasn’t anything appealing about it. How in the world did someone first come up with that recipe?

A few years ago, I switched mainly to Greek yogurt, and came across a bunch of recipes where you can swap it in for mayonnaise, cream cheese, etc. to get a healthier dish. And of course, amid the lists of recipes were dozens of variations on the classic tuna salad sandwich. But I steered clear. Until earlier this week.

Like the last couple years, this January is full of resolutions to cook different dishes, to cook healthier, to cook more. So today, after I read about the nutritional value of fish for the umpteenth time and came across yet another “10 Ways You Need to Start Using Greek Yogurt Now” article, I finally had a new resolution: I was going to make a tuna salad sandwich.

Today after work, I bought the few additional ingredients I would need – celery and mustard (already had both yogurt and tuna at home, albeit safely far away from one another, on different sides of the kitchen) – and whipped up a 2-meal batch of a Simple Tuna Fish Sandwich.

It was so good. I’m a convert.

Ingredients (makes two sandwiches):

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (I used plain, but you could use non-fat if you like)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 1/4 tsp (couple squirts) lemon juice
  • 1 5 oz. can chunk tuna (I used albacore) in water
  • 4 slices whole grain bread
  • handful of kale or spinach

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients except the tuna. Then add the tuna.
  2. Assemble the sandwiches.
  3. In my case, humbly accept that you have found your new go-to weeknight meal 🙂

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Champagne Poached Seckel Pears

by thefamilyfoodblog

Don’t you love when leftover ingredients just come together in a great new recipes? Lately, I’ve started trying to find such dishes by just Googling the items I have. Case in point: three days ago, I found Avocado Pesto‘s recipe for Tofu, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Stir-Fry – delicious, by the way – by searching “tofu bok choy mushroom ginger”. Not so elegant, but it worked!

Using the same strategy for leftover New Year’s Eve champagne that was quickly going flat and Seckel pears that were quickly growing soft, I came across Emeril’s recipe for Poached Pears in Vanilla and Champagne. Since these pears are already so sweet, I decided to halve the sugar-to-liquid ratio, and made a few other changes. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • 2 Seckel pears, or one regular-sized pear
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup champagne or sparkling wine
Leftover brut and two peeled pears

Leftovers.

Instructions:

Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact if possible. Cut each pear in half and remove the seeds and core.

In a small pot, stir the sugar into the water and boil until the sugar dissolves. Use the smallest pot you have that can hold all pear pieces in a single layer – this way, it takes less champagne to cover the fruit, which leaves more to drink!

Once the sugar is dissolved (about 2 minutes), stir in the vanilla and champagne and bring to a boil. Add the pear halves, making sure they are fully covered by the poaching liquid. Let simmer on medium heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring gently every minute or two.

Pears in Poaching Liquid

You’ll see I didn’t core or de-seed the pears before poaching. This was much trickier to do afterwards.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the pears. Serve immediately.

Poached Pears with Gingerbread Cookie

Serve immediately, on their own or with other components.

These are delicious on their own, but can easily be fancied up if you’d like. I served the pears on top of gingerbread cookies, with a little of the poaching liquid drizzled on top, and the last of the champagne. Enjoy!

Rajma

by mukwritesbooks

Rajma is an Indian curry dish made with dark red kidney beans and simmered in a tomato & onion sauce. Its thicker base makes it a perfect (hearty) winter dish. Combine with rice to get a complete protein!

Ingredients (for approx. 2.5 servings)

  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) dark red kidney beans
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
  • garam masala
  • whole cumin
  • turmeric
  • salt

1) In pot, add drained kidney beans and a pinch of turmeric. Add enough water to immerse and cook on low/medium heat (NOT boil) until beans are soft and start to split, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2) In a separate pot, saute onion and ginger with whole jeera on low/medium heat until onions turn translucent.

3) Add about 4 tablespoons of tomato paste (if opening a can, freeze the rest as a lump in a ziploc bag for next time!). Work the paste with the sauteed mix until they start to combine.

4) Add another pinch of turmeric, pinch of salt, pinch of garam masala, and work together. You may need to lower the heat at this point to avoid burning the paste.

5) Add contents of kidney bean pot, and then add enough water to at least fully immerse everything.

6) Bring to a simmer and keep stirring, checking for the correct consistency and for the tomato paste to lose its “pure tomato” flavor. Let it cook together on low/medium heat for about 15-20 minutes.

Rajma and rice makes a nice one-dish meal that's filling and healthy

Rajma and rice makes a nice one-dish meal that’s filling and healthy

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

by mukwritesbooks

Although I have been terribly busy since school started up again in late August (and shirking my blogging responsibilities, sorry N!), I have still found enough time for various cooking experiments. It’s slowly beginning to cool down for autumn, and I have found myself craving cozier (one-pot) dishes. Here’s my own version of a recent casserole recipe that I made last weekend; it turned out quite well, which is good considering that by the time I finally finish it, I would have eaten about 10 meals of it….

Ingredients for Turkey Enchilada Casserole  (approximately 10 servings)

  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained (make sure there’s no excess water when you add these)
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) medium salsa (or hot if you like an extra zing!)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce (make sure you don’t get the Italian seasoned kind)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 in. diameter)
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese

Sidenote: This was the first time I’d cooked ground meet like this on my own, and it was surprisingly easy! Just make sure that you take the time to check that all of the turkey meat is no longer pink, and that you turn the stove up to at least medium-high heat (otherwise you’ll be sitting there for hours waiting for the meat to cook).

1) Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray (or a dash of vegetable oil) and cook the turkey, green pepper, and onion over medium heat until the meat is browned. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more

2) Stir in the beans, salsa, tomato sauce, cumin, and paprika, and bring to a boil.

3) Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes (this was about until I could smell the salsa spices from the living room 🙂 ), stirring every so often.

4) Coat a 13-in x 9-in casserole dish with butter/oil/cooking spray. Spread meat sauce (approximately 1 cup, or so that the bottom is covered with a thin layer).

5) Top with six tortillas (I broke these into halves so that I could layer them without having too many two-tortilla-thick areas of the casserole). Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

6) Layer with remaining tortillas and meat sauce.

7) Cover (I used aluminum foil) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

8) Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer until the cheese has melted.

Okay, so my first slice wasn’t the prettiest, but it was definitely yummy!

This is a great recipe, and I haven’t minded eating more casserole than not for the past week and a half (I’ve actually frozen 4 meals’ worth and will probably be attacking that later on this week). But be warned, this does make a LOT of casserole. It’s probably ideal for a family or a potluck. At the same time, I found that once this went into the fridge, it was a lot easier to cut up and pack in various forms (tupperware for lunch at work, in the freezer, etc.). And the structure – especially with the corn tortillas – has held up surprisingly well, despite several reheats in the microwave!

Bottom line, I probably won’t be making this for myself for a few weeks at least, but it was a relatively easy, convenient (one-dish!), and cheap (all of the ingredients totaled about $14) recipe 🙂

Fall Vegetable Pastries

by thefamilyfoodblog

Last Saturday, for once, I woke up early enough to get myself to the local farmer’s market. Before starting to cook with my fall bounty, I took a moment to be artsy and take a little still life photo, adding in a pumpkin from pumpkin-picking earlier in the month and the plant that usually sits on our dining table.

Clearly I have a thing for multicolored vegetables. I bought honeycrisp apples, eggplant, a bell pepper, and the last of the heirloom tomatoes.

Cooking a variety of meals using these same ingredients made for an interesting experiment throughout the week. Thanks to sage, the standout was the vegetable puff pastries I made on Wednesday night to finish off the eggplant. The recipe below is double what I made – it makes the quantities a little more practical.

Ingredients (for 12 pastries)

  • two sheets (one package) frozen store-bought puff pastry
  • one medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • one medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • one small tomato, diced
  • 5 large leaves fresh sage, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer to thaw. Preheat oven to 430 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add in the onion and eggplant, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Allow to cook for about two minutes. Add in zucchini, tomato, lemon juice, and black pepper and cook until vegetables are slightly softened (about five more minutes). Mix in sage and cook for one more minute.

Cook vegetables over medium heat until slightly softened. (Sorry for the blurry photo!)

Cut each sheet of puff pastry into six rectangles. Spoon 1 1/2-2 tbsp vegetable mixture into the center of each and fold over, pinching around edges to seal. Arrange pastries on a baking sheet and bake at 430 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

I ate mine with ketchup, with a little hot sauce mixed in. Ranch dressing would be another good option, or perhaps an aioli.

P.S. They’re a lot more filling than you’d expect; I was pretty full after just two!

Baked Jalapeño Poppers

by Sanjukta Moorthy

I went to a chilli festival with my friend Sam and boyfriend Andrew over the Bank Holiday weekend in August – it was amazing! I did take photos, and will upload them soon, don’t worry. Stalls selling fresh and dried chillis, plants, sauces, relishes, fresh food, even ice cream and coffee – basically, everything you could think of and wish for!

Andrew and I bought a mini army of chilli plants which are doing really well in our living room. We thought they’d make a great dinner one night, and after finding an amazing recipe on Pinterest, decided to make Jalapeño Poppers!

We bought a Jalapeño plant as well as a Padron, Fresno and Thai green chilli plant – in this recipe, we’ve used fresh Padron, Fresno and Jalapeño chillis, as well as fresh Cayenne chillis and whole Jalapeños from a jar. So even if you can’t get hold of fresh chillis, you can use the ones from the jar. They won’t be as good but they’re still pretty amazing!

We baked it instead of deep-frying and it crisped up perfectly. It’s a bit fiddly to get together, but once you’ve created an efficient assembly line, you can keep making this!

You’ll need to first make the cream cheese stuffing, then stuff the peppers, dunk them in an egg wash before rolling in breadcrumbs and arranging on a baking tray – so you’ll need a lot of clean counter-space for this!

Let me know what you think. We found that this brought out the flavour of the individual chillis so much better than cooking them along with meat or vegetables would have done – and we really enjoyed the different flavours that each of our chillis brings to it.

Aside from all of that, being able to literally pick your dinner off the plant and cook it completely fresh is a fantastic experience! Our plants have grown really well and we’ve managed to do this again, with Sam, and made enough of this to feed all three of us!

Makes 18 poppers

9 chillis (a mix of fresh and preserved whole chillis. Prepare them by halving lengthwise, keeping the stalk intact on each half if possible. This makes sure that the poppers hold their structure)

150g cream cheese (we used Phildalphia Light)

50g cheddar (we used a sharp Cornish Crackler)

Garlic oil (2 cloves with a splash of olive oil, or a few tablespoons of garlic oil – we made our own, recipe to come soon!)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Oregano or dried herbs of your choice

2 eggs, beaten in a shallow bowl

1-1.5 cups breadcrumbs (either fresh or storebought, we’ve used both and there really is no difference), arranged on a plate

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar and seasoning in a medium bowl, add any dried herbs if you like. We added oregano and lemon pepper, which worked really well.

Halve and deseed the chillis, taking care not to rip the skin of the chilli. Arrange on a plate or chopping board to the extreme left of your work space, then place the bowl with the stuffing to its right.

To the right of the stuffing, place the bowl with the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs to its right. Line a baking tray and keep that at the very end of your assembly line, then preheat the oven to about 180C.

Carefully fill the chillis – we found about 1 tsp of stuffing fits snugly into an average-sized jalapeño. The idea is to have the stuffing level with the edge of the chilli so the stuffing doesn’t burst while it bakes.

Once it’s filled, dunk it in the egg wash and make sure the egg thoroughly coats the chilli, before rolling it in the breadcrumbs. The chilli should be completely covered in breadcrumbs, so you may need to use a spoon, or your hands to shower the breadcrumbs on.

Arrange on the baking tray – if you’re using more than one type of chilli, arrange them by type so you know what they are and can compare tastes.

Once all the chillis are filled and coated, bake them for about 20-25 minutes, until the breadcrumbs become golden.

Serve immediately – we made a simple yoghurt dip, mixed with chipotle sauce. But plain yoghurt or sour cream works really well too, and can actually be more welcome if the chillis are too spicy!

Enjoy!

Spiced Carrot Muffins

by Sanjukta Moorthy

After making a luxurious roast dinner, I had a few carrots leftover and needed to make something to take in for breakfast. I did some research and found a few carrot muffin recipes, none of which really appealed in their entirety because they either used too much sugar or too much butter. I wanted something which tasted amazing but didn’t make me feel sinful if I had a couple for breakfast.

So here’s my version, low-fat, low-sugar but amazing. Don’t be disheartened by that – believe me, I love food that actually tastes like food, and I have the same reaction you do when I hear the words ‘low fat and low sugar’. But trust me, you really can’t tell at all.

I’ve added some candied orange peel, to add another layer to the spicy, Christmassy feel of these muffins. And if you’re using more than 1/3 cup, you actually don’t need any sugar at all! But that’s upto you – enjoy!

I took them home for my family – and they couldn’t tell it was a healthier version! I thought that’s as good a taste test as I’m going to get, so here’s the recipe!

Makes 24 muffins

3 cups grated carrots (some carrots don’t need to be peeled, so I topped and tailed mine, and grated them using my amazing food processor’s grater function!)

1.5 – 2 cups roughly chopped golden sultanas (Soak these in boiling water (I prefer orange juice because it ties in with the flavours) for about 30 minutes until they’re amazingly plump)

1.5 cups plain flour

1.5-2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp sugar (completely optional, I find that the carrots get sweet as they’re baked so you could take this out completely)

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground allspice

About 10 shaves of fresh nutmeg

2 eggs

1/3 cup candied orange peel (or peel of your choice)

2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil and it works just as well)

1 cup choppped nuts of your choice – I’ve made this a few times and used almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts – all of which work really well! Pick your favourite!

Combine eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl with either an electric mixer or a whisk. I used a whisk since I hardly used any sugar or oil, and it’s pretty easy! Preheat the oven to 180C.

Sift the flour into a separate, medium bowl and add the salt, spices and baking powder.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and incorporate using either an electric mixer or a whisk.

Fold in the carrots, nuts, orange peel and raisins. This doesn’t need to be done carefully, but it does need to be thoroughly mixed so keep going until you’re happy with how it looks.

Spoon the mix into lined muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy!

Cafe Fare: Baguette with Brie and Apples

by thefamilyfoodblog

Yesterday was a gorgeous day out – probably one of the last few really warm days of this summer. I’m proud to say I took full advantage, by heading down to the Mall for the National Book Festival, walking back up to the National Museum of Women in the Arts for their Women who Rock exhibit (highly recommend it for anyone who ever aspired to be a rock star), and enjoying lunch out on the balcony when I finally got back home at 4 p.m.

(Does that still count as lunch?)

Anyway, needless to say, I was pretty hungry by the time I returned. Inspired by one of the first cafe lunches I had while studying abroad in Europe, I decided to make myself a toasted baguette with brie and fruit.

Ingredients (per serving)

  • one mini baguette
  • half an apple, cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1 oz brie, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp butter

Instructions

Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and toast lightly.

While bread is toasting, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Place apple slices in a single layer and cook until they begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Turn slices over and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Arrange brie and cooked apple slices on toasted baguette. Serve immediately.

Keeping with the fresh theme of this meal, I had a glass of sparkling water with a splash of orange juice and a handful of mandarin orange slices. Delicious!

So Smooth(ie)

by mukwritesbooks

In the past year or so, smoothies have become one of my favorite go-to snacks. They take just minutes to make, they are refreshing, and it’s so easy to try new variations based on my mood or what I have on hand. And especially when bananas are involved, you know that the smoothie will be filling and nutritious.

So here you go, one of my favorite smoothie recipes:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie (3 guesses what the main ingredients are…)

Ingredients (makes one 1-cup serving):

1 banana, broken into small chunks

3/4 cup soy milk (my personal favorite is Silk Vanilla, although any type of soy milk will work)

1 teaspoon cocoa

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon flaxseed

Combine banana and milk, and then cocoa, peanut butter, and flaxseed. I have found that the last three ingredients blend better with the milk when they are added afterwards. If possible, let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes to let the banana start to soften (unless the banana is already quite ripe and soft). Blend, and enjoy!

You can try regular milk, but I have found that soy milk creates a nicer texture

Keep in mind that the peanut butter will considerably thicken the smoothie, so you may want to keep a bit more milk on hand to thin out the smoothie – and avoid a milkshake consistency.  Feel free to throw in a handful of blueberries, raspberries, or even chopped strawberries.

Girls’ Night Out Treat: Slutty Brownies

by thefamilyfoodblog

This past weekend, a friend of mine organized a girls’ night out, where all of us dressed up in little black dresses, caught up over cocktails, and then hit the town. Several of us brought appetizers, and I decided to bake up a pan of slutty brownies, inspired by this recipe from The Londoner. As she explains, “they’re called slutty brownies because they’re oh so easy, and more than a little bit filthy.” She’s right.

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate mix), and associated ingredients
  • 1 packet cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix), and associated ingredients
  • about 20 Oreos
  • butter or oil to grease the baking pan
  • 2 handfuls chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

Start with the cookie layer. Mix up the cookie mix as directed on the box, and then add a teaspoon or two of oil and/or water – whichever you’ve already used in the cookie mix – to make the dough extra gooey. This is because you’ll be baking it significantly longer than you would for cookies (it ends up looking a little gross but trust me on this). If you’d like, stir in an extra handful of chocolate chips. I’d imagine that nuts would work well here, too. Lightly grease your baking pan and add the cookie dough layer, pressing it down to form a flat surface.

Press down the cookie dough layer so it fills the bottom of your pan.

(Wondering about those ramekins? Full confession: I wanted to save some of the brownies for myself, and so I baked a couple of mini batches in those. I ended up using them for a little experimentation, too.)

Next up is the Oreo layer. Cover the cookie dough with Oreos. I used about 20 of them in my 11×7 pan. Be generous but don’t pack them in too close; leave some spaces for the brownie layer to seep in between the Oreos.

On top of the cookie dough layer, add a layer of Oreos, leaving small spaces between them.

Here’s where the ramekin experiment comes in: for these little batches, I tried using Girl Scout Thin Mints instead of Oreos, and they came out great! Since they lack a cream layer, though, they aren’t as soft, so if you try this, I’d recommend eating them fresh out of the oven or heating them up before eating.

Consider trying other kinds of cookies. These small brownies have my favorite Girl Scout cookie: Thin Mints.

Finally, you have the brownie layer. Make the brownie mix as directed on the box. If you’d like, add the remaining handful of chocolate chips (or nuts, or whatever) into the mix. Pour the batter over the Oreo layer, using a spoon or spatula to spread it out evenly.

For the third and final layer, use brownie mix.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Baking time depends on the vessel; the ramekin brownies were ready after about 25 minutes, and my 11×7 pan took about 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

All finished and ready to eat!

Pro tip: If you want to go the extra mile and use homemade cookie dough and brownie batter, try this version of the recipe by What’s Gaby Cooking. I haven’t tried it yet but the pictures look delicious.