Tuna Zoodle Salad

During the month of May my personal challenge was to try a low-carb diet. Well, I should say lowER carb, I was not even close to the keto level. (20 grams per day? I eat that in my salads.) It was a surprisingly rewarding journey and I intend to keep up the change (about 100 gram per day) at least through the month of June. Admittedly this challenge is substantially easier in the summer, when fresh produce is in abundance. It also gave me the incentive to finally try out the spiralizer my mother gifted me for Christmas. I don’t know why I waited so long because I am 100% all aboard the zoodle train. Seriously, I may never eat traditional spaghetti again. They are pleasantly crunchy, just as noodle-y, and the substantially lower carb (and calorie) content means I can eat a lot more sauce and cheese, which is the best part of the meal anyway.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

During this adventure I discovered it was a lot harder to get enough protein (as an athlete) since my go-to vegetarian proteins, like black beans, are all pretty high carb. I have ended up increasing my intake of lean meats, eggs, and cheeses, and somewhat surprisingly I actually feel great. Since M’s uncle generously gifts us with an abundance of wild-caught tuna each year, one of my favorite creations makes use of the many jars in the pantry.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy zoodles and a colorful array of crunchy vegetables are rounded out with tuna salad and plenty of cheese. I like to use avocado mayo (it’s a bit lower fat if that matters to you; I just think it tastes better) and a sweet & spicy mustard. Feel free to substitute any combination that you like and tailor it to fit your preferences. You can definitely just use all mayo or all mustard and add some spices for extra flavor; paprika is always a great option.

This salad is a light but delicious lunch and the mound of veggies makes it pretty filling. If you’re not low-carb, focaccia would make a fantastic side. I did not feel it needed a dressing, but if you want to add some saucy goodness to your bowl then a honey mustard vinaigrette would be a delightful choice. If you don’t want to make your own, Annie’s and Newman’s Own are excellent pre-made options.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}I enjoyed this both chilled and lightly heated with excellent results. For the warmed option, heat everything except the cucumber for about one minute in the microwave and give it a good stir. (Heat another 30-seconds if it’s still too crunchy). Then top with cucumber and enjoy the melty, cheesy goodness.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

For my fellow preppers – meal-preppers that is – this is one of my new go-to recipes. A serving just fits in my 4-cup glass Pyrex Snapware containers (I got them as part of a Costco set, but they look like this) which is easy to take to work and then I can choose whether I’d like it chilled or heated on the fly. Just keep the tuna/cheese in a separate smaller container inside the big one so the veggies don’t get soggy over time. Just as crisp on day four as it was on day one, and I bet it’d keep longer if you haven’t eaten them all by then.

Tuna Zoodle Salad {{Baking Bytes}}

Switch up your summer salad game and give this concoction a try. Be sure to let me know what you think and how you make it your own!

Tuna Zoodle Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

15-16 oz tuna canned in water, drained
3 Tbsp avocado mayonnaise
3 Tbsp sweet & hot mustard
spices, to taste

2-3 large zucchini, spiralized 3mm (about 8 cups)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, spiralized 2mm (about 2 cups)
1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1+ cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)

1 cucumber, spiralized flat (about 1 cup)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together tuna, mayo, and mustard until completely incorporated. Stir in additional spices, if desired. (Paprika is a great addition.)
  2. Divide zucchini amongst four bowls, and arrange carrots, onion, bell pepper, tuna, and cheddar on top. If enjoying warm, microwave each bowl for about 1 minute.
  3. Top with cucumber and serve immediately.
  4. For meal prep: Divide zucchini amongst four 4-cup (or larger) storage containers.
  5. Press tuna equally into four 6-oz containers. Fill remainder of containers with shredded cheese.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the zucchini and nestle tuna into the hole.
  7. Arrange carrot, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper in remaining area. Affix lids and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
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[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever

As the weather warms there is a tendency to put the slow cooker away in favor of barbecues and chilled salads. While I am 100% in favor of both those items, I also think summer and winter can share the slow cooker equally well. Hawaiian meatballs and enchilada quinoa are both delightful summer meals and the slow cooker not only presents its usual ease of use, but also saves you from standing near a hot oven or stove.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

This week we can add a recipe to your summer repertoire with another Mexican favorite: fajitas. Possibly my favorite dish at Mexican restaurants, fajitas are consistently delicious and even more consistently rarely contain ingredients I don’t like. As someone with a strong aversion to raw tomato and cilantro, and a mild distaste for avocado, dishes from south of the border can be a bit challenging. (You can only tell the waiter to leave so many things off your tacos before they give you The Look.) Fajitas and enchiladas are my go-tos there, and these are a new go-to at home.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

With just a few simple ingredients and most of the prep time involving slicing meat and veggies, this recipe comes together in minutes and can be left to its own devices all day long. Up the heat with additional peppers or spices, or leave them out for an extra mild version. I like to use a variety of bell peppers to add some flair, but any of the colors will do. Make a batch of this DIY fajita season or use a store-bought version – whatever makes sense to you. I like to whip up my own so I can up the garlic and lower the salt, but any fajita or taco seasoning will do just grand.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

Tender meat and plenty of peppers fill out a tortilla with lots of flavor – I like to use a corn/flour blend but any fajita-size tortilla is great. These are perfect just as is, but I like to add some spinach, salsa, and sour cream for a few toppings. Sprinkle with hot sauce for an extra kick!

These make a lot which is great for a crowd or for meal prep. M liked these so much for lunches he requested them two weeks in a row. For a man who rarely gives me feedback beyond “it was pretty good”, this is praise of the highest order. As a bonus, they are super easy for me to throw together while I prep my own lunches for the week. Pack a container of meat, whichever toppings you like, and a couple tortillas and you are set for an easy lunch to reheat. For the low-carb crowd, serve over a bed of cauliflower rice and greens for a fajita-bowl instead.

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever {{Baking Bytes}}

Slice up some meat and veggies and all you have to do in the morning is stir it and go. Plus, coming home to pre-made fajitas gives you plenty of time to blend some margaritas on the side – Fajita Friday anyone?

[Slow Cooker] Easiest Fajitas Ever

Adapted from Fit Slow Cooker Queen
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

15 oz can tomato sauce
2 jalapeños, diced (or two, 4 oz cans)
2 Tbsp fajita seasoning (below, or use your own)

3 lbs steak, thinly sliced (I used deer)

3 bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Fajita seasoning
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp onion powder

Directions

  1. In your slow cooker, stir together tomato sauce, jalapeños, and fajita seasoning.
  2. Add steak and stir until well coated.
  3. Top with onion and bell pepper (or leave out until 1 hour from serving if you prefer them crispier.)
  4. Cook 6-8 hours on low (or 3-4 hours on high.)
  5. Serve hot with fajita-sized tortillas (I like a corn/flour blend), with plenty of salsa and sour cream for topping. (And a handful of spinach is never amiss!)

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad

Happy May, friends! With the weather (hopefully) starting to warm up and Mother’s Day just around the corner, I have a lovely citrus quinoa salad to share with you. It is light but filling, and complements a multitude of protein choices for any dietary restrictions.

Lemon Quinoa & Kale Salad with Halibut {{Baking Bytes}}

Inspired in part by my lemon poppyseed breakfast quinoa as well as a delicious salad at The Cafe in Iowa, this recipe works equally well as a side and as an entrée, in addition to being delightful both warm or cold. Head on over to my guest post at Jenna Gorham Nutrition to check it out!

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese

We’ve reached the final week of National Grilled Cheese Month and I’ve saved my favorite for last. I hope you enjoy it too!

One of my favorite flavor pairings is broccoli and cheese, and in my opinion broccoli cheese soup is the epitome of perfection for this palate. Although it can be extraordinarily unhealthy, it’s a comforting entrée perfect for a cold winter day. My favorite cookbook has a much healthier version using goat cheese that I meal prep for lunches semi regularly throughout the colder months. Although putting broccoli in a grilled cheese felt a little strange, I decided to try it anyway. The question remaining was which bread would complement it nicely.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Despite not caring for beer in its original beverage form, I often enjoy it as an accent to both sweet and savory dishes and there are a handful of recipes on my blog that call for it. Beer bread is a favorite to serve with stews and chilis, and Guinness chocolate ice cream turns out to be pretty fantastic. Broccoli cheese soup is delicious accented with beer as well, and this thought lead me towards using a beer bread for this particular sandwich.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

Crispy roasted broccoli and melty sharp cheddar blend perfectly with the beer bread, and I strongly feel all three components are necessary for the full experience. You could certainly substitute an alternate bread (I would choose a whole wheat or seeded multi-grain) but the beer adds such a great twist that I promise it’s 100% worth the extra effort to make the loaf ahead of time. This sandwich combines several of my favorite things all into one and I can easily see it becoming somewhat of a staple, presuming I have the foresight to roast extra broccoli whenever possible. Great for beer lovers and broccoli lovers alike, this might even be a way to get a few extra veggies into what feels like a decadent meal.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

This was the fan favorite (although to be honest, they said that about all of them) and sure to be a crowd pleaser. Whether it’s cut in half for a great appetizer, served with a cup of broccoli cheese soup for a superbly warming experience, or thrown into your regular dinner rotation, this sandwich is surprisingly homey despite its thoroughly non-traditional expectations.

Broccoli Beer Grilled Cheese {{Baking Bytes}}

I hope you enjoyed the series and if you found a new favorite be sure to let me know!

Broccoli Beer Bread Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

1 head of broccoli, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

2 slices beer bread (reduce sugar to 2 Tbsp or less)
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
olive oil or butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan or coat thinly with olive oil.
  2. Combine broccoli, olive oil, and spices in a bowl; stir until well coated.
  3. Spread evenly on prepared pan and roast until broccoli is starting to char, about 20 minutes. (Or to your desired texture.)
  4. When the broccoli is nearly done, heat additional oil or butter in a small lidded frying pan over medium-low heat.
  5. Mix together cheese with 1/4 cup broccoli until combined. (One head of broccoli is probably enough for 4-ish sandwiches, presuming your bread slices are small.)
  6. Lay bread in heated pan, then top one side with broccoli mixture. Put on the lid and heat until cheese is melty and bread is golden.
  7. Place empty slice on top of the broccoli (toasted side up) and then carefully flip the whole thing; cook an additional 30-60 seconds to allow the sandwich to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; would be extra fantastic with a cup of broccoli cheese or beer cheese soup for dipping!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

I’m back in Montana after a week in Iowa for work, and the weather teased us with a beautiful weekend…followed by snow Monday evening. I know spring is a bit flaky here, but this really is feeling a bit unreasonable. The ski area is even closed, don’t the weather gods know when to stop?

In any case I will admit it makes great weather for a cozy grilled cheese, and this is one of the coziest I’ve ever made. It was a huge hit in my test group (okay so it was only four people, but that is four more people than usually give me input) and definitely a close second favorite of mine for this year’s recipe bunch.

Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes and I could happily eat it weekly without complaint. (Especially the sweet potato and spinach version in my Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook – so good!) I opted to try a fusion dish this year and combine my favorite flavors of lasagna with the much less time-consuming preparation of grilled cheese.

I used a homemade pizza sauce I had in the freezer, but any jarred pizza or spaghetti sauce would work just fine. If you have omnivores to appease, a meat sauce would work splendidly – chorizo would add a nice kick too. Pick a sauce with good flavor as it’s a prominent part of the sandwich, but no need to slave all day unless you want to. Freshly sliced mozzarella is critical – you want none of that corn starch so often found in pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheeses which not only throws off the flavor, but simply does not melt as well. A spoonful of ricotta (I always use the whole milk version, but you do you) rounds out the lasagna palate we all know and love.

In order to create the most true-to-form experience possible, we use three (thinner) slices of bread and layer each filling twice between the trio. This admittedly makes it a bit messy to cut and eat, but it’s so worth it to have that extra bit of crisp bread in the center. French bread seemed the obvious choice to me, and a narrower loaf helps the sandwich from being too huge horizontally when it has a lot going on vertically as well. Cooking in garlic-infused olive oil gives that garlic bread essence without it being too overpowering, and if you don’t have the infused oil on hand I recommend adding a sprinkle of garlic powder to your regular olive oil while it’s heating.

Finish the whole shebang with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper (because parmesan is always the answer) and you have a new favorite comfort food. Some chopped and sautéed spinach would also be a great addition, especially if you weren’t planning to serve with a side salad or other vegetable. Just add a spoonful atop the ricotta and you are good to go.

A great way to use up leftover spaghetti sauce, I’m looking forward to this becoming a new go-to quick dinner in the future. If, like me, you don’t always have ricotta on hand, I’m thinking goat cheese would be a delightful substitute. If you give any version a try, let me know how it turns out!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese
Makes one sandwich

Ingredients

3 slices of French bread (1/4″ – 1/2″ thick)
2 pieces freshly sliced mozzarella (1/8″ thick)
2-4 Tbsp spaghetti or pizza sauce
2-4 Tbsp ricotta cheese

olive oil (recommend garlic infused – or adding a sprinkle of garlic powder)

to taste
parmesan, freshly grated
black pepper, freshly grated

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Place all three slices of bread in the pan so they don’t overlap.
  3. Layer two slices with mozzarella, sauce, and cheese. (You want them to be covered but not overflowing, so likely about one tablespoon of each unless your bread is particularly wide.)
  4. Place the lid on the pan and heat for a few minutes, until empty slice is lightly golden on one side.
  5. Flip empty slice, replace the lid, and continue to cook until the other side is golden, fillings are warm, and mozzarella is beginning to melt.
  6. Top one of layered slices with the empty one, then carefully flip the remaining layered slice ricotta-side down on top of the stack.
  7. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper and heat briefly to allow the layers to meld together.
  8. Serve immediately; pairs perfectly with a side salad and a glass of wine.

Notes

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