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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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!

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

I’ve written about my favorite Italian restaurant in Bozeman, Fresco Cafe, as the inspiration for one of my grilled cheese concoctions from April. This is probably the place I go to with the most regularity, both for team lunches with work and with out-of-town visitors. It has delicious pastas and paninis, several delightful salads, and the specials are always on point. Although a semi-expensive place to dine, it is worth every single dollar to have amazing food and service every time. (As an aside, it’s also one of the few places that serves plain water rather than ice water, which is always worth a lot of points in my book.)

A couple of weeks ago during team lunch, the special salad was basically the combination of all my favorite things: bacon, bell peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Served atop a bed of mixed spinach and arugula, it was one of the best salads I’ve ever had, in addition to being the perfect size for lunch. I expressed my ecstatic review, as well as requested they put it on the regular menu, which is something I’ve never actually bothered to do at a restaurant before. Since they haven’t heeded my advice yet, I set out to recreate a similar experience in my own kitchen.

It might sound plain and possibly too light, but with a slice of bread and a latte (I always get a latte at Fresco) it was properly filling without leaving me feeling overstuffed and heavy for the rest of the afternoon. Roasted red peppers are something I could eat with every meal, and you’ve probably already noticed I have a slight obsession with goat cheese (blame Costco.) Bacon and walnuts bring a little salt and a lot of protein to the dish, and a bed of leafy greens rounds out the meal nicely.

The original uses their house-made balsamic vinaigrette, but I opted to dress mine with plain balsamic vinegar from my local oil and vinegar spot. This was mostly out of laziness but also because it’s one of my favorite ways to top any savory salad. In any case, you can substitute your favorite balsamic vinaigrette or reduction in its place for a more traditional pairing.

I served mine with the bacon and peppers still warm (which will be extra great in the winter), but you could absolutely let them cool to room temperature during these excessive heatwaves everyone is having. I made myself all four servings and then each day assembled the leftovers for lunches this week. If you do the same, you could either serve it all cold or briefly reheat the bacon and peppers in the microwave before stirring it all together, as I’ve done for the past three days. Goes perfectly with a side of focaccia fresh from the Co-op.

Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad

Inspired by Fresco Cafe
Serves 4

Ingredients

8 slices bacon
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced

1 cup walnuts, halved

~8 cups fresh spinach & arugula (10-12 oz)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or your favorite vinaigrette or reduction)

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed cookie sheet (or two quarter sheets, if you have them) with foil. If you’re using one sheet, create an edge of foil in the middle of the pan.
  2. Arrange bacon in one half of the pan; lightly coat the other half with olive oil and arrange the peppers on top.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and set aside bell peppers.
  4. Spread walnuts on the bare pan and return to the oven to toast for 3-5 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, gently toss greens and balsamic vinegar (or dressing.)
  6. Divide greens into four bowls or plates – don’t scrape the mixing bowl.
  7. Gently toss bell peppers in the large bowl with leftover vinegar/dressing, then arrange on top of the greens.
  8. Slice bacon on an angle into bite-size pieces and arrange in the bowls.
  9. Top each with walnuts, goat cheese, and freshly ground pepper.
  10. Enjoy immediately, optionally garnished with a slice of bread.

Sriracha Blackberry Salad

Despite what looks like an excessive ice cream intake, during hot weather I also eat a lot of chilled salads and smoothies as a healthy way to keep cooler. With no stove or oven required, it doesn’t add heat to either me or the house, and they are quick to throw together. My fridge is always filled with an array of fresh produce, but during the summertime I make extra sure to have plenty of salad ingredients on hand.

Spinach is my go to base since I use it in everything from soups to scrambled eggs to smoothies, and there’s always a hefty bag of it from Costco. I don’t usually have a specific flavor palate in mind, but throw on whichever veggies or fruits I have lying around. I often add some raw nuts, cooked quinoa, or canned beans for extra calories and a protein boost. Tossed with a flavored vinegar or a simple dressing, it’s a delicious and filling meal and easy to throw together for a quick lunch or dinner.

Last year I concocted a lemon and berry combination that is still one of my favorites, especially with raspberries fresh from the garden. In these months before the berries have ripened, I sometimes splurge on a tray of blackberries from Costco to eat throughout the week. Delicious on yogurt or ice cream, in a smoothie, or just by the handful, it’s never a challenge to get through them on my own.

Since I love the berry and spinach combination, I decided to combine some blackberries with my newest favorite Olivelle discovery: Sriracha White Balsamic Vinegar. Still fairly sweet but with the slight kick of Sriracha flavoring, this is a more savory experience. It’s superb as a dressing all on its own, excellent as a condiment for wraps, and delightful mixed in with scrambled eggs. I’m already halfway through my rather hefty bottle, and I know I’ll be back promptly when I need a refill.

I started with my standard spinach based, and topped with fresh blackberries and sliced almonds. As I usually have goat cheese in the fridge as well (how do people live without Costco?), I added that for some creaminess and a little tang. The sweet and spicy Sriracha vinegar pulls everything together with a little kick, but not so much that it overwhelms all the other delicious flavors. This salad is great as a light meal with a side of tasty sourdough bread, but works just as well alongside a chicken or fish entrée.

For those of you that are perhaps not keen on buying specialty vinegar, I’ve included a recipe for a copycat version. It’s not a perfect match but it’s still delicious, and a bit more accessible than mail-order vinegar.

Sriracha Summer Salad
Servings: 1 entrée, or 2 sides

Ingredients

2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
1 Tbsp Sriracha white balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup blackberries, washed and dried (and maybe halved, if you want)
2 Tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp sliced almonds

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, gently stir together spinach and Sriracha vinegar until well coated. Transfer spinach to serving dish(es).
  2. Arrange berries, goat cheese, and almonds on top, optionally drizzling with extra vinegar.
  3. Enjoy immediately as a spicy-sweet entrée for one, or as side dishes for two.

Copycat Sriracha Vinegar
Makes about 1/3 cup

Ingredients

1/2 cup high quality white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Sriracha, to taste

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, gently heat vinegar and Sriracha to a simmer, and let simmer until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup.
  2. Whisk vigorously to mix in Sriracha (there may still be speckles.) Add more Sriracha to taste, if desired.
  3. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator, shaking or whisking before each use if spices have settled.

Summer Squash Tian

We had a brief stint of summer here, with one day reaching 92, but so far haven’t quite made it to the sustained heat I know is imminent. I am constantly torn between being grateful the heat is holding off, and lamenting the lack of heat training I can do for my upcoming summer races. In any case, as the plants in my garden sprout and grow, it makes me excited for harvest and all the lovely dishes that come with a summer bounty.

Summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squashes are some of my favorite veggies, and their relative cheapness here means I eat a ton of them throughout the summer and early fall. I add them to salads and scrambled eggs, eat them plain with hummus or pesto, and freeze them for when the weather turns me towards soups. Their neutral flavor makes them an easy addition into almost anything, as well as being a delightful standalone.

One of my favorite hot weather recipes is a simple baked dish. Summer squash and sweet potato are accented with onion and spices, then topped with a sprinkle of cheese for an easy but delicious side great for the hot months. You may be wondering how baked vegetables could possibly be warm weather appropriate, but the secret is I actually prefer this one cold! Not only does that make it easy to serve straight out of the fridge for barbecues and leftovers, but it makes for a great make-ahead meal as well.

Simple without being boring, this vegetarian concoction works great as a side dish when you get bored with salad, or as a healthy afternoon snack. For the vegan crowd, you can just leave off the cheese – it’s quite excellent without it – but you may want to add a pinch of salt to your spice mix. Briefly sautéed onions and roasted squashes bring a light sweetness to the dish, complimented with your favorite spices. This one is easy to customize to whatever you’re pairing it with: just change up the spices to match or contrast with your entrée.

I used an Italian spice blend, but you can easily concoct your own mix or just include one spice for a simpler flavor profile. Pairs beautifully with a side of grilled anything, and makes for an easy lunch since it requires no reheating. I’ll admit it’s a little messy and time-consuming to slice and vertically arrange so many items, but it’s worth it for even cooking and presentation points. I like to use a sweet potato, but if you prefer a white or red that is excellent too. The dish is easiest if you can find squashes and potatoes of roughly all the same diameter, but as you can see I have a variety of sizes in mine and it’s completely manageable.

When the over abundance of squash hits your area, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Summer Squash Tian

Adapted from Budget Bytes
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil

3 lbs zucchini and yellow squash (about 6 medium, I used most of one of the bags Costco sells)
1 narrow sweet potato
3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp Miscuglio (or your favorite spice mix)

1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar and Gruyère)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small or medium frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high.
  3. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Spread evenly into the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.
  4. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife and a lot of patience, slice zucchini and yellow squash into approx 1/4″ slices (I used the thickest setting on my mandolin.)
  5. Using the same method, slice sweet potato into less than 1/8″ slices (I used the thinnest setting on my mandolin.) This ensures the potatoes cook in the same amount of time as the squashes.
  6. In a large bowl, combine squashes, sweet potato, 3 Tbsp olive oil, and spices. Stir until well coated.
  7. Arrange upright in rows, avoiding having large sections of the same vegetable if possible. This is messy, but worth it for even cooking and prettiness.
  8. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, top with cheese, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is to your desired level of meltiness.
  10. Let cool briefly before serving, or store in fridge and serve chilled.1

Notes

This does not reheat well but I actually prefer it cold which makes it not only a great make-ahead meal, but also a great side dish for hot summer days.