Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuna Cakes with Shaved Spring Asparagus and a Light, Lemon Tarragon Sauce

Question.  How do you make crab cakes when you're craving them like nobodies business but you   a.) don't have any crab and  b.) are on a budget? 

Answer.  You doll up some tuna with fresh herbs, lemon and shaved asparagus, dip it by the forkful with no shame into a tangy lemon, tarragon yogurt sauce and wash it down with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Delima averted.

Then, just to gloat, you tell yourself that you are being super health conscience because you ate a practically perfect meal by utilizing the antioxidants in the wine and gave your body a good dose of healthy Omega 3's which are hard to come by these days, thereby forgetting all about the fact that you aren't  in fact  having crab cakes.  Pssshhhh, who needs em?

These tuna cakes are easy enough for a Monday night dinner -- or in my case a Tuesday night dinner. Tuesday's, without fail, are the crazy busiest Orthopedic days in surgery for some reason. Coincidentally (or not) it's also when people tend to call in sick, have some sort of emergency or just decide to spend the day soaking up the Spring sunshine (I would choose option 3 but I'm too chicken to make it happen).

This particular Tuesday provided to be all of the above plus an added curve ball. Seeing as we were short staffed (more than usual) I didn't get to work with the Ortho Doc who I usually assist during Makoplasty surgeries. Instead, I ended up doing total hips and knees with a Dr. I hardly ever work with meaning I couldn't rely on my "Auto Pilot" and had to use my memory/mommy brain instead....  at least until my coffee kicked in.... around noon. Not good.

My point,  I am mentally and physically and in all other ways exhausted on most every Tuesday. These tuna cakes are just a tad bit more complicate that spaghetti and meatballs or in our house, spaghetti and Italian sausage. You get the point. They are super easy to throw together.

A few chopped veggies and herbs thrown in a bowl with an egg and a can of tuna and you have yourself a  not so  fancy meal.

How can you not add asparagus to every meal during the Spring? Wait, am I the only one who worships this gorgeous veggie? No wonder since it's cousins are onion and garlic! 

I pulse a bit more than half of the white beans in my food processor and reserve some to add texture. 
Instead of using bread crumbs which you already know are high in gluten and cause bloating, stomach fat and various other ailments, I used finely chopped veggies and green onion and  nutritional yeast to bind the ingredients together. As you can see, they formed patties quite nicely.
If I had to pick one one of my top 3 favorite kitchen tools, my stone baking pan would and will be on the list forever! It browns veggie patties quickly and evenly using NO added oil and cleans by scraping with a spatula and hot water. Good bye fryer! 

{If you are at all interested in purchasing a stone baking sheet or any of my other favorite kitchen gadgets or ingredients, please consider buying through Simply Healthy Family's 'Store' and help support this blog. It's very much appreciated!} 

Using a simple veggie peeler, shave thin strips of asparagus and pile on top of your cooked tuna cakes. There is no need to cook or even blanch the asparagus, it tastes amazing when shaved into such thin strips and pairs perfectly with these tuna cakes. In fact, I found myself nibbling on my pile of curled asparagus while admiring the beautiful purple and green of my favorite vegetable.

Oh, you'll want to cut off the very tips of the asparagus, the spear, and save it for tomorrows salad or stir fry. The tips don't shave well but are conveniently most peoples favorite part.

This light and tangy dressing is the key to these tuna cakes.  I must admit that however healthy and flavorful they are, tuna cakes as well as any other fish cake are a bit dry without some sort of sauce to jazz it up. It makes a mundane meal extraordinary.

Crab cakes usually come with some version of aioli paired with them not only to compliment the flavors, but to add moisture. My tuna cakes are no exception. Instead of aioli, which base is mayo (if you know me, I can't stand mayo) I made a thick and creamy yogurt lemon-tarragon sauce to spoon on top of my cakes.  Not sure which I ate more of, the tuna cakes or the sauce.

TIME    30 MINUTES        SERVES    4-6

2, 6 oz cans of Chunk Light Tuna, drained
1 cup cooked (or 1 can, drained and rinsed) cannellini beans
1 lemon, juiced 
2 eggs
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons green onion, finely diced
1/4 cup carrot, grated finely (optional, adds sweetness)
2 tablespoons green onion, finely diced
 4 asparagus spears (tips removed and saved for future use) 
2 tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1 tablespoon dried Tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
 1 cup Greek yogurt 
1 lemon (from above) zested
1 tablespoon dried Tarragon
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 400F
In a food processor, pulse 3/4 of the beans until smooth. Spoon beans into a large bowl and add remaining whole beans. Add tuna, eggs, lemon, bell pepper, onion, nutritional yeast, tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. 
Using hands, shape mixture into small patties and place onto stone baking sheet or parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 400F for 10 minutes. Flip patties over and cook another5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare lemon tarragon sauce by mixing all ingredients in a small bowl. 
Shave asparagus as instructed above. 
Remove tuna patties from oven and place on plate.  Dollop with lemon, tarragon sauce and top with shaved asparagus.

Serve with a side of mixed Spring field greens and chilled Pinot Grigio.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Deviled Eggs 9 Ways, from North to South & East to West

I love deviled eggs but lets be honest, a person an only take so many mayo/mustard/vinegar stuffed eggs in the span of the few days following Easter. We usually end up throwing away half of the hard boiled eggs we had fun coloring and decorating for The Egg Hunt, such a waste! So instead of nixing a fun tradition, I took note of a post from Cooking Light and created 3 variations of deviled eggs using some of our favorite ingredients. The result? Eggstrodinary! {work with me, I don't get out much, my 7 year old thought it was funny}.

Three completely different flavors, one from the north seas and two from my beloved South West. I could live quite happily as a Pescatarian with the occasional fillet Mignon and smoked salmon is and always will be my favorite treat. Nova Scotia smoked salmon is not only for breakfast bagels smeared with cream cheese and topped with thinly sliced red onion then garnished with capers (now I'm craving one!) but turns plain deviled eggs into a special occasion worthy hors d' oeuvres.

  Pre-Easter brunch with mimosas anyone?

Guacamole is a staple side dish here in Phoenix and I for one can not get enough of it, despite my mild allergy to them. So why not throw some ripe avocado into the mix?  I used a 1:1 ratio of sour cream and plain, Greek yogurt. Then of course I added bacon, green onion and a squeeze of lime. To kick it up a notch I added a pinch of garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne. Damn good!

Last but not least, something spicy, tangy and sweet was in order. I like to give all of my taste buds equal opportunity to enjoy themselves. If you will. How about pickled jalapenos and sweet pickles? No Easter is complete with out sweet pickles right? Again, I used a mix of mayo and Greek yogurt to lighten up the calories and keep with the fresh, zinginess of Spring.

The possibilities are endless! Other ingredients and flavors I'm thinking would make 
spectacular deviled eggs are:

  • Sirachi + mini Shrimp or Crab meat
  • Diced ham + Sharp Cheddar + Dijon Mustard
  • Corned Beef + Horseradish Mustard
  • Asparagus + Pearl Onion + Whole Grain Brown Mustard
  • Pickled Beets + Shaved Asparagus + Shaved Almonds 
  • Prosciutto + Petite Peas

What duo or trio would you use for deviled eggs extraordinaire?

What are your families favorite traditional Easter foods to share?

Jalapeño eggs adapted from Cooking Light


Deviled Eggs with Avocado Cream, Bacon and Onions

6 Hard Boiled Eggs
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon plain, Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon lime juice
handful of green olives with pimentos
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 tablespoons *soft bacon bits 
pinch of chili powder
pinch of cayenne powder
dash of garlic powder 

pinch of cumin 

Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise.  In a small food processor combine cooked egg yolks, sour cream, yogurt, lime juice and spices. Pulse until smooth.
Add green onions, bacon bits and chopped green olives. Stir to combine. Using a small spoon, scoop filling back into eggs. 

These eggs are best served immediately or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled so they don't brown. The lime juice helps with this.
*Packaged soft bacon bits are found in the condiment aisle at most grocery stores. They are great for deviled eggs and potato salad and have a fraction of the fat as cooked bacon. Not to mention, cut down on prep time.

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

6 Hard Boiled Eggs
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon real mayo
1-2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers
dash of freshly cracked black pepper 
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed, chopped
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
4 oz. Smoked Nova Scotia Salmon, chopped

Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise.  In a small food processor combine cooked egg yolks, yogurt, mayo and onion. Pulse till smooth. Add dill, tarragon, capers, pepper and salmon pieces. Stir to combine. Scoop into eggs. Serve chilled

Jalapeño and Gherkins Deviled Eggs

6 Hard Boiled Eggs
1 tablespoon plain, Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayo
3 Gherkin pickles (sweet pickles)
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños 

Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise. In a small food processor combine cooked egg yolks, yogurt, mayo, pulse till smooth. Add chopped pickles and jalapeños. Stir to combine. Scoop filling back into eggs. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Super Power Breakfast Cookies #breakfastonthego

What's that? A cookie that gives you super powers? It's true, no need to disbelieve. We have been making these protein packed, whole grain cookies almost every very week for a few years now and they remain one of our favorite breakfast and afternoon snacks ever. They come together as quick as waffles or pancakes do and have everything you need to fuel your bod all morning, especially when you pair them with a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of milk!

I'm admittedly and unabashedly most definitely NOT a morning person! Even after 16 years of having a job that requires me to wake up at 5:30 am and even after having 4 children who require every ounce of energy that you don't have at 4 o'clock in the morning.

This means that a bowl of cold cereal would be served every. single. morning at our house during the week if it weren't for brainlessly easy fixes like these cookies. Everyone loves them and they keep me full until I'm able to have a late mid-morning snack at work. I'm happy knowing my kiddos are being fueled through their mornings of quizzes, science reports and P.E. classes. Win-Win.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"BBQ from Braai" and Wines from South Africa at the Scottsdale Culinary Arts Festival

African cuisine is actually a fairly broad term referring to hundreds of different cultures across one of the largest continents in the World. It's also the cuisine I'm least familiar with preparing myself second only to Japanese. I take that back, It would be much easier to tell you the foods that I am familiar with preparing. Big World and all.

African cuisine ranges from Moroccan and Egyptian foods from the North (the ones I'm more inclined to make at home) think olives, oils, spices like cinnamon,nutmeg, ginger and saffron. And pantry staples such as couscous, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and onions. A friend of mine from Egypt recently introduced me to Rose water and orange water to sip on or add to cakes.

The "horn" of Africa might be what most people think of when Africa is mentioned and includes Somalia and Ethiopia to name a few.
Southern Africa has more of a European and Asian influence with a diet heavy in tropical fruits and seafood along with venison. Western regions of Africa rely on a diet heavy in meats like venison and starchy foods such as yams, various rices, millet (my favorite grain) sorghum and plantains and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and mint. Eggs are also a main source of protein.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Healthy Tips and Recipes for Families from Ellen Briggs of Family Food Experts & Kid Critics #WorldHealthDay

As a mom of 4 I know all about picky eaters! I totally get the time, effort, dedication and enormous amount of patience it takes to get kids to eat a variety of healthy foodsWhile I sometimes "sneak" healthy foods into our meals I much prefer to have fruits and vegetables openly visible on our plates so that my children can recognize them and eventually, hopefully have a better appreciation and knowledge about what healthy foods are. We are trying to raise health minded adults after all. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Quinoa Spring Pilaf

Fresh, raw Spring veggies are tossed with rainbow quinoa for this quick and tangy 
citrus infused pilaf.  

It's beautiful and breezy here in Phoenix and totally tank top and flip flop weather!  Hooray!  Time to get a plan in action to take advantage of every minute of this 80 degree weather in the Valley of the Sun before triple digit scorching weather is here and it's our turn to be locked up inside.  Instead of being freezed in, we will be rubbing ice cubes on our necks, faces pressed close to a rotating fan.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guacamole Chicken Pitas with Almonds and Dried Apricots

Imagine this. You live in one of the most picturesque,  climate friendly, supreme outdoor frolicking places to live. Ever.  Now, imagine you have crazy annoying, ridiculous allergies. To everything pollen, grass and nature related and to dogs and to watermelon. Congratulations, you are now me in a nut suit. I  love  nature. I love dogs and oh, by the way, I love watermelon. Karma confuse me?

I have spent a small fortune on allergy medicine in my life and 90% of it has been in the last 3 months! What gives?!@  Spring in the Valley of the Sun is Heaven on Earth and I am plundering around sneezing, blowing my nose and puffy faced while trying to take in deep breaths of the fragrant orange blossoms I so love. Not attractive, nor fair.

So I thought it would be a great idea to make a picnic lunch to take to the boys Cub Scout Spring Camp this week. I put aside the fact that my allergies to pretty much everything outdoors would make me miserable and quite possibly go into anapylactic shock I but also chose, once again to ignore the fact that I'm slightly allergic to avocados. What cruel world do I live in?!  Avocados! Really?!

So, naturally I made Guacamole Chicken Pitas.

I'm building up a tolerance.

It could totally work.............


Simple, fresh ingredients you can throw together for lunch or a picnic.

Freshly grated carrots naturally sweeten the mixture and balance out the tang of the sugar free yogurt.

Guacamole Chicken Pitas with Dried Apricots

SERVES    6         TIME    10 MINUTES


1/2 of a Whole Roasted Chicken
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup dried apricots (or raisons), chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 whole carrot, grated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup cilantro (or parsley) chopped
1 cup fat free, plain yogurt
1 whole avocado
1 lemon, juiced
pinch of salt
dash of pepper
 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
cayenne pepper if you please

6 Pita pockets.

Chop chicken, throw into medium sized bowl. Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Spoon into pita pockets. Enjoy!

Serve with fresh fruit!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tex Mex Chicken and Rice with Bacon

Living in a house with picky eaters is really cramping my style.

My oldest son, who is now 19 (yeah, I'm old) loved spicy foods even when he was in diapers! I'll never forget the time we took a day trip up to Flagstaff, Az. when he was 6 years old and the pressure from his stuffy nose/sinuses got the better of him from the quick rise in elevation. My tough little guy was holding back sobs in pain. We pulled over in some little town in between Phoenix and Flagstaff and found a small, rickety Mexican Food joint {the best ones always are}. We sat on the small patio on fold out chairs and planned to order something quick while Britton had a chance to hopefully 'decompress'.

 The waiter/owner couldn't help but notice Britton, then a handsome young boy holding his head in pain (yes we had already tried a decongestant). He say's with a snap of his fingers

"I have just the thing for you mi amigo!"

A moment later, he was back with a very small, carefully held bowl of dark red, thin salsa (picante). Warily, yet somehow smugly, he placed it in front of my then 6 year old son. "This will solve your problem right away, but slowly o.k.!? 

Jim and I exchanged quick, nervous glances while my son, without hesitation, dove right in with a tortilla chip and shoveled a huge scoop of the liquid fire directly into his little mouth. His face just noticeably flinched in pain. He quickly gained his composure and while his eyes still wide in surprise, wiped his now runny nose and went back in for more. 

It couldn't be all that hot then right? My husband and I who are both Natives to Arizona (me by default) are not only used to spicy foods but require it in Mexican food and beyond. We both took a generous taste from the small bowl and immediately we were both teary eyed and gasping for air. That is some serious salsa!

To which the just returned waiter replies, "Well, I don't just put this out for anyone!"  My son, then requested a second bowl. My son.

My younger children on the other hand can't handle the ittiest bit of spice or most flavors other than cheese for that matter. This has created a serious cramp in my cooking style I tell you.
Seriously, serious.

How am I supposed to make Mexican food, a favorite cuisine of ours without loads of spiciness in it?

How am I supposed to make a Tex Mex Chicken Arroz without it having a kick to it?!!!

Initiation on! Someones gotta toughen up these kids. ;)

Oh, did I mention the best part about this meal (besides the stuffing into your face part?) It's a ONE POT meal my friends! Awww yeah!


4-6 boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of most of the fat

4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup light beer such as Dos Equis Amber (or more broth or water)
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (I love Safeway's brand, restaurant style Fire Roasted Salsa)
2 cups long grain rice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 small yellow onion
1 medium red bell pepper
1 can black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1 can sweet kernel corn, drained
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
Avocado and cilantro for garnish

Using  ye old  spatula-tong method, cook bacon in a large, Dutch oven in batches so as not to over crowd. Remove and let drain on paper towels carefully draining the grease into an old can between each batch. Set aside for later. 

In a small food processor, finely chop onion and bell pepper. 

Reserve a tablespoon of the bacon fat and leave it in pan. Add chicken thighs and cook 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion and peppers to the pan and stir. Cook 5 minutes till translucent, stirring only once or twice.  

This is my favorite part, pour either the beer or about 1/2 cup of the broth into the pan while scraping of the browned bits with a spatula (don't use a metal one on a Dutch oven).  Now, add the tomato paste and using a slotted spatula stir it around the pot to combine it with veggies.  

Add the remaining chicken broth, salsa, rice and chicken thighs to the pot. Stirring to combine. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally. Add beans and corn, stir. Cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce heat to low. Cook undisturbed for 20 minutes. Remove from heat let sit for 10-15 minutes if possible. 

Remove lid, fluff with a fork. 

Serve piping hot on plates with crumbled bacon on top. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro. Serve with an ice cold beer. 

I entered this recipe into the Foodie Blogroll contest: 1,2,3 Cook and Snap on Facebook and it would make my day if you voted for me!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Florets with Sweet Curried Quinoa

Can we just talk for a minute about how hard it is to motivate myself to get anything at all done right now? Honestly, all I want to do is be outside and soak up the warm, perfect Arizona sun in all of its perfect glory. I realize most of the Country is struggling through a nasty winter at the moment and I'm sorry to rub it in your face, I don't mean to. I'm more than grateful for the gorgeous weather we have here in Phoenix and I mean to take advantage of  every single second of the sun basking, pool side lounging, Chardonnay sipping Spring we have been blessed with. Feel free to come visit us anytime (except June-August which pretty much sucks and it's your turn for bragging).

We've been either eating out (on patios of course), ordering in or making super simple, throw together lunches and dinners so as not to waste any time stuffed up indoors. I've come to terms with my laziness and in fact prefer to call it embracing and enjoying the present. Perspective people.

Make this when you are craving something simple, sweet and savory all at the same time. Don't forget the raisins, Yum! The end. 

recipe source  Cookie and Kate

SERVES     4        PREP TIME    10        COOK TIME    30

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt

Curried Quinoa and Greens

2 teaspoons melted coconut oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon curry powder of choice (optional)
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 can (14 ounces) light coconut milk
½ cup water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a fine mesh colander
⅓ cup raisins
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
4 cups baby spinach, baby kale, chard or arugula

 red pepper flakes to taste

Roast the cauliflower: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the cauliflower florets with oil, cayenne p and a light sprinkle of sea salt. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes on the middle rack, turning halfway, until the cauliflower is tender and golden on the edges.

Cook the quinoa:

In a large pot warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently, 3- 5 minutes. Add the ginger, turmeric, curry powder and cardamom and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, water, rinsed quinoa and raisins. Bring the mixture to a soft boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the pot from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Stir in the salt, vinegar and greens. Spoon quinoa into bowls over roasted cauliflower. Add red pepper flakes to your taste.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Simple Drunken Shrimp Linguine {Wine Pairings and Oil tips}

An insanely simple plate of drunken shrimp pasta is in order if you are feeling like you can't take one more second of the cold. I implore you to throw this pasta together and brighten your mood altogether.
Shrimp is one of my favorite, decadent treats yet it couldn't be easier to prepare. Literally minutes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet, Sweet Chile Corn Bread { + Home Made QuickButtermilk}

Not another cornbread recipe you say. You're right. It's not. It's the best corn bread recipe ever. I'm confidant that way. Allright, it's all up for interpretation and personal preference but I for one prefer my cornbread sweet and slightly spicy and most importantly, not dry and crumbly. More of a corn 'pudding' but not exactly.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Papaya, Mango-Ginger Frozen Margarita's #NationalMargaritaDay

The problem you see,  if you are tolerant enough to see that it is in fact a problem, is that the weather here is so gorgeously perfect out right now that it is impossible to get anything done on time. The laundry is piling up, the dust bunnies are everywhere and my 'To Do' list has all but been forgotten. All for the gravitational pull of the warm 'Spring' Phoenix sun that quite literally drags me outdoors to soak in all of it's perfectness. Bad day. Forgotten.