Friday, November 14, 2014

Tuna Burgers with Greens & Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette


This is one of my favorite recipes right now. The flavors in the burgers combined with the lemon vinaigrette are so delicious. Just yum!

I experimented with both regular canned tuna (in water) and white Albacore tuna, and my family and I decided that the white Albacore tuna was much more suited to making burgers. The regular tuna made a kind of mushy burger, which wasn't nearly as nice. 

When you're prepping your ingredients, make sure to finely mince the veggies, since they don't have a lot of time in the pan. If you cut them too big they won't cook enough. Also, when draining your tuna, just give it a squeeze with the lid. If you SQUEEZE it with the lid too much liquid comes out and the tuna gets pretty dry.

Flipping the burgers takes a bit of finesse. I use two spatulas to flip the burgers over because when I used just one the burgers kept breaking. I use one spatula to scoop the burger out of the pan and then gently place it on the business-end of the other spatula, which is turned upside-down, and then I use the first spatula to slide the burger back into the pan. (Maybe I needed to take pictures...)

Also, the creamy lemon vinaigrette for this recipe is really, really good, and you should use it for other things besides these tuna burgers. I've been successful keeping left-over vinaigrette in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Note: This recipe makes 4 tuna burgers. I always double it so we have left-overs.

printable recipe
Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Tuna Burgers 

1/4 cup green or red bell pepper, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
zest from 1 lemon
2 whole eggs
1 egg white
6 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1 12-oz can white Albacore tuna, drained
Olive or avocado oil for cooking
8 handfulls baby lettuce blend (2 handfulls for each burger)

1. For the vinaigrette, combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside. Re-whisk before using.

2. In a large bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, celery, bread crumbs, dill, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon zest, eggs, egg white, and spinach; mix well until evenly combined. Add the tuna and mix carefully until evenly combined with the vegetable mixture (I like to leave some larger pieces of tuna intact).

3. Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to measure out level 1/2-cup scoops of the tuna mixture to form 4 4-inch patties; let them rest for a few minutes on a cutting board or tray.

4. Heat 2-3 teaspoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and carefully transfer 2 to 3 patties to the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes, carefully turn them over, and then cook for 3-5 more minutes. Remove them to a plate and keep them warm. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and repeat with the remaining patties.

5. Put the lettuce in a large bowl, add some of the creamy vinaigrette (this is to taste, meaning add as much or as little of the vinaigrette as you like), and gently toss with tongs to coat the lettuce evenly. Divide the lettuce between 4 plates, top the lettuce with a tuna burger, drizzle the burger with additional vinaigrette, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, 1 tuna burger and 2 handfulls lettuce each. **My husband usually eats to burgers, so adjust the serving suggestion to your liking.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Double-Chocolate Cupcake Muffins (aka Science Fair Muffins)


I call these "cupcake muffins" because the only thing that makes them not cupcakes is that they don't have any frosting. And calling them muffins makes them appropriate for breakfast. Yep. You're welcome.

At my house we also call these "Science Fair Muffins" because my daughter used them as part of her science fair project last year. She wanted to find out what combination of baking soda and cream of tartar would give the same results as baking powder (which is baking soda already combined with an acid). I already have a chocolate muffin recipe we like, but it uses baking soda and buttermilk (the acid), so it wouldn't work for her project. I fiddled around with the recipe until I had one that used baking powder and regular milk, and that's this one.

I won't go into all the details about her experiment because there are m-a-n-y, except to say that she and I (we took turns) ended up making nearly 20 batches of muffins--because the experiment had to be done three times (can you imagine my tears when I read that part of the instructions part-way through the experiment process?)--and that we didn't make chocolate muffins for a long time after that.

Here is one of the pictures she used on her display board. The differences are pretty interesting, huh?


She didn't place in the contest, which was disappointing, because we both thought it was an awesome experiment, complete with blind taste-testing performed by fortunate--or unfortunate, in the case of the muffins made with only baking soda-- friends and neighbors. Guess there just aren't enough food nerds in the Science Fair world...lol.

These muffins are definitely best the day they are baked, and the best way I've found to store extras is in a zip bag in the freezer. To thaw them without killing them I put one in the microwave upside-down on a napkin and zap it for 30 seconds on 30% power. Then I turn it over and zap it again for 30 seconds on 30% power. I know it's a bit specific, but it works.

Also, don't skip the sifting part of the instructions. Sifting the flour and cocoa powder through a fine-mesh sieve gives you a much more tender, moist, and lovely muffin. And, as always, I suggest weighing the flour and cocoa powder to get consistent results.

Double-Chocolate Cupcake Muffins
printable recipe

10 oz all-purpose flour, sifted (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 oz cocoa powder, sifted (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat your oven to 400 deg and line 20 cavities of 2 24-cavity muffin pans with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well. In another medium bowl whisk together the milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well with a silicone spatula.

3. Use a muffin scoop or 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop the batter into the paper-lined muffin pans. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean. Cool completely before eating so the paper comes off easily.

Makes 20 muffins.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Sweet Potatoes


I love sweet potatoes, but I was an adult by the time I realized they are delicious. All my growing up the only sweet potatoes I encountered were from a can and covered with brown sugar and marshmallows, and I hated them. Then one day about 8 years ago my world was rocked when I was at a friend's house as she was starting dinner for her family, and part of dinner that night was baked sweet potatoes.

Wait. What?

Come to find out, not only are sweet potatoes are an amazing whole food, they are fantastic when roasted or baked or mashed with just a bit of butter, salt and pepper. They are also pretty easy on my husband's blood sugar, so there ya go: sweet potatoes are on my list of nearly perfect foods.

This spinach-mushroom variety is just one way to stuff sweet potatoes; you can easily change it up with black or white beans, quinoa, chopped roast beef, or sauteed zucchini or kale. Sweet potatoes are so amazing I think they can pull just about anything off.

I feel I should note that this spinach-mushroom filling can be split between 2-4 sweet potatoes, depending on how generous you are with the stuffing step of the process. My husband and I easily share the filling between the two of us, and accompanied by a simple green salad with an oil/vinegar vinaigrette, it makes a filling meal.

Spinach-Mushroom Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
printable recipe

2-4 medium-sized sweet potatoes (see note above)
1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
1/2  onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
2 big handfuls baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2-4 teaspoons butter
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
crumbled feta cheese

1. Heat your oven to 400deg. Scrub your sweet potatoes and prick the skin with a fork. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake for 30-35 minutes or until tender when tested with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they have released most of their moisture and have begun to brown a bit (I actually turn up the heat a bit at this point because I like a lot of color development on my mushrooms), 8-10 minutes. Add the spinach, turn off the heat and stir, allowing the residual heat of the mushroom mixture to wilt the spinach.

3. Split open the baked sweet potatoes and use a fork to break up the inside. Add 1 teaspoon of butter and salt and pepper to your taste preference to each potato and mash it around. Stuff the potatoes with the mushroom-spinach mixture and top with the crumbled feta cheese.

Makes 2-4 stuffed potatoes.
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