Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apples

Before I get into how I’m not torturing poverty-stricken Bolivian farmers by eating quinoa, let’s talk a little bit about why I’m eating it after more than 3 years of largely avoiding grains.

Aside from the fact that it’s freaking delicious, reasonably nutritious when properly prepared and not really a grain.

Grains are the seeds from grasses; quinoa is the seed from a broadleaf plant that is closely related to spinach and beets.  This makes it what is called a pseudograin – it looks like a grain and cooks like a grain but botanically isn’t a grain.  Which is all fine and dandy, but it still contains all those awful lectins and phytates plus an added bonus of saponins – a bitter-tasting coating on the outside of the seed that makes for one nasty meal if not completely rinsed away.

Most commercially available quinoas (which, like lentils, come in a variety of colors) are pre-rinsed, but you should always rinse them again before cooking just to make sure.  And, like most grains, you’ll get a lot more out of them if you soak or sprout it beforehand.  Quinoa sprouts pretty easily – unlike most grains and legumes, soaking it in warm, filtered water for as little as 12 hours will cause it to sprout, which also reduces the cooking time by as much as 1/3.

Unfortunately, quinoa has gotten a bad rap lately.  It’s traditionally grown in South America and has been a dietary staple there for thousands of years.  Its growing popularity worldwide in recent years has caused concerns about the sustainability of the crops there, as well as diminishing quinoa’s status as a staple – it’s far more profitable for farmers to sell than consume.  Now, having said that, some varieties are pretty hardy and can be grown in other climates – there is widespread farming of quinoa in Europe, the US and Canada.  The quinoa I purchase comes from the bulk bins at our local natural food store (making it cheaper than the packaged stuff) and is grown in Canada.

Beloved and I also love the stuff, which is the main reason we’re eating it.  But after 3 years of forcing foods that aren’t rice or pasta or wheat or whatever isn’t “allowed” in a paleo diet into behaving like foods that are rice or pasta or wheat or whatever, I started to wonder why I don’t just go ahead and eat them from time to time?  Muffins, cakes, breads, ice creams, cookies, candies and all those other delicious treats that people work so hard to recreate – yes, myself included – really shouldn’t be eaten every day no matter what they’re made from (the one exception being “noodles” made from vegetables.  But it still isn’t the same).  I still make all of these things from scratch from the best quality ingredients I can find, I still don’t eat industrial seed oils or prepackaged crap and we still don’t eat out nearly as often as the average American.  If I eat something and it makes me feel bad or sick, I don’t eat it again and so far, a slice of sourdough bread and a serving of quinoa, beans or soaked brown rice a couple of times a week, homemade pasta once or twice a month and a dessert once in a blue moon isn’t killing me.  In fact, I’m feeling pretty okay these days, and after the menopausal hell of the last 5 years or so, that’s not a bad thing.  Not bad at all.

Anyhoo – quinoa. My favorite way to prepare it is in homemade chicken broth with diced onion and garlic that’s been sauteed in ghee – it is just delicious.

This salad was made with leftover quinoa cooked in just that manner, as well as some leftover salmon that I’d attempted to prepare (at too high a temperature – oops) in the sous vide.  It may not have been the best entree I’ve ever cooked, but chilled and flaked into this salad the salmon was great.  Throw in a little diced apple, finely chopped herbs, a light vinaigrette and some salad greens, and this was a marvelous light lunch – just what my body has been craving after this absurdly long, harsh winter.

Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apple - quick, simple and incredibly good for you.

Click the image to enlarge

Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apples
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 ounces cooked salmon, flaked
  • 1 small apple, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 4 cups salad greens
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, honey and olive oil in a small bowl until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, salmon, apple, mint and parsley. Drizzle with the dressing and toss again until evenly coated. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. Divide the greens between two plates and top with the quinoa salad.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 393 calories, 20.2g total fat, 40.3mg cholesterol, 51.4mg sodium, 791.2mg potassium, 34.2g carbohydrates, 5.3g fiber, 9.6g sugar, 20g protein

Fish Poached in Ghee

I think I mentioned in yesterday’s post that The Young One is picky about fish – he pretty much refuses to touch it, unless it’s shellfish – so Beloved and I tend to eat it at lunch.  Since our time at lunch is generally limited, I tend to cook fish recipes that are pretty quick and easy.  And really, really tasty.

This is one of those recipes.

Really, this dish is simplicity itself and is ready in 10 minutes.  It’s a classic preparation of fish, lemon and butter, only due to my issues with cow’s dairy, I substitute ghee – all of the flavor of butter, without the lactose or casein.  You can certainly use butter if you prefer, but whatever you do, you should make this dish – it is just delicious.

The pretty purple stuff underneath is a purple cauliflower mash, and it was a great vehicle for the fish.  You could serve this over rice or even mashed potatoes and it would taste very good, although it would look a little…one note.  The cauliflower was a nice contrast and the light, mild flavor complimented the richness of the ghee and the tartness of the lemon really well.  If you don’t care for cauliflower, a winter squash puree – butternut, perhaps? – would be delicious, too.

I used flounder for this dish, which I just love, but you can use any mild, white fish and it will be fine.

Fish Poached in Ghee. A simple combination of lemon butter makes a tangy sauce for mild, white fish.

Click to enlarge

Fish Poached in Ghee
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 10 ounces flounder or other mild fish
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/ghee/” target=”_blank”]Ghee[/url]
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • finely chopped parsley
  • thinly sliced lemon
Instructions
  1. Lightly season the fish fillets with the salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.
  2. Melt the ghee in a saute pan over low heat; stir in the lemon juice. Add the fish to the pan and spoon the ghee/lemon mixture over the fillets. Cover and cook, turning once, until the fish becomes opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.
  3. Using a spatula, transfer the fish to two warmed plates. Pour the pan sauce over the fish, and garnish with the parsley and lemon slices. Serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 305 calories, 25.8g total fat, 124.9mg cholesterol, 422.8mg sodium, 241.5mg potassium, <1g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, 17.9g protein

Curried Mango Tuna Cakes

We keep canned tuna – line caught, of course – in the pantry pretty much all of the time.  It makes for a quick lunch in the form of tuna salad if we have no leftovers from the night before.

Yesterday was one of those days, but I didn’t feel like tuna salad.  I felt like crab cakes, but I had no crab.  There was the tuna, though – and some curry powder, a mango, a red bell pepper and some cilantro.

This delicious recipe, based on my Gluten-Free Crab Cake recipe, was the result.  Between the two of us, we ate the entire batch – they were that good.

Just a couple of notes:  I didn’t have time to refrigerate the cakes before frying, so they were a little fragile and tended to fall apart when flipped.  Just keep that in mind if you don’t have time to refrigerate them beforehand.  For the same reason, don’t cook them over a heat that is more than medium, especially if you don’t refrigerate them – they will stay together much better and won’t over-brown.

Other than that, these went really well with a squeeze of lime, guacamole and some spicy sriracha mayo.  And they’re Whole30 complaint, too.

Curried Mango Tuna Cakes. Give the humble tuna cake a sweet and spicy twist with curry powder and diced mango!

Curried Mango Tuna Cakes
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 10 ounces canned tuna, drained
  • 1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • coconut oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Gently combine all of the ingredients except the coconut oil in a medium mixing bowl. Carefully shape into five patties; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Gently fry the tuna cakes until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes per side.
  3. Serve with fresh lime and guacamole or cocktail sauce.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 339 calories, 23.2g total fat, 111.7mg cholesterol, 863.7mg sodium, 312.9mg potassium, 14.7g carbohydrates, 5.4g fiber, 6.4g sugar, 19g protein

Fish Tacos

I’m running very late today – we’re still quite swamped at work and the Insomnia Fairy decided to pay me a visit last night; I’m operating on about 3 hours of sleep.

Oh, menopause, how I hate you.

Anyhoo.  I’ve talked here before about the famed 80/20 rule, made popular by Mark Sisson.  Basically, if you eat “cleanly” 80% of the time, the other 20% you don’t doesn’t impact your health too terribly badly.  Some people use their 20% leeway to consume things like beer, pizza and Snickers bars; we tend to use our 20% to eat things like Blackberry Buckle and Western Style Beans, along with the occasional serving of corn, rice or white potatoes.

This recipe falls under the things we eat 20% of the time that are less than optimal.  It’s high in calories, fat (albeit healthy fats) and carbohydrates, and certainly isn’t something we eat on a regular basis.  But it’s also not nearly as bad as, say, a Big Mac or a bucket of chicken from the Colonel.

The less than optimal part of this dish is, of course, the corn tortillas.  Which I happen to love, and am thrilled to have found a local source for some that are processed with just lime and salt.  Corn, like white rice, is one of those grains that falls in the “greyish” part of the paleo spectrum, and as Mr. Sisson explains to us, when made into tortillas, isn’t necessarily all that bad:

[blockquote]Corn tortillas are probably the best way to consume corn. By their very definition, corn tortillas are subjected to nixtamalization, an ancient form of corn processing that reduces antinutrients like phytic acid, unlocks B-vitamins like niacin, and fights back against mycotoxins. It also increases the available protein content of the corn while increasing the bioavailability of the calcium. In other words, it makes a fairly nutritionally-poor food a bit more nutritious.[/blockquote]

I can deal with that, so every so often we pick up a package and make something like, well, this.

Fish tacos are one of Beloved’s favorite Mexican dishes, and I’m rather partial to them, too.  They’re not hard; in this recipe I used perch filets, although any mild white fish would do, cut them into strips and dredged them in an egg wash then a seasoned blend of hazelnut and tapioca flours before frying them in lard.  The lime-cilantro sauce turned out better than I could have hoped for – drizzled over the crispy fish it was just wonderful.  And chances are you won’t use all of it, so the calories and fat content of the recipe are probably a bit overstated.

Of course, if you are avoiding all grains at all times or have a corn allergy, you can eat these in lettuce leaves and it will still be wonderful – it will also knock the carb count down to about 14 grams per serving, which constitutes “low carb” in my book.  If you want to avoid frying it, use a firm fish that stands up well to grilling.

Fish Tacos. Crisp and delicious, these classic fish tacos are served with an addictive lime-cilantro mayo!

Fish Tacos
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound mild white fish, cut into strips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 cup lard, or other fat suitable for frying
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
  2. Heat the lard to 350 F in a large heavy skillet.
  3. Whisk the egg and water together in a bowl large enough to hold the fish; in a wide, shallow dish, stir together the hazelnut and tapioca flours, salt, pepper and cayenne.
  4. Dip the fish in the egg wash, then dredge it in the flour mixture until well-coated, shaking off any excess. Fry in the lard until the fish is cooked through and the outside is brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels.
  5. Wrap the tortillas in a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, turning halfway through.
  6. Place two tortillas on each plate; top each with some shredded lettuce, diced tomato and fried fish. Drizzle with the lime cilantro mayonnaise and garnish with thinly sliced red onion and a slice of avocado, if desired.
  7. Serve immediately.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 592 calories, 39.8g total fat, 111mg cholesterol, 582.8mg sodium, 523.5mg potassium, 39.1 grams carbohydrates, 4.8 grams fiber, 2.5 grams sugar, 19.4 grams protein

Tuna Casserole

You have spoken, and today’s recipe is Tuna Casserole.

An incredibly delicious, grain and casein-free tuna casserole (you can make it completely dairy free by subbing the ghee with coconut oil).

The Young One wouldn’t touch it, but that didn’t surprise me – he won’t eat traditional tuna noodle casserole, either, so he got a bacon and cheese omelet.  Beloved and I ate it, though, and we LOVED it.  Better yet, there were plenty of leftovers the next day for lunch, and this reheats very, very well.

The casserole could easily be modified in lots of ways – use steamed or roasted spaghetti squash instead of the grated cauliflower, and just about any combination of vegetables you like.  If you’re okay with dairy, you can use whole milk instead of the combination of water and coconut and almond milks and by all means, throw in a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, although the casserole is just fine without it.  It would also be quite good with leftover chicken or turkey in place of the tuna.

Note:  I thickened the sauce with a combination of tapioca and potato flour and I think that works much better for gravies and white sauce than tapioca flour alone.  If you’re avoiding white potatoes all together, just use 1/4 cup of tapioca flour; it should still be fine.

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large celery stalk diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups grated cauliflower
  • 2 six-ounce cans water-packed tuna, drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon potato flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the tablespoon melted ghee with the almond flour in a small bowl until the mixture is crumbly and set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat and cook the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender-crisp, another 5 minutes. Stir in the tuna and cauliflower; remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons ghee in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Stir in the tapioca and potato flours, creating a roux, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the water, coconut milk and almond milk; increase the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the sauce evenly over the tuna/vegetable mixture in the skillet; sprinkle the almond flour crumble over the surface. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the casserole is browned and bubbly.
  5. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 453 calories, 35g total fat, 59.4mg cholesterol, 791.7mg sodium, 959.9mg potassium, 19.5g carbohydrates, 4.9g fiber, 5g sugar, 18.9g protein