Sesame Steak Salad


Women in my life are always complaining about salads. They don’t like them. They leave them feeling hungry an hour later. They’re not worth the hassle of makingSAM_5859

My goodness. If I had a penny for every time I heard that, I could buy a lot of salads. And most of those salads would probably be the Thai Chopped Chicken Salad at St. Louis Bread Co. or Panera to those not from St. Louis.

And I’d give a lot more than a penny to hear a man long for a salad. When pigs fly…

Ever on my mission to spread some helpful advice, I give the sad salad Sallies (and Sams) of the world one word of advice: protein.

Protein keeps you full. It helps you build muscle and powers you through the day. SAM_5864

And if you add protein to your salads, you will enjoy them more and stay fuller longer.

When I threw together this Sesame Steak Salad the other day, I meant to add edamame–an excellent source of protein–and completely forgot. I wish I had, so if you’re considering following this recipe and have some on hand, it would be a great addition!


1.5 cups Romaine lettuce

3 oz. sliced steakSAM_5863

1/2 red pepper, sliced lengthwise

a few red onions, chopped or lengthwise slices

1 t sesame seeds

radishes and chopped cabbage to garnish (although the cabbage makes for a nice crispy crunch if you need that and want to avoid fried wonton strips)


-It’s a salad, so: lettuce first, veggies next, protein on top, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and toss in dressing of your choice. If you’re taking this to work, you’ll want to add the dressing later so the salad doesn’t get soggy.

And in choosing a salad dressing, choose a good one. I love Newman’s Own Sesame-Ginger dressing. So good, good for you, and does good by giving proceeds to charity.

Spicy Tuna Burger


Sometimes you want a big, juicy burger you can sink your teeth into and come out of with a face full of ketchup-and-mustard-covered happiness.SAM_5906

I rarely feel that way. Never had a hankering for red meats and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. I like the elk meat my dad sends with me–it’s lean, antibiotic-free, and clean eating all the way–but to be perfectly honest, I usually reach for the shrimp, salmon, or chicken first (and in that order).

Does anybody else feel this way? I wonder. The one red meat I’ve never had a craving for, ever, is pork. Living in the pork capitol of the Midwest, Iowa, I sometimes feel like a social oddity. “How can you not like bacon?” I’m often asked. And I often restrain myself from asking, “How can you?” Yuck.

My purpose in sharing these observations with you is to explain why I enjoyed this recipe so much and why it might be a nice burger fix for those who feel as I do. I want the protein, but with my meats of choice.SAM_5908

Thanks to my lovely friend Sareena for pointing me towards this delicious recipe. And you know what’s so great about a small can or package of tuna? It’s about all you need to make one good-sized burger patty. Solo culinaires, rejoice!


1 small can or package of tuna, chunk light

1.5 T Panko crumbs

dash of red pepper flakes

bigger dash of cajun seasonings, if you have themSAM_5900


-Depending on how you want to prepare the burger–stove top or oven–you’ll either spray a non-stick pan with olive oil cooking spray or a broil-safe pan, respectively. Heat stove to medium-high heat or set broilers on high.

-Drain extra oils from the tuna meat. Place on a plate and begin to add in the crumbs and seasonings ’til well blended. Form into a patty. Here’s a trick: press your thumbs in the center to make it a little thinner in the middle, but don’t go donut hole, which will be too thin. Just a little thinner so that when the patty cooks and swells more in the center, the final patty will be about even in size.

-Broil for 5 minutes, flip and broil 3 more minutes. If you’re pan frying, each side will take about 6-7 minutes, but take care and flip delicately. These patties can break much easier than regular meat.

Once you get a nice, crispy golden-brown coating on each side, you’re set. Place on a whole-wheat bun, lettuce wrap, or whatever method suits your needs and top with your favorite fixings.

I didn’t try it on this one, but I have to say that some grilled pineapple or mango slices would be so delightful on this burger. Avocado, too.

Strawberry-Grapefruit Popsicles


Sparkling citrus makes me think of summertime, and strawberries make it a little sweeter.SAM_5891

So I fed my Vitamin-C fettish with this little pop and I’m so glad I did. The recipe is below and so easy. A foolproof, must-try treat.

And here’s what I’m thinking as a follow-up recipe: Champagne-Grapefruit Pops. Sounds perfect for brunch or a girls get together. (This thought is largely attributable to the DVD playing in the background–SATC.)


1 large grapefruitSAM_5886

3-4 medium strawberries, slices

1/4 cup plain yogurt (coconut-based is my fav)

1 T stevi

splash of vanilla extract


-Slice grapefruit and place in blender with all the other ingredients in top, but only using half of tstrawberry slices.

-Once blended down to liquid form, pour a little into each pop mold, just enough to cover the base. Drop in a few strawberry slices, add more of the liquid, slices, and so on and so forth until the moulds are full. Place the sticks in and freeze for 3-4 hours.SAM_5894

-Directly prior to serving, remove from freEr and let sit at room temperature for about five minutes or run under warm water for 10 seconds or so.

-Eat fast and enjoy liberally! Nothing bad about these healthy, sweet pops.

Zucchini Mac-and-Cheese


My foodie-paleo friend Sara and I went to a cooking class a few weeks back on gluten-free cooking. Okay, this recipe is not gluten-free, but it’s inspired by the class instructor’s zucchini pasta recipe–the one I mentioned a while back with the delicious cashew cream sauce, remember?SAM_5885

love zucchini in the summer and I’m always looking for smart, tasty ways to incorporate veggies in my pasta-protein dinners, which I eat almost every night. So zucchini works great with cream-based dishes. My little lactose intolerance problem usually steers me away from cream-based sauces, but every once in a while I splurge or hybridize the sauce to my stomach’s liking. That’s what I did here, and hopefully this solo-culinaire creation pleases others with similar dietary situations.


1/4 cup whole-wheat macaroni noodles, drySAM_5884

1/2 cup shredded zucchini

pinch of onion powder

1/2 t Dijon mustard

1 wedge of Swiss Laughing Cow cheese

3 T non-dairy cheese shreds

1/2 T Parmesan

dash of pepper


-Use my easy Mug’O’Mac recipe to boil your noodles quick! Just put your 1/4 cup of dry noodles in about 3/4 cups water and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, stir, and then 2 more minutes in the microwave. Drain when finished.

-Once noodles are dry, toss in zucchini. Mix around.

-For the sauce, break up the cheese wedge into chunks and spread around, sprinkle on the cheese shreds, then the mustard, pepper, and onion powder go in. Heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Remove and stir quickly. If still not melty enough, heat for another 15 seconds or so. Toss around until noodles are evenly coated. Serve warm and garnish with Parmesan!

S’ghetti Squash Bake


I eat a lot of squash. I’m no paleo fanatic, but I can’t get over how much I love these sweet noodles. So tasty!SAM_5825

So I’ve had my eye on some spaghetti squash bakes for a while. I finally decided to try this one. A lot of them are overloaded with cheeses–which you know will make me so sick–but this one is fresh and zesty. Plus, a sprinkle of parm on top gives it a nice cheesy taste that won’t upset the lactose intolerant.

Interestingly… When I went to make these, I thought it would be cute to place them in a ramekin. (You know, to be more single-serving like.) Imagine my surprise when all the noodles could fit into 3! What does this tell me?

First, these would make adorable sides.

Second, I eat a lot of squash noodles on a regular basis. I usually eat an entire one–a small one, but an entire one no less. And maybe that’s another reason why I like them so much. You get a lot of food that will fuel your body in a healthy way. That’s pretty great.SAM_5844

And pretty tasty.


1 small or half of one medium spaghetti squash

1 small roma tomato or a handful of grape tomatoes


2 T onion, chopped & to taste

1 T parmesan

chopped basil

dash of cayenne

1 T olive oil

spritz of lemon
-To “bake” the squash in the microwave, you’ll want to halve the squash and spritz with cooking spray. Microwave on high for 3 minutes facing down. Turn squashes upward and microwave another 3 minutes. You may need to microwave for another minute if you can’t take a fork to the squash and pull out a few tender noodles with ease. Scrape out all the noodles into a medium bowl and set aside.SAM_5835
-Meanwhile, prep ramekins by spraying with cooking spray and setting broilers on high.
-Meanwhile and meanwhile, you can start sautéing onions and tomatoes in a small frying pan with cayenne, to taste.
-Now once your squash is finished and your veggies sautéed, mix both together in one large bowl. Now spritz with lemon and toss in oil and basil.
-Dish out the squash mix evenly into ramekins. Top with a little Parmesan, if desired.
-Broil until desired crispiness is achieved. I waited about 4 minutes, once the Parmesan crumbs had melted down a bit.
-Serve right out of the oven, nice and warm.
Related articles

A Healthier Egg McMuffin


Two or three things I know for sure (about food)…SAM_5804

An egg should not be a “patty,” a hockey puck, or in any other unidentified form.

Good cheese doesn’t have to be pumped with antibiotic-laden dairy.

Bread should be made with whole grains and wholly nourishing, not white, sugary, and processed.

And nothing should be fried in hydrogenated oils, ever.

But McDonald’s classic Egg McMuffin sandwich goes against all of this. We know this. So why do people still want to eat them?

I know for sure there are a lot of reasons why people still order these sandwiches. Lack of knowledge, will power, and delay gratification are just a few.SAM_5816

But another big one is time. Let me be the first to tell you, that time can be on your side. I made this, my Healthier Egg McMuffin, in a pinch. Here’s what you need and what to do:


2 eggs

1 slice of soy-based cheddar cheese

1 whole-wheat English Muffin

optional: turkey bacon, sausage, or other meat, preferably antibiotic free


-Pull out your two eggs. Get ’em ready. If you’re using the whole egg, you’ll probably have quite a bit left over. If you’re going egg whites only like I did, you’ll be right at a good amount.

-In a small skillet, turn the heat up to medium. It should get hot rather quickly. And when you can drop a few droplets of water on the skillet and watch them sizzle, then spritz with a good deal of cooking spray and crack the eggs over. Cook for about 2 minutes until the outer edges firm up, and then turn the pan a bit, letting the runny egg that remains cook to the outsides. When a fairly thick bottom has formed, you’ll be ready to flip. If you wait too long, it’ll stick to the bottom of the pan.

-Meanwhile, get the muffin ready by toasting it lightly.SAM_5812

-When the egg is cooked all the way through, remove and fold gently to fit to the size of the muffin. Lay cheese over the top and watch it melt.

Easy, right? Like 10 minutes or less easy. You can’t be that. It’s cheaper than a McMuffin, and a lot better for you, too! You won’t feel yucky and bloated afterward, and if your arteries could talk they’d probably say thanks, just sayin’.

Protein-Packed Enchilada and Beef Eggs


Contrary to popular belief, I am not a vegetarian. But I rarely eat beef or a lot of red meat, so I can understand why so many assume I am.

But every once in a while, even this plant-preferring omnivore has a carnivorous moment.SAM_5519

The perfect storm one Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime. An open can of enchilada sauce to use, leftover strips of roast beef from a Mother’s Day outing, and a hankering for some much-needed protein of egg whites led me to a delicious reconnection with a breakfast meal traditionally reserved for the more carnivorous types.

It hit the spot, and all that protein is enough to keep you full for a long time. Here’s what I used and how I did it:


3-4 egg whitesSAM_5533

Dash of minced garlic

½ Roma tomato, few slivers of onion, and black olives

1 T enchilada sauce

1 oz. roast beef

Dash of chili powder, cumin

Optional: sliced spinach or cilantro to garnish


Prepare your eggs as you usually would. I scrambled, but you could make sunny-side up or anything else work. Remove from heat.SAM_5520

In a small skillet, heat a few drops of oil and add garlic, then onion, then tomato. Cut beef into thin strips and add that, too. Sprinkle with chili and cumin powders and let sit for a few minutes ‘til warmed through and fragrant.

Plate the eggs. Top with meat and sautéed veggies. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle on the olives and any other garnishes you’d like to add. Serve hot.

This would be so tasty with some avocado slices, but I didn’t have any on hand. Drats. Next time the protein craving hits, and I’m sure it will in due time.

Cooking Corn on the Cob: A More Nutritious Way


If you know my cooking habits by now, you know one of my favorite foods in Iowa is…e36e8f32a9e511e28e8222000aa82017_7

not Dutch letters. Cute, but not my dish.


not bacon. Iowa and pork are almost synonymous, but I still don’t like it.

Fresh, golden yellow sweet corn. Right off the cob. Almost everyday for lunch. It’s a treat for me.

When I think of Iowa, I think of an adorable little sign I once came across in the Amana Colonies, which had a vintage cartoon of an animated ear of corn proclaiming, “Everything’s sweeter in Iowa.” I think I remember it because it was (1) adorable, but (2) also very true of the people of Iowa. The culture here is mostly kind, very sweet, and living here has definitely taught me to savor the sweeter things in life a little longer than I usually do. Good balance.

I could go on, but I imagine I’ll bore many of you. So let me tell you a trick I learned recently that saves me time and keeps the nutrients in my sweet corn, not boiled out in the water I usually prepare it with.


1 ear of fresh sweet corn, in the huskSAM_5853


With the corn in the husk, simply use a knife to slice off the extra tassels hanging out of the top, and the bottom if you like.

Place in microwave and heat for 1.5 minutes. Turn over. Heat for another 1.5 – 2 minutes.

Remove from microwave.

That’s it! You’re done! I picked up this nifty tip from a fellow foodie blogger Bakerette and am so glad she shared it. You can read more here about how this way of preparing corn keeps the nutrients in your kernels, not the water we usually boil it in.


Mandarin-Edamame Salad


You always know it is potluck season when you see me posting recipes for groups. This could be easily made into single-serving recipe though, just cut everything back. Use your best judgment.SAM_5482

I was reading around on a bunch of foodie sites I found on about edamame salads. I still have a lot of shelled edamame leftover from my nutrition study, and wanted to incorporate it into this group recipe.

The funny thing was that I gave up. With salads, you can follow an exact recipe or—as anyone can read in my culinary philosophies & such—you can do a little guess work and create something you like even better. Don’t get caught up in the tiny differences. Just go with your gut. Trust what you know about flavor pairings and you’ll surprise yourself.

That’s what I did this time. I knew ginger and sesame flavors are often paired with mandarin oranges or edamame. You don’t see both together often. Overwhelming?photo (1)

Hardly. My co-workers didn’t think so either. They raved about how much they liked my salad. Part of me wonders if it was the bright contrasts in colors. I’m still a firm believer that eating is 50% visual.

But part of me thinks it was the surprise of the beans with the fruit. Americans don’t see that much, but I think edamame can be bland and so the mandarins perked it up, plus some crunch red onions and sweet red peppers for pizazz.

Hope you like it as much as my co-workers did!


1 large or 3 small heads of romaine lettuce

½ cup red onion, sliced into strips

½ cup fresh mandarin oranges

½ cup shelled edamame

½ red pepper, sliced into strips

Newman’s Own Ginger Sesame Dressing

Optional: sprinkling of sesame seedsSAM_5479


Prepare lettuce as you normally would and place in large glass bowl.

Around the rim of the bowl, sprinkle the onions and the red peppers evenly.

In the center, add the edamame and then the oranges.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you’re using those. And at this point you can drizzle the dressing on, but I wanted to be kind to fellow potluckers like myself who hate with salads are drenched in dressing. That’s gross and inconsiderate, not to mention unnecessary, really. So I left it off and let them add as they liked. I know some people, like my step-dad, like their salads drenched, while others, like myself, do not. I always let guests choose because if I go light on the dressing, I know I’ll leave some wanting more.

You can toss the salad once you’re there, but again, presentation is key. I waited, was the first one to serve and so I tossed in front of them. Maintaining the pretty contrast in colors only heightened the experience, I’m sure.

Chipotle Black Bean Burgers

You know I love turkey burgers. Love them because they’re tasty, not a red meat, and quickly becoming a favorite in my family.SAM_5551


I also love a good veggie burger or bean burger. The spice in those patties is usually phenomenal–maybe because they have a lot of skeptics?

What I don’t love is that restaurants often make them in a way that’s super caloric and overdone, sometimes dressing them up too much or making them too large and squishy to enjoy.

Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided them for so long. I never thought it would be an easy recipe. I’ve also had my fair share of goopy bean burgers, and well those are just gross.

Then I found myself with about 5 cans of black beans leftover from that nutrition study and no great ideas for how to use them. I found this black-bean burger recipe from Ari’s Menu on, and I thought, “Why not?”

Ari’s version supposedly crumbled easy, but I was surprised because mine didn’t at all. Maybe it’s because I ground the beans down a bit more than normal–I’ve adapted this one quite a bit. Or maybe my preference for broiling them is what helped them emulsify better? I’m not certain, but I’m happy they didn’t get goopy and fall apart.SAM_5535

Try them! You’ll love them, especially for a quick Meatless Monday dinner.


  • 1/2 ccup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • dash of minced garlic
  • a dash of each: chili powder, cumin, onion powder, red pepper flakes
  • 2 t ground oats or 1 t cornmeal
  • a few cilantro leaves, chopped
  • dash of hot sauce


  1. Preheat oven to broil. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients in your food processor. Blend for 20-30 seconds until combined. Remove and set on a plate or other clean surface for molding. Use your hands to form the patty, being sure not to make the patty too thin or too thick. I recommend about 1/2 an inch in thickness and well packed.SAM_5554
  3. Place on pan and broil for about 3 minutes on one side, 2 on the other. Serve immediately on a toasty bun with all your favorite veggies and a little more hot sauce if you’re feeling crazy.
  4. If you have a can with 3 to 3.5 servings you can go ahead and triple the ingredients to make extra. The directions will stay the same, just be sure to serve warm. Or if you’re a singleton like me (with no roomates or family members to serve) store leftovers in refrigerator for up to one week, or 3 months in the freezer.