Paleo Tuna Salad in Avocado Cups

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One of the first things I really learned to “make” on my own was my dad’s tuna salad. I distinctly remember living in my own apartment with my own kitchen for the first time and thinking that I could make anything, ANYTHING! So I made tuna salad. Anti-climatic, huh? Still, sometimes these baby steps are the sort of affirmation you need to feel confident doing more complicated things (see: pasta. What? It was college after all).  I remember calling my dad up and asking him what he put in it. His answer was simple: sweet relish, tuna, mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs, and seasonings.  Sometimes, he said, he’ll serve it  inside half an avocado. You know, because avocado makes everything taste better.

Easy enough and delicious in its simplicity, I made a lot of tuna salad over my college years, and sometimes, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I still pull out dad’s old recipe. I even bought sugar-free sweet relish one time (do not recommend), before foregoing the relish altogether, just to try to “healthify” the recipe some more. I also, over time, started to add some veggies into the mix so that it would be a more complete meal of protein and carbs. Sometimes I add the hard-boiled egg, but most times I can’t be bothered to wait long enough to make it. To me, tuna salad had always been and should always be one of those standing over the counter and throwing things together kind of meals. Hard-boiling an egg? You gotta plan that, brah.

Which brings me to my Whole30. This week for some strange reason has turned out to be a week of throwing random things together at the last-minute recipes. Once I was in this mindset, dad’s tuna salad jumped up from the well of my memory and was like, hi! I’m perfect for this! So, I set out to make a Whole30 compliant tuna salad with a homemade mayonnaise. Mostly because I wanted something in an avocado cup.

Paleo Tuna Salad in Avocado Cup
Paleo mayonnaise inspired by The Paleo Kitchen
Serves 6

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Ingredients:

1 large pastured egg
3/4 cup olive oil or other oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 7-oz cans albacore tuna
3 celery stalks, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and diced small
1/3 cup red onion, diced small
3 tbsps fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 avocados, cut in half around the seed and pitted

Directions:

1. Add the egg, olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and 1/8 tsp salt to a medium container (I used the container that came with my immersion blender). Place the blender in the bottom of the cup, then turn it on high-speed and blend until the bottom begins to turn white and frothy. Then, slowly lift the immersion blender blade up through the rest of the mixture so that the oil mixes in well. Once everything is mixed in, which should take no longer than 30 seconds, turn off the blender. Pour the mayonnaise into a mason jar or other airtight container for storage, but reserve 1/3 cup for the tuna salad.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, use a fork to break the tuna up into small pieces. Once small, add the celery, the onion, the parsley, the reserved 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, the garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

3. Mix until everything is well-distributed and the mayonnaise coats the fish. Feel free to add more mayo if you like a creamier tuna salad.
IMG_86204. On a small plate, put down one half of the avocado and then use a spoon to top with the tuna salad. . Garnish with extra parsley and serve!
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Whole30 Ready, Maybe

By December of 2014, I’d gained back about 10 pounds of the 30 I’d lost the year before. I’ve run the gamut of emotions on that one, but one of those, luckily, is a tepid sense of accomplishment, because, even though I weigh more on the scale, my measurements have more or less remained the same (everywhere except my hips; thanks, Latina side of me). I know I have weightlifting to thank for this, as I have actually been consistently going to Bodypump (weightlifting classes) with a good friend/coworker of mine since last summer. I went from barely being able to carry my own groceries to seeing visible, measurable muscle on my body that I’m actually pretty damn proud of. It turns out, I like being strong. Like, really like it. And it also turns out that my body likes building muscle (and still mostly hates cardio).

But, while I can attribute some of the weight gain to muscle, I know it’s probably not realistic that all of it is just dem gainz (despite how hard I tried to convince myself that I was eating so much because I was bulking haha). I knew I needed to get my eating back in check, especially after the decadence that was those winter holiday months. Don’t get me wrong, I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time. I am a big believer in the spirit of the paleo diet–meat and veggies and fats–and I’ve grown to actually really like those things. I don’t eat pasta or grains or most dairy not because I’m just blindly following some rules but because I actually don’t really want any of it. I like food, and I like a lot of it, and the amount of veggies I can for the same calories as a plate of pasta is truly astounding. To me, clean eating is nice because it appeals to my psychological desire for quantity.

But my one real weakness? Sugar. Oh sugar. Even with all I know about sugar (you should really see Fed Up if you haven’t already), even with as much rationalizing as I can do about it, it’s just so hard for me to quit it. Sugar is the one thing  I know I can actually trim from my diet and would help. I also knew that I needed to cut back on portions, and while I think the idea of intuitive eating is great, I prefer measurable data so I started calorie counting in January. It’s helped, some. I’ve had some losses and some gains, but with a bachelorette trip to Mexico approaching, it’s time to hunker down.

So, starting Monday, a couple friends and I will be starting our first ever Whole30 (which will turn out to be more of a Whole27 or so because we had a Supper Club meeting planned Sunday and rather than cheat early on, we decided to start the day after, but I digress). The good thing is that Whole30 (a pared down intro to the paleo diet) is really not that different from my everyday eating. But those few things I will have to actually change, mostly concerning my Badboy-friend Sugar, is gonna be hard. I will try to update you on the journey here so that it can help keep me accountable, but, as you know from my lack of blogging, sometimes it can be hard to sit down and write. In the meantime though, I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever tried Whole30? Did you enjoy it? What were your results? Did it have any lasting impact on the way you eat? Are you interested in trying it down the line?

I know, I know. It’s been an absurdly long time since I last posted. But, life, you know: guests, birthdays, travel, more birthdays, more travel, emotional and physical exhaustion from all of the above. It’s a good one, but it’s life, nonetheless. And while I’m planning on posting either a real recipe or a recap of my travels sometime soon, in the meantime, I came across this super helpful discussion of what exactly all those descriptors on the chicken you buy means. I’ve often thought that sometimes the more you learn about eating healthy, mindfully, and conscientiously, the more you find out how much you don’t know. There’s a lot of obfuscation going around in the marketing world, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. So, I hope this article helps clear up some questions you might have!

Sometimes the internet has fun things (whaaaaat?). This new site is one of those things. If you suffer from the highly toxic medical malady of restaurant indecision, this website might be the cure you’ve been looking for! The site is in the beta stages, and I think it would be great if you could filter through for diet concerns (i.e. Paleo, gluten-free, etc), but it’s still a great concept!

Watermelon Mint Salad and How to Cook the Perfect Steak in the Oven

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Long title, I know. But really, this recipe is two recipes in one. You could easily make the watermelon salad by itself if you’re just looking for a nice, refreshing side. Or you could also make just the steak. Or, best of all, you could just make both.

Just like the restaurant in Denver where I first had it on a weekend trip with Mr. LF and our friends K and M a month ago. After two days of hiking in the wonderful Colorado mountains, we’d decided it was time to explore the city we were actually staying in. Our first stop was The Great Divide brewery, which was so great  (see what I did there?)that we didn’t actually end up exploring very far. But it was totally worth a lovely afternoon sampling all their beers and doing a fun tour around the brewery.

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Side note: While we were there, small world that it is, we actually ended up seeing one of M’s friends that she’d met while studying abroad! Isn’t that crazy? I love those serendipitous moments. But anywho, with the beer running through my system, both literally and figuratively, I became curious about this group of locals waiting in line with me for the restroom. I feel like typically only tourists end up going to these sorts of things, so I decided to chat them up. I asked their opinions on this brewery versus others, and they said Great Divide was a good one and also suggested a German-style brewery that Mr. LF and I spent our last day at. They also volunteered that if we were looking for a great place to eat that was close by, we should check out Steuben’s. Since yelp hadn’t actually been steering us in the right direction, we decided to give it a try.

Beer tends to fill me up, so I wasn’t actually that hungry when we got there. Which meant that I thought I’d take the opportunity to order a salad off the menu, something I rarely do. When the waiter came around, I ordered the watermelon mint salad, and he asked whether I wanted grilled chicken or flank steak on top. Although I typically don’t give in to these up-sells, the drunk munchies had me giving an enthusiastic, “YES steak please!”

Thus, this salad was born. It could definitely have been the beer talking, but it was the best salad I’d had in a long time. I knew that I would recreate it as soon as I got home, and here it is! Feel free to use any protein you want–I’ve made this with beef sirloin and ribeye and with the backstrap of a nilgai.. And, since it’s summer, feel especially free to put it on the grill instead of cooking it in the oven! =) Happy 4th!

Watermelon Mint Salad with Grilled Steak
Serves 2

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Ingredients:

2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
2 handfuls spinach or other leafy green (I’ve used arugula before with great results)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup mint leaves (about 15 leaves) or more, to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Optional: goat feta cheese
1 lb grass-fed steak of choice
1 tbsp coconut oil or bacon grease, melted

Directions:

For the salad
1. In a large bowl, mix together the watermelon, cucumber, and spinach.
IMG_75682. Mince your mint leaves.

3. Add the minced leaves to a small bowl, and add in the honey, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
IMG_75744. Whisk together until well blended, and pour the dressing in the large bowl with the veggies. Mix until well-coated. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate while you make the steak.

For the steak:
5. Open the package of steak, and drain any juices. Place the steak on a cutting board, and use a few paper towels to blot the steak dry. Let the steak come to room temperature if it isn’t already.
IMG_75826. Turn on your oven’s broiler to high, and place an oven rack about 6-8 inches below the broiler. Put a cast iron grill pan (or regular skillet) on the rack to heat it up with the oven.
7.  Using a pastry brush, brush the coconut oil or bacon grease onto both sides of the steak. Generously season each side with the salt and pepper.
IMG_75838. Turn a burner on your stove to medium high. Make sure that your house is well-ventilated, as the pan and the steak are going to produce a lot of smoke (I put a fan in my window that pulls the smoke outside)!
9. Using an oven mitt, carefully take the cast iron pan out of the oven, and place it on the burner you turned on earlier. I like to put a little bit more of the bacon grease into the pan at this point to help keep it from sticking.
IMG_758510. Use tongs to place the steaks onto the hot grill pan. It will sizzle and smoke! DO NOT TOUCH IT. Cook the steak for 30 seconds. Then, flip it over and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
IMG_758711. Use your oven mitt to put the cast iron pan with the steak back into the oven. Turn off your stove burner, and cook the steak for 2 minutes in the oven. After two minutes, open the oven, and use your tongs to flip the steaks one more time. Cook for an additional 2 minutes for a medium rare to medium steak. If you’d like it closer to being well-done, leave for another minute.
IMG_759012. Take the pan and steaks out of the oven, and remove the steaks to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil to allow them to rest (this is where the juices redistribute so you don’t get a dry steak) for about 5 minutes.

13. While the steak is resting, take your salad out of the fridge, and plate onto two large bowls. If you eat cheese, sprinkle some of the feta over it.
14. After 5 minutes, slice your steak against the grain, and then fan the pieces on top of your salad!
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Watermelon Mint Salad and How to Cook the Perfect Steak in the Oven
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced
  • 2 handfuls spinach or other leafy green (I've used arugula before with great results)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup mint leaves (about 15 leaves) or more, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Optional: goat feta cheese
  • 1 lb grass-fed steak of choice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or bacon grease, melted
Directions
  1. For the salad
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the watermelon, cucumber, and spinach.
  3. Mince your mint leaves.
  4. Add the minced leaves to a small bowl, and add in the honey, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together until well blended.
  5. Pour the dressing in the large bowl with the veggies, and mix until well-coated. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate while you make the steak.
  6. For the steak:
  7. Open the package of steak, and drain any juices. Place the steak on a cutting board, and use a few paper towels to blot the steak dry. Let the steak come to room temperature if it isn't already.
  8. Turn on your oven's broiler to high, and place an oven rack about 6-8 inches below the broiler. Put a cast iron grill pan (or regular skillet) on the rack to heat it up with the oven.
  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the coconut oil or bacon grease onto both sides of the steak. Generously season each side with the salt and pepper.
  10. Turn a burner on your stove to medium high. Make sure that your house is well-ventilated, as the pan and the steak are going to produce a lot of smoke (I put a fan in my window that pulls the smoke outside)!
  11. Using an oven mitt, carefully take the cast iron pan out of the oven, and place it on the burner you turned on earlier. I like to put a little bit more of the bacon grease into the pan at this point to help keep it from sticking.
  12. Use tongs to place the steaks onto the hot grill pan. It will sizzle and smoke! DO NOT TOUCH IT. Cook the steak for 30 seconds. Then, flip it over and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  13. Use your oven mitt to put the cast iron pan with the steak back into the oven. Turn off your stove burner, and cook the steak for 2 minutes in the oven. After two minutes, open the oven, and use your tongs to flip the steaks one more time. Cook for an additional 2 minutes for a medium rare to medium steak. If you'd like it closer to being well-done, leave for another minute.
  14. Take the pan and steaks out of the oven, and remove the steaks to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil to allow them to rest (this is where the juices redistribute so you don't get a dry steak) for about 5 minutes.
  15. While the steak is resting, take your salad out of the fridge, and plate onto two large bowls. If you eat cheese, sprinkle some of the feta over it.
  16. After 5 minutes, slice your steak against the grain, and then fan the pieces on top of your salad!