Tuna Tomato Pasta: The Pantry Friendliest Recipe I Know

Tuna tomato pasta – simple and flavorful. Basically a meal in a dish although I usually try and add a side vegetable.

So I am writing this post because I wanted to link to this recipe but realized I have been making it so long (and have changed it so much) that I no longer know where I learned the original recipe. It is one of my brainless crowdpleasers and an easy and affordable way to eat more fish (for those healthy omega-3 fatty acids).

This is probably the meal I am most likely to be able to make from what is in my pantry. I realize not everyone has the same pantry, but the instructions are pretty flexible so you can adapt the ingredients to what you might have available.

Here’s what you need:
  • 1/2 an onion (or like 1 small onion, usually my grocery store has giant onions)
  • Garlic, a few cloves (or you could use 1 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic)
  • 15-oz can tomatoes/tomato sauce or 1 small can tomato paste + enough water to make it about 15-oz/2 cups
  • 1-2 cans tuna (you can probably also use canned chicken or canned beans/lentils)
  • 1/2-1 lb pasta (I like to use whole wheat, but use what you have – gluten-free, lentil pasta, or rice pasta should work just as well)
  • Oil of some kind – I used olive
  • Spices (I like dried basil primarily for this, but last time I threw in some thyme and rosemary as well and it was good. You can also use an Italian seasoning)
  • Salt
In this picture, there are the ingredients I use: olive oil, canned tomatoes, salt, onion, garlic, tuna, whole wheat pasta, and a container of dried basil

You will also need a cutting board and a knife to chop your onions, a small pot/pan to make the sauce in, and a pot to boil your pasta. And a stove.

Here’s how to make it:
  1. Cut up your onion – smaller is better, but don’t stress too much about it.
  2. Put a few tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium-high heat and once that is warm, add your onions and a little bit of salt (like 1/2 teaspoon) and let them cook while you…
  3. Mince up a few cloves of garlic, or if you are using minced garlic or garlic powder, skip to the next step.
  4. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds-1 minute (garlic burns fast).
  5. Add your spices. I like to use a lot of dried basil, but you can use Italian seasoning, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or a combination.
  6. Dump in your canned tomatoes or tomato sauce or the tomato paste that you have mixed with water.
  7. Stir this so it’s combined, then turn up the heat to bring to a simmer (so it is very slowly bubbling). Then cover it with a lid and turn it to low.
  8. While this is simmering, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box – I find this takes 15-20 minutes counting the time for the water to boil which is a good amount of time for the sauce to simmer.
  9. Once your pasta is cooked and drained, drain the tuna as well and flake it into the sauce and stir until it’s combined, then combine the sauce with the pasta

This is even pretty good leftover and doesn’t even smell too fishy when you warm it up. It’s also good with Parmesan on top.

This is what the pasta looks like

As you can see the amounts are flexible – if you like a saucier pasta, use less pasta or more tomatoes. If you want a higher protein/lower carb ratio, use less pasta and more tuna. If you used canned tomatoes and don’t like chunks, mash the sauce or use an immersion blender or food processor (in small batches please) to blend it before you combine with the pasta and tuna.

This batch was made with ~1/2 lb of pasta, 2 cans of tuna, and 1 can of tomatoes, just give you an idea of what those ratios look like.

Below is the recipe card I dug out of the box – in case you want to just have a picture of the recipe 🙂

Happy eating 🙂

Roasting Winter Vegetables

Skip right to the instructions.

I realize it’s almost spring, but it is still the time for winter vegetables – at least in the northern hemisphere. I’m thinking of squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, kobacha, and delicata squash. I’m also thinking of those hearty root vegetables: potatoes, turnips, carrots, and onions to name a few.

I’m here to tell you that if you have an oven, or even a toaster oven, roasting vegetables is highly recommendable. Why?

  1. Out of the total cooking time, only a small portion actually requires you to be in the kitchen. The rest is done by your oven while you read a book or wash your dishes or make the rest of your dinner or scroll through Instagram. I am writing this post while Brussels Sprouts roast in the oven
  2. It brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of these veggies – sometimes this can make them more palatable to kids (or adults) who aren’t vegetable fans
  3. Roasted vegetables are versatile: they can be a side for meat or eggs, stirred into pasta or cooked grains, cooled and put in a salad, or pureed to go in a soup or sauce.
  4. Everyone needs to eat vegetables. Roasted vegetables is a delicious way to eat vegetables that is adaptable to almost any diet pattern
  5. It’s a flexible and pretty forgiving method for cooking
  6. It will warm up your house and make it smell good

Imagine half your plate full of delicious roasted vegetables, either tender and sweetly-flavored or savory, browned, and crisp.

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven so it can be heating up while you prepare your vegetables. Preheat to 350 F if you want slow-cooked, tender and sweeter vegetables. Preheat to 500 F if you want crispy, browned vegetables that will roast faster. Or go for something in the middle. If you have something else you are baking (meat, fish, bread) and it needs a certain temperature, you can roast the vegetables at that temperature so it can all be in the oven at the same time. It’s flexible 🙂

2. Wash and cut your vegetables so they are pretty evenly sized (or skip this step altogether by using frozen vegetables, which are already washed and cut for you). It doesn’t really matter what size the pieces are as long as the size is fairly consistent. This is important so they will cook at the same rate. If they’re not exactly the same, it’s ok; they’ll just be cooked to slightly different levels. Watch this video from America’s Test Kitchen for instructions on how to cut vegetables safely. (Have a butternut squash? Here’s a video specifically on how to cut this sometimes tricky vegetable)

3. Put your veggies in a bowl and toss with oil. I like to add oil because it helps the seasonings stick, and it helps the vegetables not stick to the pan.

From a nutritional perspective, using a vegetable oil like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil can add some healthy fats, which are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A (which you’ll be getting from those yellow and orange veggies). Use a small amount if you are aiming for a low-fat or low-calorie diet (a teaspoon will go a long way). If you prefer to avoid adding oil altogether, I will refer you to the Minimalist Baker who has written this great post about oil-free vegetable roasting; it’s not an area where I have much experience.

4. Add seasoning and toss some more. This can be as simple as salt and pepper or a seasoned-salt. You can also get creative – use curry powder or garlic powder and oregano or taco seasoning – whatever sounds good to you. For a lower-sodium option, use only spices for flavor – no salt. Go light on seasoning at first. You can add more after it’s cooked if it’s too bland.

5. Roast! Spread the veggies out on a baking pan. You can line the pan with parchment paper, foil, or a silicone mat to help with clean up, but it’s not necessary (especially since you added some oil to your veggies). Now put them into the oven! Set your timer for 15 minutes.

6. After 15 minutes, shuffle the vegetables around on the pan by pushing them around with a big spoon or spatula and check to see if they are done by poking them with a fork to see how tender or crisp they are.

7. Keep roasting for 5-30 more minutes, (unless they are already done) until they are the texture you like. The amount of time will depend on which vegetables you are using (harder vegetables will take longer), the temperature of your oven, the size of the cut, and the texture you want.

Eat and enjoy!

What vegetables do you like to roast? How do you like to eat them? Share in the comments, or on instagram or facebook with #nutritionforrealhumans

31 Meals that Require Zero Cooking: Sandwiches and Wraps

It seems to me that there are infinite “easy” cooking recipes out there that range from actually easy, to probably easy for someone who grew up in the kitchen, to maybe easy for a trained chef who has a fully stocked kitchen and a sous chef.

The goal with this series (starting with sandwiches and wraps) is to be a list of ideas that require (as the title says) zero cooking. Because maybe you like cooking, but are in a crazy busy season of life and don’t have time. Maybe you live in a place with only a mini fridge and no utensils to prep with. Or maybe you just don’t like cooking and have better things to do than spend time chopping, slicing, braising, sauteing, and/or cleaning up. Granted, some of these things will take a little prep, but – stay with me – it’s mostly opening packages and dumping things together or maybe spreading something with a knife. I’ve even made this list so you don’t even need to heat anything up.

The components for all of these meals are a bread or grain wrap + filling (usually protein) + fruit or vegetable

This model makes sure the meal includes at least 3 food groups on USDA’s MyPlate. If there is already a fruit or vegetable in the filling, adding another fruit or veggie on the side, makes it even closer to the goal of 1/2 the plate being fruit and/or vegetables.

For more information on USDA’s MyPlate, visit choosemyplate.gov

Bread or Wrap:

  1. Sliced whole grain bread
  2. Hoagie roll
  3. Sliced sourdough
  4. Whole grain tortilla
  5. Whole grain pita
  6. Gluten-free sandwich wrap
  7. Whole grain waffles

These are just some examples, as there are so many bread options. Choosing a whole grain option will make for a higher-fiber and more filling meal.

Fruit or Vegetable:

  1. You can use a whole fruit or vegetable that’s ready to eat, like an apple or carrot (just rinse these) or banana or mandarin orange.
  2. You can also use packaged produce that is already prepared, like bagged spinach, baby carrots, or a jar of pickles.
  3. Most grocery stores also sell pre-washed and cut fruits and veggies in the produce section.
  4. A grocery store with a pay-by-weight salad bar can also be a resource for purchasing already washed and prepared veggies in smaller amounts (think shredded cabbage, pickled beets, or sliced cucumbers).

Protein fillings:

  1. Peanut/almond/cashew/sun butter
  2. Nut butter and jelly
  3. Nut butter and honey
  4. Nut butter and sliced fruit
  5. Nut butter and lettuce/spinach + optional mayo (I know it sounds weird, but some people like it)
  6. Turkey (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish or even guacamole)
  7. Turkey and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish, or guacamole)
  8. Turkey and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, Sriracha, horseradish, or guacamole)
  9. Turkey and cheese and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, or guacamole)
  10. Roast beef (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
  11. Roast beef and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
  12. Roast beef and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, guacamole, or Sriracha)
  13. Ham (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, or guacamole – not sure if guac would go well with ham but fine if you want to try it)
  14. Ham and cheese (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, hot sauce, or guacamole)
  15. Baloney (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, hot sauce, or guacamole)
  16. Cheese (any cheese besides cream cheese can work as a protein food)
  17. Cheese and veggie (add ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, Sriracha, or guacamole)
  18. Salami/pastrami/hot dog (salami and other sausages are higher in fat and sodium, so better to choose this less often, however – still provides protein)
  19. Tuna salad (many stores sell tuna salad already mixed OR make your own by mixing canned tuna with mayo or guac or yogurt and some salt or pepper)
  20. Chicken salad (see above – you can add flavor to either of these with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, or a spice mix packet)
  21. Hummus and veggies – particularly ones with crunch – snap peas, lettuce, shredded carrots, small tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, sliced cabbage
  22. Egg salad (buy egg salad already made or mash up some hard-boiled eggs with mustard, salt, pepper, mayonnaise, paprika or whatever other spices you like in your hard-boiled eggs)
  23. Eggless salad (same as egg salad, but mash up tofu instead)
  24. Tofu and veggies (definitely want to add some flavor to this using soy sauce, hot sauce, Sriracha, etc. as tofu is pretty bland)*
  25. Pre-cooked chicken, lettuce, and Caesar dressing*
  26. Beans (baked beans or black beans, pinto beans or garbanzo beans, chili beans or white beans – add hot sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, or taco seasoning to plain beans)*
  27. Bean and cheese *
  28. Bean and salsa/guac/hot sauce*
  29. Bean and cheese and salsa/guac/hot sauce*
  30. Yogurt and fruit*
  31. Yogurt and fruit and nuts*

*These would probably work best as a wrap, but you could certainly make them into a messy sandwich

Some of these ideas might seem obvious, but just because they are super easy and common doesn’t mean they aren’t a good meal. Feel free to share your sandwich/wrap ideas in the comments.

And of course, this are general ideas and guidelines. They are not intended to treat any specific health condition. Speak with your doctor or dietitian about your specific dietary needs.

Nutrition for this real human this real weekend

I wanted to share with you what my weekend was like to illustrate what my more abstract definitions look like practically. Weekends seem like maybe they would be easier because extra free time, but I find when I don’t have the weekday routine, sometimes things get a little piecemeal and hectic. So here’s how it went, food-wise, and how it fits into my definition of nutrition for real humans.

The menu of my weekend

  • Saturday Breakfast: Fried eggs, whole grain rolls, a perfectly ripe amazing pear, and a cup of coffee with almond milk. So – some protein (even pasture raised eggs because they were on sale – oooh), whole grains, fruit, and some calcium-rich liquid.
  • Saturday Lunch: Leftover squash soup (yeah veggies!) and whole grain rolls, with pepper jack cheese for some protein and calcium
  • Saturday Dinner: Slow cooker pot roast with potatoes and carrot: an all-in-one meal with protein, starch, and veggies. Slow cooker meals are awesome for weekends as long as I remember I planned them and start them before it’s 5:30 and we’re getting hungry. Heheh. Thankfully this weekend I put all the ingredients in while we were making lunch and it went about cooking and making the house smell delicious while we went about doing our chores and relaxing.
  • Saturday Dessert: Cookie dough ice cream. Which while it does have more sugar and fat then say, a glass of milk, is also a source of calcium
  • Sunday Breakfast: almonds on the way to church and a mini-chocolate donut when we got there because we got up late. Not the ideal breakfast, but better than no breakfast.
  • Sunday Lunch: Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar (read: box mac and cheese) because we had to rush to a friend’s place to hang out and ate ½ a LaraBar (fruit and nuts) on the way. Still not my ideal nutrition but at least there were more than 2 food groups included and again, better than not eating.
  • Sunday Second Lunch: Vegetable chili and meat chili and a roll and some shredded cheese and chips made by our friends (and some Halloween candy).
  • Sunday Dinner: Leftover pot roast with hot sauce – I didn’t love this pot roast, but it provided sustenance.
  • Sunday Dessert: Microwave brownie with peanut butter and milk. The peanut butter adds some protein and the milk some calcium, but mostly it’s just a winning combination. How can you go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter?

So how does this fit with nutrition for real humans?

1) Evidence-based. I try and make my day look like USDA’s MyPlate. Obviously not each meal (and sometimes not each day) looks like these portions, but that’s my overall goal for the day. Protein and fruit or veggie with each meal, and multiple calcium-rich servings/day – keep in mind these are the things I’m focusing on. What you focus on may be different which leads me to…

2) Each person has unique needs/goals/preferences. I know for me it’s important that I eat at regular intervals through the day or I can’t think straight. Thus why for me a mini chocolate donut is better than no breakfast.

3) Life and meals don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re affected by your family’s preferences (that’s why we eat dessert more often – I’m married to my husband), friend outings, waking up late, or forgetting the meal you planned.

4) Do-able and practical is better than perfect! It’s why I have Lara Bars and boxed mac and cheese – because having convenient healthy-ish fast meals and snacks can make it easier to eat a meal or snack at home, rather than going out, or eat a healthy snack at all. It’s also why I had leftover pot roast with hot sauce on Sunday because even though it wasn’t my favorite, it’s still fuel.

5) What I eat doesn’t determine if I’m a good person. If Sunday’s nutrition was not “ideal”, it provided me with calories and nutrients to go through my day, and Monday is another day.

Please note, this is a description, not a prescription. See #2: every person has unique nutrition needs and goals, so what you need and what works for you might be different 🙂

Want to see more of my day to day nutrition? Follow me on Instagram.