Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Healthy Tuna Salad and Cucumber Bites Without Mayo

Thickly sliced organic cucumber rounds topped with wild albacore tuna salad seasoned with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and spices. These tuna salad bites are high in protein, low in carbs and make a perfect, filling midday lunch or snack.

It's time for your monthly dose of vegetable education, folks! Since starting this seasonal vegetable-driven blogging circle in April, the ladies in our group have blogged about three different types of veggies: asparagus, cauliflower and summer squash. This month we're focusing on my beloved childhood favorite: the homely cucumber. 

Ever since I can remember, I grew up munching on cucumbers in a variety of ways. Most often in the form of pickles, tuna salad sandwiches, and salads. Other times we'd dip the slices in french onion sour cream dip or eat them straight out of a mason jar after they'd soaked for a few days in a mixture of sugar and vinegar. 

I wasn't a huge fan of the vinegar part, or the onions soaking along with them, so I'd happily pick the cucumbers out and enjoy the balanced sweetness. I almost shared that vinegar soaked cucumber recipe today, but felt it was more important to impart my love for tuna salad. Simply put, it's the perfect match for cucumber. Maybe I'm a tad biased since I love them so much together, but hey...I promise it still tastes amazing.

Okay, before I rush along to the recipe, let me spill a few details about cucumbers. 

First, there are two major types of cucumbers: slicing and picking. Slicing cucumbers are generally larger with thicker skins, while the pickling cucumbers are smaller with thinner skins. Of course, there are actually loads more varieties, shapes, sizes, and colors of cucumbers, but those are the two most common you'll find in grocery stores. 

And second, here are some nutritional benefits to eating cucumbers:
  • low calories and carbs
  • no sugar
  • high water content (this helps keep you full)
  • decent about of vitamin K, C, potassium, manganese, and magnesium
You can read more about the nutritional benefits of cucumbers here.

A Healthy Tuna Salad Recipe Without Mayo

One other thing to note. Since cucumbers have Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin, you should eat them with a little bit of healthy fat. That way your body can easily absorb the vitamins. I added a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil to this tuna salad recipe, which works perfectly. 

However, many people prefer mayonnaise in their tuna salad. If that's the case, I recommend trying a homemade mayo recipe or buying a good brand made with healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. Why? Almost all store brand mayos contain soybean oil or canola oil, which are super processed (not real food) and made with GMO ingredients.  

My two favorite mayos to use for homemade dressings and salads are Primal Kitchen (you can get it cheapest here through Thrive Market) and Sir Kensington's, both of which are made with avocado oil.

No matter how you end up making this dish, one thing's for certain--you won't go hungry! Tuna has a lot of healthy protein to keep you satisfied (I love using it for tuna patties) and the high water content in cucumber fills you up. The two combined create a substantial meal that won't leave you stuffed and sleepy come midday. 

Update (April 2015): Our group decided to end the monthly veggie series awhile back since we were contacted by a gal who was trademarking that phrase. I have the okay to leave these posts up as is, so feel free to browse through them for dinner inspiration. I will continue to publish vegetable side dish recipes, just not as a part of this series. :)

Check out the other veg-ucation recipes: cauliflowerzucchiniasparagusHatch chilebutternut squash, and pumpkin.  

Healthy Tuna Salad and Cucumber Bites Without Mayo (Low-Carb)
Thickly sliced organic cucumber rounds topped with wild albacore tuna salad seasoned with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil and spices. These tuna salad bites are high in protein, low carb and make a perfect, filling midday lunch or snack. 
Yield: 6 bites (enough to feed one person for lunch or two for a snack)

1/4-1/2 an organic cucumber, sliced thickly into six rounds
1 can of tuna (I used 5 oz wild albacore tuna packed in water), drained
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste (I recommend Pink HimalayanCeltic or Utah sourced salt)
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 dashes of cayenne pepper (optional)
5 organic heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered
Green onion, sliced, to taste

Rinse the cucumber and slice off six thick rounds. Depending on how long or thick your cucumber is, that may be 1/4 or a half of the veggie. Drain the tuna and dump into a small bowl. Mash it a bit with a fork, then add in all the ingredients except for the tomatoes and green onion. 

Stir and taste, adding more seasonings to taste. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and slice the green onion, then add them to the mix. Using a measuring spoon, portion out a heaping, rounded tablespoon of the tuna salad mixture onto each cucumber slice. Sprinkle with a teensy smidgen of cayenne pepper. Serve immediately or pack away carefully in the fridge and eat within a few days.

Notes & Tips
  • Cucumbers purchased at grocery stores often have a wax coating on the skin. If you're consuming conventional (non-organic) cucumbers from a supermarket, I recommend you peel the skin off before eating. This way, you're not ingesting the wax and the chemicals used to treat it.
  • If you'd like your tuna a bit saucier, add more EVOO, mustard & lemon juice a little at a time. Or, you can substitute a bit of mayonnaise instead of the olive oil for a creamier tuna salad.
  • If you're really cool, add in pickle juice. Trust me, it tastes amazing. I didn't add any to this recipe cause people tend to either love or hate pickles. I'm obviously pro-pickle.

Want more recipe inspiration? Check out my recipe index for more simple real food dishes.

I'd like to hear from YOU!

What is your favorite way to incorporate cucumber into a dish?

Healthy Tuna Salad and Cucumber Bites Without Mayo

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