It’s easy to fall into food ruts. We cruise over to the meat counter and pick up the same proteins we always do. Meals can be much more interesting than that — just by varying the proteins we prepare, which are the basis of a meal for most folks — our meals become so much more interesting.

Plus, kids who see their parents set an example of choosing and preparing a whole spectrum of foods have a much better chance of becoming adults who find in food a real source of joy.

These recipes use tuna, chicken, beef and pork, incorporating lots of healthy veggies and interesting flavors and textures from varied cuisines.

Tuna Stir-fry Over Whole-Wheat Vermicelli

Makes 6 (1 cup) servings.

12 ounce tuna steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 teaspoon canola oil

Canola oil cooking spray

1 garlic clove, smashed

2 pieces ginger, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

1 large carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces

8 to 12 spears asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and tops cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 cup frozen edamame beans, thawed

Stir-Fry Sauce:

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

1 pound whole wheat vermicelli, cooked according to box instructions

— In medium bowl, toss tuna with canola oil (this ensures perfectly seared tuna). Set aside.

Heat wok or large, heavy skillet to medium-high to high heat. Spray canola oil cooking spray to coat skillet; add smashed garlic and ginger pieces to flavor oil. After 20 seconds, add carrots. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add asparagus. Spray more canola oil if necessary to keep vegetables from sticking. Cook for additional 2 minutes or until asparagus is bright green and carrots are tender. Remove vegetables from skillet and set aside on flat plate.

Spray skillet with canola oil cooking spray or oil. Add mushroom pieces. Cook for 2-3 minutes until browned. Remove from skillet and set aside with other vegetables.

Reheat pan to medium to high to high heat. Add tuna in two batches without crowding skillet. Gently move tuna around with spatula. Sear tuna until just cooked. Remove first batch from skillet and set aside. Repeat with second batch, leaving in wok or skillet.

Return carrots, asparagus and mushroom to wok or skillet. Add edamame and first batch of tuna. Make a well in center of stir-fry ingredients and pour sauce in middle. Coat vegetables with sauce and quickly bring to a boil. Serve tuna-vegetable mix over hot vermicelli.

Tips: It’s important to cut vegetables the same size so they cook evenly. Feel free to use the vegetables you have available.

— Per serving: 440 calories, 6g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 65g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 32g protein.

(Created by “Top Chef” contestant Carla Hall)

Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad

Makes 6 (2/3 cup) servings.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 15

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups whole wheat penne pasta, cooked

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled or cooked, cut into cubes

1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 small red onion, sliced in rings

1/4 teaspoon ground oregano

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly chopped basil

— In small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, canola oil and garlic. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, Parmesan, tomatoes, onion, oregano and pepper, tossing gently. Stir in balsamic mixture and basil, tossing gently again. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to two days.

— Per serving: 270 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 377mg potassium, 34g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 5g sugars, 21g protein.

(Created by Alison Lewis)

“Bulgogi” is a Korean term for marinated, barbecued beef. Wrap it up in lettuce leaves to make mini bulgogi bites.

Beef Bulgogi

Makes 8 (1 cup) servings.

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 pounds rib-eye steak, trimmed, cut into very thin strips

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

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1 green pepper cut into 1/4 inch strips

1 head lettuce, separated into individual leaves

— In large non-stick skillet, heat canola oil. Add beef strips and saute over medium-high heat until just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove set aside.

In small bowl, combine soy sauce, garlic chili sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Mix well.

Toss onions into heated skillet and cook until onions are just tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add green pepper strips and beef back to pan and heat through, about 1 to 2 minutes.

To serve, roll up beef mixture in lettuce leaves.

— Per serving: 200 calories, 11g total fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 270mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 17g protein.

(CanolaInfo Virtual Test Kitchen)

(Above three recipes, courtesy Canola Test Kitchen)

Easy Cheesy Pork Chop and Rice Casserole

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Makes 4 servings.

4 bone-in or boneless pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick

2 cups cooked long-grain white rice

2 cups frozen vegetable mix, thawed

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for casserole dish

1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley (optional)

— Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, vegetables, cheddar, ricotta or cottage cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, sprinkle the Parmesan on top, and set aside.

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the chops and cook until browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Arrange the chops, browned side up, on top of the rice mixture and bake until the rice mixture is hot and the chops are cooked to 145 degrees, about 30 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 3 minutes.

Serve the chops over the rice mixture, sprinkled with the parsley, if using.

— Per serving: 850 calories, 29g fat, 14g saturated fat, 190mg cholesterol, 420mg sodium, 81g carbohydrates, 63g protein, 2g fiber.

(National Pork Board)

Reach Karen Herzog at 701-250-8267 or karen.herzog@bismarcktribune.com.

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