Fancier Fish

Since I’m averaging one post every 3 months, I thought I’d at least share something super easy and delicious. I was watching Giada in Italy a few days ago and caught her making a super fast fish with an easy sauce that really packs in the flavor. I’m always trying to make more fish since it’s low in calories and cooks really quickly. She made branzino and since my grocery store doesn’t regularly stock that, I just made it with snapper. Any mild flaky white fish will be fine.

Here is her recipe. I think what I love about it the most is several of the ingredients (olives, capers, evoo, butter) are pantry or long-term fridge storage items. It’s easy enough to pick up some grape tomatoes and if you don’t keep a bottle of white wine around then we can’t be friends and I think you should quit reading my blog.

TIPS: Be sure to cover your fish with tin foil so it stays warm while you make the sauce. Also, the sauce will be salty from the olives and capers, no need to add any more. If it doesn’t look like it’s thickening once the white wine is reduced a little, cut the heat. You can add the butter and it will still melt but that will allow the sauce to thicken even more before pouring it over the fish. What wine?  A crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc or even a Spanish albariño – they are delicious and undervalued! Serve the fish over a thin pasta or even zucchini noodles to keep it really healthy and light. (Or do what I did and serve it with kale chips and roasted potatoes…see all those colors? I could feel myself getting healthier.) Enjoy!IMG_7885

Back in the kitchen!

Hi there! I realize it’s been a while since my last post and I apologize. Holidays are busy with 2 babies, families, traveling (don’t recommend it) and I’m finally getting back into a good routine. I hope everyone is off to a great healthy start for the year!

Here’s what I’ve got going this week:

Monday – Fresh Market “ultimate crab cakes” over butter lettuce salad with walnut, gorgonzola and sliced pears. It was delicious and pretty hearty for crab and salad.

(I took a bite and then the photo…just couldn’t wait.)

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Tuesday – Slow cooker pulled pork tenderloin tacos. (That’s a mouthful.) I love shopping at Fresh Market because it’s small, has exactly what I need, and maintains very high quality foods. However, that means I can’t find super cheap cuts of meat like pork butt/shoulder. (It’s very fatty, perfect for slow cooking but not for the good people of FM, apparently.) I decided to do my pulled pork tacos using pork tenderloin which is so much leaner and better for you anyway. I wasn’t sure if it would “pull” apart and work, but it did! I seasoned with taco seasoning, covered with salsa and put on low for about 8 hours. (Pork butt can cook longer since it has so much more fat…) I would even consider doing maybe only 6 hours. Then I just pulled it apart with a fork and mixed it all together before making tacos topped with some cheese, shredded red cabbage and sour cream. My husband loved them!

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Wednesday – Broiled lemon snapper over lemon risotto. (Rubs palms together….)

Thursday – Chicken enchiladas. I’ll make it so much simpler by using store bough rotisserie chicken breasts and making a mixture of the chicken, some salsa and sour cream before stuffing my hand-made-style corn tortillas and topping with enchilada sauce and cheese. I may up the nutrient ante on these by adding a handful of shredded spinach.

Friday – Steak Frites. Instead of steaks and potatoes, I’m going to dress it up a little bit and make a quick compound butter by pureeing room temp butter with some gorgonzola cheese (I had leftover from Monday night) and then rolling it up and chilling it. I’ll slice some of that compound butter and put on the hot steaks! I also found some Alexia organic yukon gold fries in the frozen section. 15 minutes in the oven and we are all set. (Hubs will grill the steaks since he is the expert.) 

Hope you are inspired to give some of these a try!

 

Thanksgiving hot pockets

My dinner party was a huge hit! There was a BIT of a learning curve on making these Thanksgiving puff pastries or “Turkey and dressing Wellingtons” as I finally called them. I thought maybe I could do it like ravioli where I would just roll out the dough on the counter, place my piles of turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce, and then just lay another rolled out piece of dough on top and then cut into pieces. That was a huge fail – the dough only wanted to stick to the counter. (Yes, I floured it, I’m not a complete idiot.) So I found out the easiest way is to work quickly, roll out the dough, cut into wide strips and then lay down some sauce and gravy and then the turkey and dressing. Then I folded the other piece over and pinched it all together. Then I flipped them over so the seams were facing down on the baking sheets. Let’s just say the first 8 (how did I get 8 out of one puff pastry!) weren’t as pretty as the last 6.

Here’s my stuffing ready to be baked a few days in advance. Next time I’ll cut the bread by about a third to allow for more protein.

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Moist and delicious

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Here’s my stuffing station. I did all this with two babies at the kitchen table, so I was slightly distracted. It will be easier next time! I thought my husband would kill me since the housekeeper had come and cleaned earlier that day.

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Ready for baking! (Well, they were after I brushed them with a beaten egg.)

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A whole Thanksgiving meal right in the palm of your hand.

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November dinner party

 

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Beautiful shot I took of Central Park last week! NYC was great until I got strep throat.

Since lately all I’ve been making is quick dinners that I can eat whilst constantly picking up baby toys off the floor, I’m thrilled that it’s my month to host our girls’ dinner. I have a few requirements when I host, which is only once a year. First, I always try to stick to the season. So this year I have November, which lends itself to heavier meals (despite it being a balmy 80 degrees today in Houston), root veggies, soups, and stews. Basically just hearty fare. Second, I also always insist on making everything myself. Even if it’s just break and bake cookies – there is just something about a home cooked meal. Finally, I hire someone to come help me clean. My housekeeper is happy to come help for a couple hours and it relieves the pressure from me and ensures my husband that our home will be back shipshape by bedtime. I realize this $50 I’ll spend is a huge luxury, but it ends up saving my home some grief so it’s well worth it. (I also save some $$ by cooking at home, so it evens out.)

This will be an extra fun dinner party since it’s one of our friends’ birthdays that day. I’ve decided to go with a fun take on Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of doing the classic bird, dressing and sides, I thought – why not wrap some stuff in puff pastry? (I am constantly thinking about what else I can stuff in puff pastry after the seabass and beef Wellington triumphs.) I found this recipe which uses leftovers but I’m planning to change it up by using a turkey sausage stuffing recipe instead of leftover sliced turkey, which seems totes boring. I’ll roll out the puff pastry dough and make little piles of turkey sausage stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. It should be a sweet and savory treat. Since that will be a heavier entrée (hoping no one notices it’s basically bread baked in crust), I’m going to serve it with a hearty kale salad with candied walnuts, craisins, pecorino cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. To keep the sides light but delicious, I’m going to use Martha’s spinach and gruyere cheese puff that was a huge hit at my epic Christmas dinner. The best part of all this meal? I can make the stuffing, cranberry sauce (do not even think I was going to use some crap in a can), and gravy two days in advance. I can assemble my puff pastry pockets one day in advance and make the kale salad. The only thing I’ll have to do pre-dinner party is chill the wine, throw together the spinach puff (so easy!) and pop the puff pastry pockets in the oven.

For appetizers I have a few requirements: it must be easier than dinner and it must be something people wouldn’t typically have at home. I love a good cheese tray but this time I’m going to serve some crostini with gorgonzola and local honey as well as a classic cream-cheese-and-pepper-jelly tray. You don’t want people filling up on apps and missing the main show! For dessert, I’m making birthday carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Again, I can make the cupcakes the day before and then whip together an easy cream cheese icing that day.

Organization is key if you have a really busy schedule like I do. I already have a grocery list going and I’ll make a few quick notes on when to cook what and what to serve it on. Just a little prep in advance will make it all so much easier.

I’ll do my best to snap pics of all this deliciousness! But first, here’s another gorgeous view of Central Park from our walk last Friday am.

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Mini beef Wellies

I was fortunate enough to be included in the tasting for my brother’s wedding reception and the beautiful Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. The Driskill is a gorgeous historic hotel on 6th Street and it has one of my favorite bars in Austin. The tasting was so fun and I can’t wait for the party! One of my favorite things they served was bite sized (at least for me they were bite sized) beef Wellingtons. Beef Wellington is traditionally a cooked filet of beef or whole tenderloin topped with foie gras or a mushroom mixture and then wrapped in dough and baked. I researched several recipes and watch a few youtube videos before attempting to make mine at our ranch this past weekend. It went pretty well!

The recipe called for shallots and cremini or button mushrooms, finely diced. I definitely went with creminis since they have so much more flavor.

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Sautéed in olive oil, added s&p at the end

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I cut a sirloin steak into bite sized pieces, seasoned with s&p and seared in a hot pan

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Roll out your thawed puff pastry dough

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 I placed a spoonful of the mushroom mixture and then a bite or two of the beef

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I cut around the dough to wrap up little meat packages and placed on a greased backing sheet and brushed them all with a beaten egg and topped with a little maldon sea salt

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Baked for 20 minutes at 375! Delicious!

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As an added bonus, my husband fried up some arancini di risk which is really just fried balls of risotto. They were so good but next time we will stuff them with cheese. That’s how they are served as Italian street food.IMG_6847

If you like it then you shoulda put an egg on it

I think that has a nice ring to it. (Anyone catch that?) I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but I absolutely love topping off a dish with a fried egg. It is also amazing on salads. (Plenty of salads have hard boiled eggs so it’s not that much of a stretch.) Other things you can top with an egg? Pizza, enchiladas, risottos and pasta dishes, and basically any meat you can think of. Who wouldn’t like a big juicy beef filet topped with a salty, runny egg? Or what about on a chicken fried steak? Or chicken fried quail? The other night I took a pork chop and cut it in half long ways. Next I pounded both pieces really thin and sautéed them and served over saffron risotto (portion size is key on eating risotto) and then added an egg and it was pure heaven. It’s basically like putting a top hat on your meal.

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Checking in!

Ahh life with babies is the best. But sometimes a baby gets a virus…and then gives it to her twin sister…then her daddy and then a week later mommy gets it and then the nanny. (Turns out having a throat so sore you physically can’t swallow is an amazing diet jumpstarter.) Good news is everyone at my house is currently (as far as I know) virus free and back eating and more importantly, sleeping.

Here’s a few things I’ve done lately that I thought were worth sharing:

First – Chilean sea bass en croute. They pre-make this at Fresh Market and I picked one up and loved it. I’m always looking for simple fish recipes that I’ll actually make at home. I did a quick google search and found this Real Simple magazine recipe which is obviously what Fresh Market was using. I skipped the mushroom tapenade (not real simple at all) and did the rest and it was PHENOMENAL. I ate every single bite and my fish was like, 8oz. Next time I’ll use a smaller piece of fish. You just roll out some of the puff pastry (sounds hard but it’s just pre-made dough in the freezer section. Be sure to thaw it that morning.) and then lay down some raw spinach, then the fish, then season with s&p and wrap it all up. (Literally 5 minutes to make two.) Brush with a beaten egg and into a 375 oven for 25 mins. Golden, flaky, creamy sea bass perfection. Now I’m all “what else can I wrap in puff pastry?” Top it with a pinch of Maldon sea salt!

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Secondly, I’ve recently taken up a new sport that is pretty physically challenging so I need a more substantial dinner the night before. That’s where your potatoes/pasta/rice dishes come into play but I’m still counting those calories so I need to find a balance of enough carbs for energy but not so much that I undo the intense calorie burn the next morning. Two weeks ago I decided to make a simple pasta salad but I used about 1/4 the pasta I would normally cook. I added roasted boneless, skinless chicken thigh chunks, grape tomatoes, a few handfuls of spinach, and some flavor-packing kalamata olives. THEN I added some pasta and then just one ounce of fresh mozzarella. So here’s the trick – fill your plate/bowl with the stuff you want to fill up on, then add just a few calories of the carb or fat (whether it’s avocado or cheese or whatever) to your own plate. Then you definitely know how much you are serving yourself. (Is anyone like me where you can make a big plate of salad that is 1/8 lettuce and carrots and then a ton of avocado and bacon and nuts and cheese and croutons? This is how to avoid that.) Here’s my pasta. The protein is what keeps you full and I got just enough carbs to keep me energized the next morning.

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Yup, I cut up my one ounce of fresh mozzarella.

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Finally, I caved again and bought some more of Fresh Market’s “ultimate crab cake” which keeps going on sale. In my head, a meal definitely consists of two crab cakes but I actually beefed up my salad enough to get away with one – which is good considering they pack 220 calories per cake. I found myself making a list of salad toppings that are also pantry friendly, some of them are on this salad. Items to pick up so you can get more creative with your salads: hearts of palm, jarred artichoke hearts, canned olives, sun dried tomatoes, dried jalapeños, raisins, craisins, pumpkin or chia seeds and of course nuts. I usually buy romaine or butter lettuce every week and then mix up my fresh ingredients like tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon, blue berries, pears, avocado and different cheeses. I find that when I have some different shelf-stable options I’m more likely to skip that second crab cake!

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