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Oven Crunchy Kid-Loving Fish

8 Dec

If you live near a city as I do, you probably have food trucks racing around, parking on popular corners to dish out everything from enchiladas to cupcakes at lunchtime. At last count, my area had a salad truck, a frozen yogurt truck, and at least one sandwich truck on the streets. But my favorite one–the only one I really visit these days–is a fish truck. And the reason it’s my favorite is that I can either choose crab cakes or yummy prepared entrees, or fresh, sustainable seafood to prepare myself. Which is awesome for someone who enjoys playing with food.

Several weeks ago, I bought three pounds of rockfish from my friends on the truck. I cooked some that night and carefully wrapped the rest in portions and stowed it in my freezer.

Let me say this before I go any further–having a stash of raw fish in your freezer is such a huge time-saver that I can’t recommend it enough. It thaws and cooks much faster than chicken or beef and is a snap to prepare in no time. Nights that follow crazy hurricane days almost always find me pulling seafood out of the cold box for dinner. It’s easy and delicious and so good for you that it’s a complete no-brainer, and sustainable fish is a fantastic food trend I hope sticks around awhile.

Anyway. We had one of Those Days last week and I pulled out some rockfish and made it like my mom used to, with breading and Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Only I used Panko bread crumbs (yes, I’m on a Panko kick. Ride along with me–it’s a super fun ingredient), so my fish went into the oven instead of a fry pan, and there was nary a drop of fat involved.

The result: Dinner was done a half-hour after I pulled my fish out of the freezer. My kids gobbled it down just like I did back in the day. Cleanup was super easy, and everyone wins.

Sound good? Find a good purveyor of fish and get together:

1 pound (ish–a filet for each person) rockfish or other white fish. You want thin cuts for this.

2 eggs

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with something non-stick (I used olive oil).

Skin your fish (use a paring knife and just slice the skin off, holding the fish flat and skin-down on a board with your non-dominant hand while your dominant hand gently slides the knife under the skin).

Beat your eggs in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.

One by one, dip your fish in the egg mixture, and then toss it gently into the bread crumb mixture to coat. Lay the filets on your baking sheet. When they’re all lined up, bake them for about 15 minutes or until they’re done (white all the way through and flakey when you stab one with a fork). Watch your kids devour fish and rock on with your bad oven-baking self.

Chipotle-esque Quinoa (and Bonus Veggie Bowl)

29 Nov

My name is Kim and I am a Chipotle addict.

Sadly, DH doesn’t feel the same way. He is Chipotle-ed out. I sympathize, but I still love me a big honkin’ veggie bowl, filled with their fantastic lime-kissed rice, beans, grilled vegetables, salsa, and a dollop of guacamole. Seriously–besides the 10 million calories and hefty dose of simple carbs, what’s not to like?

(Can you tell I ate too much over Thanksgiving? Oink.)

I could squelch my cravings at lunchtime, theoretically. But the Chipotle near my house is mobbed with high school students mid-day–we’re talking lines that literally stretch out the door–and I have no patience for it. And then the carb thing and the calorie thing kicks in and I feel way too guilty to go snarf down one of their amazing meals.

Thankfully, the cook thing kicked in yesterday and I came up with a substitute that is seriously delicious and satisfied my Chipotle tooth without filling me with white rice and a ton of oil. The answer?

Quinoa.

If you haven’t tried this miracle grain yet, it’s time. It cooks up just like rice but has a ton of protein in it, is gluten-free, and is just as versatile as the rices you’re used to. The trick to it is to measure it out, pour it into a mesh sieve, and rinse it really well before you start cooking. Quinoa has a bitter thing going on, but a nice pre-stove shower will remove it and leave you a blank slate to cook with.

I have a big container of this in my fridge this morning and this makes me happy–I cannot wait for more of this meal for lunch today. I get my Chipotle on and my healthy on, and my taste buds get their happy on at the same time. Which rocks. To join me, you need:

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

1 lime

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well

1 1/3 cups water

Zest your lime and set the zest to the side (note: this makes the quinoa super lime-y. If you like that, rock on with me. If you don’t want so much lime, skip the zest and start with the next step).

Heat a small saucepan on medium and add in your oil. Let that heat for a minute, and add the juice from your lime and your quinoa. Stir that all together–you want to coat the grains with the yumminess before it starts cooking. Then, add the water and lime zest (if you’re using it), bring it to a boil, lower your heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 – 25 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and you start to see little rings around your quinoa grains, which will turn kind of translucent.

When that happens, uncover the pot, give your quinoa a stir, and add the cilantro. Continue cooking until it seems fairly dry.

Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and enjoy.

If you want a veggie bowl like this:

While your quinoa is cooking, heat a pan (I use my cast iron wonder) over medium-high heat. Into that, toss together another teaspoon of oil, half a sliced onion, and a sliced green or red bell pepper. Cook until everything in there is seared up nicely.

Spoon your quinoa into a bowl. On top, layer beans (black or kidney, drained and rinsed), some of your cooked veggie mixture, some salsa, and a dollop of guacamole or piece of avocado. Keep your leftovers in a covered container in the fridge–they make awesome leftovers. Tell me who rocks Chipotle now!

Roast Chicken, Party of One

3 Nov

I figured out the roast chicken thing, and I am a happy camper today.

I’ve told you before that my family is not a fan of roast chicken. Bunch of freaks. I mean really–ask any professional chef what their last meal on earth would be if they could choose, and chances are the answer will be roast chicken (somebody actually did that, by the way, and that really was the answer. I think there’s a book about it.). Cooked properly, a whole chicken is divine. It is simple and delicious and comforting and relatively simple, and my husband and my children complain about it as if I’ve snuck cyanide beneath its wings every time I pull one out of the oven.

It’s been a significant bone of contention around here, to be honest. I continue cooking meatballs and pizza quesadillas and all sorts of things they love (I love them too, but still), and I avoid the beautiful roasters at the grocery store just so I don’t have to listen to the moaning over a bird.

A BIRD. Honestly. It’s ridiculous.

So last night, DH was out at some work event and I grilled up a piece of beef for the kids, and I pulled a chicken breast out of the fridge and wondered what would happen if I roasted it just like a chicken–just that one piece. And I tried that.

What happened was what common sense says: I had a wonderful roast chicken dinner, just for me, and it was a thing of beauty.

The best part of this is that it is a one-dish meal, and it’s a dice-and-dump to boot. Chop chop, dump it in the pan, throw it in the oven, wait a bit, and voila. Dinner. Dinner worthy of a last meal, in fact, if we’re going to go there. I admit that I hummed to myself as I ate it, because the simple act of roasting a bit of a bird all for myself was a true delight.

I know some of you have the same chicken issue as I, and I highly recommend making yourself a lovely dinner once in awhile. It’s simple and easy and inexpensive, and there’s really no reason on earth not to do it. Head for your ovens, ladies. You need:

1 chicken breast, bone-in and skin-on

1/2 an onion (I use sweet onions) roughly chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 orange or 1 lemon (I used orange, but either will be yummy), sliced into three slices

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

A sliver of butter (maybe 1/8 or 1/4 of a tablespoon)

Olive oil

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a small casserole dish or baking dish (a bread pan would be great, but line it with foil so your next loaf isn’t savory) with olive oil or cooking spray.

In the dish, stir together your butter, onions, and sweet potatoes and give them a little dose of salt and pepper. Top the veggies with two citrus slices, and balance one clove of garlic on top of that. Add about a tablespoon of water to the dish:

Take your chicken breast and loosen the skin with your fingers to form a pocket. Into that pocket, slide your last fruit slice and the other clove of garlic. Spray that baby with olive oil, and gently lay it on top of the fruit and garlic in the pan.

Slide it into the oven and roast it until it’s done (160 degrees internally), which was about 40 minutes for me. Let the chicken sit for at least five minutes before you cut into it, to let its juices resettle, and then enjoy your perfect dinner for one.

Simple Fish with Tomatoes

18 Oct

Last week, I told y’all about the rockfish DH brought home from a business trip to Long Island. I also told you all about the rice I made to go with it. This is what I did with the fish, and it is so stinkin’ easy that you may never cook fish on the stovetop again.

Rockfish is a meaty fish. Our filets are super-thick (about two inches) and eating them is a lot like eating steak. They were perfect for this preparation. You could use a thinner cut, but adjust the time accordingly. You can also use a different kind of fish–this would be great with cod, halibut, or another white fish.

I threw this together in about five minutes and everybody ate their dinner without complaint. Seriously, does it get any better than that? You only need:

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (or about a cup of fresh chopped tomatoes, seeded)

1/4 of a sweet onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or basil and oregano)

1 pound of fresh or frozen/thawed white fish (you can use less or more–just adjust the other ingredients)

1/2 a lemon

In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices and let them sit about 10 minutes.

Preheat your broiler (to low if you have a choice).

Spray an ovenproof dish with olive oil or nonstick spray–I used a little casserole I got at Ikea a few years back, but use whatever you have that’ll fit your fish in a single layer with not much room to spare. Even a bread or brownie pan would work, but be sure to line it with foil so you don’t get garlic scent in your next batch of baked yumminess.

Spoon about a third of your tomato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper your fish as you’d like and lay on top of the tomatoes. Spread the rest of that mixture on top. Set it in the oven and broil it until it’s cooked through–my uber-thick rockfish took about a half hour in the hot box to cook.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle with lemon juice and enjoy.

Autumn Veggie and Sausage Soup

4 Oct

We’re a month or so into the school year and the whole lunch thing is dragging me down.

Not the kids’ lunches. We’re set there. It’s my lunch that’s the issue. I am sandwiched and salad-ed out, completely over frozen entrees, and too busy (and cheap) to run out to eat every day or cook myself something new at 11 each morning.

Yesterday was rainy and cold and generally disgusting around here (again! paging Noah…), and it felt like a great day to break out the soup pot for a simple recipe that would last all week.

I started thinking I’d make a bean and sausage soup recipe I found online, but reviews of it said it needed more ingredients and was pretty blah as written. I went to the grocery store and started picking out things that looked good, and before I knew it, the original recipe was right out the window and a new one was born, filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Which is really the ideal way to cook and eat, saving yourself from older produce that’s been hauled cross-country, maximizing flavor, and keeping a little cash in your pocket.

This calls for a parmesan rind. I always keep a hunk of fresh parmesan in the house for grating over pasta and veggies. It seems expensive, I know, but you only use a little bit at a time and it’ll last almost forever wrapped tightly in plastic and stored in the fridge. For this recipe, you cut off the (inedible) rind and toss it into the pot, and then fish it out at the end. It adds a wonderful, subtle nutty flavor to the soup and is well worth the step. If you don’t have one, no worries. Go ahead without it.

I used smoked turkey sausage in this because that’s what I like. You can use whatever you enjoy, or substitute ham or bacon for a similar smoky flavor in the soup. Non-meat eaters can add extra beans to beef up the soup and toss in a little liquid smoke (a LITTLE–that stuff is potent) or smoked chipotle Tabasco for a similar effect.

This was warm and creamy (from the beans–neat trick, eh?) and smoky and comforting, and perfectly perfect for yet another cold, rainy day. I’m looking forward to my second bowl today and would love to hear what you think if you try it. You need:

Olive oil

4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and diced (about a cup and a half of diced squash)

7 oz smoked sausage (I used turkey; mine comes in 14 oz packages, so I used half and froze the other half for another time), chopped into bites

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

1 zucchini, diced

The rind of a hunk of Parmesan cheese (I always have a hunk around. Add a little salt if you don’t have this)

A dried bay leaf

About 2 cups of chopped fresh kale (use spinach if you can’t find kale)

Salt

Pepper

About 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Half a lemon

Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Saute the onion and sausage until the sausage just starts to brown a bit. Stir in the garlic and keep it moving for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth and add all of the rest of the ingredients except the kale and lemon. Stir, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the butternut squash softens, stirring every so often.

Stir in the kale, cook 10 more minutes, and fish out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaf. Squeeze the lemon over the pot, stir in the juice, and enjoy. Makes about four servings.

Yummy Asian Noodle Soup

6 Sep

I had this past weekend to myself.

Did you hear that??

To. Myself. As in, the husband took the children away for two and a half days and I had my own house to my own self, with just me in it, totally alone. For a weekend. A long weekend. A long, quiet, uninterrupted weekend. For the first time in more than 10 years.

It. Was. Beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong–I adore my family. Love them, love them, love them. But do you have any idea what you can do with two and a half days all alone in your own house that you live in? You guys should see the pile of stuff I have outside for charity pick-up today (I’d take a picture but it’s raining and I don’t really do wet more than necessary). And you should see my immaculate basement and my spotless kitchen and my gorgeously clean and organized bathrooms, and the way things are folded and stacked just so in my linen closet. AND I watched two girly movies all by myself and slept late both days and did a little shopping (shhhh!).

Right?? Wonderful and amazing, and I was super glad to see my gang pull in the driveway yesterday afternoon, because I’d had a fabulous couple of days to regroup and recharge, which makes all the difference every so often.

I also cooked. For myself. Things that my family would complain madly but that I made and enjoyed greatly because they weren’t here. It was fun, gang. Serious fun.

One of the things I made was this delicious Asian Noodle Soup from Words to Eat By, which is among my favorite food blogs, especially for moms and dads who have precious little time to get a healthy, tasty meal on the table every day. I give it a big thumbs-up! I had it for lunch and dinner one day, and I have another bowl ready for my lunch today (I also borrowed her photo, which was much better than mine). A few notes:

I used dried garlic and dried ginger from The Spice Hunter in this. The simmering reconstituted it, and sometimes it’s just easier than using fresh, especially in a soup. I used about a tablespoon of each.

I like that the veggie bit of this is wide open so you can use what you want. I used spinach (a lot of it–it shrinks down markedly when you cook it), mushrooms, scallions, a few carrots, and a can of Chinese stir-fry vegetables I found in the Asian aisle of my supermarket, which were perfect for this. You could, of course, ditch the chicken or tofu and make this an Asian vegetable soup as well.

Get the mirin (also on the Asian aisle at the supermarket). You could substitute sherry with some sugar, but I think the mirin makes a huge flavor difference, and it keeps for a very long time so you’ll use it all up. That’s also where you’ll find the soba noodles, which leads me to…

If you’re going to have leftovers or you’re making this for a few days, don’t add the noodles to the soup in the pot. Instead, put some noodles in your bowl and ladle the soup over it, and then store the noodles in the fridge by themselves. Each time you heat a bowl up, add noodles. That way, they won’t disintegrate into mush by day 2.

This would be delicious with a shot of sriracha or other hot sauce if you like your Chinese food spicy. As it was, it reminded me greatly of my favorite soba noodle soup from my favorite Asian restaurant, and was perfect for my calm, productive weekend at home. I hope you try it, and thanks to Debbie for writing it!

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

24 Aug

A couple of you asked me to explain this salad yesterday when I mentioned it in a post about roasting canned or frozen corn to freshen it up. Your wish is my command, loves.

First up, I’ll admit–that photo above isn’t mine. That’s the chopped barbecue salad at Panera Bread, which inspired me to roast some corn in the first place. I took a photo of my salad yesterday, but the chicken didn’t look so much like chicken (we’ve established that I am not a photographer) and that didn’t seem right.

On to the good stuff. This works equally well with pulled chicken already mixed with barbecue sauce, or plain sliced chicken (poached, roasted, or rotisserie) onto which you pour a little BBQ. I’ve seen it done both ways. I prefer pulled only because I am a barbecue sauce fiend and enjoy a lot of it on my greens, but you do what makes you happy.

My only solid recommendation for this salad is that you stick with romaine lettuce. It’s crunchy and crisp and mild, so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the salad. You can still taste everything else. I’ve tried other lettuces and they’re either too watery (iceberg), too limp (butter) or too strong in flavor (everything else).

This is a layered salad. I usually layer all the ingredients except the chicken and dressing in a big bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge for a few days, scooping out what I want at any moment, adding chicken and dressing to that, and returning the rest of the naked greens and veggies to the icebox for the next day.

Be creative with this. If you don’t like beans, leave them out or change them up. Ditto for cheese, onion, or anything else. This is a very flexible plan for a yummy salad. My only other bit of advice is to go easy on the dressing–you really just want a drizzle to perk up the barbecue sauce a bit. Too much, and your sauce will be overwhelmed and the whole thing will taste a bit off.

So. On with the party! In a big bowl, layer all or some of the following according to your taste:

Romaine lettuce

Corn kernels (roasted as we chatted about yesterday, or plain)

Black or pinto beans, rinsed well and drained

Tomato, either cherry/grape or big and chopped

Onion. I prefer red and chopped small, but caramelized sweet onion is also delicious.

Cucumber, peeled and chopped.

Cheddar cheese or queso fresco

All of the above will store in the fridge for several days. When you’re ready to eat some, scoop it into a bowl and add:

Chopped avocado

A drizzle of ranch dressing

Pulled chicken (or rotisserie/roasted/poached chicken with bbq sauce on top)

 

Mix together and enjoy!

 

Don’t forget my giveaway!! It’s super easy!

1) “Like” Playing With My Dinner on Facebook and post a note on the wall saying hi so I know you’re new in town, or

2) Convince a friend to “like” the blog and post a note telling me you referred them, and…

You can win a $30 giftcard to Williams-Sonoma! Buy yourself a super fun present to have even more fun by the stove! Like the blog or refer a friend by September 1 to enter!

 

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