A Fish’s Life

It’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to our fish, Matt Jr. today. Matthew won him last summer at a camp carnival. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he came bouncing off the camp bus holding up the little baggie housing his new pet. Based on my own childhood experiences with goldfish, I wasn’t expecting Matt Jr. to live longer than a few weeks but he surprised us all by lasting over eight months.

Matt Jr. was the perfect pet. No walks in the rain, no mess to clean, no hair to vacuum off the couch, no chewed up shoes, just a bowl of water and a small container of fish flakes that seemed to last forever. He provided endless entertainment, until the boys eventually moved on to other interests. After that, I’m not even sure if we fed him every day…

In his death, Matt Jr. might have been even more entertaining to the boys. His untimely passing was not met with tears. Instead, there were shrieks of joy and a call of “Yeah, we’re gonna flush him down the toilet!” Not exactly a normal reaction but everyone deals with death in their own way I suppose.

The ceremony, although a bit on the giggly side, was brief and heartfelt. Everyone said a few words and Liam concluded with a “Good job Matt Jr.!” Then it was time to flush. I’m not exactly sure how Matt Jr. ended up going from his bowl to the bathroom floor but eventually in the toilet he went. FYI -it’s not easy to pick a goldfish up off the floor.

Matt Jr. is now on his way to the Great Big Sea, via our bathroom pipes. And now that summer is on the horizon the boys are hoping to win another fish to take his place.

In honor of our beloved fish, we’re cooking up flounder – a bit morbid but the boys didn’t seem to mind one bit.

Garlic Tomato Flounder

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. capers, plus 1 Tbsp. of juice from jar

½ onion, tiny dice

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup olive oil

Zest of one lemon, plus 4 slices

2 lbs. flounder

Salt & Pepper

2 cups brown rice, cooked

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the garlic, capers w/juice, onions, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and lemon zest. Set aside.

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Lightly oil a baking pan large enough to fit the fish in a single layer. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Then place filets in the pan and spoon the tomato mixture over the top. Lay the lemon slices over the fish.

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Bake in oven until fish is flaky, about 30 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “So good! I squeeze the lemon on it right?”

Liam (age 6): “Take those tomatoes off”

Dylan (age 6): “The best fish in the world”

This recipe is dedicated to Matt Jr.

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Bait, Hooks & Tackle

Fishing season is off to a great start. We have two outings under our belt and only one hook through the foot, not a bad ratio. Things have changed a lot since last year. Cutting worms in half, no problem. Hooking bait thru the eyeball, not an issue. Our poles have doubled in size, we’ve got some fancy new lures, and the boys are able to sit still for five full minutes. That’s five minutes more than last summer!

Although we haven’t caught any fish yet our hopes remain high. I’m ready to cook the first thing we catch but in the meantime some shrimp from the freezer will have to do. After last week’s beet debacle I needed to make amends, and I know shrimp is usually a sure thing…

Taco Shrimp w/Spicy-Lime Dip

Ingredients

For the dipping sauce:

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp hot sauce, adjust to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ package of taco seasoning

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped

1 1b. Raw shrimp, large or jumbo, peeled and deveined

Lime wedges, optional

(Recipe by Elaine Studdert)

 

Method

For the sauce:

Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice and hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. And more hot sauce if you like it spicy. Refrigerate for up to an hour to let flavors combine. Dipping sauce can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator for 3-4 days.

For the shrimp:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro.

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Add the shrimp to the mixture and coat well. Marinate shrimp for 15-20 minutes.

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Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add shrimp to pan and cook no longer than 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the size on the shrimp. Shrimp are cooked when they are opaque and turn pink.

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Place shrimp on platter with dipping sauce, and garnish with lime wedges. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Love this”

Liam (age 5): “Shrimp are my favorite, better than cheese”

Dylan (age 5): “Dip is too spicy”

Next time we are doubling this recipe!

 

Tie On Your Blue Apron – Review & Giveaway!

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As much as we cook around here, there’s lots of days we get stuck in a food rut. Limited time and hungry children means cooking old standbys because they’re fast and easy. But the flip side is that meals can get BORING, at least that was my kid’s opinion of dinner the other night. Which is why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Blue Apron this week, a home delivery service that allows you to create delicious chef-designed recipes without leaving the house.

What is Blue Apron all about?

Blue Apron is not just a food delivery service, it goes way beyond that. Each week Blue Apron sends three meals for two, four, or six people based on your protein choices. Fresh, high-quality ingredients along with amazing recipes are delivered right to your door. No trips to the grocery store! And since the ingredients come in exactly the right proportions, there’s no waste from unused portions. All shipments are delivered in a refrigerated box so you don’t even have to be home when it arrives.

Getting Started

Signing up for Blue Apron is easy – all you have to do is fill out your shipping address and pick your choice of proteins. That’s it! So easy a child can do it. And since, at the age of seven, my child knows his way around the computer better than I do he checked off the boxes. We opted for the pictures of a cow, chicken, pig, and fish.

Then we marked the calendar and waited for our box to arrive. Not knowing what was coming was part of the fun – it was like ordering a tasting menu at a restaurant – except the cooking would be done by me in my own kitchen.

The Box Arrives

I’ve never seen children excited about unpacking groceries, but when our Blue Apron delivery arrived it was like Christmas morning. And give a kid some packing foam and they might just leave you alone long enough to cook dinner! Everything in the box was clearly labeled and accompanied by three beautiful recipe cards with step by step directions to make each dish.

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The three dishes included in our box were:

  • Seared Pork Medallions – with Rhubarb Chutney & Sauteed Freekeh
  • Maple & Ginger Glazed Salmon – with Watercress, Orange & Parsnip Salad
  • Lemon-Parsley Chicken Thighs – with Squash & Zucchini Salad & Red Quinoa

These recipes might not fit the standard definition of “kid-friendly” BUT there were parts of each of these meals that my kids loved. And I loved that there were ingredients that I had never cooked with or heard of (can you say Freekeh?) So although not everything got rave reviews I learned a lot just from one shipment and definitely broke out of my food rut!

The Finished Product

In the end our plates looked almost identical to the recipe cards. For each meal I set aside a portion of vegetables to make the side dishes a little more appealing to the boys. I knew that the watercress salad was probably a lost cause… But with a few adjustments all three meals went remarkably smoothly.

Seared Pork Medallions

Seared Pork Medallions

Kid-friendly twist: Make tiny pork sliders with rhubarb spread, grill asparagus

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: “Pork was good but don’t like that brown stuff”

Liam: “No, to that sauce”

Dylan: “I tried it and thought I would like it but I didn’t like it”

Maple & Ginger Glazed Salmon

Maple & Ginger Glazed Salmon

Kid-friendly twist: Scallion-free orange dressing over orange and parsnip

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: “Can I eat the salmon after you take the picture?”

Liam: “Too much yucky sauce on salmon”

Dylan: “Salmon is great”

Lemon-Parsley Chicken

Lemon-Parsley Chicken

Kid-friendly twist: Roasted zucchini and squash, topped w/pine nuts

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: “More chicken!”

Liam: “It’s good with a bone”

Dylan: “No green please”

Who is this service good for?

At first glance this might not seem like a good fit for families with small children. But it’s actually a perfect way to introduce new ingredients and flavors. And since all the recipe components are pre-portioned, you don’t have to invest in a whole bottle of an ingredient you might only use once. The easy to follow recipe card instructions are so clear anyone can cook these dishes. But they’re also complex enough to appeal to someone who knows their way around the kitchen. I would highly recommend this plan to anyone looking to spice up their home cooking but wants to let someone else do the legwork and planning for them!

Special House of Bedlam giveaway!

My first 50 readers get 30% off their first Blue Apron Box- redeem here:  https://www.blueapron.com/houseofbedlam

Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated for this post. I did receive complimentary products to sample.

 

 

 

How to Gut a Fish

This weekend instead of fishing at the usual watering hole, we decided to try the big pier. The place where “real” fishermen go; the ones who actually know what they are doing…

When we first arrived at the pier lugging our Star Wars fishing poles there were a few chuckles. But we held our heads up high, cast our lines, and waited for the fish to bite. And waited. And waited. During this down time, the boys managed to befriend everyone on the pier, Brian dropped the filet knife and poked a hole in his ankle, and I checked my emails. It was actually quite relaxing, except for the knife incident.

After some time, our friendly neighbor took pity on us and gave us snapper bait to replace our night crawler worms. It did the trick, our luck turned around. Within minutes, Matthew hooked our first catch of the day and the whole pier cheered. We were finally in, accepted among our fellow fishermen as legit, Star Wars poles and all. The day continued with much success, we caught several small snappers and one large robin fish. Picture a fish with wings that barks like a dog. We threw that one back!

Once the boys learned that our fellow fishermen were actually eating the fish, they decided they wanted to as well. So we kept two for dinner and gave the remainder to our neighbor, to replace the bait he generously shared with us. I knew this day would soon come so I had already done a little research. All I had to do was scale the fish, chop off the head, gut the fish, and then fillet it. Simple, right?

Step 1: Clean fish under cold water and place on covered work surface. Outside if possible, it gets a little messy.

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Step 2: Scale the fish by holding it firmly by the tail and brushing towards the head. Remove all scales. Repeat on other side. If you don’t have a scaler, you can use a butter knife.

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Step 3: Cut off the head. Of course I was picturing a scene from a horror movie with blood spurting everywhere. But much to the boys’ disappointment, there was relatively little.

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Step 4: Take out the guts – this was the grossest part and once I cleared this hurdle, it was smooth sailing. After removing the entrails of the fish, rinse again in cold water.

Step 5: Hold the tail and cut off the fillets on either side of the spine. Rinse fillets in cold water. And you are ready to start cooking!

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Snapper w/Garlic Butter

Ingredients

4 miniscule fillets of snapper

Salt & Pepper

1 Tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

Lemon, cut into wedges

 

Directions

Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan on medium heat and add the butter and minced garlic. Cook the garlic until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the fish to the pan and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove fish from the pan and spoon the garlic and butter over the top. Add a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Awesome! The best fish I ever had”

Liam (age 4): “We have to catch more of these, but bigger”

Dylan (age 4): “Is this fish? I really like this…”

A lot of effort for one bite of food, but our amuse-bouche was delicious. I followed up the appetizer with rosemary chicken, which was also delicious.

Stay tuned, recipe to follow.

The Cupboard is Bare

I had big plans to cook a few new dishes this week, but none of those ideas panned out. Between the ending of school and camp on the horizon there has been little time for cooking and even less time to stroll around the supermarket finding ingredients for a new recipe. There has barely been a minute to run out for the basics. Even as I am writing this I discovered there is only one more Starbucks K-cup! Might have to leave that for Brian, he is even crankier than me without his morning coffee, although he might not agree…

There has been a hilarious post by Jen Hatmaker going round the mom circuit that sums up this end of the school year frenzy in a nutshell. I must have read it about 10 times to keep my sense of humor and my sanity.

To make it even more challenging, the last days of school are all half days. And the half days are 35 minutes less than the normal half days. And the last day of school is literally 25 minutes! 25 MINUTES, what is the point? In conjunction with the half days school week, the local pool and beach are both open for the season. Which translates into a lot of packing and repacking beach bags, dressing and undressing three kids, sun blocking three kids (the worst!), throwing together lunch and dinners in a rush, getting them in and out of the car (a huge production) and of course let’s not forget all the LAUNDRY!  How many towels does a child need???

On top of it all, I just discovered that my kids all grew two inches and have barely any clothes for summer. So shopping for bathing suits trumped the trip to farmers market this week.

But after rummaging through the fridge I discovered I had some decent ingredients: a bag of frozen shrimp, a knob of ginger, some questionable scallions (remove the outside leaves and they are good as new), a shriveled old lime– and way in the back of the pantry, a forgotten can of coconut milk and some rice, The possibilities were endless but time wasn’t so I went simple.

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Ginger Shrimp with Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

2 scallions, chopped

Juice of 1 old lime

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp honey

1/4-cup olive oil (peanut oil or canola oil would probably be better but I had none)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lb. bag frozen shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined

12 wooden skewers (optional)

1 cup Jasmati rice

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

Pinch of salt

Directions:

For the shrimp

In a large bowl combine, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, oil, salt and pepper, whisk until well blended. Add shrimp and let marinate for 20 minutes.

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Soak skewers in shallow pan with cold water while shrimp are marinating.

Preheat grill or a grill pan to high. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread onto skewers, do not overcrowd. Grill 2-3 minutes per side.

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For the rice

Cook rice according to package directions but replace 1 cup of water with coconut milk.

Serve shrimp over coconut rice.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Shrimp!”

Liam (age 4): “Shrimp!”

Dylan (age 4): “Shrimpie!”

And then total silence until they screamed for more. I think I even heard a please!