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.

In A Pinch

The other day I was Skyping with my sister. The topic of my blog came up as it often does (she is my editor and biggest fan) and she started giving me grief about how infrequent my posts have been in the last month or so. Well I immediately launched into a rant about how little time I had to get things done around here. How busy the holidays had been. How some nights I could barely get dinner to the table much less photograph it, write about it and get it up on the blog. Blah blah blah…

Even though our connection was not that great and there was bit of a time delay I could still see her rolling her eyes. Clearly, this excuse was not working on her. She wanted a weekly post in her mailbox, not some lame reason why I couldn’t get it done.

It got me thinking that I really needed to come up with some healthy meals that I could pull together super quick for those nights when we are racing against the clock to bedtime. And they needed to be blog worthy. Not just scrambled cheesy eggs, which are delicious, but not exactly interesting to read about or very original. Thus, my “In A Pinch Series” is born. A meal that is half homemade, half store-bought. Ideal for those nights when you are lingering somewhere between a leisurely home cooked meal and takeout.

Indian Simmer Sauce Shrimp

Ingredients

1 lb bag of raw frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

2 cups Indian tomato simmer sauce (see note)

1/2 bag fresh baby spinach, pre-washed, roughly torn

2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese (optional)

Handful chopped cilantro (optional)

 

Note: I get a delicious Indian tomato simmer sauce at our local farmers market. When I see the vendor I stock up. But most supermarkets have several options of this type of sauce to choose from. You can use tomato simmer, green curry, or yellow curry sauce.

Method

Rinse shrimp, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile heat the simmer sauce in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the simmer sauce. Then add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.

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Add the shrimp to the sauce and cover. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Lastly, stir in the mascarpone cheese. Cook for an additional minute until cheese is melted into the sauce. The mascarpone is optional but it makes the sauce creamy and tames the spice. Milk or yogurts are good substitutes.

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Serve over rice or with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Whoa, that is spicy! Water, water!”

Liam (age 4): “I’m not eating this”

Dylan (age 4): “The Indian sauce is good”

Although the reviews don’t sound stellar, I consider this one a success. I got Matthew water and he inhaled it (the water and the shrimp). Liam did eventually try it and no one was bothered by the spinach!

Do you have any quick and easy semi-homemade recipes? Would love to hear about them!

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

I tested lots of pumpkin and sweet potato recipes last month. There was pumpkin risotto, sweet potato fries, and pumpkin brownies, just to name a few. The boys finally put their feet down and demanded an end to it. The other night at dinner they delicately told me enough was enough. “Gross, not another orange dinner thingie!” Kids can be so subtle.

Well, I can certainly read between the lines, I got the message loud and clear. Looking back it must have been the pumpkin turkey meatballs that put things over the top. For the record, I thought they had potential. I might even post about it next year at Thanksgiving time. But after a month of gourds and potatoes even I needed a break from it. I took a vote to see what the family might want to try for a change of pace. It was unanimous – they all wanted shrimp.

I was happy to hear it because I had some shrimp in the freezer and rice noodles in the pantry. I confess this recipe came straight off the package of rice noodles (with minor adjustments). Surprisingly, it wasn’t half bad, except Brian and I had to break out the hot sauce since it was lacking in the spice department. In spite of this, it seemed to hit the right note for the kids and, more importantly, it wasn’t orange.

Un-spicy Shrimp Pad Thai (very kid-friendly!)

Ingredients:

1 package rice noodles

1/3-cup vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1/3-cup fish sauce

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp fresh limejuice

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil, divided

2 eggs, beaten

1 bunch scallion, chopped into small rounds, reserve some for garnish

1 lb small or medium sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined

 

Garnish

1/2 cup crushed salted peanuts

1/2 cup cucumbers, seeded and cut into matchsticks

Reserved scallions

Lime wedges

Handful of cilantro, rough chopped

 

 

Method:

Soak rice noodles according to package directions and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, Worcestershire, limejuice, and soy sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Set sauce aside.

In a large skillet heat one tablespoon of oil on high heat. Add the eggs and swirl them a bit around the pan. Let the eggs cook but make sure they don’t brown. Remove the eggs from skillet, cut into small pieces and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add scallions and cook for about two minutes until softened, then add the shrimp. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes just until shrimp are pink. Remove from skillet and set aside.

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Add the noodles and sauce to the skill and coat the noodles well. Then add the shrimp, scallions and eggs back to the skillet and toss to combine.

Place in bowls and top with nuts, cucumbers, scallions, lime and cilantro. Serve with chopsticks!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “I like the lime on it!”

Liam (age 4): “How do we squeeze this lemine in?

Dylan (age 4): “Oh, nice bowl”