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.

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Appetizers

In the past few years we have rung in the New Year at 6pm and then put the kids to bed. Now that Matthew can tell time he is wise to us and we might have to let the boys stay up till 9 or 10 (yikes!) Ignorance is bliss – why on earth did we have to show him how to read his Spiderman watch????

As long as we have to be up and the kids want a party I thought I should put them to work making some appetizers. Here are three great ideas we came up with for the toddler party set:

–       Mini roasted veggie pizzas

–       Mini garlic knots

–       Sweet cinnamon sticks

3 great apps from plain old pizza dough – easy, cheap, fun to make – and I am pretty confident the little angels will eat them….

MINI ROASTED VEGGIE PIZZAS

Ingredients

1 medium onion

1 red pepper

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

Salt & Pepper

1 pkg. fresh pizza dough

Flour for dusting

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut onion and pepper in large chunks and toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast vegetables on baking sheet until carmelized, about 25 minutes. Puree with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, set aside. Wipe baking sheet and add lightly oil.

Roll out pizza dough – use flour as needed so dough does not stick to rolling pin. Cut out 3” rounds with cookie cutter or upside down glass or bowl.

Top with vegetable puree first, then the mozzarella and lastly sprinkle with grated parmesan and fresh basil.

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Bake at 500 degrees for approximately 12 minutes until crust is golden brown.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: I guess I like it Mommy

Liam: I want big pizza, not little! I’m not eating this. The sauce made me stop eating it, not my fault!

Dylan: Hey, there is no cheese on this, where is the cheese!?

 

MINI GARLIC KNOTS

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for brushing

1 package fresh pizza dough

Flour for dusting

3 Tbsp minced garlic

1 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano

Sea Salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Roll out pizza dough – use flour as needed so dough does not stick to rolling pin. Cut into 4 “ strips and tie into tiny knots. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes until golden.

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In a small saucepan, combine butter and garlic. Heat until butter melts and garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in oregano.

Toss warm knots in bowl with butter mixture. Sprinkle with salt.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: Just like the pizza place!

Liam: Too hot – but I am eating it anyway….

Dylan: I want 5 or 10

 

SWEET CINAMMON STICKS

Ingredients

1 package fresh pizza dough

Flour for dusting

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out pizza dough – use flour as needed so dough does not stick to rolling pin. Cut into 6“ strips (about 1/2 inch wide) and lay out on baking sheet.

In a small bowl mix butter and honey. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon. Brush dough with butter mixture and generously sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

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Bake until sticks are browned, approximately 15 minutes. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew: It’s better dipped in the ice cream!

Liam: It makes me cough and get sick (funny, he ate 2!)

Dylan: Tastes like a frozen ice pop, gimme another stick!

And the clear winner – GARLIC KNOTS!

Holiday Cookies

We always keep a supply of chocolate chips in our pantry for potty training. Whenever the little guys successfully make it to the bathroom we all get chips. It is quite a celebration. Now that they are pretty much getting the hang of it I figured we could use the chocolate chips for their original intention. And since it is a rainy day – we need something to do – so we are making cookies today!

This recipe is from Ghirardelli chocolate chips, I just changed the add-ins. These are the potty chips of choice in our house and they are delicious!

White Chocolate/Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup dried cranberries

(if you only want chips, omit cranberries and double the amount of chips or add nuts instead of cranberries)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat well.

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt. Then blend dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Stir in chips and cranberries.

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Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for approx. 15-18 min. until brown on the edges.

Let cool completely on baking rack.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (the blender ): The white chips are good but I do not like the raisins, I am picking them out

Liam (the mixer): I like the raisins, I like the vanilla chips, I like this cookie

Dylan (the taster): Mine is the biggest!

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Comfort Food

I know it is weird but sometimes I read cooking magazines to my kids. Since they love to be read to it is an excellent way to sneak in some reading of my own. To me it is hilarious that they are interested in the latest kitchen gadget or the hot new food trend. Every once in awhile a recipe catches their eye and they ask me to cook it for them.

This is Matthew’s recipe choice – meatloaf, something I usually don’t make, it just seems so old school. Which by definition is the very essence of comfort food: a traditional style of food usually having a nostalgic or sentimental appeal. And sure enough when Matthew chose this I immediately thought of my Mom’s meatloaf. She used to put in an egg “surprise” and serve it with lots of ketchup. Even my sister ate it and she was the picky eater of us two, although she might have something to say about that….

I paired it with carrots because that is what we had in the fridge that day – I figured if I added some butter they just might eat them….

Mini Cheesy Meatloaf & Buttery Carrot Chips

Ingredients:

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 cup ketchup, divided

1/4 cup fresh spinach, chopped

2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

1-Tbsp horseradish (I replaced with Wasabi ginger sauce, worked just as well)

1-Tbsp Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

3 oz white cheddar cheese, diced

1 1/2 lb ground sirloin

1 large egg, lightly beaten

 

1/2 -Tbsp butter
2 large carrots cut into 1/8in rounds
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs, cook 3 minutes until toasted, stirring frequently.

While breadcrumbs cook, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté about 3 minutes. Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup ketchup and next 10 ingredients. Using hands is best tool here to combine everything.

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Shape into 10 mini loaves and put on baking sheet. Use remaining ketchup to spoon over the loaves.

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Bake for 25 minutes.

While meatloaf is baking, heat butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots and salt and pepper – sauté until caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes.

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And the VERDICT is:

Sadly, Matthew came down with a stomach virus and couldn’t eat dinner so we froze the meatloaves and just had a mini-tasting…. (it was a fun night!)

Dylan: I love them both – Liam, those are my carrots!

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Liam: I’m gonna eat it all up.

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