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.

The Leftovers

After weeks of planning, days of shopping, and hours of prepping, pureeing, chopping, sautéing, roasting, boiling, basting, mashing, stirring, whisking, and swearing, the big day has come and gone. I’m happy to report Thanksgiving 2014 was a success!

A few things I learned for next time:

  1. Don’t stress about the turkey- It was sooooooooooooooo easy. For the most part you put it in the oven and it takes care of itself. Just make sure to have someone on your guest list who is a master carver and can handle that part for you. Thanks Keith!
  2. Make half the amount of food -Since it was our first time hosting we got a little ambitious. Next time I will go for smaller quantities and have more vegetables instead of so much mashed stuff. Sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, completely redundant.
  3. Use paper plates – For more than eight people paper plates is the way to go. And those fancy plastic forks, they practically look real so I’m definitely buying those next time.
  4. Try not to flood the basement at the end of the night – And if you do make sure to have a WetVac so your husband can swiftly take care of it while everyone is happily eating their apple pie à la mode.

Remember those sweet potatoes we made last week. Well, they became pancakes for breakfast. The extra mashed potatoes are going to morph into gnocchi. And the plan for leftover turkey is a green curry salad that can be used for lunch tomorrow. And maybe the day after that too…

SWEET POTATO PANCAKES

Ingredients

1 cup leftover sweet potato (with crumb topping)

1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups whole milk (or 2%)

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp baking powder

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Butter for pan

Directions

Combine sweet potatoes, milk, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. In a separate large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just enough to combine. If the batter is too thick add a little more milk.

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Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Scoop a heaping tablespoon onto griddle or pan. Wait until bubbles appear on surface of pancake and then flip to brown opposite side.

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Extras can be frozen and popped into toaster to reheat. Cool completely before freezing.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “These are the best”

Liam (age 5): “I’ll take ten of these”

Dylan (age 5): “Just terrific”

***

SIMPLE GNOCCHI

Ingredients

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

About 1 ½ cups of flour

1 egg

Pinch of salt

¼ cup of olive oil

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

Directions

Place mashed potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Sprinkle one cup of the flour onto the potatoes and mix together with your hands until the flour is incorporated. Make a well in the center and add the egg. Combine the egg with the potato mixture until a smooth dough forms. Keep adding flour and gently kneading until the dough is no longer sticky.

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Break the dough into about six pieces and roll out into snakes the width of your finger. Cut the dough into 1” pieces. Place on a large baking sheet and score the gnocchi with a fork.

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon a minute or two after they rise to the surface. Drain well and toss with olive oil, sprinkle with grated cheese and garnish with the fresh sage.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I really like this”

Dylan (age 5): “I love it”

Liam (age 5): “There’s a wild flavor in here”

***

GREEN CURRY TURKEY SALAD Mini Sandwich

Ingredients

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ tsp green curry paste

1 ½ cups leftover turkey, chopped

Cranberry sauce, leftover

3-4 small rolls or croissants

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise and green curry paste. Add chopped turkey and mix until combined. Spread a small amount of cranberry sauce on the bottom side of croissant or roll. Add a heap of the turkey mixture. Enjoy!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “A little too sweet with the cranberries”

Liam (age 5): “Uh, no”

Dylan (age 5): “Don’t like that red stuff”

What did you make with your leftovers???

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!

Cooking Like A Cavegirl

Originally posted on House of Bedlam 1/10/14

I am cooking Paleo this week. The Paleo diet, commonly referred to as the Caveman Diet, has been around for years and has recently become quite popular. Going Paleo is more than just eating meat, it’s about connecting back to our evolutionary history. The concept behind the diet is to eat unprocessed, nutrient-dense food found in nature. No boxed foods, no dairy, no alcohol and no refined sugars. Basically eating what a caveman would have acquired as a hunter and gatherer.

It’s true my boys often remind me of cavemen but clearly this is not a lifestyle that would ever work for us. Although they would love to dwell in a dirt cave, never take showers and run around hitting things with a stick (sounds frighteningly close to home) they could never live without grilled cheese, pasta or ice cream. And I am not giving up bagels or milk for my coffee anytime soon.

This is a diet I could never strictly adhere to but there are many things that make sense about it. I can certainly get on board with adding more fruit and vegetables to our repertoire. Plus, eating less processed foods is a big part of why I started this blog. Beyond that I am keeping that Haagen Dazs stocked in the freezer and making the boys shower every once in awhile…

Pomegranate Glazed Ribs

Ingredients:

Ribs 

2 Tbsp kosher salt

1 Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp coriander

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp tomato powder (optional)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

2 racks of baby back ribs (about 4 pounds)

Note: I consulted lots of recipes for different spice rubs. After a few attempts I put together one that had just the right amount of spice for us. If you like your ribs spicy add more pepper flakes or add in some cayenne. The tomato powder is a spice a friend recommended I try. If it is not in your spice rack, simply leave it out.

Glaze

2 pomegranates, yields about 1 1/2 cups of juice

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Note: The inspiration for this glaze came from last weeks post. For an explanation on how to juice a pomegranate see Mocktails.

Method:                                                                                                       

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix the salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, tomato powder, and red pepper.

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Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs. Transfer ribs to a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil. Roast for 2 hours, until the ribs are tender.

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Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan whisk together the pomegranate juice, honey and lemon. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by about half. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare large baking sheet with foil. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. When ribs are done, remove from roasting pan and transfer to baking sheets. Brush ribs with glaze and roast in oven for about 10-15 minutes. Halfway through, turn the ribs and brush with remaining glaze.

Serve with lots of napkins!

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “These are AWESOME – put them on the blog!”

Liam (age 4): “Awesome too!”

Dylan (age 4): “Your ribs are really good Mommy!”

Almost 4 pounds of ribs inhaled between the three of them – my little cavemen loved these!

Curious to know if you have ever tried going Paleo? Hard, easy, work in progress? Would love to hear from you!

Play Dates

A lot of times when the boys have friends over they want it to be a “dinner” play date. As I am cooking for three anyway, I usually don’t mind, what is one or two more. But since all play dates are not created equal, there are times the night doesn’t always end as planned.

Awhile back we had a few friends over and I served tuna fish to the kids. OMG – big mistake – I thought since I mixed it with plain pasta it would be a no-brainer, but it was a disaster. The moms had to scramble in my fridge for something to feed their melting children. To this day, we still laugh about the “tuna incident”.

There is one little guy I particularly enjoy having over, he eats everything I put on his plate and always asks for seconds. My kids see him eating so they usually follow suit. I once mentioned to his mom how much he enjoyed my dinners. She laughed and said that he would never refuse to eat something served to him. He was taught that would not be polite. Huh?! And here I thought it was my cooking!

The other day he came over and I decided to try a recipe that my cousin Judy sent me. I thought it would be a perfect choice for the four of them. She sent me the recipe in a narrative without any specific measurements so I sort of winged it.

Judy’s Pasta  (adapted from cousin Judy’s arsenal of recipes)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 can diced tomato

1/2-cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup fresh spinach, rough chopped

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

10-12 large shrimp, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces

Salt & pepper

1 lb dry pasta, we used Rotini

Directions:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and Worcestershire sauce.

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Reduce heat and let simmer until tomatoes have softened, about 20-25 minutes. Do not add the shrimp until the last minute; they just need to heat through.

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Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain and toss pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water to help the sauce stick to the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated parmesan cheese if desired.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “It’s a little good”

Liam (age 4): “It’s bad – just kidding!”

Dylan (age 4): “Don’t like the seaweed part”

Jaume (age 5): “Really yummy!”