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Category Archives: Seafood

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette: One Simple Dressing, Two Amazing Salads (and a GIVEAWAY WINNER!)

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It was back in one of my undergraduate teacher education classes, that I was first introduced to the debate over nature vs. nurture. How much of our personality, strengths, challenges, and interests are a product of our individual biological makeups and how much is due to the environment in which we’re raised and the life events we experience?

From an educator’s point of view, I want very much to believe that nurture plays a more important role, because that idea acknowledges every child’s potential for success and a teacher’s ability to play a significant role in that. We teachers want to believe that given enough time, effective effort, and support, every one of our students can be successful. As educators, the idea of intelligence being a fixed, inborn characteristic would be limiting. So, as a matter of practice, we subscribe more heavily to the theory that nurture plays a more dominant role in human development.

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I have to admit though, watching my own boys grow and develop, it’s become a lot more evident to me that nature really does play a significant role. My three boys, all nurtured in the same environment, under very similar conditions, save for the automatic differences in birth order and changes that adding new members to the family have on a home environment. But, my three boys are just about as different as they can be, with their own individual strengths, interests, preferences, and challenges – traits which have been part of who they are since birth.

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My Liam is a creator, inventor, and planner. Hand the kid an old piece of cardboard, scissors, and a strip of painter’s tape and he’ll invent some revolutionary new technology which just might change the world. He’s also our head mischief-maker, in an ever-scheming, mad-scientist sort of way. He loves telling stories and doesn’t understand the reason for spaces between his words, either spoken or written. He’s a “What’s next?” sort of kid who wants to plow through the day filling it with as many experiences as possible. Liam doesn’t mind coloring, as long as he can do it fast and all with the same color.

Lucas is our character. He is silly and unabashedly honest with his emotions. The kid takes the stage and steals the show. Just last night, at his Irish step-dancing recital, he snuck out from behind the curtain before the show and spent a good five minutes flapping his arms and shaking his butt in front of the 100 or so people who’d gathered to watch the recital. After completing the first dance, while the rest of the dancers remained poised for the second dance, Lucas approached the front of the stage to shout to me about how much fun he was having. The curtain closed behind him. After spinning around and running nose first into the curtain, he giggled, then shuffled behind the curtain for his second dance. He feels things deeply, for better or worse. He likes his quesadillas with cheese only and “nothing I don’t like.” (If you’re sneaky about it, he will know.) He’s a songwriter, loves legos, and despises coloring.

Little James is a love. He requires copious amounts of hugs and kisses and snuggles, which he soaks up like a sponge and is generous in regifting to everyone he meets. He gives every child at the gym’s childcare a personal hug goodbye when we exit, and the gym cleaning lady gets one too. Sometimes he bites when he gets a bit to excited during a hug, sort of like a dolphin, which makes hugs a bit tense sometimes, but he’s irresistible. He thinks apples and corn on the cob are the best foods in the universe and he’s already trying to learn the alphabet – something the other boys had little interest in for most of their young lives. (His favorite letter is E.) James thinks coloring is the bee’s knees.

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They are who they are. And certainly, everything they experience throughout the rest of their lives will have an impact on who they will ultimately become, but it would be foolish to undervalue the unique people they were born as. I’ve learned that parenting, much like teaching, requires ongoing assessment of where our little people are in their lives, what natural talents and interests they possess, what motivates and what discourages them. Then, if we’re doing it right, we take all of that information and design little personalized plans that help nurture their existing strengths, expose them to other possible areas of interest, and teach strategies that might help them handle the areas of life which are more of a personal struggle.

So, do I treat all of my children the same? Absolutely not. I nurture each of my children in the way which seems to work best for them. We follow each of their natural leads and take it from there. Nature vs. nurture? I’m not sure. Ideally a bit of both, I guess, working harmoniously with each other to create unique, well-rounded, happy little people.

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Tomorrow, we welcome June. The weather is hot and soon my gaggle of small men will be off for a summer full of creating, destroying, laughing, crying, and loving. Our neighbors opened their pool yesterday and once again, I smacked myself in the head and thought, “Why the heck didn’t I start eating healthier months ago???” Somehow, I’m always too late for bathing suit season. But, the added bonus of the warm weather is that salads for dinner seem ever so much more crave-worthy. They’re light and fresh and have huge potential for deliciousness.

Here are two of my current favorite salads, both made with the same simple roasted red pepper vinaigrette. The dressing is light and flavorful, with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The protein-rich toppings on these salads make either option a quick and easy, satisfying summer dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar works just fine or roast your own)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Salad Idea #1 – Spinach with Shrimp, Bacon, Corn, and Avocado – Chop the bacon and cook in a fry pan until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain over a paper towel. Cook large shrimp in the hot bacon fat for a minute or two on each side, until cooked through. Toss a generous serving of fresh baby spinach leaves in a bit of the roasted red pepper dressing. Top with the cooked bacon and shrimp, fresh avocado, and sweet corn.

Salad Idea #2 – Mediterranean – Toss romaine or butter lettuce in the roasted red pepper dressing. Top with garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese crumbles.

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GIVEAWAY WINNER!! We have a winner! Using http://www.random.org to select a number at random, out of the 17 entries received for the $50 Shindigz gift card giveaway, the winner is #7, Jill fox. Congratulations, Jill!! I’m going to send you an email at the address provided with your comment to get the information necessary to fulfill your prize!! Thank you to everyone who entered!

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Crab Cake Summer Salad

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My five-year old, Liam, and his three-year-old younger brother, Lucas, are inseparable. Yet the two boys could hardly be more different. One of the most notable displays of their differences comes in the form of their regard for truth-telling.

We like to joke that with Lucas, you always know where you stand. He does not mince words and he tells it like it is, for better or worse. The kid does not tell a lie, ever. Even at the cost of rewards or consequences.

Lucas, did you hit your brother?
Yes, I did. He looked at me funny.
What’s that smell, Lucas?
It’s me. I farted.
Lucas, are you going to cooperate for Mommy today?
No, I’m not. (Spoken with a voice of unfortunate regret and calm, matter-of-fact truth.)
 

Liam, on the other hand, is almost always scheming for his next treat or devising a plan to get his hands on some forbidden item. And he is hardly ever not spinning some story.

Whatcha doing, Liam?
Nothing.
It’s impossible to be doing nothing. What are you really doing?
Seriously, Mommy. I’m not doing any mischief. (Indicator of certain mischief)
If I need to come in there to see what you’re doing, I’m going to be upset.
Alright…I’m climbing on a precarious pile of knives, broken glass, and samurai swords, trying to get to the candy on top of the fridge. 
 

So, on the afternoon, when Lucas came crying to us, claiming that Liam had spit on him, we were inclined to believe him. When confronted, Liam repeatedly insisted that he did not spit on his brother. Finally, as my husband puts it, he played the Jesus card. In his words, I pay for Catholic school. That gives me the right to play the Jesus card. The Jesus card goes something like this: What would Jesus think if he found out you were lying? (Apparently, the infamous Catholic guilt doesn’t come from the church. It comes from the parents.)

But it worked. Liam let out a sigh and then reluctantly said, Alright… He then proceeded to carefully explain that he did in fact spit. And it was, in fact, in Lucas’ general direction. But he wasn’t spitting at Lucas. Lucas just happened to get in the way of the spit.

Sure…

The lesson here is…when in doubt, ask Lucas. And don’t take anything Liam tells you at face value.

I’m more of a Lucas when it comes to the truth, which goes to say that you can believe me when I tell you that this salad belongs on your list of must-make recipes for the summer. It’s a simple variation of one of my older recipes (Chilled Avocado Soup and Crab Cake with Chipotle Remoulade). In this variation, a simple broiled crab cake, loaded with crab meat and just enough filler to hold it together, is set atop a salad of mixed greens, ripe avocado, sweet corn, and summer tomatoes. A drizzle of spicy chipotle remoulade dressing completes the dish. This entree salad makes the perfect light, but satisfying summer dish. Crab, avocado, tomatoes, corn, and chipotle pepper…honestly, summer heaven.

Crab Cake Summer Salad with Chipotle Remoulade Dressing

Ingredients

For the Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (regular or whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonaisse
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 pound jumbo lump or backfin crab meat, cooked*

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sweet relish

For the Salad

  • 8 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped**
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly shaved
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels

* Look for fresh-picked crabmeat in the seafood section of your grocery store. It’s a fresher alternative than canned crabmeat and a heck of a lot more convenient than picking your own crab meat!

** Click HERE for my photo guide on how to slice an avocado.

Directions

For the Crab Cakes: Preheat broiler. Wipe a baking sheet with a bit of olive or vegetable oil (to prevent sticking.) Combine all ingredients, except the crab meat, in a bowl. Mix until well blended. Gently fold the crab meat into the other ingredients, taking care not to break up the chunks too much. Use your hands to form four equal sized balls of the crab mixture. Gently flatten the balls into thick patties and place on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet several inches under the broiler and cook for about 10 minutes until completely heated through.

For the Dressing: Combine mayo, chipotle, relish, and mustard in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Assemble the Salad: Arrange about 2 cups of mixed greens on each plate. Scatter with the avocado, tomatoes, corn, and red onions. Place a warm crab cake in the center. Drizzle with the dressing.

Makes 4 Salads

Spicy Corn and Lentils

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So…I did it. I started Irish step dancing classes last Wednesday. This is very unlike me. I’m typically so self-conscious that I avoid doing anything which requires me to put my lack of skills on display. Heck, I even shy away from displays of things I’m good at. And dance?? Well, of any imaginable area of skill, I am the farthest from skilled in dance. I trip over my own feet while walking on a near-daily basis and my pinky toes are constantly throbbing from cornering too early and catching them on the edges of furniture and walls. I am a coordination mess. And yet, I’ve just signed myself up to display my unadulterated klutziness in front of fellow dance students and our skillful instructor. What in the world has come over me?? I’m becoming bold in my old age. 

But here’s the thing… For many years, I have watched Irish step dancers with an emotional mixture of admiration, awe, and regret. I stare at their coordinated feet, wishing I could go back in time to when I was about four years old and beg my parents to sign me up for lessons. I want to dance like those dancers with the very same heart-aching passion I felt just before I signed up for the culinary program at French Culinary Institute. That culinary program turned out to be one of the most soul-satisfying experiences of my entire life. It settled my urge. It took away my longing and replaced it with skills and knowledge to use and enjoy for the rest of my life.

And so, on a whim, I started this process of searching for an Irish dance school which offered classes for adult beginners. My first few inquiries came up dry. But then I got a hopeful response; an instructor who was considering starting an adult beginner class. It took a while before it became official. I was even a little relieved when I didn’t instantly hear back, since part of me would have been content to stay huddled in my turtle shell. And then I got the email. She was starting a class. Two of my lovely friends agreed to join me.

We fumbled our way through our first class. Our instructor gracefully modeled a few ‘simple’ steps and then we hurled ourselves across the room, tripping over our feet and each other. But we smiled and laughed the entire time. At one point, our instructor turned on the music as we skipped our way across the room, and with a smile plastered across my face, all I could think was We’re doing it! We’re Irish step dancing. I’m not sure anyone would have classified our movements at that point as ‘Irish step dancing’, but our instructor was generous in her praise of our clumsy maneuvers. I woke up delightfully sore the next morning. I spent the next week practicing my sweet new moves, much to the delight of my three boys who make a very eager, if not amused, audience. Last night was our second class. We fell over each other  and laughed to near tears as we put our new moves together into a dance. I already feel that satisfying calming feeling that culinary school gave me.

Another benefit to this grand adventure is that it’s reinvigorated my motivation for regaining my pre-three-babies-in four-years figure. I’ve watched myself practice my dance moves on video. It’s not pretty. I long to be lean, controlled, and lighter on my feet, rather than the bouncing, clobbering elephant I’m currently channeling. I’m refocused and ready. Summer weather certainly adds to the motivation too!

Recently, I ran across a slideshow of twenty weight loss super-foods. Foods were selected for their abilities to increase metabolism, satisfy hunger, build muscle, and decrease fat. Several of the foods were practically begging to be married together in a sort of miracle weight-loss dish. Inspired by this list of weight loss super-foods, I came up with these spicy lentils and corn served with grilled cedar-plank wild salmon. Now, I have no research to prove that this harmonious marriage of flavors will actually result in a thinner waistline, but at the very least, they will make your mouth and belly quite happy.

This tasty dish combines lentils, corn, olive oil, sardines, chipotle chile peppers, and wild salmon. Don’t be afraid of the sardines. There are just enough in this recipe to add a savory umami (the fifth taste) flavor that really complements the spicy chipotle and sweet corn. Their fine texture practically melts into the dish, adding a subtle layer of savory goodness. Be bold, give ’em a chance. And click on over to SELF’s slideshow for more info on each of these super-food’s super-slimming powers!

Do you have something you always wished you’d done? Why not give it a try? There’s no time like today!

Spicy Corn and Lentils (with Wild Salmon)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen or fresh), cooked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup boneless sardines, shredded
  • 1/8 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can of chipotles in adobo), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

For the Salmon:

  • 4 wild salmon fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chile Powder
  • Parsley

Directions

Cook lentils in water with a pinch of salt, according to package directions. (Cooking time will vary depending on the color/type of lentils. I used green lentils which simmered for 30-35 minutes. Other lentils may require more or less time. Cook until tender, but not mushy.) Toss the cooked corn kernels with the lentils.

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium/medium-low heat. Add the sardines, onion, and chipotle. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender. Add the parsley. Toss the mixture with the lentils and corn. Taste and season with salt, as desired.

For the salmon: Rub the fillets with olive oil. Season with salt, chile powder, and parsley. Grill on a soaked cedar plank* over indirect heat or broil until cooked.

*Look for cedar planks near the grilling supplies at your local grocery store or Target. Soak the planks in water for at least an hour before using. Place the salmon on the planks. Preheat your grill at medium heat. Ideally, arrange the planks on your grill so they are not directly over the heat. Grill with the cover closed until cooked through.

Makes 4 Servings

Fishy Friday – Lenten Round-Up

The kids have been home from school this week for their mid-winter break, which I’m now convinced is some sort of cruel joke on parents. I mean, seriously…whose idea was it to schedule a week off from school in the middle of winter, leaving me stuck inside with three very loud, very active, and very needy children?? I’ve been jumping through hoops all week trying to keep everyone sufficiently content, which has left little time for things like thinking or writing…hence the lack of blog posts this week. Even now, as I attempt to type, the baby is grabbing at my fingers, while the other boys are playing a game which seems to center around making an unusually loud and abrasive growling sound.

This morning I took the boys to meet up with some friends at  a local bounce house, followed by lunch (which turned into second breakfast, since we vacated the bounce house sooner than planned) and ice cream at Friendly’s. It was a feeble attempt to encourage the kids to burn off some of their excess energy so that I had a small chance of a calm afternoon. Though I think the ice cream may be working against my plans. Ugh…this parenting thing is hard!

New recipes coming up next week, but for now here’s a round-up of fishy recipes, which may come in handy for any of you who are observing meat-free Fridays during lent.

Pan-seared Scallops with Pina Colada Salsa and Coconut Rice

Pan-seared Cod over Bean and Basil Puree

Creole Fish Tacos

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad

Asian-style Fish Tacos

Lobster Pot Pie

Lobster BLT Sandwiches (skip the bacon)

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad

Codfish Cakes

Shrimp Scampi Flatbread Pizza (and last year’s Lenten recipe round-up!)

Lobster Pot Pie

Traveling with my three siblings and I must surely have been a nightmare for my parents. We didn’t have the modern technology which exists today to keep kids occupied on car rides…no Nintendo DS, no portable DVD players, no iPads. Just the four of us in the backseat, bored out of our minds, trying to stay occupied by playing alphabet games with license plates and billboards. Inevitably, we’d become bored with these games and spend the remainder of the trip arguing about who was looking out whose window and irritating our parents with Are we there yets.

As a parent, I have no such problem. When we upsized our vehicle a few years ago, to accommodate our growing family, we made the wise choice in getting a vehicle equipped with a second row DVD player. The best feature, from our perspective, are the wireless headphones, which enable the kids to listen to their endless Ghostbusters marathon (important business around here) while my husband and I listen to gory audiobooks about the zombie apocalypse and other such serious matter. Everyone is happy, except perhaps the baby who is still rear-facing, sadly staring at the back of the seat.

With these headphones, my kids are practically silent in the car. I talk to them. They are unresponsive. I point out cool things along our drive. I get nothing. I tell their favorite jokes (which at the time consists of just shouting bananapants). Not even the slightest giggle.

The only time we encounter a problem is if someone forgets to grab their headphones before we hit the road. Like yesterday. When we got in the car to drive the half-mile (literally) to the grocery store. It all happened so fast.

I need my headphones.

Don’t worry, we’ll be there in 30 seconds.

I don’t have my headphones.

I know…but it’s ok. There’s the grocery store.

But, I can’t hear the ghostbusters.

It’s ok. We’re already in the parking lot.

But. I. Can’t. Hear. Peter. Venkman!!!

By the time we’d reached the store, my three year old was in the middle of a full tantrum. He refused to get out of the car. Negotiations were had before proceeding with our grocery trip. Note to self: Make sure everyone has their headphones before pulling out of the driveway. Or suffer the consequences.

Since the baby has managed to make himself virtually unbabysittable, through his refusal to take a bottle and his terribly unpredictable sleep patterns, going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day was not a viable option for my husband and I. Luckily, I like to cook. So I made us these delicious lobster pot pies. A creamy filling made with fresh lobster, sweet corn, and gourmet mushrooms gets wrapped up in a tender puff pastry shell. The sauce is made from a store-bought seafood stock, which is then simmered with shallots, garlic, madeira wine, tarragon, and the lobster shells until it’s reduced by half and layered with flavor. (Simmering any store-bought stock with veggies and other ingredients is a super simple way to enrich its flavor.) This comforting pot pie makes an elegant option for a quiet date-night at home.

Lobster Pot Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 lobster tails
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted (for drizzling the lobster)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup madeira wine
  • 1 quart seafood stock
  • 1 sprig tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups mixed gourmet mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels, cooked (defrosted frozen corn would work fine)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted

Directions

To prepare the lobster: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip the tops of the lobster shell down the middle. Loosen the meat inside the shell, then pull it out so it sits atop the shell. Place the lobster tails in a baking dish and drizzle with melted butter. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the lobster reaches 145 degrees. Remove from the oven and cool. Remove the lobster meat from the shells and cut into small pieces. Save the shells.

To prepare the enriched seafood broth: Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes. Add the madeira wine to the pan. Then, add the seafood stock, lobster shells, and tarragon. Simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half. Strain the broth. Discard the lobster shells, garlic, and shallots. You should be left with 2 cups of broth. (If you have less than 2 cups, add a little water. If you have more than 2 cups, simmer until only 2 cups remain.)

To prepare the lobster pie filling: Wipe out the pot you used for the broth. Then, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 7-10 minutes, until tender and a bit golden. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms. Stir to coat. Cook for a minute or two while stirring. Gradually add the warm broth the pan, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, until the liquid thickens, similar to a gravy. Add the heavy cream and continue simmering for another 3 minutes or so. Add the corn and lobster. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Allow to cool at room temperature until warm or refrigerate until using.

To prepare the pot pies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two mini pie pans with non-stick spray. Slightly roll out each of the puff pastry sheets, so they are about 1/8″ thick. Cut the pastry into squares, big enough to fit the pie pan. (Once inserted, the pastry should come up to all edges, with four larger corners that will be folded over the top.) Press the pastry into the pie pans. Fill each pie with a generous scoop of the filling. Fold over the four pastry corners and gently press together in the center. Place the prepared pies on a baking sheet. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the filling is piping hot and the crust is golden brown and fully-cooked.

Makes 2 Individual Pot Pies

And for dessert…my World’s Simplest Fudgey Brownies, cut into heart shapes, and served on a bed of raspberry coulis.

Pan-Seared Cod over Bean and Basil Puree

I find that with each successive child, we make more and more compromises in how we handle parenting decisions. It’s a survival mechanism, born out of necessity as we’ve become outnumbered by small humans with fast hands and urgent needs. Or perhaps our experience with each child has simply helped us to prioritize what really matters and to let the rest go. Experience has taught us flexibility. (And appreciation for quiet and sleep.)

Our first son slept the whole night in his crib fairly early on. We read some expert books, applied a few strategies with consistency, and it happened. He was on a nap schedule that ran like clockwork. He ate organic purees and had a bath every night, right before leisurely rocking in his glider chair as we read The Giving Tree for the 100th time. This baby is lucky if he gets dunked in the bath with his brothers for a few minutes, a couple times a week. He naps exclusively in my arms and thinks our king-sized bed belongs to him. And yesterday he tried to eat a page out of the Harry Potter book my oldest son left on the floor.

Last night, I admitted to my husband that I’ve been giving the baby one Oreo a day. Pretty sure that Oreos are not on the food list the doctor gave us at his most recent check-up. But, you see, my little love doesn’t like to get put down. My normally happy baby screams when he is put down. And I mean SCREAMS! The screaming hurts my sleep-deprived ears. And some chores are just too difficult to do with a 20-pound baby in one arm. So, on the day when I handed him one of his brothers’ Oreos for a little taste, and discovered the focused, independent manner in which he tackled that cookie, a lightening bolt went off in my head. It takes him about an hour to eat half a cookie…slowly working it with his two teeth and a whole lot of baby drool, until it dissolves into mushy chocolate bits, spread all over his happy face. I’d discovered a brilliant strategy for freeing my hands in order to cook dinner and take care of my family’s ever-accumulating mountain of dishes.

Were Oreos part of my ideal parenting plan? No, not quite. Is it a parenting strategy I would advocate? Nope, can’t say it is. Is it a compromise I’m willing to make in order to get through the day with any semblance of sanity remaining? Mhmm…yes it is. So, there you have it folks…my baby is growing and thriving on breastmilk, organic purees, and one half an Oreo cookie a day.

Do I believe that he’ll be worse off from his half cookie a day? Nah…he gets enough of the good stuff to balance the daily treat. And what we all gain in Mommy’s ability to keep our home running with minimal chaos is worth the small compromise. It’s the things which really matter…like snuggles, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on, which we won’t ever compromise. Priorities.

While the baby is finishing his cookie, the rest of the family is eating this. (Someday the baby will too…if I can convince him that other foods are as delicious as Oreos.) Buttery, flakey, pan-seared cod, served over a flavorful bean puree and drizzled with a touch of basil oil garnish. You won’t need to convince anyone to eat their lima beans when they’re prepared like this! Skip the canned and use frozen lima beans for the freshest, most vibrant result. This bean puree would also make a fantastic dip for veggies or pita, so save any leftovers for a tasty and nutritious snack! A neutral-tasting white fish, like Pacific cod, works well for this dish, but you can easily substitute other fish, shellfish, or even chicken!

Bean and Basil Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen lima beans, defrosted
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can butter beans
  • 6 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 25 large basil leaves (approximately)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste

*Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to roast garlic

Directions

To make the puree, drain the can of butter beans, reserving the liquid. Combine the lima beans, butter beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Gradually add some of the bean liquid until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. (About 1/2 cup should do the trick.) Refrigerate until using. Serve slightly warmed.

Pan-Seared Pacific Cod

Ingredients

  • 2 (6-ounce) Pacific cod fillets
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive oil, for searing

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degress. Pat the filets with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in an oven-safe pan over medium/medium-high heat. Season the filets with salt and pepper. Place the filets in the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side, without disturbing. (Trying to move the fish too soon may result in crumbled fish. The fish will release much easier once it has sufficiently seared.) Then, using a thin, flexible spatula, carefully flip the fillets. Cook for about a minute on the second side, then place the pan in the oven. Cook in the oven until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees, about 5 minutes. Cook time will vary depending on the thickness of your filets.

For the basil oil garnish: Blend about 1/8 cup olive oil with about 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves. Gently simmer the blended mixture for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Cookie Puss

Creole Fish Tacos

Someday we’ll try to explain to the kids how we used to be cool. How we used to live in NYC…well, technically just outside it. Ok. It was New Jersey, but is was just across the Hudson. Mommy went to culinary school downtown after teaching preschool in Queens and daddy played bass in a rock band. After work, we used to meet up with friends in some of the city’s coolest places, like a one-time speakeasy, said to have been a favorite spot for numerous authors, poets, and playwrights, such as E.E. Cummings, William Faulkner, and Eugene O’Neill.  And in the evenings we’d hang out in underground clubs, sometimes shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes, as a fire-breathing (literally) band called Toilet Boys rocked the stage. For realz. And one time we even bumped into a young Katie Holmes (think Dawson’s Creek era) in a very un-Dawson’s Creek type bar.

We’ll reminisce about the time we took friends for drinks at the bar atop the World Trade Center. Or how we used to dine in restaurants where at least five different waiters catered to our every need as we enjoyed ten-course tasting menus (with wine-pairings, of course). Places where every member of the staff made a point to know you by name on your very first visit. Places where we could drop a mortgage payment on a meal, without concern for silly things like preschool tuition, college funds or diapers.

We’ll talk of the other adventures we had. Like the summer after college that we spent living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, waiting tables and housekeeping at a local hotel, in between jaunts to Amsterdam, Italy, and Greece, back in the days where every country had their own currency. We’ll remember the afternoons we spent hiking up the Kramer mountain and drinking big mugs of flavorful German beer in the biergarten situated halfway up the mount, as we overlooked the entire town, deciding on names for our future pets.

The kids will take one look at my mom jeans and the lone gray hair (which probably won’t be so lone by then) growing in my sloppy ponytail and fully believe we’re lying to them. We will appear too old and way too uncool to have ever done such cool stuff. Our pre-digital photographs will all have faded. And our friends, the ones who could corroborate our stories, will appear as full-of-bologna as we do. It’ll become like those stories our grandparents used to tell about walking to school in tissue box shoes. The kids will assume we are exaggerating, though our memories are clear.

I’d like to say that we’re overdue for a another big adventure. That my heart longs, just a bit, to go back to each of those times in our lives. And it does. But I suppose that parenthood is the grandest adventure of them all. I mean, we made little humans…three of them! Little people with bits of each of us, perfectly blended into three unique individuals. Three perfect little people who will grow to create their own exciting memories. Life’s adventures don’t get more awesome than that.

Our lives now are consumed by toy trains and rubber snakes. Fancy meals are made at home or enjoyed as a family at the Spaghetti Warehouse. And the last time I bumped into a rockstar, it was my four-year-old singing Nowhere Man. But it’s ok. It’s perfect, actually. There will be plenty of time for new adventures once we’re done raising our pack of tiny humans.

Our bucket list of future adventures is long. But one of the adventures on the short (more easily attainable) list, is a trip to New Orleans. It may well be our next long-weekend adventure, once the baby is weened and old enough to leave for a few days. I’ve longed for New Orleans my entire life, for reasons other than my current desire to eat and drink my way through the city. The city calls to me. I’m anxious to meet her someday (ideally during Jazzfest)!

In the mean time, I like to create meals with the flavors I envision I will enjoy when I’m there. Like these Creole-style Fish Tacos, which feature big chunks of  cornmeal-crusted catfish set atop a crisp creole slaw and drizzled in a spicy chipotle remoulade.

P.S. These tasty tacos are not on our South Beach diet. They were made a few weeks ago, in between mountains of Christmas cookies. But I’m sure you could squeeze them into any balanced diet!

Chipotle Remoulade

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from can of chipotles in adobo)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickle
  • 1 anchovy fillet (optional, can omit)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon or brown mustard
Directions

*Run your fingers along the anchovy, as you rinse it under running water to check for and remove any larger bones. If you choose to omit the anchovie, you may want to add a dash of salt to the sauce.

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Creole Slaw

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon worchestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon creole mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the mayo, vinegar, worchestershire, mustard, brown sugar, garlic, cayenne and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Toss with the cole slaw mix. Make several hours or a day ahead if possible. Refrigerate until use.

Cornmeal Crusted Catfish
Ingredients
  • 3 catfish fillets
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/8 cup creole/cajun seasoning*
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil

*If your creole seasoning is not well salted, add additional salt to the dry mixture.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine cornmeal, flour, creole seasoning, and additional salt (optional) in a small baking dish or tray. Dip each catfish fillet into the beaten egg. Then press the catfish into the cornmeal mixture until well coated on all sides. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large oven-safe fry pan over medium/medium-high heat. Place the catfish fillets in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Then, place the pan into the heated oven and cook for about 12 additional minutes, until cooked through.

To compose the tacos: Place 4-6 small flour tortillas in a 375 degrees oven for a few minutes, until warm and slightly toasted. Remove the tortillas from the oven and fold in half while warm. Cut the catfish fillets into large chunks. Fill each tortilla with a generous mound of the creole slaw and several chunks of the catfish. Generously drizzle with the chipotle remoulade.

Makes 4-6 tacos

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