Pan Seared Salmon with Chive Dill Butter

So I know it’s been a while again since my last post, but what can I say….. I just get busy and unfortunately my blog and even making new recipes in general takes a back seat for a while.  But I always come back!  I left off with my first installment of a new project called Kids in the Kitchen, and though I haven’t had time to fit in another between busy school schedules, mini vacations and illnesses it’s still on my to-do list so be watching for that!  In the meantime I am hoping things have settled down enough that I can focus on making new and, in keeping with my current mindset of eating lighter and losing some of this holiday weight, healthier recipes.

First up on the menu is this Pan Seared Salmon with Chive Dill Butter.  I will share my technique/recipe below, but this is one of those great recipes that has a lot of versatility.  All you’re doing is preparing a piece of salmon and mixing whatever flavors you want into some butter to top it off.  Super simple.  I served this with some grilled asparagus drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper, and some smashed potatoes.  This was my first time trying smashed potatoes and all I can say is now I am a believer!  So good, with a crispy outside, seasoned just right, and soft in the middle….. but let’s get back to the salmon lol.

I will admit, I have struggled to cook salmon in the past.  It’s not particularly hard, but cooking fish in general takes practice to get it done right where you get that nice crust on top and the fish is nicely cooked through.  I have either had it stick in my pan, or ended up with somewhat undercooked fish in the middle of a nice thick piece of fish.  With time, however, I have gotten the hang of it.  Although I switched over to stainless steel cookware some time ago to cut down on my use of non-stick and their chemicals. fish is something I pretty much always use nonstick for.  Specifically, I use a a Rachel Ray Anodized Nonstick skillet and it works beautifully for giving me a nice crust, but avoiding the dreaded stick.  Another very important tip when cooking fish to ensure it doesn’t stick and gets great crust is to leave it alone once you have placed it in the pan.  It may be tempting to lift the edges to check, or slide it around to see if it’s sticking but don’t.  Trust me.  And don’t forget to use oil or butter or something to grease your pan.  Once it’s done on one side according to your recipe’s directions flip it once and again leave it alone til it’s time to come out.  It also helps to take your fish out a few minutes early to bring the temp up just a bit before you start, and make sure it’s dry…. especially if you are cooking with previously frozen fish.  Of course, as with pretty much all food, seasoning is important, so don’t forget to season before you place it in the pan!

Now that we talked a bit about cooking a nice piece of salmon, let’s talk about the butter…. as I mentioned it’s a versatile method.  You could put whatever herbs or seasonings in this you like.  The butter will melt beautifully over the warm fish and give that richness that takes a boring piece of fish to a whole new level, imparting the flavors you incorporated at the same time.  For this recipe I used some fresh chives, dill, garlic, lemon and some salt and pepper.  It’s important to start with room temperature butter for this, so don’t forget to take it out in advance.  You could even make the butter in advance and either use it hard from the fridge, or take it out a little before for a softer butter…. and any leftovers can be used on other meats, bread, or whatever sounds good to you.

As a natural casualty to having to photograph my food before I can eat it my salmon had cooled a bit while I was setting up so my butter wasn’t melting over it right away as I would have liked for the photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination a bit.

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Pan Seared Salmon with Chive Dill Butter

Ingredients :

  • salmon fillets (about a lb) * I used salmon with the skin
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T. butter, at room temp * I just eyeballed how much butter so this is estimation
  • drizzle of olive oil (about 1/2 tsp. perhaps)
  • fresh chives, chopped (about 1 tsp. or so)
  • fresh dill, chopped (about 1 tsp or so)
  • salt and pepper to taste (separate from the salt and pepper above)
  • garlic clove, minced
  • lemon zest
  • Lemon wedges (for serving with the fish)

Directions :

  1.  Make your butter first.  To your room temp butter add your herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic, lemon zest (by preference but about a tsp or so), and some salt and pepper.  Using a small spatula sort of stir/whip it up until well combined and set aside.  If making ahead put back in the fridge.  You can either use it straight from the fridge later on, or let it warm up just a bit so it’s a little softer.
  2. Prepare you salmon.  If you are using previously frozen salmon be sure to pat dry before you start.  Season your salmon with a bit of salt and pepper (I like to use coarse salt when seasoning meat).  If you are using salmon with skin you don’t need to season that side, but if not I would suggest doing both sides.
  3. Heat the T. of oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat.  If using skin-on salmon place it in your pan skin UP so you get the nice crust from that first bit of heat on the top of your fish first.  Once you have set your fish in your pan DON’T TOUCH IT for about 4-5 minutes.  You see the fish start to turn opaque towards the middle and the edges will start to brown.  Flip it and cook an additional 4-5 minutes.  Of course the cook-time depends on the thickness of your fish, so take that into consideration, and watch for the fish to become opaque all the way through.
  4. Remove from pan and top with a dollop of your prepared butter.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Note : Amounts for the herbs in the butter are estimations and I encourage you to use more or less to your tastes.  I like a nice punch of flavor and likely used more than stated above.


Chilean Salmon with Avocado Cream Sauce + Island Nectar

As promised last night on my facebook page, here is Chilean Salmon with Avocado Cream Sauce and a drink I made up to use the rest of the coconut water.  If you are following my facebook page (there is a button on the right hand side of this blog) you will know that I had a bit of a fiasco with this recipe last night.  Because I had such a thick piece of salmon, and didn’t want to cut it and take away from the photographic presentation, I ended up with a portion in the middle/bottom that wasn’t quite done.  Having the skin still on the bottom side didn’t help either.  It wasn’t a big deal though, as I just flaked off the parts that were done and then put the rest back in the skillet for a minute more until it was done.  It was quite the mess however since I had already put the sauce on top.  I suggest making sure your pieces are cut more reasonably though if you want to present a beautiful piece of fish on the plate.

The flavor of this salmon was fantastic!  The actual preparation of the salmon is very simple, but allowing the lemon juice to soak in a bit and then covering the top with a generous amount of course sea salt and pepper results in such a beautiful crust that is full of flavor and allows the actual salmon flavor to really be the star.  Topped with the cool, creamy, slightly spicy avocado cream dip this is melt in your mouth good!  As I mentioned, my piece of salmon still had the skin on one side, which can be nice for presentation if you like that sort of thing, but I feel like it kind of messes up the cooking process… at least in a hot skillet since it seems to block some of the heat from reaching that bottom side and making it through to the middle to ensure a fully cooked fillet.  It would also be nice without the skin to have the option to salt and pepper both sides for even more crust.

Note : my piece of salmon was quite wet to start, and I had forgotten to pat dry it a bit before putting the lemon juice on.  As a result when I placed in into the hot oil in my skillet there was a LOT of splash from the moisture which not only caused a disaster on my stove top, but also managed to give me quite a few little burns.  I imagine even if you do dry your fish off well before putting the lemon juice on it’s going to splatter a bit from the lemon juice so beware and consider having a splatter screen handy!  And here is another little tip when cooking fish in a skillet.  Once you set the fish down don’t touch it until you see the bottom is starting to brown and the color will start to change up the side of your fillet.  You want it to be about halfway before you flip it.  If you try to move it before it starts to crust over you chance breaking the fish or having it stick to the skillet.  Also, always use oil or non-stick spray and cook in a quality skillet.

Chilean Salmon w/ Avocado Cream Sauce

Serves : 2+                          Time to make : 15 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 1 lb fresh salmon fillets (2 good sized fillets or you can opt for smaller pieces to serve more people)
  • lemon
  • course sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • olive oil (about 2-3 T.)
  • 1 Haas avocado, about 2/3 cup
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. finely chopped shallots
  • 1/3 C. coconut water (I used Blue Monkey with pulp)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch chili powder
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. chopped chives

Directions :

  1. Pat dry your fillets and then place on a plate and squeeze the juice of one lemon over top and allow to sit for about 5-10 minutes.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Generously sprinkle your course sea salt and fresh ground black pepper onto the salmon fillets before carefully placing into the hot oil.  Cook on the first side about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of your salmon until browned on bottom and the color has turned light pink about halfway up the side of your fillet.  Flip and cook through.
  2. Meanwhile for the sauce (It can help to have some of the sauce ingredients ready to go before you start cooking your salmon) cut open your avocado and scoop out the insides.  If you have never cut an avocado before what you do is take a knife and make a cut from top to bottom.  You won’t be able to cut through because of the pit, once you hit that sort of roll the knife around the avocado until you cut all the way around from top to bottom.  Holding both sides twist and pull and you’ll have two perfect halves with the pit in one of them.  I like to use a knife or spoon to pry the pit out at that point and then using a spoon slide it between the peel and the avocado and you can scoop it out in one swipe usually.
  3. Place all sauce ingredients together in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  Spoon over your finished salmon.

Recipe from : domestic fits

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Now for the drink… I am calling it Island Nectar because the flavors are very “Island-y” and it has Guava Nectar in it… real creative I know lol.  As I mentioned on the facebook page, I just wanted to use up the rest of the can of coconut milk and figured some sort of cocktail would be the way to go.  I have a rather diverse bar in my pantry from all the various drinks we have tried over the years so I knew I could probably come up with something.  Unfortunately the ones I wanted to use, such as the rum were pretty low, hence the somewhat random amounts listed, but it actually ended up just right for my tastes.  Jeff likes a lot more alcohol in his drinks, whereas I am more about the taste, so if you are more like him you might want to add some straight rum or vodka to it so as not to change the taste too much.

So without a real plan I just started pouring things together and at first it was AWFUL… I mean seriously bad.  This was around the point that it was just coconut water and guava nectar.  I hadn’t really ever tried guava nectar before, but had a few cans lying around for a drink I wanted to try from Guy Fieri.  It is definitely not something I would drink on it’s own… So I knew I needed to sweeten it up and just started grabbing other things I had and voila it was suddenly good!  I don’t know how much this makes, but it about filled a basic pitcher.

Island Nectar

makes : 1 pitcher

Ingredients :

  • 1 can Blue Monkey Coconut Water with pulp (or slightly less if you used some on the fish)
  • 1 (11.3oz) can guava nectar (I found some called Jumex in the beverage isle at the grocery store)
  • 1 can 7-up
  • 2 oz. triple sec
  • 6 oz. pineapple rum
  • 1 oz. vanilla flavored syrup (like for coffee drinks)
  • ice
  • mint sprigs or lime wedges for garnish (I didn’t have anything on hand)

Directions :

  1. Combine everything over a generous amount of ice in a pitcher and stir.

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Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Quesadillas

I started with a recipe tonight for these, but altered the already small ingredients list enough times that I think it is no longer the same recipe, so I will just share mine instead.  I was sort of concerned before making these that not only would there not be enough filling for each quesadilla (compared to past quesadillas we’ve made), but that we’d be hungry still after eating them as our dinner tonight.  It’s a fine line some nights to come up with a dish that is low enough in calories for my dietary needs while still being filling, but also high enough and filling for my husband as well who gets a lot more calories a day than me.  Quesadillas are a pretty light meal in general, but just looking at the ingredient amounts I was concerned these would be even more so.  It turns out that I was wrong, and these were more than satisfying.  I actually started to feel pretty satisfied after one to tell you the truth, but I managed to eat that second one somehow lol.

The flavor on these is awesome.  The little bit of heat from the tortillas, matched with the creamy smoked flavor of the cheese, and the sweet smokey bacon and fresh spinach is just perfect.  I think serving these with a bit of sour cream would be even better, but it’s definitely not necessary if you are hoping to keep the calories down.

I want to take just a moment to talk about the bacon…. if you have never cooked your bacon in the oven you don’t know what you’re missing!  Not only is there no splatter of oil to clean up and ruin your clothes or burn you, but each piece is perfectly done with ease, and stays nice and straight and looks amazing!  Thick cut bacon works best, but you can certainly do it with any bacon you have.  You just have to watch it closely because the time in which is crisps happens so quickly.  I am going to go ahead and say every oven is different, and so is every bacon so there is no cut and dry temperature/time combo that will work best, but I will list what I used tonight as a guideline to get you started and you’ll just have to try it for yourself to find out what works best in your oven.

Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Quesadillas

Serves : 2-4                            Time to make : 10 minutes (not including bacon preparation time)

Ingredients :

  • 4 Jalapeno Cheddar Tortillas (they are large and the brand is Mission)
  • 3 oz. nonfat cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded gouda
  • 8 strips of thick cut bacon, crispy
  • 1 cup of fresh baby spinach (or basically a large handful)

Directions :

  1. First make your bacon… either in the skillet if you prefer, or in the oven as mentioned above.  To make it in the oven line a large cookie (with sides) with foil and place a rack on top.  The foil should come up the sides a bit to catch all your grease for easy cleanup.  Spray rack a bit with non-stick cooking spray.  Lay bacon on rack making sure not to overlap them for the best results.  Bake in a 350 degree oven (not preheated) for about 25-30 minutes or until done, paying close attention starting around 15 minutes and flipping them once or twice for even crisping.
  2. Once bacon is done, combine the cream cheese and gouda in a small microwave safe bowl and heat for about a minute until melted stirring about halfway through.  Watch closely so it doesn’t burn or anything, but it should be fine as long as you stirred it.  You’ll end up with a sort of sticky, ball of cheese rather than a truly melted sauce.
  3. Split the cheese among the four tortillas and spread on one half of each.  Next layer on the bacon.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add about a T. of water and throw in the spinach stirring gently.  Cook just until it has wilted down a bit, and then remove it.  Layer that into your quesadillas last before folding them over into half circles.
  5. Wipe out any moisture in your skillet left from the spinach and spray with a bit of non-stick cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high heat and then cook your quesadillas in there either one at a time, or if you are brave and have a large skillet go for two at a time but it will make it harder to flip them.  Again, watch closely because once they start to brown they will burn fast if you aren’t careful.  It will probably only take a minute or so for the first side to brown up and start to get crispy, then flip it and cook the other side.  Note: the other side will brown even faster so pay attention.
  6. Cut in half and serve warm.  Optional to serve with a bit of sour cream as well.


Sticky Glazed Chicken & Couscous

Another aptly named dish!  This is one of those recipes where it would be very helpful to have everything measured out and ready ahead of time since towards the end things come together rather quickly, and if you want to time everything to be done together you may end up flustered at the end as you try to get your couscous going, keep an eye on the chicken and onions  (which were getting very close to being overdone in my case), and measure out the sauce ingredients.  Especially if you are like me and seem to always end up in a rush to get something like your brown sugar, only to find you are at the end of the bag and it’s pretty clumpy so you have to take extra care to break it up first.  And the slow pour of things like vinegar can be agonizingly worse when you are in a hurry.  So I like to just have things measured out into little dishes sitting next to me for convenience.  Back to original point… because I did NOT have it all ready I was a bit flustered as mentioned and in trying to get it all together and plated I found out just how sticky it was when my hands became a serving utensil…

Anyway, this is a very tasty recipe for sure, and a very attractive looking dish as well.  The recipe I followed called for regular couscous, but Jeff is not a fan and I had been wanting to try the larger pearl variety so figured this would be a good time.  This of course added to my flustered state since I didn’t realize it was cooked slightly different from regular couscous which you just boil the liquid for, dump it in, cover it and leave it.  For the pearl couscous (I used a tricolor variety) you actually have to cook it on low for a little longer and stir it occasionally, so just be aware of that before you start.  I definitely prefer the large variety now that we’ve tried it and think I will use that whenever I can, especially since Jeff seems to agree.  If you are not familiar with couscous you may be concerned that the amount of food seems small for two people, but like rice it fills you up pretty quickly because it expands.  If you do decide to go with the larger variety though you could get away with making a cup rather than 2/3 as stated in the recipe.

Jeff said this reminded him a lot of sweet and sour which is no surprise given the vinegar and sugar based sauce, but it’s a little different with the sundried tomatoes and red wine vinegar.  It is nice and sweet and it coats the chicken wonderfully so you get all the flavors in each bite.  I did notice afterwards that I misread a portion of the recipe off my phone and used 4 T. of sugar instead of tsp. which could have made a substantial amount of difference, so I am just going to go ahead and list it as I made it since I had great results.  I encourage you to add  a good handful of spinach or even two since it cooks down so small.  Another great thing about this recipe… at least for me, is that other than the spinach, all the ingredients are things I typically have on hand so I can easily throw this together any time.


Sticky Glazed Chicken & Couscous

Serves : 2                  Time to make : 20 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin (about 12 oz)
  • 2/3 cup dry couscous
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 8 or so sundried tomatoes, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • handful of spinach
  • 6 T. red wine vinegar
  • 4 T. brown sugar
  • cooking spray or olive oil

Directions :

  1. Spray skillet with cooking spray or put a bit of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, cook for 1 min. stirring until slightly browned.  Season and add your chicken, cook about 6-7 minutes until  browned and mostly cooked through.
  3. Boil the water for your couscous  as directed on the package, then add couscous and cover.  If you chose to use the large variety you will need to keep the burner on a lower heat and stir occasionally for about 8-10 minutes (or as directed on package) otherwise it can sit there for about 5 minutes untouched if you used the small kind.
  4. To the chicken, add your vinegar and sugar, and stir it well to get it all mixed.  Throw in tomatoes, and cook a couple of minutes until sauce comes together and gets sticky and thick, and chicken is fully cooked through.
  5. Throw in your big handful of spinach and stir until it just wilts down and remove from heat. Serve chicken over the warm couscous.



Pulled Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

Tonight’s recipe comes from foodgawker again… yeah I go there a lot lol…. and while I wouldn’t say it was a new favorite it was definitely good.  I think it has potential to be great, but in it’s current form is just a bit simple for my tastes.  However, simple is not always bad, and this is a great way to change things up a bit without getting too adventurous in the kitchen for those that are newer to culinary exploration.  I think the addition of maybe some green peppers would be really good on this, or maybe even some smoky bacon or ham, or jalapenos would help take this recipe to the “great” status.  As I knew he would, Jeff also suggested using a white bun for these, and I agree it would be better, but I was trying to boost the health and cut back on the calories for tonight so went with wheat.  I bet a nice specialty type roll fresh from the bakery would be even better for these; something a bit harder than your basic burger bun.  I also want to point out, that for convenience, I use a counter top grill about 99% of the time and it’s possible that once in a while it sacrifices just a bit of flavor in a dish, but that’s debatable I imagine.  I just think that you get way better char marks on the real thing and that might have pushed this over the “good” status a bit too.

I didn’t have as much fun photographing this dish, but I still think I managed to come up with something drool worthy to share with all of you.

Pulled Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches

Makes : 5-6 Sandwiches

Ingredients :

  • 1 Lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup heinz 57 sauce (not ketchup which is a common misconception)
  • 2 T. agave nectar or honey (I used honey)
  • Tabasco
  • Fresh pineapple, cored and sliced into 7 1/2″ rings (I used pre-cut spears and just sliced them thinner)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 5-6 buns or sandwich rolls

Directions :

  1. Heat grill to medium heat.  Place one ring of pineapple in a small food processor and puree until you get a sauce-like result.  Place into a medium bowl and add to that your heniz 57 sauce, agave nectar or honey, and a couple of dashes of Tabasco.  Taste at this point and add some additional honey as desired.  Remove 1/4 cup of the sauce to use for basting and reserve the rest for serving later on.
  2. Brush pineapple rings with a bit of olive oil before placing them on the heated grill.  Cook for 5-7 minutes on both sides until the sugars begin to caramelize and you get nice grill marks.   Pound chicken out slightly to achieve and even thickness before seasoning with salt and pepper and then brushing on half of sauce you pulled earlier to your first side.  If you used a countertop grill like me, you can go ahead and baste the other side once you put it on the hot grill, otherwise you’ll need to remember to baste the other side once you flip your chicken halfway through cook-time.  Cook until chicken is completely done, then set aside and cover with foil to allow the chicken to rest for about 5-10 minutes before shredding with two forks.  (during this time you could toast your buns if you want, which is what I did, but the recipe did not call for it)
  3. Add shredded chicken to the bowl of sauce and toss to coat evenly.  Divide among your buns and top with the rings of grilled pineapple.


Enchilada Pasta Skillet

Tonight’s meal is definitely one from the comfort food department.  Like many of the recipes I share on here, this comes together easily and in pretty good time.  It’s been a while since I made actual enchiladas, but this seems much easier without all the filling and rolling and extra dishes.  Everything goes together in one pan for this dish.  Flavor isn’t exactly like a typical enchilada, likely because of the pasta vs. tortillas, but it’s very good nonetheless.

The recipe, which again came off foodgawker (another one of those that caught my attention with a lovely picture), didn’t specify a type of pasta, so I used orecchiette which I had on hand which worked nicely.  They act like little bowls to scoop up the sauce nicely.  I imagine shells would work nicely for this reason too.  Just watch carefully during cook-time for your chosen pasta to reach the al dente stage before moving on to the next step.  I actually used this recipe as an excuse to finally go out and buy a cast iron skillet, which I have been wanting for a long time, because I am too scared to put my Rachel Ray set in the oven.  Make sure you have an oven safe skillet to make this in if you plan to broil the cheese on top at the end.  This makes a large skillet full, so be sure to use the biggest one you have too.

Enchilada Pasta Skillet

Serves : 4                 Time to make : 35-40 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 LB chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (1o oz) cans enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco (Dh said it was a bit much for him so you might want to try half first)
  • 2 oz. Velveeta cheese or shredded cheese (I used a shredded Mexican blend)
  • 8 oz. pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar (I used the Mexican blend again)
  • sour cream, cilantro, scallions

Directions :

  1. Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in skillet.  Brown on all sides; about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
  2. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining T of oil over medium heat.  Add onions and peppers and cook until tender stirring frequently; about 5 minutes.  Add beans, enchilada sauce, chicken broth, Tabasco, first portion of cheese, and pasta.  Cover and cook at a low simmer until pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom.  Depending on what type of pasta you chose this should take about 10 minutes.   Once you have reached al dente add back in your chicken and continue to cook uncovered until chicken if fully cooked through and sauce thickens; about another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add remaining cheese to the top and place under broiler for a minute until cheese melts, watching carefully.  Top with a generous dollop of sour cream, chopped scallions, and cilantro either in the skillet or in each individual dish.


Mango & Banana Salsa with Tilapia

It is my goal to eat more fish this year for it’s health benefits and just for the variety as well.  I have always enjoyed fish, but I am not very experienced with it, so it will be fun to try new ways to prepare it.  Tonight’s recipe instantly grabbed my attention by all the gorgeous colors in the dish.  After all, they way your food looks plays a large role in your enjoyment of it.  I was a bit disappointed to see that the recipe called for mango because I just can’t stand the stuff, but I also knew that I could probably substitute some pineapple with good results since I have had a similar salsa before.  The addition of banana was very new to me however, and intriguing for sure.  I will post it with the original recipe, but my own review is for the pineapple version.

The dish comes together very quickly, and easily.  I suggest making the salsa earlier in the day if you have time and letting it sit in the fridge to really let the flavors marry, but I only had about a half hour for mine and it was still great.  The dish has such a freshness to it, and a great balance of heat, sweet, and sour with the colorful salsa.  With the eye-catching presentation it’s the perfect thing to serve to guests if you want to impress.  It’s also very low calorie/fat which everyone appreciates.  The recipes makes a lot of the salsa, almost more than you need, but it worked out to sort of eat it like a salad with the cut up fish rather than as a topping for it.  I was a bit confused about the part where it called for half of a long red pepper, and then listed jalapeno or thai, so I just got a red jalapeno and put the whole thing in there since they aren’t very big.  I would suggest tasting whatever type of pepper you use first to determine how much you want in there.


Mango & Banana Salsa with Tilapia

Serves : 4                         Time to make : 25 minutes (+ time for salsa to sit)

Ingredients :

  • 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (a heaping cup) * I subbed the same amount of fresh pineapple
  • 1 medium banana, firm ripe, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 long red pepper, ripe jalapeno or Thai
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cups cilantro leaves, 1/3 cup minced & 1/3 cup roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice (I added a little more and some zest)
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt or to taste
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • flour (about a 1/4 cup or so
  • 2 T. olive oil

Directions :

  1. Combine mango, banana, pepper, red pepper, cilantro, onion, lime juice, and salt in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours if time allows, otherwise you can move right on to the fish.
  2. Pat dry fish fillets, season with salt and pepper on both sides and dredge in flour; shaking off excess.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add fish and cook until medium golden brown and fish easily lifts from bottom of pan.  Turn over and cook until done all the way through.
  4. Move to either one serving tray or individual plates before topping with the salsa (about a cup per fillet if individual).  Serve with additional lime wedges if desired.

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Cheddar Mac & Ham Casserole

If that doesn’t scream comfort food I don’t know what does!  Chances are you already have to make Mac and Cheese at least once a week for your little ones, but if you have to eat it I say you should at least enjoy it.  I am not a fan of Mac and Cheese by itself, but I LOVE it like this.  Most shocking thing of all though is how low calorie this recipe is…. relative to how much you can eat at least!  I am going to make myself sound like a pig, but when I make this I portion it into three servings.  So for an entire third of a casserole it’s only about 600 calories!  That’s a heaping plate full of cheesey, yummy goodness!

I think I came across this recipe on a site called Key Ingredient, which for those that aren’t familiar, is a recipe sharing site that goes along with the Demy (an electronic recipe reader).  The only thing I have changed from the original recipe was to pre-cook the ham a bit because I don’t care for the fatty chewy parts and that eliminates the issue.  I have tried this with an alfredo type Mac and Cheese and it was also VERY good, but normally I stick to the four cheese like it calls for.  When I am not counting calories I eyeball the ham and cheese and probably end up with more than it calls for, but it is great either way.  I also often put a little more peas than it calls for, but I figure that is actually healthier.  As for the ham… it calls for a half lb, but every time I go to the store and ask the deli counter for half a lb cut thick (sometimes I buy a ham steak from the meat section too) they end up giving me closer to 3/4-1 lb and I just throw it all in if I am not worried about the extra calories that day.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this one, and think it will easily become a regular in your dinner rotation.

Cheddar Mac & Ham Casserole

Serves : 3-4                       Time to make : 25 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 1 (14 oz) box of 4 cheese Deluxe Mac & Cheese
  • 1/2 lb Ham, cubed
  • 1 C. frozen peas (I use more like 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup fat free milk (or whatever you have)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Also start a large pot of water to boiling.
  2. Meanwhile cook the ham in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned, about 4 minutes.  I find this not only eliminates the chewy parts of the ham, but it just adds more depth to the flavor so I suggest you don’t skip this step.  I usually add just a tad bit of water (like a T.) towards the end of the cook time to the skillet to help get up some of the browned bits in the pan and keep it moist and flavorful.  Set aside.
  3. Once water is boiling add your pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes.  Drain pasta then add the cheese packet and stir until well combined. 
  4. Next add the milk, peas, and ham.
  5. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle cheese over top.  Bake for 15 minutes.


Ultimate Tuna Melt

Let me start by saying I did not name this recipe.  It came from  However, I do agree that this is one awesome tuna melt!  The first time I made this recipe was in 2007, and I have made it countless times since.  Not only are they tastey, but they are quite quick and simple to prepare, and low in fat and calories.  These melts make it into our meal rotation often during those times we are trying to lose a bit of weight… such as last night lol.

Over the years I have very slightly altered the recipe to suit our needs and this is what I will share on my blog.  The ingredients are all basically the same, but I may have changed a few amounts and also the method a little to give the best results.  Jeff and I usually each eat 4 of these…. yeah I know it sounds like a lot, but even at that many the calorie total fits well within our daily budgets.  If you can find the 100 calorie english muffins that works best (if you are counting calories anyway), but any type will do just fine.  Likewise, I use the ultra thin cheese for diet reasons, but have used regular slices before as well.  As for the tuna, I use chunk light because I try to avoid Albacore for the mercury levels, however the original recipe did suggest the albacore.


Ultimate Tuna Melt

Serves : 2-4               Time to make : 15 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 4 (100 calorie, or wheat variety) english muffins, cut in half
  • 2 small cans of tuna (in water), well drained
  • 3/4 cup artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (I usually use one of the small jars of marinated hearts)
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (start with the lesser and taste it)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 8 slices ultra thin provolone

Directions :

  1. Preheat broiler, and arrange muffins on baking sheet.  Spray lightly with any sort of cooking spray and brown slightly.  This happens fairly quickly so keep an eye on it.  Once done set aside while you mix the topping.
  2. In a large bowl combine the tuna, artichokes, onions, lemon juice and zest, seasoning, and oil.  Spoon carefully onto each toasted muffin.  Top with a slice of cheese.
  3. Broil for a couple of minutes, watching closely until cheese has melted and starts to brown.  I find that rotating them helps get them all evenly done.


BBQ Muffin Cups

These super simple muffin cups came from, and are what gave me the idea for my Italian Chicken Cups (shared the other day).  They are another great weeknight meal, and though they are not really low in calories or anything the simplicity and low cost help make up for it.  And you can always lower the calories by using ground turkey, low fat cheese, and reduced fat biscuits too.  I have tried versions with corn in them as well, and really enjoyed the addition.  This has become one of our go-to recipes whenever we need to repeat things because of busy schedules and they are SO easy, even Jeff can make them start to finish without messing them up…. which if you know my husband you’d know is no small thing.  If you use the Pilsbury Grands (my preferred biscuit) you’ll get 8 of these, which Jeff and I can eat by ourselves, but I’d say you can get away with 2 per person as long as you have a little side with them.


BBQ Muffin Cups

serves : 2-4                 time to make : 25 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1 T. onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup bbq sauce
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can flakey biscuits (I use Pilsbury Grands)

Directions :

  1. Brown beef and onions in skillet.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Drain beef and onions before mixing in the bbq sauce and brown sugar.
  3. Using your hands, stretch the biscuits out to about double the size and fit down into a lightly sprayed muffin pan. 
  4. Fill each cup with the beef and onions mixture then top with some cheese.
  5. Bake about 15 minutes or until muffins are golden and cooked through.

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Fish Picatta

This recipe comes from Melissa d’Arabian, whom you may have seen on Food Network.  I’ve made other variations of this recipe before, but this one is SO simple I had to give it a try and I was so glad I did because it’s literally bursting with flavor.  It’s a great weeknight meal because it takes so little effort to prepare, and it’s also a nice light dish with low calories and fat.  If you’re like me and would like to find more ways to incorporate fish into your diet for all it’s healthy benefits, I highly suggest you try this recipe.

Tonight I paired this with some fried potato slices (fish and chips), but it would also be good with a simple pasta to soak up all that delicious sauce left on the plate.  Or perhaps some couscous would be nice too.  Tilapia is fairly inexpensive, but you can splurge a little and use something like Halibut for this too if you want.  Really, any firm white fish would work I am sure.  The lemon flavor is VERY strong, so if you would like it a little less lemony go ahead and do half the lemon juice.  I have tried this with both pinot and moscato and had great results.


Fish Picatta

serves 4                time to make : 20 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 4 small fillets of white fish such as tilapia, about a lb total
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 lemons, juiced (I also take the zest off one for extra flavor)
  • 2 T. capers
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Directions :

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  While pan is heating, blot fish with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
  2. Saute fish in oil until just cooked through and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.  Turn half way through cooking.  Move to platter and keep warm.
  3. Immediately deglaze the pan with the white wine, whisking for about 1 minute.  It  helps to lift the pan off the burner at this point or you will have a HUGE mess.  Add the lemon juice and capers next and stir to combine.  Add the butter, allowing to melt as you whisk together.  Simmer for a couple minutes to allow the sauce to thicken slightly as it reduces. 
  4. Pour over the plated fish, and top with your chopped parsley (and this is where I add the zest as well).



Published in: on January 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cauliflower Crust Thai Chicken Pizza

Don’t let the title of this one scare you off… this is an AMAZING pizza.  Not only can you not tell the crust is made from cauliflower, but it’s actually really good.  It might not hold up quite like a regular dough crust, but if I remember correctly (I made this quite some time ago, and just haven’t had time to blog about it) I was able to slice and hold it with some care.  It takes a bit of time, and it might get a little bit messy making this pizza, but it’s definitely worth the effort, and your waistline will thank you too.

Notes: Cauliflower crust doesn’t hold up well for reheating since it’s pretty moist, so plan to eat it all the first night… which is no problem lol.  It won’t smell super appetizing while you heat the cauliflower, but I promise it will taste better than it smells.  When grating the cauliflower use the large holes of a box grater.


Cauliflower Crust Thai Chicken Pizza

makes : 1 pizza

Ingredients :

Crust :

  • 2 cups firmly packed shredded cauliflower (about half to 2/3 of a large head)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded mozzarella
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T. (or more) Sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Toppings :

  • 1 (7oz) jar peanut sauce (found in most Asian sections of the grocery store)
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken (I believe I used rotisserie)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella
  • 4 green onions, green parts only, chopped
  • 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. and spray a large baking sheet or pizza pan (I used a pizza pan with holes covering the bottom for ventilation) with nonstick cooking spray.  Place shredded cauliflower in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for 8 minutes.  Let cool.
  2. Add egg, mozzarella, garlic, sriracha, and salt to the cauliflower, stirring to combine.  Pat the mixture into a 12-inch round on prepared pan.  Brush with the olive oil.
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.  Remove crust from oven and adjust oven setting to broil.
  4. In a measuring cup or small bowl stir the peanut sauce with the peanut butter until combined.  Spread sauce over pizza crust.  Arrange chicken over next, then sprinkle with cheese, green onions, and cilantro.
  5. Broil for 3-4 minutes, watching carefully, until cheese is melted and begins to brown.  Cut into slices and serve immediately.


Italian Chicken Cups

For those out in cyber space following this blog, THANK YOU!  I know I have been a terrible blogger this past year…. well let’s face it, a non-existent one would better describe me…. but I really hope I will find more time this year now that things are more settled here.  We moved a couple times, and life just got busy, but now we are in our new home and I am getting used to our new schedules and finding more time to do the things I love.  Anyway, I guess I haven’t done too bad, considering this year I still had close to 10 thousand views on this blog even though I only made one post lol.  Not bad at all.  Let’s see how many I can get this year.

So for my first post in a very long time… I give you Italian Chicken Cups.  Nothing really complicated to make, but this is one of my own recipes, and I have to admit it’s a great one!  There is so much flavor packed into these adorable little bundles that you won’t believe how easy they are to prepare.  And the presentation is perfect for a dinner party with friends.  I make them as a main course, but I have had suggestions from people that have tried them that they might also do well as an appetizer.

Notes:  I have used various different kinds of biscuits for these, but I prefer the Grands ones by pilsbury.  There are 8 in a package and they are nice, big, and fluffy.  When I make the chicken I just season with salt and pepper, and a bit of Italian seasoning before grilling up on a counter top grill.

Italian Chicken Cups

serves 4-8             time to make : 25-30 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 1  large chicken breast, cooked (see note above)
  • 1 roll of refrigerated biscuits (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup artichoke hearts, diced
  • 2-3 T. roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup zesty Italian dressing
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, minced
  • 2-3 T. shredded parmesan

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly spray 8 of your 12 muffin cups.
  2. Cut up chicken into small pieces, and combine with olives, artichokes, tomatoes, dressing, lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Using your hands stretch the biscuit out, keeping their circular shape until they are about twice the size.  Press into the prepared muffin pan allowing them to cup up out of the top and form a cup.
  4. Spoon filling into cups and bake according to package directions for your biscuits.  Using the Pilsbury Grands it is about 15 minutes I find in my oven.  In the last 5 minutes add the cheese to the tops if you want it to get melty, otherwise you can add it at the end.



Day 149 : Greek Chicken & Potatoes

This is just a simple and tasty meal that I make fairly often (at least for me).  It isn’t super quick because you have to cut up chicken, potatoes, garlic, etc, but if you cut corners and either prep some of it ahead of time or purchase ready cut ingredients it could be a fairly quick meal…. great for a weeknight.  I hadn’t tried red peppers in it until tonight, but I enjoyed them for the color at least since they didn’t seem to change the flavor all that much.  It could be a good way to sneak in some veggies too.  You may need to adjust the cook time so your potatoes and chicken are both done, but a tip is to make sure they are both cut the same size and fairly small.


Greek Chicken & Potatoes

Serves : 4                    Time to make : 45 minutes

Ingredients :

  • 2 large chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 C. poatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (I like red for this)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I also throw in the zest of one lemon)
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3-1 cup feta (tomato basil works well)

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Place chicken and potatoes in dish, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add garlic (and some sort of veggie here if you like).
  4. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, and oregano and pour over the chicken and potatoes.  Stir to coat everything.
  5. Pour the dissolved bouillon cube over everything and stir again.
  6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until chicken is done through and potatoes are tender.
  7. Add the feta at the very end.


Published in: on June 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Day 145 : Taco Salad Nachos

Well I’m back!  Enjoyed my time away, and was able to recharge my batteries so to speak, but not it’s time to get back to things.

Tonight’s recipe is one we’ve made before and it’s perfect for any night.  It literally goes together in maybe 10 minutes, and it’s something the whole family can enjoy.  I know a lot of people have taco night because they are easy…. well these are even easier because you don’t have to assemble tacos and there is no worry about them spilling out onto your plate because they are already in a pile!  You can crunch up the chips and eat it more like a salad or leave the chips whole and eat them as nachos.

I will list our typical taco toppings, but feel free to use whatever you like for yours.


Taco Salad Nachos

Serves : 4                Time to make  : 10 minutes


Ingredients :

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips (For extra flavor try hint of lime, pepper jack, or jalapeno chips)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small can olives, sliced
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup sour cream (fat free)
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • 1 pkg shredded lettuce

Directions :

  1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, and drain.  Add seasoning and water and mix.
  2. Place chips on the bottom of the plate and layer the meat, cheese, onions, olives, and lettuce on top. 
  3. Mix together the salsa, sour cream, and guacamole and pour over the top.



Thanks for your patience and I hope you will all stick with me!


Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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