Monday, February 29, 2016

Let Them Eat Fish

The weekend got off to an intense start with another trip to the dentist for my husband. I hate to see that guy in pain, but he handled it like a champ. I am so thankful that we have found a dentist we really like. I hung out in this plush waiting room - pretty fancy :)  
I am a sucker for these letter photos. I have a small collection of letter pictures I have taken in a file that I may some day make my own personalized word.
This was one of my favorite lunches - a piece of naan bread with the lemon/tarragon chicken salad. I could eat it every day, but someone would surely remind me I need some fruits and veggies too!
I would like for us to eat more fish. I like it, but my husband is not a fan. I have probably only made it two other times since we have married. Sometimes, I make it when I am by myself or with someone else who likes it, but not for the two of us. I make no secret of the fact that I am hunting for ways to work it in that he might consent to seeing on his plate occasionally. I am not sure he appreciates my mission, but that might just be what wives do :) This recipe from Skinnytaste has been waiting on my Pinterest board forever - Skillet Cajun Spiced Flounder with Tomatoes.

I was attracted to this recipe because it is spicy and had tomatoes and peppers, all of which my husband likes. I also thought those flavors would hide the fish a little bit. First up, it called for Cajun spice. Since I am a complete newbie I consulted my Louisiana friends and "Slap Ya Mama" was one of the recommendations. No offense, Mom, but who can resist a goofy name like that??
Once I had the seasoning the rest of the ingredients were pretty basic. I did end up using tilapia because that was what Aldi had and the recipe suggested it as an alternative to flounder.
I have watched enough cooking shows to know Cajun cooking has a trinity - peppers, onions and celery. I think I have mentioned before my issue with cooked celery, Thankfully, it wasn't called for in this recipe. I simply pretended the garlic was part of the trinity.
 I bought fresh tomatoes, but winter tomatoes are nothing like tomatoes from the garden.
To boost the tomato flavor I added a half a cup of crushed tomatoes. You could used canned diced tomatoes in place of all the tomatoes if you like.
First onions get sauteed. The recipe said to saute the onion and garlic together for a couple minutes. However, garlic can turn bitter in no time if overcooked. So I sauteed the onions and then added the garlic for the last 30 seconds to release their fragrance.
 Then I quickly added the rest of the sauce ingredients and cooked for a few minutes.
Simply lay the fillets on top of the sauce and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes. My cook time was shorter because the tilapia fillets were significantly thinner than the fish in the recipe.
 In 10 minutes I had a pan full of this :)
 I served it on rice with a sprinkle of green onions for color.
My husband enjoyed the rice and sauce, but just could not get into the fish. He ate about half the actual fish, but ate everything else. I will be honest when I tasted the fish I knew he was not going to like it - it was not as mild as I had hoped. Maybe I can try it again sometime with a different fish. Overall, the recipe is super simple. There was even a suggestion of preparing the sauce in advance - then all you do is warm the sauce a little and add the fish - dinner in minutes.

There were some questions in the Skinnytaste comments about converting the recipe to chicken. I might try that, but I think it could be a little tricky to get the chicken texture right. Maybe I would cook them separately until the end right before serving.

"Slap Ya Mama" review - When I smelled the spice I didn't think it would be very spicy. When cooked it had much more kick than I expected. It was good and would definitely like to have it again, but I was happy to have my water next to me :)

Millie went to the park to play ball Saturday morning. And Saturday afternoon....  Sometimes it is good to be the puppy :)
I had gone to Sam's with my sister and niece to Sam's Club on Friday. There was a special booth offering stuffed salmon. As a Lent special they allowed you to buy it by the piece instead a huge package of fillets. I couldn't resist the opportunity to give it a try.  Saturday night, ironically after our fish lunch I was having fish again. Since I had another steak I could make for my husband I didn't feel guilty about making fish again. We both enjoyed our special version of His & Hers Surf and Turf.
I could not believe how delicious the salmon and stuffing were. I will definitely be having it again. We had gone out to eat a couple times recently and I was very disappointed with my food. The bottom line is most of the time I prefer the food I make at home, but I don't always want to cook and like dining out. By the way, our Surf and Turf dinner was less than $10 for the two of us. My fish was $4, my husband's NY Strip was $3 a couple of dollars for the sides. If I could find a restaurant like that I would be thrilled :)

Sunday we had a zoo adventure with my family. More on that this week. I will sprinkle (or dump) some of the pictures into the next couple of posts. I love the zoo and always take a gazillion pictures.

Happy Leap Day to everyone!  Any special plans for this bonus day?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Snow Comes and Goes

It has been a busy week at work and with the weather I have been kinda blah about doing anything particular once I get home. Meals have had to be quick.

I made this dish quite awhile ago and I remembered liking it, but as my husband says I make something we like then we never see it again because I am constantly looking to try something new. Guilty as charged. So, this week when I needed something super quick and simple I brought back Spicy Sausage Pasta from Kevin & Amanda.  Kevin & Amanda was one of the first blogs I started following - there are zillions of beautiful photos of food, travel and their adorable Boston Terriers. I now have so many other blogs that I read regularly I often forget to get back to this one.

Back to dinner. First, I sauteed the turkey smoked sausage and onions in a large pan.
Then added Rotel tomatoes, cream, chicken broth and dry pasta.
Mix everything together and and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium low for 15 minutes.
Then stir in half the cheese, sprinkle remaining cheese on top with sliced green onions. Place under the broiler for a couple minutes to melt the cheese. Easy peasy - who doesn't love a one pot dinner.
This big pan makes 4 servings. The calories are on the high side of my 300-600 meal goal coming in at 586 calories. I did shave off a few calories by not using all the oil called for to sautee onions and sausage. I also used half and half instead of heavy cream - not for calorie cutting, but due to price. I could buy a much less expensive, smaller carton of half and half than I could of the heavy cream.

Tuesday/night Wednesday morning we got a nice bit of snow.
 Millie loves the snow and did not want to come in.
 I did not want to go to work.
 But thankfully school was closed so my husband could drive me to work.
I love this street. It is the one near work with all the nice houses that you have seen from many of my lunch walk photos.
It was a very heavy packing snow, perfect for snow scultures. I saw this guy on my way home. I think it is some sort of sea monster.
The snow was super packy because the temps were barely freezing. I actually took these pictures this morning...24 hours later...welcome to February.

Even with my slight "blah-ness" this week, I did get a little experimenting in. I am auditioning herbs for this year's garden.

Tarragon is prominently featured in my first issue of Cooking Light. I confess I have had a fear of tarragon because of the licorice flavor...I hate licorice. But there are several recipes that sound delicious, so I found a packet to try. Mary at Runs to Get Waisted told me about her signature chicken salad - chicken, mayo, garlic, tarragon and lemon zest. Since I was making chicken salad anyway I decided to give it a whirl.
Seriously, it was so delicious. I couldn't stop thinking about it all evening. I made some of my own chicken salad too - red grapes, celery and red onion. However, I added lemon zest and tarragon. I will absolutely use the lemon zest from now on and the tarragon when I have it.
I ran out of mayo while I was making the chicken salad. I went to the convenience store a couple blocks from the house and they wanted $4.50 for a small jar of mayo - that's ridiculous. So I got back in the car and went to my go-to store Aldi. I got twice as much mayo for $1.69. While I was there I noticed their new checkout display. One thing I have always appreciate (or occasionally been annoyed by) is Aldi doesn't have much of a checkout goodie selection - usually some nuts and a very limited candy selection - Snickers (not my favorite) and some gross fruit chews. It appears they are revamping the options and I am eager to see what they come up with.

On the way out, I picked up this little booklet. Aldi has always catered to people on a budget including those on state assistance programs. There has been wide critcism about healthy foods not being affordable. I think Aldi is doing a great job addressing this issue.
  I hope people pick up the booklet and take a minute to read through it.

 I confess I bough "fruit rings" recently and their muted color were a little disturbing at first, but once you realize they taste the same you get over it.
 In my opinion Aldi has had the best produce prices. I am thrilled they recently started carrying cilantro and jalapenos - two items I buy frequently and always had to go to another store to find.  They also no sell my husband's beloved Provel cheese (a St. Louis thing). A local pizza chain (Imo's) uses it and people either love it or hate husband is in the love camp. I always buy it for our homemade pizza. I like it mixed with mozzarella.
 This is the first page of the current flyer - see what I mean about the produce prices.

 I am going to have to check out their website for some more recipes.
The one criticism I would have Aldi is also something I like. They are constantly bringing in new products. One month they will feature Asian inspired products and German the next. The problem is if you try something you like it maybe be months before it is available again.

I had to go to a different store to get tarragon and while I was there I noticed NY strip steak marked down. Since I didn't have anything planned for dinner yet I got a couple.
My husband was very happy to see this on his plate.
Although I know this was over my calorie goal, I made a special effort to make the green beans (sauteed with garlic and tarragon) and loaded them on my plate first so I would have less room for potato temptation. I did NOT go back for seconds :)

I have done some shopping for new recipes, so hopefully I will be inspired this weekend. Our weekend getaway has been postponed due to residual affects of the flooding in December. We were supposed to visit a cave with an underground lake. What are your plans?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February Warm Up

I want to start with a quick follow up to last week's grilled veg fest. I have discovered my current favorite breakfast. Not only is it delicious - it is fast, healthy, pretty and most importantly, it kept me satisfied until lunch (not bad for 250 calories). I seriously was not thinking about lunch by 10:30a, as I often am. I simply took a wrap, piled on a layer of fresh baby spinach and topped with three of the egg muffins (reheated).
It was delicious and I felt very positive about what I was eating. Sadly a cold front comes in today so I will not be making a new mass of grilled veggies for a bit.
I had my quinoa/veggie salad for lunch a couple days. I didn't really care for the dressing I used on it the first day. The quinoa and veggies were so good that the next day I just ate them without dressing with a side of the grilled chicken. Another definite do again.
This weekend with the state wrestling tournament. I am so proud of my nephew and how hard he worked this season. Unfortunately, he met up with 15 other guys who also had worked hard and had great seasons. He won his first match before being beaten by the guy who eventually who second.

I found a way to watch online :)
You can't see it, but my nephew is on top and the first guy is pinned!! Those refs do an amazing job getting up and down off the floor. This guy reminds me a bit of a seal sunning himself.
His final match was against the 6th ranked kid in the state - they have wrestled several times with mixed results. This day the other guy barely beat my nephew 4-3.
Saturday was am unseasonable 70 degrees. I spent some time in the afternoon cleaning up my poor neglected garden.
It looks much better and I am dreaming of what I am going to plant. Don't be alarmed despite the warm weather I know winter is far from over and I won't be planting anything anytime soon. Incidentally it was a good workout!
Of course, there had to be more grilling. I grilled a few pork steaks and some veggies (and a couple hotdogs for my hotdog lovin' father-in-law) to take out to the farm.
Millie was super excited to visit her friend Buddy. He gets bigger every time I see him. It won't be long before he is bigger than Millie. He is only 7 months (poor guy is getting neutered today).

My husband played frisbee with them. I had to laugh at his attempt to get them both to sit before throwing the frisbee. As you can see my dog is the "good one".
 Until she is not.  I think my poor husband me his matches :)
After dinner we played a few games. I am not good at this balancing game and was out pretty quickly.
 So serious.
 My niece spent Saturday night and most of Sunday with us. Which means there was the Great Puzzle Off of 2016. We have done a couple of these competitions. I bought her two 1000 piece puzzles for Christmas with the promise of a puzzle off. We puzzled until about 1 a.m.
 And right back to it the next day (after breakfast, at least).
She is now officially the three-time champion. This competition could not have been much closer.  I think the last time I had about 100 pieces left.  This time she only beat me by 7 pieces (and about 45 seconds).  Maybe next time...  By the way the puzzle on the left is pictures of chapstick. If you look closely, you will see spam, pickle and bacon flavored chapsticks....gross!
Ever since the end of the Jedi 100 day streak I have been fighting foot pain and haven't been walking. I finally found a pair of shoes that feel good. I took them out for a lunch time walk yesterday. It felt great to be out walking and I happy to report my feet feel pretty good this morning. I would love to think I have turned a corner and can get back to regular walking. 

 I promise I did not check to see if there were any candies left in this bag on the ground :)
 This little bee always makes me smile.
I know some of you are cringing at this picture right now. I did not attempt to fix it, but I can guarantee if I had been the one replacing the manhole cover the stripes would have lined up.
 There is something a little unsettling about this tree...where is its bark??
 Looks like someone got a new fence or new stain at least. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not.
 I think someone does not like mowing hillsides.
This sign made my happy walking heart a little sad. Apparently, they lost two daughters at the same time at the age of 19.  I Googled the girls when I got back to work. They were twin sisters - one twin and her boyfriend were visiting the other twin at college across the state. The driver lost control of her car, went in the other lane and was hit by oncoming traffic. The twins were killed immediately. The boyfriend lived for awhile. When he died his heart was donated to another woman. Such a tragic story.
I love the brick streets in my work neighborhood. Although this intersection makes me a bit dizzy
Sometimes I could use a good dose of the tenacity moss seems to have. It can make any location work.
It was so good to be out walking. I wish I didn't have so many errands to do at lunch today. I would love to be out there walking again.

Wishing you all a great week!