baked haddock with crumbs

I don’t think this is quite normal, but as a kid I can remember always looking forward to eating a dinner of smelts at my grandparents’ house on Sunday night.  Memere would be fussing in the kitchen, standing watch over a pan of tiny fish that had been coated in white flour and then fried into thin, buttery bites.  If we were lucky, she’d pan fry some potatoes and onions on the side, too.

I was in love with the fish.  Or maybe I was in love with being served dinner by Memere on some Sunday evening.  Whatever the reason, I still find myself looking forward to any dinner that involves fish.  Be it trout, cod, tilapia, salmon or sardines.

I love fish.

Did you know that the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating at least 8 oz. of fish a week?  This can come easily, in the form of a tuna fish sandwich.  Or, if you’re brave, a chopped sardine salad (it really is delicious, by the way.)

Of course, considering how quick and simple it is to make most fish in general anyways, you may find it to be the perfect weeknight dinner.

Baked Haddock with Crumbs + Steamed Asparagus with Lemon + Brown Rice

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A Healthy 30 Minute Dinner

This is one of my most favorite weeknight meals.  It’s not always easy to find simple dinners that are both healthy and delicious.  This one fits the bill just fine.

I love fish.

Baked Haddock with Crumbs

For the breadcrumbs, I usually just make my own with a loaf of Ezekiel sandwich bread.  About one medium slice of bread equals 1/4 cup of dry breadcrumbs, so this recipe would require you to pull out 4 slices.  Simply chop into small bits, toss on a baking sheet, and heat in a 350 degree oven.  Check it every 3 minutes or so, cooking until dry but not overdone.  Grind in a blender or food processor to the consistency of breadcrumbs (optional: add italian seasoning and freshly grated Parmesan.)

I highly recommend squeezing some fresh lemon juice on top of the fillets right before serving, as this really does enhance all the flavors.  ENJOY! 😀

  • 2 lb. haddock fillets
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp. sage or italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix bread crumbs and spices in a bowls.  Beat egg in small bowl; add milk in another small bowl.  Spray a square casserole dish well.
  3. Dip each piece of fish in milk, then egg, then coat well with bread crumbs.  Place breaded fish pieces in casserole dish; sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter if desired.  Bake 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: Fish…yay or nay?  And what kinds do you prefer?  How do you usually prepare it?

sometimes onions fly

I figured that it was about time for me to come clean with you guys.

I am not a clean cook.  In fact, I am a downright messy cook.

I can dice an onion with enthusiastic speed. 

I can eyeball out an accurate tablespoon of olive oil. 

I can handle three or four pots at once.

Hm.  I could probably even chop an eggplant with my hands tied behind my back.  Maybe. 

But please don’t ever ask me to keep my kitchen clean.  It just isn’t going to happen.

In my kitchen, carrot peels cling to the wall before plummeting to the earth. 

Pepper seeds sprinkle themselves across the butcher block. 

And sometimes, onions fly.

Now, before you start envisioning a dreadfully messy kitchen, I should point out that it’s not like my kitchen is always messy.  After dinner, it becomes rather spotless.  You’d barely believe that there was ever a moment of chaos, just 15 minutes previous.

Even still, I did seriously consider making “maintain a clean kitchen environment while cooking” as my New Years Resolution.  I envisioned myself twirling around a completely spotless kitchen, making both mom and martha proud.  

Not a speck of tomato sauce on anything (or anyone, for that matter.) 

But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this wasn’t such a good idea.

I kind of like being a messy cook.  It’s my time to just let loose.  To peel a carrot with reckless abandon.  To chop an onion like its my duty.  To let the pans sizzle and fry.

Really, now, you’ve got to admit.  Sometimes it feels good to get a little messy.  Sometimes it feels good to just let things fly.

Ratatouille—recipe taken from Everyday Food by Martha Stewart

I’ve always thought of “Ratatouille” as being a difficult (and maybe a little prestigious) recipe.  And yet, after finally overcoming my fears and just making it already, I can honestly say that there is nothing to be afraid of. 

Ratatouille is, very simply, a vegetable stew that is most commonly made with a mixture of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion and seasonings.  It comes together relatively quickly and aside from some vegetable dicing, most of the work is hands off. 

This recipe is delicious when served as is, with a hunk of crusty bread.  Or served over brown rice.  Or whole wheat pasta.  It would even make a lovely filling to your soft wrap at lunch, when topped with a sprinkle of goat cheese.  This recipe makes a lot, so you will have plenty of chances and opportunities.

  • 1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced large
  • 1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced large
  • 2 large zucchini (1 lb total), diced large
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • 2-3 T. red wine vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Place tomatoes and juices on a rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to break tomatoes into 3/4 inch pieces.  Drizzle with 2 T. olive oil and bake until thickened, 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a colander, toss eggplant with 1/2 tsp salt.  Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze out any excess liquid with a paper towel.  In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are soft, 5 minutes.  Add peppers and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bay leaf, and oregano to pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy, 15 minutes.  Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.
  4. ENJOY! 😀

Question: Are you the cleanest of cooks or do you typically make a mess? 

a change of mind

“Croutons are boring.”

I’ve thought this thought more times than I can count.  They’re fillers.  Stuffed into a gorgeous salad, just to take up room.  Kind of like iceburg lettuce. 

In fact, I can honestly say that croutons are the one item in a restaurant salad that I will push off to the side.  Feta cheese, yum!  Cranberries, yum!  Roasted beets, double yum!

Croutons? Stale.  Hard.  Tasteless.  Cardboard.

So today I set out to prove myself wrong. 

I’ve been told that croutons should start with either a bread that you hate (thereby turning your bread into something you love) or they should start with a bread that you love (thereby turning your croutons into something extraordinary.)

I chose the latter.

A nice, crusty loaf of pumpernickle, complete with a doughy-soft center.  A gentle but complex flavor.  Perfect.

I resisted the urge to eat a hunk of bread just as it was, and diced it up into little bite-sized cubes.

The next step was heating the pan. 

My goal was to have a crunchy crouton that still held on to its soft, fluffy center (no stale croutons, please!)  With that in mind, I threw the heat to high.

Once the pan was nice and hot, the bread was tossed in, along with about a tsp of olive oil.  The garlic powder was added later on, once the croutons were almost at their ready point.  Nobody likes burnt garlic!

The real test came when I plummeted a hot crouton into my mouth, instantly tasting the garlic-infused pumpernickle flavors.  It was crunchy.  Then it was soft.  It was exactly what a crouton should taste like.

Instead of shrugging the croutons off to the side like I might normally do, I gobbled them all up first.  And found myself wondering why everything else on my salad had to be so boring.

It’s amazing what a homemade crouton can do.

Homemade Croutons–serves 1

Try these crunchy-soft croutons on top of your favorite salad, a homemade soup, or even as is with a smidgen of cheese to garnish.  Try different spices, oils, bread for a change of flavor.  Any way you eat them, these croutons are deliciously addicting!

Oh, and try to withhold your desire to eat a hot crouton directly from the pan.  Let it cool for at least a minute or two.  Otherwise you will burn your tastebuds, and all hopes of enjoying a delicious meal will be lost.

  • 1 large slice of bread, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • garlic powder
  1. Heat pan to medium-high. 
  2. While pan is heating, toss together the bread and olive oil.  Add to hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Cook until browned and hard on the outside (about 5-6 minutes.)  Sprinkle garlic powder and cook for another minute or so.
  3. ENJOY! 😀

Question: What is your favorite part of a salad?

breakfast and a bowl of soup

So—well—I kind of lied.

Breakfast did start with ‘p.’  And it did end in ‘umpkin.’ 

But there were oats involved too.  I have nothing more to say, other than I simply couldn’t help myself.

Breakfast Bonanza, Day 3: “Pumpkin Pie Smoothie”

Pumpkin is perfect for smoothies.  Where frozen bananas supply the frothy sweetness, canned pumpkin gives you that creamy, indulgent texture.  They’re really a match made in smoothie heaven.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Don’t be afraid to add the oats!  Some people don’t like the texture of raw oats in things, but the blender does a fine job of grinding them up into a texture that’s similar to oat bran.  This whole grain addition gives you fiber, nutrients, and energy for a busy morning. 

(p.s. Have fun with the toppings!)

  • 1/2 c. regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 banana, frozen and cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a splash of vanilla
  • toppings: sweetened coconut, Trader Joe’s apple cranberry butter, walnuts

Blend everything together, except for toppings.  Pour into a large bowl, top with your favorite of things, and enjoy each delicious bite!

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Today was a very productive day.  I cleaned.  I set up appointments that needed to be set.  I ate.  I completed many homework assignments.

I made a pot of soup.

I know I’ve stated this before (probably more than once,) but it deserves repeating.  If your recipe calls for chicken, beef or vegetable broth and you don’t have your own homemade version on hand, buy this broth base!

The name says it all: “better than bouillon.” 

I’ve never tried their beef base, but I’m a huge fan of the chicken and veggie.  The flavor is as close to homemade as I’ve yet to find.  Way better than bouillon cubes or cans. 

As much as I love whisking things, I also love simmering soups.  Who  needs therapy? 

Once the vegetable soup was simmering long enough to cook the barley, I added in some crushed tomatoes…

…and white beans.

This soup was such a quickie to throw together.   Ready in a matter of minutes (about 30, to be exact…even less if you had a batch of cooked barley or brown rice on hand.) 

The rich tomato flavor was a lovely reminder of being welcomed home with hot tomato soup after playing outside all day long.  It warms you, heart and soul.

Tomato Vegetable Soup (serves 4-6)
Idea taken and tweaked from a Taste of Home cookbook

Veggie soups are one of my favorite autumn eats.  This tomato soup takes on more veggies and protein than your typical tomato soup version might, giving you more nutrition per bite. 

I ate my hot bowl of soup with toasted honey wheat bread.  But I’m thinking that a grilled cheese sandwich would make this meal perfect and complete. 

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 c. vegetable broth (preferrably low sodium)
  • 1/4 c. uncooked barley
  • 1-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cans (15-oz. each) white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28-oz. each) crushed tomatoes
  1. In a medium pot, saute onion, carrot and celery in oil until crisp-tender.  Add garlic, saute 1 minute longer. 
  2. Add broth, barley, Italian seasoning, and pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  3. Add beans and tomatoes, simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  4. ENJOY!

Question: What do you consider to be the perfect autumn meal?

Tomorrow is *Day 4* of the Breakfast Bonanza.  If you haven’t started yet, that’s okay!  You can jump in any time.  Just let me know what breakfast(s!) you want to include on the breakfast post for next week.  Even if you want to throw just *one* breakfast into the mix, go for it.  And, most of all, have fun! 😀