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Pan Seared Bass with Grapefruit Salad

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A while back, we got a Groupon for the Clean Catch Fish Market in Charlotte and finally bought some fish with it.  We took home arctic char and black bass.



I'm not sure that I've ever made bass, so I didn't know how most people cooked it.  After a short recipe search, I landed on today's recipe, brought us from Anne Burrell from her Food Network Show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  It's a fairly simple recipe that really cooks the fish well (by pan searing it) and gives you a really good meal that would be a good fancy-dinner-at-home meal in something like 15 minutes.


The only thing I'd do differently is that I might try to either season the fish better next time, or add some other flavor element to the fish itself- maybe a sauce or drizzle with the grapefruit juice.  The fish was cooked well- moist, flaky and tender- but it was a little on the bland side.  On a positive note with that, if you don't like strong fish, this is an ideal choice.

Seared Black Bass with Bitter Greens, Grapefruit, and Feta Salad
from Anne Burrell

recipe is written to feed four people.

Extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce black bass fillets
Kosher salt
5 to 6 cups bitter greens, such as arugula, dandelion, escarole, radicchio, endive or frisee
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 ruby red grapefruit, juiced
1/4 cup pitted gaeta or kalamata olives, slivered
2 ruby red grapefruits, supremed
3/4 cup crumbled feta

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Coat the bottom of another smaller saute pan with olive oil. Sprinkle the fish with salt on both sides. When the large saute pan is screaming hot but not quite smoking, lay the fish fillets in the pan, skin-side down. Do not crowd the pan, you may have to work in batches. After you put the fish in the pan, place the other small saute pan directly on top of the fish fillets. This applies gentle pressure to the fish and forces the skin to have contact with the pan and will create crispy skin. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes and then remove the top pan. Shake the pan a little to unstick the fish. Use a fish spatula and flip the fish fillets and cook for 2 more minutes on the other side. Remove from the pan and serve or keep warm until the remaining fish is cooked.

In a large mixing bowl, dress the greens and red onions with olive oil and grapefruit juice and season with salt. Toss in the olive slivers and grapefruit supremes.

Divide the salad among 4 serving plates and sprinkle with feta. Lean a fish fillet on each salad. Serve immediately.

How to supreme any citrus- cut a bit off the top and bottom of the fruit, and sit it on a cutting surface.  With your knife, cut the peel off, cutting small sections straight down from the top.  Then, slice in between the membrane separating each slice of fruit to segment it.  Then you get a supremed citrus, or slices without peel/membranes.

Fun Friday: Skinny Funfetti Cupcakes...

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...because when we're being good we still want something that feels like a treat.

If you're an all-natural, whole foods health nut, look away.  This little treat is going to horrify you, with its diet soda (phenylalanine!) and boxed cake mix.  These skinny cupcakes are not healthy.  If, however, you're not too worried about it, try this Weight Watchers idea.



Take a box of cake mix and a can of diet soda, and bake them into cupcakes.  That's it.  Easiest box mix ever.  They're still very moist and tasty.  What have you tried and loved?

Skinny Funfetti Cupcakes
from Weight Watchers

Makes 15-18 cupcakes

1 box Funfetti (or confetti) cake mix
1 can (12 oz) diet lemon-lime soda (Sprite, 7-up)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line 2- 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Pour your cake mix and soda into a medium-sized or larger bowl and stir (or mix with a hand mixer) until combined.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter into each cup, about halfway up the side.  Bake them 15-20 minutes, or until done.  A toothpick inserted should come out pretty clean.

For additional lower-calorie goodness, frost with your own frosting, reduced fat/calorie whipped topping, or whatever you choose.

Notes

  • I used homemade frosting, which I found on Pinterest.  Recipe coming soon.  It was not in any way pretending to be low fat or healthy.  
  • I mentioned these to a co-worker and she suggested mixing a box of chocolate cake mix and diet cherry soda.  YUM!

Chicken-Orzo Soup With Spinach

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As the TV weather man works us up into yet another frenzy about the cold temperatures, I offer you this soup to warm you to the core and to fill you up without any guilt.  It's a variation on the classic chicken noodle that is just amazing.  While we both enjoyed the soup, I ate on it all week and loved it. 


The soup is made with orzo, a short pasta that looks like rice.  If you don't have orzo, sub in another noodle or even rice (rice would have a longer cooking time).  The resulting soup is just so good.  I want some now.  

Chicken-Orzo Soup With Spinach
inspired by this soup

serves 6-8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 quarts chicken stock
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3/4 cup orzo pasta
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup (or more, depending on your preference) cubed or shredded cooked chicken
4 cups (1- 5 oz clamshell) loosely-packed spinach, rough chopped
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, rosemary and stir to combine. Bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Season soup with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the chicken and pasta* and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente.  

Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until it is bright green and wilted. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm.

*see notes

Notes
  • I used 1 quart homemade turkey stock from a smoked turkey we ate at Thanksgiving dinner and 1 quart store bought chicken stock.  You can use chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock here.  
  • I halved the orzo amount from the original recipe, and still felt like there was a lot in the pot.  Feel free to adjust based on how thick you like your soup.
  • On the orzo (or any other soup with pasta)- pasta has the tendency to swell and become mushy in soups, especially when it comes to leftovers.  You can follow the directions above and your pasta will likely have a similar result.  It doesn't usually bother me in these thinner, shorter pastas.  If, however, you don't like how pastas turn out in soups, cook the pasta separately to desired doneness and then add it to individual bowls of soup.  
  • I used a rotisserie chicken for this recipe.  My local store's rotisserie chickens are smaller but less fatty, and it takes about half the chicken to get the amount I want.
  • I didn't use a slow cooker, but I imagine you could warm everything together, maybe not adding the chicken and spinach until the last 30 minutes to hour of cooking.


Scallion Crusted Arctic Char

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Happy New Year!  And now we begin the efforts to offset all that holiday indulgence.  I'm not sure if we are ingrained to start eating lighter in the new year because of resolutions or just because we feel so weighed down by the holiday eating extravaganza, but I know that come January, my brain and body are ready for a change from the season of eating.  


I wanted to share this recipe with you because it's lighter, but still a little on the indulgent side.  Arctic Char looks almost just like salmon, but this fillet was thicker and a little lighter colored than the wild caught salmon I find around here.  Its flavor is a little lighter than wild salmon's, but it's still unique.  This was so good.  


Green onions are sliced thin and mixed with just enough mayonnaise to bind them, and it's all slathered on the fillets.  The whole thing is then broiled and dinner is ready in something like 10 minutes flat.  Serve with a salad and roasted potatoes and you have a restaurant quality dinner that is completely in keeping with your resolutions...or your desire to not have another dish with 3 pounds of cheese or cream of anything soup.

Scallion Crusted Arctic Char
from Gourmet via epicurious.com
feeds 2-4, depending on appetite

4 to 6 scallions
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 (6-ounce) pieces arctic char fillet
preparation

Preheat broiler. Line rack of broiler pan with foil.

Finely chop scallions and stir together with mayonnaise. Pat fillets dry. Place fillets, skin sides down, on broiler pan and season each fillet with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread scallion mixture evenly over tops of fillets.

Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until scallions are slightly charred and fish is just cooked through, about 8 minutes.

New Year's Dinner

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Whether or not you're superstitious (I'm not), the New Year's Dinner is a fun tradition.  I look forward to it every year.  Last year I decided to make Ree Drummond's Hoppin' John as a sort of spin on my family's classic meal.  

Closeup of the beans, with the bell peppers.  So good- we may have spooned it over quinoa.
Just in case you're not sure about the New Year's Meal superstition, the idea is that certain foods- black eyed peas, greens, and pork- represent luck and prosperity in the new year.  

The collard story in three pictures
Huge bunch in the pan...
   


Cooks down very small!
                                                 
I'm not sure what my New Year's meal prep says about me, except that I'm a huge klutz, but I shattered glass into my New Year's meal and had to redo it all again a day or so later.  I was so upset. Fortunately, I'm here to tell you that the shattered glass wasn't some symbol of the failure and disaster to come this year.  It's been a good year.  


We served our hoppin' john with sauteed collard greens, a baked sweet potato, and cornbread.  It was a country feast.

from The Pioneer Woman aka Ree Drummond

4 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Diced
2 stalks Celery, Diced
4 cups Soaked Black-eyed Peas
5 cups Chicken Broth
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
 
Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for at least 6 hours.  Drain the peas from the water.

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery and stir. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in soaked beans, then add chicken broth, salt & pepper, and cayenne to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover the pot for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check the liquid level; if it's too soupy, cook with the lid off for another 15 minutes or so. If it's too thick, splash in a little more broth.  Stir in vinegar, then taste for seasonings. Add more spice if needed.

You can serve it over rice, with greens and cornbread, or eat it as is.

Tips
  • I cook dried beans and peas a lot.  I like their flavor and texture better than canned beans.  To cook from dried, follow the same plan in the pinto bean post- sort and rinse the dried beans, cover them with a couple inches of water in a large bowl and let them soak overnight.  Below is a picture of a good way to sort:
    Spread the beans/peas out on a large baking sheet.  It makes it easy to see rocks or bad beans

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

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What do you think of when you think of a Christmas cookie?  I'll tell you what comes to my mind, and maybe some of our thoughts are the same, or maybe they'd be completely different:
  • Sugar cookies, rolled out, punched into shapes like bells, trees, stars, mittens, reindeer, and decorated with frosting or sprinkles
  • Gingerbread men and houses
  • Fruitcake Cookies (I can't believe I've never given the recipe- will try to fix that soon!)
  • Those store-bought slice and bake sugar cookies that are dyed in the middle to look like a Christmas tree or Santa's hat
  • Those small, pre-made butter cookies that have red or green sprinkles and sometimes look like a wreath



Despite all the people who love chocolate, and I am one of them, Christmas is not chocolate's big day.  These cookies, though, just may be its ticket in.  They were originally labeled "chocolate sugar cookies" and Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen changed their name to brownie roll out cookies because she felt the name suited it better.  


These cookies have a solid chocolate taste and have the dense texture of a brownie.  I know!  Deb (I write that like we're on a first name basis or something) thinks they'd be ideal for an ice cream sandwich, and I don't doubt that, but I could see these getting some decorating love and replacing the regular sugar cookie or even gingerbread at Christmas.



Either way, the cookies are tasty, and the dough can be frozen for later use.  They're addictive, so beware!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its

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This recipe was shared with me several years ago by my good friend and former co-worker, Cindy.  Thank you Cindy!  She brought them to a party and I think I could have eaten the whole container.  There's just something about the way the cheesiness of the crackers combines with the dill and ranch dressing mix that really creates a memorable, crave-worthy taste.  Disclaimer: don't eat on a date!

Anyway, if you need something to make for a party, these are perfect.  They're easy and fairly quick (30 mins total time) to make, the recipe makes a lot, and they're very transportable and can be made ahead of time, oh and almost everyone finds them irresistible.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its

2 boxes Cheez-its or other cheese crackers
1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 TB. dill
1 package ranch dressing mix

Preheat your oven to 200.  Pour your cheese crackers into a roasting pan or divided between two 9x13 pans.  Combine the ranch and the dill and sprinkle evenly over the crackers.  Mix to combine and distribute.  Pour the oil evenly over the crackers and also stir/mix to combine.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Take the crackers out and stir them around and bake 10 minutes more.