Thursday, May 30, 2013

A 'fishy' thing happened on the way to the forum

I didn't go to any forum....the title is just a play on a play, well, a musical. But something is fishy because I cooked fish not once, but TWICE this week: lobster risotto on Monday (because it was a holiday, and I forced myself to do SOMETHING) and crispy chipotle tilapia last night. Let me give you the recipes, then after each, I'll dish on my experiences. Buckle up because these recipes are gonna get you hook, line, and sinker.

Simple Lobster Risotto (

4 C fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ C water
3 (5oz) American lobster tails
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 C uncooked Arborio rice
¾ C frozen green peas, thawed

  • Bring broth and 1 ½ C water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lobster tails; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Remove lobster from pan; cool for 5 minutes.
  • Remove meat from cooked lobster tails, reserving shells (I used a kitchen scissors to do this). Chop meat. Return the shells to the broth mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Strain shell mixture, reserving broth, discard solids and shells. Return broth mixture to saucepan; keep warm over low heat.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 C broth mixture, and cook for 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.
  • Reserve 2 Tbsp broth mixture. Add the remaining broth mixture, ½ C at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next portion (about 22 minutes total).
  • Remove from heat, and stir in lobster, the reserved 2 Tbsp broth mixture, 2 Tbsp butter, and green peas.

Risotto is not for the faint of heart. Stirring constantly for 22 minutes is a lot (let me tell you, my wrists felt it the next day. See how out of shape I am?!); and not something one could likely do after a day's work. This is not a set it and forget it meal, that's for sure. So make this one on a weekend or a holiday, and/or when lobster tails are on sale!

The recipe turned out well, but it was a little too rich for my taste. My husband ate it right up, though, second helpings even. And the good guy took the leftovers to work on Tuesday and today. Kudos. The recipe is a keeper because it incorporates a decadent ingredient in a fairly simple way. Growing up my family ate lobster on rare occasions, and it was always a big to do, so it's a luxury to me. Bottom line on Simple Lobster Risotto: do it.

Crispy Chipotle Lime Tilapia with Cool Avocado Sauce (

1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 Tbsp adobo sauce from the can (no need to buy extra adobo sauce, the sauce from the can is plenty)
¼ C salsa
1 Tbsp lime juice
4 tilapia fillets
2 C tortilla chips, crushed

1 small avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into large chunks
¼ C sour cream
1 Tbsp lime juice
3 Tbsp milk
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Combine the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, salsa and 1 Tbsp lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth (I used an immersion blender; worked like a charm.); brush the mixture over both sides of each tilapia fillet.
  • Spread the crushed tortilla chips into the bottom of a deep dish; dredge the coated fillets in the chips to coat. Arrange the fillets on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake the fillets for 15 minutes; at 15 minutes, flip the fillets and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • While the fish bakes, place the avocado, sour cream, and 1 Tbsp lime juice and blend until smooth (again, I worked that immersion blender....perfect tool for this). Stir in the milk 1 Tbsp at a time until the consistency is similar to ranch dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the baked fillets to serve.

Ok, this one was easy and tilapia fillets, unbeknownst to me, are cheap. My go-to meats are chicken and beef. Fish is uncharted territory. Tilapia is a nice, white fish, not fishy at all or even slimy. The lobster tails were much worse to work with. Gah.

So I came home from work yesterday, changed, hugged my dog, and immediately mixed up the two sauces needed for this recipe. That was the way to go because I was able to relax a little--the sauces were the most time consuming part of this. I also cut up fingerling potatoes, tossed them with olive oil and salt/pepper, and baked those for 45 minutes at the same temperature as the fish. So that worked well.

AND, I took a fillet, potatoes and corn for lunch today, with the avocado sauce! The meal warmed up well. Oh and I had extra avocado sauce, which really was the cherry on top for this recipe, so guess what I did? Instead of throwing the extra sauce away, a sin in my mind, I went to the mini-mart down the street from my office and bought a bag of pretzels to scoop the rest of the sauce into my mouth. Nice, huh? Here's the evidence of that, and you can also see what a nice color that sauce becomes. Bottom line on Crispy Chipotle Lime Tilapia with Cool Avocado Sauce: DEFINITELY do it.

Well, it's Friday tomorrow. Cheers to that.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What I've realized

I had been teaching swimming lessons part-time in the evenings and on the weekends for the last year and half. On average, I had 8-10 lessons each week. It was alot when I factored in my full time day job. But the work was fun (most days!), I really enjoyed the kids (most days!). Well, last week was my first full week of no lessons--I decided to throw in the towel and take a break from part-time work for a bit. I made this decision because it felt like it was time to, hmmm, I don't know, get back on a regular schedule, do more house-related projects, work on myself for a little (and I do need a lot of work), cook more, read more, and on and on. Well, here's the kicker: having more time doesn't necessarily mean you spend the time productively.

I did make it to the gym last Thursday (see my "Fat Friday" post from 5/24), and Saturday was a good day. That day, I dismantled an IKEA dresser--honest to God, it took less than 5 minutes to do that (I poked it and it basically just fell apart)--moved a new dresser into its place, repainted the trim in our guest bathroom, swam laps, did all the laundry, walked my dog a few times (more than he wanted or needed, I suppose, but I was on a roll, god damnit!). So Saturday was a GOOD day. Then came I started off with excellent intentions: I'm going to swim, take pooch for a long walk, volunteer (I visit with someone for a few hours each week), cook, bake, clean up the house. Well, I managed to accomplish two of those six well-intentioned tasks. I told myself, "it's ok, it's a holiday weekend, you'll do better tomorrow. You have all of Monday to be busy." WELL, now it's Monday morning. Again, I had a very nice list of to-do's: get up early, walk dog, hit the tile shop, swim laps, cook risotto for dinner, clean up the house (notice that one carried over from Sunday)....and guess what? I did cook the risotto, because, well, it's food, and we all know where my heart lies. I didn't swim, I didn't clean up the house, I didn't make it to the tile shop, BUT I did walk the dog, oh and I did watch Les Miserables, which wasn't on the list in the first place (and I'm embarrassed to say, I fell asleep....good lord was that a long movie or what?!).

So here's the conundrum: I now have more time to do more things, but it's like this extra time is just letting me slack more. I know a lot of people struggle with this concept. I was thinking this morning, maybe instead of making a list of things to do, I'd make a list of challenges? For example, "Ellie, here's your mission, should you choose to accept: do a load of whites, swim 50 laps, walk the dog for 30 minutes." And maybe if I accept (and complete) my "missions" I get an ice cream cone or something?!

Oh check this pic out, it's the IKEA dresser I took apart! Look at all that duct was holding the drawers together. haha. The pieces are sitting in our yard. I'm sure the neighbors are loving that eye sore.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fat Friday

So last night I actually went to one of those places where they conduct workouts, physical fitness workouts....I think it's called a gym?! It's been so long since I did any real working out, that I forget, excuse me. I have two images that describe how I felt.......

1. Because it's been so long, this was me:
2. Oh and then I tried a pilates reformer machine, this was me:
Maybe one of these days, instead of "Fat Friday," it'll be "Fit Friday." Ah, wishful thinking.

Well cheers to the holiday weekend and PICNIC FOOD......

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Just say gnocchi

Last night we took a a trip to gnocchi land. It was a nice visit: very rich with diverse flavors but simple ingredients. It's a not a trip I could take everyday, but rather once in awhile. Here's the recipe:

Baked Gnocchi with Pesto, Peas, and Pancetta (followed to a T from

2lbs gnocchi
4oz pancetta, finely diced
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 C flour
3 C milk, at room temperature
¼ Tbsp nutmeg
1/3 C pesto
1 C frozen peas
¾ C grated fontina cheese
1/3 C bread crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees (yes, really, 500 degrees).
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes. They cook extremely quickly and will finish off in the oven, so don’t overdo them.
  • In the meantime, fry the pancetta in ½ Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Set aside.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When fully liquified, whisk in the flour to create a rouĂ©. Add the milk and nutmeg, and simmer until reduced by half. Add the pesto, peas, pancetta, and gnocchi. Stir to combine.
  • Place mixture in a large casserole dish and cover with the grated fontina. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the cheese has become brown and crispy. Remove from oven, cover with bread crumbs and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
Now when I dumped the mixture into the casserole dish, I was worried it was way too liquidy, but I gotta say, by the time I took her out after 10 minutes, things were looking up! After the bread crumbs and extra 5 minutes in the oven, the top was crispy and the inside creamy.

I ate a side salad to start, so I couldn't eat much pasta--even someone of my size (over weight), with my so-called hollow leg. My husband said the pasta would make a nice side dish, to a steak possibly? I'd agree with him.

So bottom line: JUST SAY YES TO GNOCCHI!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Three words for you: Small. Town. Security.

Last night I stumbled upon a new reality television show: Small Town Security. Do yourself a favor and head on over to've got to check this out. The show is the perfect combination of quirky people, strange situations, small town havoc, and southern accents. Here's a little preview to wet your appetite:

It was after 10pm when I was partaking, and I was laughing out loud. I could have been super tired or wired or whatever, OR MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, THIS WILL BE MY NEW FAVORITE SHOW. I love shows like this because I can watch them, not think, laugh, and be entertained. It's perfect. So thank you, AMC and Small Town Security, and Joan (pictured above there).

In other small town news, tomorrow is McLean Day....and I'm in charge of my women's club booth space. I have a duck pond planned, signs to hang, water to hand out, oh and a 10'x10' canopy. Get this: the canopy's instructions say it takes "less than a minute" to set up. Ok, sure, we'll see about that. So hey, if you're reading this and you're a McLean, VA resident, stop by Lewinsville Park tomorrow between 11-5pm.......and check out booth #52!!

Oh and I cooked cod this week. I'm not a fish person (a fishy person, sometimes yes, but not a fish person. ha.), but the recipe turned out alright. I'll include it here just because a fish recipe will be few and far between on this blog, I'm afraid. I'd rather just 'trust the Gorton's fisherman.....'

Parmesan Crusted Salmon or Cod (

4 6oz (1 ½ lbs) salmon fillets (may substitute cod or other flaky white fish)
2 ½ Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
2 ½ Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp snipped fresh chives
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste

·        Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
·        In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, chives, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper.
·        Place the fillets on a lightly greased baking sheet.
·        Spread mixture evenly over top of fillets.
·        Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the fillets are just cooked through. You might want to use the top rack, which helps to brown the Parmesan mixture a bit.

Have a nice weekend.......

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hungry, not thirsty, Thursday

We try to do a home cooked meal two times a week. Last night I gave chicken potpie a whirl. AND LET ME TELL was glorious. Not only did it taste good, but the recipe required a minimal amount of prep, AND it called for store bought, already cooked rotisserie chicken. Love that. My husband did the shredding of the store bought, already cooked rotisserie chicken, so it was even more glorious! Oh and to make matters just a little better, the recipe made not one but TWO potpies, so we have one frozen for another night. SCORE. Here are the recipe details, with a few candid food shots of Wednesday's potpie progression.

Simple, Classic Chicken Potpie (adapted from

6 C roasted, shredded rotisserie chicken
2 (15oz) packages refrigerated pie crusts
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
3 small stalks celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
2 C chicken broth
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1/3 C butter
½ C all-purpose flour
¾ tsp dried thyme
¼ C dry sherry or white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ C fresh parsley, chopped
1 (16oz) package frozen peas and carrots, not thawed

1) Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. If using whole rotisserie chicken (uh, duh, yes please), separate meat from skin and bones, and tear into bite-size pieces. Discard skin and bones. Then remove pie dough from its box and follow directions for bringing to room temperature.

2) Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onions, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl along with the shredded chicken; set aside.

3) Meanwhile, microwave chicken broth and milk in a microwave-safe bowl until steamy, 4 minutes. Heat butter over medium heat in the empty Dutch oven. When foaming subsides, whisk in flour and thyme; cook until golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in hot chicken broth/milk mixture. Bring to a simmer, and then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute more. Turn off heat, stir in sherry or wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper (I used a generous amount of salt and pepper).

4) Stir shredded chicken/onions/celery/garlic mixture, parsley, peas and carrots into the sauce. Lay the bottom pie crust in each 9-inch, deep-dish pie plates. Divide mixture between the two plates. Top each pan with the other pie dough, and flute crust by pinching with your fingers (I trimmed the top crust before fluting it). Make a slice or two on top. Set pie on a baking sheet and bake until pastry is golden brown and bubbly, 30-35 minutes (I took it to the full 35 minutes).

(do you see those trimmed bits of raw dough there, off to the right side of the pic....yep, I ate those...appetizer, what can I say?!)

5) Option for extra potpie: Wrap second potpie in freezer wrap and freeze for a later meal. When you’re ready to bake, remove wrapping, place potpie on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden and bubbly, about 1 hour.

And voila, here's the finished product:

For the last 10 minutes or so, I placed a piece of aluminum foil over the potpie so the crust wouldn't burn. That was a good decision, I think.

I have a piece of potpie for lunch today.......oh goodness, I can't wait. It might be one of those days where lunch is at 10am......and so what?! ha.

Really, try the recipe, it's a keeper.