Somewhat Blackened Sword Fish -OOH LA LA!

Every time I make fish at home, I amaze myself. It isn’t because I think I’m a fabulous cook; it’s because I grew up hating all fish. As an adult, I’ve realized I probably hated it because it was never served in our home. (My Mom was afraid of cooking it. ) Sword fish is one of my favorites now. Here is how we prepared it the other night…

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I had assembled this tray (above) with all the pretty vegetables in order to try Delicata Squash for the very first time. Since I wasn’t sure what the squash would taste like (because I’d never made that variety before), I wanted to make something that had a little bit of kick to it.

Ordinarily when we make sword fish, I like to flavor it with cilantro and lime, but since I was in search of “kick”, I opted for a little bit of spice and a little bit of black. Sword fish is very forgiving and almost impossible to screw up!

The first thing I did was melt 3 Tbsp. butter in my little measuring cup. To it, I added some cayenne, some bourbon smoked salt, chili flakes, onion powder, smokey paprika, and garlic. I didn’t measure this, but I will attempt to give you some help.

Let it get all melted and then turn off the heat and let it sit.

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Meanwhile, I’ve had my sword fish filets sitting on the counter for about 20 minutes. I like them a little close (but still cool) to room temperature before I cook them.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high. Add 1 Tbsp. REAL butter and 1.5 Tbsp. olive oil. Let it heat to a shimmer and then place in the fillets. Then pour the spiced butter mixture over the top. I had debated on making this totally blackened fish, in which case I would have dipped the fillets in the butter and then coated them on both sides with a dry rub, but I decided on this route instead.

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I let these cook for 5 minutes on each side, then I did the unthinkable: I added MORE butter to the top! You can skip this step if you are afraid. After this, I simply sprinkled more seasoning on each side and poof, this fish is done!

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The finished product!

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Delicious! I should also mention here that if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area, this is a great place to find fish for two. We regularly shop in their frozen fish section because you can buy small portions (usually two fillets per vacuum package) of lots of different fishes. (and no, they did not pay me to say this, it’s just a fact.) We really like the swordfish, salmon, cod and tuna!

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Ingredients:
2 Sword Fish Fillets
4-6 Tbsp. butter (yes, I used that much. You don’t have to if you are sckeeeeeeeerd.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tea. Smoky paprika
½ tea Cayenne pepper
1 tea. Chili powder
½ tea. Bourbon smoked salt
2 tea. Minced garlic
1 tea. Onion powder
½ tea. Chili flakes

Directions:
Melt 3 Tbsp. butter. Add the spices to it and stir.
Preheat cast iron pan to medium high.
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the pan until shimmery.
Add the fillets.
Pour spiced butter over the top of each fillet.
Cook five minutes each side.
Turn the fish over, sprinkle with a little more seasoning, and cook each side about 2 minutes more. (Optional: add more butter prior to adding more seasoning!)

Vegetable Couscous Stuffed Acorn Squash! Pretty Food!

Once upon a time around Thanksgiving time, we catered a huge interfaith meal. Because there were many different religious dietary restrictions, it was important that we offered a vegetarian option. As per usual, I wanted the food to be beautiful and colorful, so we came up with this recipe for stuffed acorn squash! I was beyond thrilled with the result!

Last year around this time we were contracted to contribute a vegetarian dish for an Interfaith meal hosted by the church where I am employed. We knew we wanted to make something eye-catching utilitizing a Fall vegetable. Say hello to my friend, Mr. Acorn Squash.

I literally went to the store and searched for something colorful to stuff it with and I found this tri-colored pearl couscous. (Thank you, Lucky’s Market!)

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Next, I knew I needed more than just couscous to make it an actual vegetarian dish. Well, to be honest, the squash and the couscous would have been fine, but it wasn’t enough for me. I decided to sauté some yummy vegetables to add into the squash, so I stocked up on onions, carrots, a few butternut squash, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, etc. I literally just thought about things that I love and went from there.

Next, I needed my big, strong hubba hubba hubby, Charlie, to open each squash and scoop out the innards! Don’t worry, I will reduce this recipe so you aren’t feeding 150 people with it! <<grin>> He also sliced off a bit of the bottom so they would sit on a plate without wobbling.

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After the squash have been halved and scooped out, they go in a pan with a little water, (cut side down) to bake until almost soft. (To make these for the family, you can absolutely do this step in the microwave to save time.)

Then it’s a matter of sautéing the vegetables, (I used squash, onion, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds) preparing the couscous according to package directions and combining all…then stuffing the squash. Here is my bowl combining my sautéed ingredients with my toasted almonds.

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Here is the couscous combined with the sautéed vegetables and toasted almonds stuffed inside the acorn squash.

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Here, I have spooned in the stuffing.

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And finally, it goes back into the oven, sprinkled with fresh seasonings and then it comes out looking like a work of art! (So colorful!) If you are looking for something new to take to your Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, try this. It looks like you’ve spent hours, yet it’s super easy. You could even prepare all of this a day or two in advance, then bake just before you leave for your event OR before you have your event. These will do well stored warm in a baking dish covered with foil.

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Pretty, aren’t they?


Ingredients:

4 acorn squash, washed, cut in half, seeds scooped out.

1 Package tri-colored pearl couscous (or whatever your favorite happens to be) prepared according to pkg directions.

2 Tbsp Olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

2-3 fresh sage leaves chopped

2 carrots peeled & sliced.

1 large onion diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, and cubed (save time and buy this already diced from the market)

1/2 c Toasted almonds

1/2 c Dried cranberries (chopped dried apricots would be great in there too or even yellow raisins)

Salt & pepper

1/2 freshly chopped Italian parsley

1/2 c freshly grated cheese of your choice. (I used Asiago/Regiano)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Prepare tri-colored couscous according to package directions, set aside.
  2. Dice all of the vegetables (except the butternut squash) and sauté (until tender) in half the olive oil and half the butter. Season with salt and pepper and the sage. Just prior to finishing, toss in the cranberries to soften them.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, remove to a bowl, clean out your skillet and dry roast the almonds over medium high heat for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add to the vegetables.
  4. Put the butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, pour out onto sheet tray, bake 20-25 minutes.

Prepare the squash:

  1. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Brush the cut sides and the cavity with olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt & pepper& garlic
  3. Place cut side down in a large roasting pan
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour until tender and still holding their shape.

Prepare the stuffing:

  1. In a bowl, combine the couscous with the roasted butternut squash and the sautéed vegetables and cranberries.
  2. Stir in the parsley
  3. Spoon into the cooked acorn squashes.
  4. Sprinkle the tops with freshly grated cheese of your choice. I like Asiago, but you can use what you like.
  5. Place back in oven uncovered for about 5-8 minutes until just heated through.
  6. Garnish with more parsley.

Enjoy!

Fall into Pork Chops & Apples!

Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

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Every now and then my husband pops off to the market alone.  He often loves to find and bring home bone-in pork chops that are thick-cut and gigantic! The last time he came home with them, I was remembering the episode of “The Brady Bunch”, where Peter and the whole gang kept repeating the phrase, “Pork chopppppssssss and applesauuuuuuce! That’s right, pork choppppssssss and applesauuuuuuuce!” I had never actually tried to make pork chops with any type of apple; so here you have what happened next!

I have often heard that Granny Smith apples are the best for cooking, so I popped out to the market and picked up a few, then I cored them, sliced them and held them in a water bath (to prevent browning).

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Salt and pepper both sides of the chops.

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Sear in butter and olive oil until golden brown.

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See? This is starting to look yummy!

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Pay no attention to that last photo with the apples on top. The apples go on the BOTTOM of the pan. I just forgot to save the correct photo! LOL!


Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops
  • 3 Granny Smith Apples
  • 6 tablespoons REAL butter (Down with substitutes!)
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Peel, core & slice the apples. Place in a bowl and cover with water until ready to use.
  3. Salt & pepper the chops, then sear them in 2 Tbsp butter using a medium high cast iron skillet.
  4. Grease a 9 X 12 baking dish.
  5. Line the bottom with the apple slices.
  6. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the apples. Break up the 2 Tbsp. butter into pea sized little bits and sprinkle them over the apples and sugar mixture.
  7. Place the chops on top of the apples and sprinkle the remaining butter (broken into bits) over the chops.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

 

Grilled Cilantro Lime Swordfish

I confess that I used to hate fish but I think it’s only because I’d never tasted really good fish! Now that my husband and I are trying to eat more healthfully, we make it all the time and I’m loving it. This sword fish recipe is simple with just a couple of ingredients and it takes just a few minutes to make!

I just realized my husband and I are eating a LOT of fish lately! At least once a week, we used our cast-iron grill pan to make some delicious sword fish! We season this all sorts of ways, but one of our favorites is with cilantro and lime. (Go figure. Seems like these are our favorite flavors lately!)

So many people are afraid of cooking fish at home, especially things like sword fish, that can be a little pricey. I did not grow up in a household that ever, even one time, cooked fish. I suspect my Mom was afraid of it. I was never a fish fan until I met my husband and we began our quest to eat healthier. What I have found is that fish is actually the quickest, easiest meal to make on a week night. The worst thing you can do to a fish is to over-cook it, so I usually pick a hearty variety, like this sword fish. I am also picky about taste and even mouth-feel. Anything that’s slimy or that has a strong “fishy” taste, doesn’t make it to my mouth. I absolutely love tuna and cod and swordfish. I wish I loved salmon, but it’s falls on the “fishier”side, so I don’t make it often.

Anyway, start with your sword fish filets. I usually take mine out of the refrigerator about a half hour prior to cooking. Coat both sides with olive oil, about 1/4 c. Cilantro, zest of a couple of limes, juice of a couple of limes, and of course, salt and pepper.

At this point I let the fish just rest in the juice for 15 minutes, then I flip them and let them rest for 15 minutes more.

Then I heat my grill pan to medium-high. Add 2 Tbsp real butter and about 1 Tbsp of your favorite cooking oil.

Sear the fish on the first side (about four minutes), then when it releases from the pan easily, flip it to sear the second side (about 4 minutes). Then I turn the heat down about medium and let the fish cook all the way through. (Time depends on how large your filets are.)

And here you have the finished product. You can tell it’s ready when you see it starts to flake! YUMMY!!


Ingredients:

2 large swordfish filets

4 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 Tbsp butter

2 limes (zest & juice)

1/2 c. Chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Coat fish with olive oil (both sides)

In a bowl, mix 1 Tbsp olive oil, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and salt and pepper. Pour over the fish, then turn the fish so both sides get the marinade.

Let rest for 15 minutes, turn over and let rest 15 more.

Heat a grill pan to medium high. Coat it with olive oil and butter.

Sear both sides of the fish for 4 minutes or until it easily releases from the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium, continue cooking fish until it’s flakey.

Oh You’re SUCH a TART! Tomato Tarts!

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!).

A little while back I catered a Birthday party and was asked to be sure and include a vegetarian option. My mind immediately went to these tarts because they are so beautiful (and fun to prepare!). I started researching recipes which resulted in a LOT of tarts being made and sampled! In the end, I made up my own recipe, which I will share with you!

Keep these things in mind as the Holidays approach us. They are show-stoppers at any party and the best part is they can be eaten warm, cold or even at room temperature! (Did I mention they are insanely delicious?) I didn’t really  photograph the entire process, so you will have to rely on the recipe and the instructions at the bottom of the page.

I think there are two stand-out, must-do things when you are making tarts.

  1. Slice your vegetables very thinly, sprinkle them with salt and allow them to hang out on a rack for at least 30 minutes before you assemble. Then pat them with paper towels. You want them as dry as possible.
  2. Pre-bake your crusts. I used pre-made roll out pie crust and also puff pastry. I pre-baked both to avoid soggy tarts. (More instructions on this below.)

 

See what I mean about how pretty they are? Since I was making these for a large party, I also worked on making them full sheet tray sized and they turned out beautifully as well.

 

You will probably wonder why I took the trouble to cut my fresh Mozzarella into hearts when it would melt anyway? My favorite shape is the heart and I just wanted all of the Mozzarella to be uniform. PLUS, it’s pretty, right? I like everything I make to start out from my heart and this certainly did!

 

I wasn’t kidding around when I said I made a TON of these things. Everything you see here are samples that my husband and I either ate ourselves or we gave away to the neighbors until we settled on the tastes we liked best!

 

These that were done with puffed pastry were the winners! The one on the right wasn’t intended to look like this. I was going to make the entire thing covered in veggie roses (you can see a few of them made it) but at the last minute I realized I’d sliced my vegetables too thick. Rather than flip out over it, I made it into an abstract design. I loved it and my clients did, too.  The one of the left was also just delightful; simple zucchini and tomatoes.


Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 whole Large Onions, Halved And Sliced Thin
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 2 whole prepared Pie Crusts (or 1 Good Sized Homemade Crust) **
  • 1-1/2 cup Grated Fontina Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup full fat ricotta cheese (I didn’t say this was low cal!)
  • 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (I always look for the ones that come in all colors), Washed And Dried (more If Needed) I keep most of them whole but slice some in half if you want to have fun with your design.
  • 6 Roma Tomatoes sliced as thin as possible.(more if needed)
  • 4 Zucchini sliced as thin as possible.
  • 20 whole Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (more if needed)
  • Zest of one or two lemons.
  • a teeny tiny couple of pinches of nutmeg

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter, onions, salt, and pepper and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 F.
After you’ve sliced your veggies, lay them out on paper towel and sprinkle them with salt. Let them sit there at LEAST 30 minutes. After that, blot them dry with paper towels and set aside.

Put both pie crusts together and squish into a ball, knead it to combine them, then roll into one large, thin crust. (Trust me. I tried to use both crusts separate and then pinch them together and it just doesn’t work as well.) Lay onto a shallow quarter sheet pan, a tart pan, or cut in half and use 2 standard pie pans. Add the lemon zest and tiny bit of nutmeg to the cheeses and then sprinkle on in a single layer, then lay on the caramelized onions, then arrange your vegetables in whatever design you like over the cheese.

Bake the tart for 15 to 18 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the crust doesn’t burn. (The tomatoes should be starting to burst apart, with some dark/roasted areas on the skin, and the crust should be deep golden brown.) If the crust is getting brown too fast, reduce the heat to 425 F. Or cover it with foil.

Remove the tart from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the basil all over the top. Cut into squares and serve!

** You can use puffed pastry in place of the pie crust; just be sure to pre-bake it. You will need to use a piece of parchment paper cut to leave about an inch of crust. Then use some dried beans or pie weights so the pastry will not puff up where you want to build the tart.

Marinated Ham & Cheese Sammies with Caramelized Onions! Delicious!

ne day I was talking to one of my sweet “church ladies” lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out what to serve to one of my regular catering gigs. She suggested…

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One day I was talking to one of my sweet “church ladies” lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out what to serve to one of my regular catering gigs. She suggested I pull out one of the church cookbooks to see if I could find something and sure enough, I found these little bundles of gooey goodness! I’ve tweaked the recipe to suit myself.

These sandwiches are a hit wherever I take them. What’s best is that they are simple to make and they can feed a huge crowd and bonus, they are even better the second day!

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I was feeding about sixty people this day so I had multiple trays of these going. First, you start by removing the tops of your rolls. Most people prefer to use Hawaiian rolls. I use a variety of this roll but mine is not as sweet.
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Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom. If you hate Dijon, you can use regular yellow mustard. (If you hate mustard…well there is no hope for you. -kidding- just use what you like!)
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Next I added Swiss cheese, then black forest ham, then cheese, then ham. (You can use turkey, or even roast beef here. USE WHAT YOU LIKE.) I prefer Swiss cheese on these, however. It provides a tang that other cheeses don’t have. Buy the best Swiss you can find.
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What completely makes these sliders are the caramelized onions. They add a richness and a sweetness that people talk about. Trust me, you don’t want to make these without the onions!
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Guess what is happening here? Tops are back on and the yummy marinade has been poured and brushed on them. Those little specks are poppy seeds. You can choose to leave them off if you wish but they do add another element to this dish.
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Told you I was making a bunch!

And there you have it. With football season on top of us, these would be perfect to take to a tailgating party!!

Enjoy!


Ingredients:

Marinade Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 1/2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 TBSP poppy seeds

24 Hawaiian rolls, sliced (or something equivalent)
1 pound sliced Ham (I use black forest)
1 pound swiss cheese sliced.
Caramelized Onions (obviously you need to make these ahead of time)
1 jar Dijon mustard (or whole grain mustard would be good too!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). (Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.)

In a bowl, mix together butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and dried onion. Separate the tops from bottoms of the rolls, and place the bottom pieces into the prepared baking dish. Brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard over the bottom layer. Layer the cheese and ham. Add a generous spoonful or more of the caramelized onions. Place the tops of the rolls onto the sandwiches. Pour the mustard mixture evenly over the rolls. (I always use a brush to ensure every part of the rolls have enough marinade.)

Sprinkle a few more poppy seeds around. It’s fun.

Bake in the preheated oven until the rolls are lightly browned and the cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Slice into individual rolls through the ham and cheese layers to serve.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Onions.

I first saw these things on Facebook in one of those short instructional videos. I thought they looked delicious and easy. NOT! While they do score high on the deliciousness scale, and I might try to make them again, stuffing these onions was anything but easy!

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I first saw these things on Facebook in one of those short instructional videos. I thought they looked delicious and easy.  NOT! While they do score high on the deliciousness scale, and I might try to make them again, stuffing these onions was anything but easy!

First, it took almost an entire bag of onions to get what you see here. Trying to separate the onion skins proved an exasperating task. I found out I am not skilled at this at all and ended up breaking pretty much all of my onion skins. Then once I did have enough, I broke a couple more while stuffing them. Of course, I  now realize they didn’t have to be perfect and I could have just pieced them together in two parts since they were held together by the bacon, but that’s not my style. (The curse I bear in this lifetime is perfectionism.)

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Ingredients:

You can actually stuff these with whatever your favorite meat or meatless mixture happens to be. If you have a favorite meatloaf recipe, use that. If you have a favorite recipe for stuffed mushrooms, use that. You can even sub the meat out and use mushrooms instead if you like. Ground turkey or chicken would be delightful as well. Make it your own!

2 yellow onions
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsps. cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. spicy ketchup
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 pack of bacon
1 bottle of BBQ sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, crumbs, egg, ½ cup BBQ, parsley, diced onions, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  3. Cut top and bottom off onion, cut in half and peel off skin. Then separate the onion into “layers”. Use the larger outside layers.
  4. Stuff your Meatloaf mix between two Onion Layers (essentially making an onion seal around a large meatball)
  5. Wrap each “bomb” with 3 slices bacon and secure with toothpicks.
  6. Bake on a sheet pan with a wire rack (see above) at 425 for approx 40 minutes or until internal temp 165.
  7. Add BBQ sauce all over and bake an additional 5 minutes!
  8. Enjoy!