Monday, March 22, 2010

Pan-Fried Fish Tacos and Lentil Rice

Bad news first - I didn't take any pictures of this dinner.

Good news, though - it was pretty good!

My friend Kris has shared her recipe for her Famous Blackened Fish Tacos. It's not grill season around here so somehow I came up with the idea of pan-frying the fish in a little olive oil instead. Cod fillets were on sale and I got about 2 pounds at $4.99/lb (we ate about 2/3 of it and froze the rest). I used a sharp knife on my fish cutting board to cut pieces about 5 or 6 inches long and an inch wide and tall. Then I sprinkled on a modified version of Kris's spice rub. I ran out of cayenne pepper at 1 teaspoon, I was out of garlic powder entirely, I didn't feel like grinding coriander seed, and I left out most of the salt (just because).

Kris's spice rub:
- 1 tsp course salt
- 1 TBSP smoked paprika
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp course ground black pepper
- 1/2 TBSP garlic powder
- 1 TBSP onion powder
- 1/2 TBSP ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander seed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil

I restocked my paprika, cayenne, and garlic powder this weekend so next time I'll be able to do it right!

With a gloved hand I rubbed the spices onto the fish and arranged them in the hot olive oil in the frying pan (on medium high). I only used about 1/4 cup oil in the pan and fried the fish for about 8 minutes, turning it over halfway through. It fell apart into flakes in the pan which, while bad for presentation, at least reassured me that it was cooked!

Our fish tacos consisted of a warmed flour tortilla (the 6" size, pretty small) with fish, diced avocado, diced tomato for everybody but me, lettuce from a bag salad mix along with a couple of the shredded carrot pieces that came along, and a little creamy poppy seed salad dressing. What?! Yes - it was a nice, sweet addition and really made the tacos. If the fish was up to the usual level of spice I don't think it would have worked, but in this instance it really worked!

On the side I made brown rice. I sauteed a little chopped green onion in just the littlest bit of butter, then added two cups of water and one cup of short grain brown rice. Because I had it handy in the cabinet, I threw a handful of dry lentils (and a little extra water to compensate) and a pinch of salt, stirring it together before putting the lid on and cooking it as usual for brown rice. That is, bring it to a boil and turn down to low and ignore it for over half an hour. I think I'll be looking into other methods because this left my husband scrubbing the pot for a while.

Anyway, as a meal it came together rather well and we had enough leftover fish for lunch the next day too, although we did change it up by putting the rice into the tortilla also. If that's not living on the edge I don't know what is!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Potato and Cheddar Soup, a work in progress

Not long ago my family was at the grocery store and looking for some potatoes. I don't remember what we planned to make, but we didn't need many. Somehow the cost comparison led us to the 20 pound bag (yes - the bag that weighs more than Zee) ending up in the cart. I think it was $6. The bag is full of nice, small, clean white potatoes, and we're working our way through them. So when my husband said he was in the mood for baked potato soup I at least knew we had plenty of the main ingredient. He said, "Bacon, sour cream, cheese - that kind of soup."

My friend Julie (blog on hiatus) found a potato soup recipe a couple months ago and highly recommended it. While I was looking for it, my husband dug up this recipe. I looked them over and caught a glimpse of the nutritional facts - 169 calories per serving vs. 749! 9.9g fat vs. 49.4g! Per serving, not in the whole pot! A closer look reveals the differences: more milk, 12 slices of bacon (ah-ha!) instead of diced ham, 1/4c more cheese and a cup of sour cream. So all the things my husband wanted in the soup are what made it worse for you. Excellent!

So here's what I made. I used the recipe nutrition facts calculator from sparkpeople here to determine that my soup, with four servings, had 484 calories and 29.8g fat per serving! I thought I did pretty well until seeing that. But it was a good lesson in learning that the little things add up.

Potato and Cheddar Soup, version 1


4 slices bacon
3 cups washed, peeled, and diced raw potatoes
2-3 cups water
1.5 tablespoons butter
2-3 green onions, sliced (3/4-1 cup) white and green parts but not the root bits at the very end
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups milk (we buy whole milk)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/4c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/3 c sour cream (I used reduced fat)

In a frying pan, cook bacon over medium heat. You want it pretty well done so it will crumble, but not so much that it burns. Remove bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel to dry a bit. Reserve a teaspoon or two of bacon grease for cooking your onions; store the rest in a jar in the fridge or freezer or discard.


While the bacon cooks, put the diced potatoes in a pot with some water, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender. This took about 20 minutes for me. When the potatoes were tender enough, meaning I could squish one pretty easily with a wooden spoon, I left the lid off for a few minutes to let some water evaporate. One of the base recipes called for a cup of the potato cooking water in the soup, so instead of draining the potatoes, reserving liquid and recombining I just cooked it down a bit.


In yet another pot (we're up to two pots and a frying pan now) melt 1.5tbsp butter over medium heat and add in the teaspoon or two of bacon grease (hey, it tastes good!). Throw in those sliced green onions to cook a bit, maybe a minute or two. Have the potatoes or the milk close by and ready to pour in, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour into the onion mixture and keep stirring! This will cook the flour a little. After about a minute, add the potatoes and the liquid you have left from boiling them (just dump it in!), milk, sugar, 1 c. of the shredded cheddar cheese, about 1/3 c sour cream (I did not measure this, just a big spoonful), and fresh ground pepper. Stir and let this simmer for a bit, maybe 15 minutes or so.

Crumble the bacon and stir about 3/4 of it into the soup. I threw in the green parts of the onion at this stage as well, although I really have no explanation for this. I let it simmer another few minutes while we got the kids rounded up for dinner and got out the dishes.

I garnished each bowl with a little sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese, and a sprinkle of crumbled bacon on top.

I am not exactly sure why, but the milk or the sour cream (or both?) sort of separated a bit in the soup. I think I had the heat up too high. When I try making this soup again, I'll take more time and keep the heat lower. My macaroni and cheese recipe uses milk and sour cream added to a roux (fat plus flour plus heat is a roux) and it will sometimes separate too. It tasted fine, though. I'm not sure what purpose the sugar served and I will probably leave it out in the future.

Leaving out the sugar, using two slices of bacon instead of four, one teaspoon of bacon grease instead of two, one tbsp of butter and 1 c. of cheddar cheese brings it to 413 calories and 23.4g fat. Those are all small changes that really bring down the fat content. I'll have to let you know how they taste!

I used about half of one of my Vidalia spring onions from the latest veggie trip. That leaves 2 1/2 onions to go... where will they go?

The Vegetable Revolution

I watched Jamie Oliver's TED acceptance speech yesterday. I highly recommend scraping together 20 minutes in your day to take a look at it - it took me a couple weeks to get around to it. But after watching it I realized some things. I want to eat better food. I want everybody to eat better food and know how to make it. I want to know how to make better food too, because I certainly have some things to learn myself. And I'm going to do it, because I deserve to eat better. You deserve to eat better. My family deserves real food, every day. And I'm going to learn right here where anybody can find it, and everybody can help and be helped. I have to re-learn to cook real food. I know some, and I'll share what I can and learn what I can.

My vegetable revolution began yesterday. I hope you'll learn and share with me.

Yesterday's haul:


That's a Roma tomato ($0.30), a bunch of kale ($2.49), "baby" green Vidalia onions ($1.79), two avocados ($2.78), and two zucchini (rung up as cucumbers, they cost $1.98). I don't like tomatoes so they will be lacking in our diet, but my husband likes them and I plan to use this one in tonight's dinner.

Friday, March 5, 2010

February Stashdown Report

Hey, I almost forgot to do my first monthly Stashdown Report! This is a part of my goal for 2010 to use up more yards of yarn than I buy. In February did better than I did in January and even have pretty good excuses for my purchases. I took a trip to WEBS to meetup with my Harry Potter crafting game friends, so I took the opportunity to get a few things that I knew I couldn't get at my LYS. Then The Periwinkle Sheep had a closeout sale on her merino sport yarn and, well, I couldn't let that get away from me (she still has a couple skeins left!). And last but not least, I did buy some yarn for a crochet sock race challenge that begins tomorrow. I'm one of seven people from my group racing three other groups of seven to produce a pair of crocheted socks. The pattern release is in about 14 hours, which is 3am my time! I kept waking up last night and looking at the clock, even though it was a night early. I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from getting up and beginning when the pattern is released! I also received a gift of a beautiful skein of sock yarn. I am a very lucky person.

Now on the exciting flip side we have the yarn that I've used up! I've blogged about some of these but not others. I gave away a bag full of different eyelash and novelty yarns to one of my House Cup friends, Vertigo, who was at the WEBS meetup. That was pretty exciting, because they've been here lurking in the stash for a couple years doing nothing and she is using them to make pet beds.

I made a house colors cup cozy for those too-hot coffee cups, my Hufflepuff rat of course, coasters, two pairs of socks (one pair here), a beaded bracelet, a colorwork hat, and I finally finished the Saoirse Shawl I started last October. Phew!! A pretty productive month.

So now for the numbers...

February yarn in: 5975 yards
February yarn out: 2988.2 yards
Year-to-date in: 10,508 yards
Year-to-date out: 3491.7 yards

Yards to go until I break even: 7,017 yards

As you can see... I have some crafting to do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

One more thing!

Today is the last day to sign up for the Evenstar Mystery Shawl KAL. I signed up last night on a whim - it's a circular shawl, clues every other week, optional beaded edging, and 1700 yards of laceweight. The pictures of progress so far up on Ravelry are gorgeous! So I took the plunge and signed up. I'll probably start it in May (to use as a three-month project for the Harry Potter game) but the pattern won't be released to everyone until June.

What next??

I took the opportunity during the Ravelympics to wrap up a few things that had been rattling around in my brain or WIP basket for far too long. I ripped out six partial projects that I just didn't love anymore or would have a better future as something else.


I crocheted an adult-sized pair of socks for the first time.


I finished the knitting on a WIP that I started last October, the marathon Saoirse Shawl. I still need to sew the pieces together, weave in the ends, and send it for a dip in some warm water, but for Ravelympics purposes the project is done, done, done, finally at last it is done! Finished photos to come, of course.

I overdyed two types of Brown Sheep yarn, a skein of Lamb's Pride Bulky and a skein of Nature Spun. Unfortunately, in photographs it's practically impossible to tell that the yarns are now both deeper blue all over and have new purple splotches. It isn't what I was going for, but I like it. I might dye it again though and go for more purple so it doesn't look quite as much like an accident.

Bulky Before and After


Nature Spun Before and After

I also dyed a 50g skein of sock yarn that I just love. I used yellow and orange food coloring. Spike has stolen this skein to put on my sweater drying rack twice - I guess he likes it too. This skein's fate is with a skein of black in colorwork, but I'm not sure what just yet - maybe Endpaper Mitts.


And for one of the designer events, I wrote down the pattern for some crochet mitts I made in January. I want to have it tested before releasing it into the wild, but the part where I get the initial thoughts onto a page is done. Pictures and making sure other people understand it, well, I have no idea how much of a challenge that will be...

So what's next? I'll be making a child-sized Saoirse Shawl, a pair of lime green mittens, a beaded necklace or two, finishing my Laminaria, and some sewing! Yes, sewing! March is going to be great!