Sometimes the internet has fun things (whaaaaat?). This new site is one of those things. If you suffer from the highly toxic medical malady of restaurant indecision, this website might be the cure you’ve been looking for! The site is in the beta stages, and I think it would be great if you could filter through for diet concerns (i.e. Paleo, gluten-free, etc), but it’s still a great concept!

Zoodles with Meat Sauce

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Fun fact: I haven’t cooked pasta at home for myself in over a year. And, I’ve eaten it at a friend’s or out maybe once or twice in that same time. Which means that, basically, I don’t really eat pasta anymore.

It seems crazy when I think about that, because I remember just how hard it was in the beginning to transition from. Aside from really just loving all carbs at all times, it was also one of the first things that I “cooked” myself at home. Pasta dishes are easy and versatile and don’t really require a lot of thought. I ate it so frequently that I would do things like be snobby about spaghetti noodles (angel hair all the way!) and experiment with which noodles made for the best pasta salads (I personally liked farfalle). And oh man could I put away some mac and cheese like it was my job.

But then, I did the diet that was essentially paleo but even more restrictive and pasta was a definite no-no. And aside from the initial carb withdrawals, I didn’t really notice that it was gone. So, although it was never really a conscious decision to take pasta, specifically, out of my diet, it just happened, and in the end, I’m glad it did because it’s led me to learn how to make and eat more well-rounded meals where everything on my plate contributes something to my health. Plus, you’d be surprised at how much whole food you can eat for the same caloric content of pasta (or breads or grains).

But sometimes I remember with nostalgia the ease of making pasta-based dishes, and I kind of miss having it around (although when I do have it, I’m always underwhelmed these days). So, two weeks ago I got a spiralizer, and the easy world of pasta has opened up to me again. I’ve made a creamy, lemony zucchini pasta dish, a pesto cucumber caprese salad, and, getting back to the basics, these noodles for a classic spaghetti and meat sauce recipe, which is a favorite of Mr. Little Fish’s. We used to eat it, with noodles, regularly, but since I’ve taken over the cooking, it hasn’t been in the rotation as much. I’ve lightened and freshened up the original recipe from Allrecipes to take advantage of the abundance of fresh basil during the summer. And for an even lighter sauce, we’ve used ground turkey with equally delicious results. It’s great to have Italian food back on the table!

Zoodles with Meat Sauce
Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 6

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Ingredients
:

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

1 pound ground beef or other meat
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren’t worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.

2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
IMG_76583. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
IMG_76594. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini. Then, use kitchen shears to cut the zucchini strands into manageable strands.

5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about 1/2 tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
IMG_76726. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
IMG_76767. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce! |
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Zoodles with Meat Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef or other meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
  • 2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren't worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini.
  5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about ½ tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
  6. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about ½ tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
  7. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce!

Watermelon Mint Salad and How to Cook the Perfect Steak in the Oven

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Long title, I know. But really, this recipe is two recipes in one. You could easily make the watermelon salad by itself if you’re just looking for a nice, refreshing side. Or you could also make just the steak. Or, best of all, you could just make both.

Just like the restaurant in Denver where I first had it on a weekend trip with Mr. LF and our friends K and M a month ago. After two days of hiking in the wonderful Colorado mountains, we’d decided it was time to explore the city we were actually staying in. Our first stop was The Great Divide brewery, which was so great  (see what I did there?)that we didn’t actually end up exploring very far. But it was totally worth a lovely afternoon sampling all their beers and doing a fun tour around the brewery.

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Side note: While we were there, small world that it is, we actually ended up seeing one of M’s friends that she’d met while studying abroad! Isn’t that crazy? I love those serendipitous moments. But anywho, with the beer running through my system, both literally and figuratively, I became curious about this group of locals waiting in line with me for the restroom. I feel like typically only tourists end up going to these sorts of things, so I decided to chat them up. I asked their opinions on this brewery versus others, and they said Great Divide was a good one and also suggested a German-style brewery that Mr. LF and I spent our last day at. They also volunteered that if we were looking for a great place to eat that was close by, we should check out Steuben’s. Since yelp hadn’t actually been steering us in the right direction, we decided to give it a try.

Beer tends to fill me up, so I wasn’t actually that hungry when we got there. Which meant that I thought I’d take the opportunity to order a salad off the menu, something I rarely do. When the waiter came around, I ordered the watermelon mint salad, and he asked whether I wanted grilled chicken or flank steak on top. Although I typically don’t give in to these up-sells, the drunk munchies had me giving an enthusiastic, “YES steak please!”

Thus, this salad was born. It could definitely have been the beer talking, but it was the best salad I’d had in a long time. I knew that I would recreate it as soon as I got home, and here it is! Feel free to use any protein you want–I’ve made this with beef sirloin and ribeye and with the backstrap of a nilgai.. And, since it’s summer, feel especially free to put it on the grill instead of cooking it in the oven! =) Happy 4th!

Watermelon Mint Salad with Grilled Steak
Serves 2

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Ingredients:

2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
2 handfuls spinach or other leafy green (I’ve used arugula before with great results)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup mint leaves (about 15 leaves) or more, to taste
Juice of 1 lime
Optional: goat feta cheese
1 lb grass-fed steak of choice
1 tbsp coconut oil or bacon grease, melted

Directions:

For the salad
1. In a large bowl, mix together the watermelon, cucumber, and spinach.
IMG_75682. Mince your mint leaves.

3. Add the minced leaves to a small bowl, and add in the honey, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
IMG_75744. Whisk together until well blended, and pour the dressing in the large bowl with the veggies. Mix until well-coated. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate while you make the steak.

For the steak:
5. Open the package of steak, and drain any juices. Place the steak on a cutting board, and use a few paper towels to blot the steak dry. Let the steak come to room temperature if it isn’t already.
IMG_75826. Turn on your oven’s broiler to high, and place an oven rack about 6-8 inches below the broiler. Put a cast iron grill pan (or regular skillet) on the rack to heat it up with the oven.
7.  Using a pastry brush, brush the coconut oil or bacon grease onto both sides of the steak. Generously season each side with the salt and pepper.
IMG_75838. Turn a burner on your stove to medium high. Make sure that your house is well-ventilated, as the pan and the steak are going to produce a lot of smoke (I put a fan in my window that pulls the smoke outside)!
9. Using an oven mitt, carefully take the cast iron pan out of the oven, and place it on the burner you turned on earlier. I like to put a little bit more of the bacon grease into the pan at this point to help keep it from sticking.
IMG_758510. Use tongs to place the steaks onto the hot grill pan. It will sizzle and smoke! DO NOT TOUCH IT. Cook the steak for 30 seconds. Then, flip it over and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
IMG_758711. Use your oven mitt to put the cast iron pan with the steak back into the oven. Turn off your stove burner, and cook the steak for 2 minutes in the oven. After two minutes, open the oven, and use your tongs to flip the steaks one more time. Cook for an additional 2 minutes for a medium rare to medium steak. If you’d like it closer to being well-done, leave for another minute.
IMG_759012. Take the pan and steaks out of the oven, and remove the steaks to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil to allow them to rest (this is where the juices redistribute so you don’t get a dry steak) for about 5 minutes.

13. While the steak is resting, take your salad out of the fridge, and plate onto two large bowls. If you eat cheese, sprinkle some of the feta over it.
14. After 5 minutes, slice your steak against the grain, and then fan the pieces on top of your salad!
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Watermelon Mint Salad and How to Cook the Perfect Steak in the Oven
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced
  • 2 handfuls spinach or other leafy green (I've used arugula before with great results)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup mint leaves (about 15 leaves) or more, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Optional: goat feta cheese
  • 1 lb grass-fed steak of choice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or bacon grease, melted
Directions
  1. For the salad
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the watermelon, cucumber, and spinach.
  3. Mince your mint leaves.
  4. Add the minced leaves to a small bowl, and add in the honey, olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together until well blended.
  5. Pour the dressing in the large bowl with the veggies, and mix until well-coated. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate while you make the steak.
  6. For the steak:
  7. Open the package of steak, and drain any juices. Place the steak on a cutting board, and use a few paper towels to blot the steak dry. Let the steak come to room temperature if it isn't already.
  8. Turn on your oven's broiler to high, and place an oven rack about 6-8 inches below the broiler. Put a cast iron grill pan (or regular skillet) on the rack to heat it up with the oven.
  9. Using a pastry brush, brush the coconut oil or bacon grease onto both sides of the steak. Generously season each side with the salt and pepper.
  10. Turn a burner on your stove to medium high. Make sure that your house is well-ventilated, as the pan and the steak are going to produce a lot of smoke (I put a fan in my window that pulls the smoke outside)!
  11. Using an oven mitt, carefully take the cast iron pan out of the oven, and place it on the burner you turned on earlier. I like to put a little bit more of the bacon grease into the pan at this point to help keep it from sticking.
  12. Use tongs to place the steaks onto the hot grill pan. It will sizzle and smoke! DO NOT TOUCH IT. Cook the steak for 30 seconds. Then, flip it over and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  13. Use your oven mitt to put the cast iron pan with the steak back into the oven. Turn off your stove burner, and cook the steak for 2 minutes in the oven. After two minutes, open the oven, and use your tongs to flip the steaks one more time. Cook for an additional 2 minutes for a medium rare to medium steak. If you'd like it closer to being well-done, leave for another minute.
  14. Take the pan and steaks out of the oven, and remove the steaks to a cutting board. Tent loosely with foil to allow them to rest (this is where the juices redistribute so you don't get a dry steak) for about 5 minutes.
  15. While the steak is resting, take your salad out of the fridge, and plate onto two large bowls. If you eat cheese, sprinkle some of the feta over it.
  16. After 5 minutes, slice your steak against the grain, and then fan the pieces on top of your salad!

1. Read the WHOLE recipe twice. This might seem like overkill to some, but I assure you it’s the safest way to go. You might pick up on things you didn’t see the first time. It’s like that saying from construction: “Measure twice, cut once.” Except in this case we’re most likely measuring a whole bunch of butter and cutting it into a whole mess of flour. No hardhats required. Still, it’s a good rule.

2. Make a checklist of all your ingredients. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a recipe and then had to run to the store halfway through. Make a checklist, go into your pantry and your fridge to double check you have everything and cross off items as you have them. This step is very satisfying to me — I really like crossing things off lists. This also prevents that weird batch of chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips in them.

3. Note the time the recipe is going to take. Do you have time to make what you want to make? More often than not, your recipe is going to be straight with you and tell you exactly how long you’re going to need to complete it.This might be broken into “prep time,” “cooking time” and “inactive time.” As someone who once tried to make an icebox cake with 16 hours of “inactive time” for a party I was supposed to attend in 30 minutes, I can’t stress this point enough.

4. Respect the order of things. It might seem obnoxious that you have to separate your wet and your dry ingredients before mixing everything together.Ugh…I have to whip those egg whites before folding them in? It can all seem like a bunch of pomp and circumstance. However, I assure you that the person who created this recipe has created these steps to aid in your success. Follow along for the best results.

5. Get familiar before getting fancy. You might be a substitution queen like me, and love to sub in things like coconut oil for butter or applesauce for oil. I always suggest making the recipe as it is written first to get familiar with it. Once you see how it cooks up, you will have a better idea of what you can swap out. Also, I always like to point out that substitutions are risky, so sub in at your own risk. Only go off book when you have the time for the recipe to potentially flop.

From The Kitchn. I thought these were truly great tips for scanning through a recipe to prepare to cook. I like to keep my Out of Milk app open with me in the kitchen when I go through the ingredients list and cross-reference it with an actual ingredient so that I can add whatever I’m missing as I go. Then, all I have to take with me to the store is my phone! I am also now a substitution Queen, but when I first started cooking, I definitely always made recipes as-is first and then experimented after!

What about you? Do you follow any of these tips? Do you have tips of your own?

Workday Halibut Ceviche

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Growing up in a place where I was 20 minutes away from the beach at all times, ceviche has pretty much always been around in my life. I remember going home during college one time and going to our favorite place for ceviche and being eager to down a whole ceviche appetizer by myself. I couldn’t do it, but getting to eat that wonderfully fresh, light, and simple dish was worth the effort.

It’s a pretty versatile dish. When we took a trip to Fiji about a year ago, one of my favorite dishes there was, unsurprisingly,  kokoda, which is essentially just ceviche with coconut milk. The recipe below makes enough for 2 servings, so when I wanted to spice up the second serving a little, I just added some coconut milk to completely change the flavor profile (and take me back to paradise!).  Also, while it’s traditionally eaten with tortilla chips, a Colombian restaurant we went to last week (which we went to solely because I was craving ceviche!), served theirs with fried green plantains, otherwise known as tostones, and I really, really liked the pairing.

The best part of making this is seeing how the lime juice literally cooks the fish. It’s almost unbelievable that it cooks right before your eyes, all while doing nothing more than sitting in some fluids. I remember taking this to a lunch with friends once and them remarking how “fancy” it was. I had to convince them that this is the easiest thing in the world!

In fact, the version I give you below is made so that it cooks while you’re at work! How’s that for a fancy workday lunch? Essentially, you prep all of the ingredients the night before, pour the lime juice over the fish in the morning, and then let it cook in your work refrigerator while you do, I dunno, work things (or watch the World Cup and dream wistfully of being in Brazil, anybody?). Come lunch time, which I imagine is about 3-4 hours later for most of you, you mix it with the baggie of pre-cut veggies and–voila–ceviche at your desk. Perfect for summer! Enjoy!

Workday Halibut Ceviche
Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
1/4 cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 green onions, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
2 tbsps chopped cilantro
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced

Directions:

The night before:

1. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls, like the ones below (mine are Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
IMG_70602. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
3. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in saran wrap (unless you don’t mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
IMG_7062The morning of:

4. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the next day as well, don’t pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
IMG_70633. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work with you, along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed. You’ll know the fish is done when it’s opaque and flaky, like in the picture above.
IMG_70744. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips (I didn’t have my camera at work, but just imagine that the wine glass is the pyrex bowl!)!
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Workday Halibut Ceviche
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Light
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
  • ¼ cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large avocado, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tbsps chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup red cabbage, sliced
Directions
  1. The night before:
  2. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls (I use Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
  3. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
  4. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in seran wrap (unless you don't mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
  5. The morning of:
  6. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the
  7. next
  8. day as well, don't pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
  9. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed.
  10. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips!