Hi, my name is Gwen, and I’m addicted to avocado pudding.  Since making my first new breakfast on Friday, I have made the avocado pudding three more times.

Avocado pudding...with eggs!  (Sorry for the pic quality)

Like with eggs! (phone pic, sorry!)

If you’re wondering whether this is also Picky-Eater-Approved, I am happy to report that Mr. Little Fish really liked it!  He was skeptical of the avocado pudding by itself, saying only that it was “interesting,”  but when I topped it with the granola, he was kind of amazed at how well it all worked together and agreed with me that it was weirdly really good. (Sidebar: I also ended up making the polenta breakfast bake this week, but am underwhelmed with the results.  After browsing the comments, I see this was a common thing, so I will probably not be making this again, but I do feel good that I’ve made 3 out of the 5 new recipes I posted about last week.)

In other news, this week was my birthday week (yay me!).  That, coupled with a few really busy days at work, means that I have been slightly behind in this week’s Cooking Cure, which focuses on lunch (Days 6, 7, and 8‘s assignments here, which essentially ask you to repeat everything you did for breakfast week).  Lunch is probably one of the hardest meals of the day to master. It’s usually the main time of the day that you are away from home and thus actually have to, you know, plan.  Some weeks I’m more successful at this than others.  

My main secret to lunch? Dinner.  I am generally not a huge fan of making things I don’t immediately plan on eating.  In fact, it’s safe to say that Leftovers and I have had a pretty rocky relationship.  While Leftovers tried his hardest to woo me, I stubbornly refused to acknowledge his existence.  Rather than just letting him waste away in my fridge, I tried to match-make with friends and family, and it would let me off the hook temporarily, but eventually I’d find myself face to face with him again. And the more I cooked, the more my meetings with Leftovers were inevitable. Eventually I stopped resisting Leftovers, and we hit it off. One day, it clicked–I’d found The One (sorry Little Fish).  And I’ve embraced Leftovers ever since.  In fact, I plan around them.

Thus, my lunches last week included leftovers of cherry tomato gnocchi with spinach and bacon (recipe here!) and then four days of slow-cooker beef taco soup.  This week was only slightly different in that I’ve eaten my mother-in-law’s delicious Russian cabbage rolls the past three days.  In other words, my lunches, though tasty, don’t include much variety.  I compensate for the sameness of lunch by mixing up dinner, but I can’t pretend that some days I don’t just want anything other than the thing I’ve been eating for the last three days.

So coming up with my goals for lunch this week was pretty easy: add more variety.  One way I would like to do this is to include more salads.  I’ve always had good intentions about salads, but I never find them all that satisfying because cold food is, well, cold.  With summer coming up (maybe??!? finally??), I’m thinking that maybe I will actually appreciate the lightness and coldness of salads, so I thought it would be good to start finding some favorites now.

With that in mind, here are the five lunch recipes I would like to try this week:

1.  Reset Button Salad, probably adding apple for some sweetness.
2.  Carrot coconut soup because I think this would be good cold or warm, and I have some leftover homemade chicken broth I want to use up.  =)
3.  Roasted Eggplant salad.  A warm salad!  Best of both worlds??
4.  This Crunchy Cashew Thai Salad is calling my name, loudly.
5. Sriricha steak lettuce wraps because I’ve been on a Sriracha kick lately!

How is your Cooking Cure going?  Have you made anything new lately?

After a few days of thinking about breakfast from a more global and philosophical perspective, the assignments for Days 4 & 5 were to put your ideas into practice–choose one recipe from the five you chose on Day 3, do your grocery shopping for it, and then actually make it!

I typically go grocery shopping 2-4 times a week, because that helps me manage waste better, so I had already been planning on going yesterday.  Since Fridays are my days off, I decided to be slightly ambitious and make TWO of the five recipes I chose: the avocado pudding and the pumpkin granola.  I did this mostly because I knew the granola would be a big batch and could be one of the “staples” I generally keep around the house, and I also knew that the avocado pudding recipe called for something crunchy on top, so birds, meet stone.

The upside to cooking so often is that I pretty much know exactly what I have on hand in my kitchen.   Every time I get a new recipe, I go down the ingredients list and mentally check off what I already have, including any substitutions I could make, and then add whatever I still need to the Out of Milk app that Mr. Little Fish and I share.  For the avocado recipe, all I needed was avocado, as I decided I would use my homemade almond milk instead of dairy milk, and for the granola, all I need to buy was sunflower seeds!  It’s one of my small pleasures in life when I already have most of the things on the list!

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Because I knew that I would have time this morning, I decided not to prep anything ahead of time, but if this had been a normal weeknight, I would have made the granola before bed.  The things I changed in the recipe were that I only used 1 tbsp of honey instead of 2 tbsp maple syrup, because a) I didn’t want to buy maple syrup and b) the pumpkin seeds I used were these praline ones from my Naturebox and so were already sweetened.  I also only had unsweetened coconut flakes, as opposed to shredded coconut, so I threw them into the food processor with the other ingredients to pulse.  Lastly, I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice so I used 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ginger.

IMG_6970I would make this granola again just for the smell of pumpkin pie wafting through my house!  Luckily, it tasted as good as it smelled, so I packaged it up in a glass container and now have homemade granola on hand!  Also the best part? It’s grain free and nut free (and could be vegan if you used the maple syrup as originally called for!)!

IMG_6976Of course, I did manage to throw some on my avocado pudding before putting it away, and I have to say that this was a very satisfying breakfast!  The avocado pudding is apparently a Brazilian-inspired dish, and it does indeed remind me of warm sand and palm trees.  The honey added just the right amount of sweet without overwhelming the avocado flavor.  Also, I always enjoy a recipe that allows me to use my immersion blender!  I am looking forward to making this breakfast again next week (or maybe even this weekend, as I feel like this is sort of thing I could find myself craving!).

Light yet filling!

Light yet filling!

How has your breakfast planning been going?  Will you be trying anything new this weekend?

Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Just a normal Wednesday night dinner
Just a normal Wednesday night dinner

Is it weird that I am oddly proud that this is the longest I’ve gone between posts?  I think it’s because I’ve actually been super productive at the office, unlike my usual procrastinatrix self, and have been mentally exhausted when I get home. But anyway, I’m now looking at nice little break from deadlines, so hopefully I can kick the blog writing back into high gear.

On that note, I’ve mentioned before how I thought I was a member of the Salmon Hater Club for a while.  The only time I would consistently enjoy eating salmon was when it was raw  in my sushi, but even then, salmon would be one of my lesser favorites, falling behind tuna, torched escolar (try this at DK Sushi!), red snapper, and scallop.  Hell, if it came down to choosing just one, I’d probably choose a traditional Japanese veggie roll over the salmon.  I liked it; I just didn’t love it.

When it came to cooked salmon, however, I wasn’t even sure I liked it.  It was just…boring to me. I would always order it at restaurants, and I would always be underwhelmed.  It would be too dry or too fishy or too bland.  I would get tired of eating it about halfway through.  Unfortunately for me, Mr. Little Fish felt exactly the opposite, so he would nearly always order salmon (I harbor some suspicions that he did it so I wouldn’t try the food on his plate), and always proclaim how much he loved it, and always leave me wondering how on earth I could not be cooking something he so clearly enjoys.  

But, I remained vigilant in my salmon-hate, until one day when we had my in-laws over for a pool party and they made salmon.  It was so simple–a whole filet, topped with red pepper flakes and a little bit of oil, and with bits of onion stuck into the meat.  They baked it in a covered casserole dish and stuck it in the oven for a little while, and what came out was this wonderfully moist, flaky, flavorful fish.  I was intrigued.

After some experimentation, I finally settled on two go-to salmon recipes: this version, and a simple yet elegant teriyaki version.  This one cooks up in about 10 minutes, and is delightfully easy.  The original recipe called for pan frying it until done, but, in case it makes some of you new cooks feel any better, I started to get a little scared with the smoke and blackened-ness, so I decided to do the hybrid pan sear+oven method that I use for steaks and other meats. The upside is a wonderfully crunchy, blackened exterior with a tender interior.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon
Adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner
Serves 3-4

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 16 oz salmon filet, skin removed and cut into 3-4 smaller filets
1.5 tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

1.  If you are using a traditional oven, preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix together the sugar, chili, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl.
2.  Lay out the salmon filets and sprinkle the spice mixture on all sides.
3.  Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the filets to the skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes each side, until blackened.
4.  Transfer the filets to a foil covered pan, and either put in preheated oven or put directly into toaster oven for 10 minutes.
5.  Serve on salad (we once made one with pomegranate arils, celery, and mixed greens that complemented the fish very well!) or roasted veggies!

Sweet and Spicy Salmon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 16 oz salmon filet, skin removed and cut into 3-4 smaller filets
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut oil
Directions
  1. If you are using a traditional oven, preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the sugar, chili, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl.
  2. Lay out the salmon filets and sprinkle the spice mixture on all sides.
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the filets to the skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes each side, until blackened.
  4. Transfer the filets to a foil covered pan, and either put in preheated oven or put directly into toaster oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve on salad (we once made one with pomegranate arils, celery, and mixed greens that complemented the fish very well!) or roasted veggies!

 

From the makers of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter…

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Well, ok, not really. Unilever is neither related nor in any way affiliated with this post. Or with this recipe. This recipe is brought to you by me. Sorry to disappoint. I know you were really excited about something processed that’s meant to mimic something real. But instead, I’m just gonna give you one of my favorite desserts of something real that’s meant to mimic something processed: banana “ice cream!”

Why the quotations you ask? Well, if you are an ice cream purist (are there such things?), you will no doubt have taken offense if I had billed this as just ice cream. Because there’s no actual cream, or dairy, involved. There’s also no refined sugar or artificial flavorings.  Just pure, creamy banana. Thus, the quotations.

After you give up sugar for a good while, you start to really appreciate what my friend E refers to as “nature’s candy”–fruit. Whenever I get cravings for something sweet, which isn’t that often these days, I always try to have a piece of fruit first to see if that will quench it. If it doesn’t, then I know my body wants something a little more indulgent.  Some days, particularly on the weekends, that something indulgent will be an actual treat–Girl Scout cookies, for example, or a French macaron from Whole Foods (!). Other days, I still want that indulgence to be “good,” so I’ll make this ice cream. While banana is still a fruit, it definitely has enough sugar to qualify as a treat, so I try to eat it in moderation.

All you need for this recipe is three things: a food processor or blender, frozen bananas, and nut butter (or any other mix-in. I’ve been known to put Nutella in here. Don’t judge me.).  You want your bananas to be pretty ripe when you throw them in the freezer. I usually wait til they look something like this:

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I halve them and throw them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, so they are easy to portion out when I need them later (they work great in smoothies too!).

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Then, when I’m feeling a hankering for something sweet, I throw two halves in the food processor.

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If they’ve been sitting out for a bit and have softened, you can usually blend right away without any problem.  Sometimes, though, I will add about a tablespoon of water to loosen it up.  Once they start to get creamier, I add in the nut butter/protein powder/Nutella so that it doesn’t just get stuck to the blades.  You’ll also want to stop processing and scrape down the sides every once in a while so you don’t get any chunks (unless you’re into that sort of thing).  Eventually though, it will look like this:

IMG_6881And it’s done!  When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll actually pour it into a bowl and eat it like a civilized person.  Most times though I just take a spoon and eat it right out of the food processor (usually when Mr. LF isn’t around).  For purposes of the blog, I put it in a bowl and topped it with dark chocolate chips!

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If you feel like it’s a bit too soft when it’s done processing, you can always put it back into the freezer for a little bit and let it firm up!

Have you ever tried banana ice cream?  What’s your favorite mix-in?

Banana "Ice Cream"
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp nut butter/protein powder/Nutella
Directions
  1. Break up banana into smaller chunks and put in food processor (you can also use a blender but you'll probably want to use a bit more water).
  2. Pulse until banana is chunky. Add in water and chosen mix-in.
  3. Pulse until creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides so it's evenly mixed.

 

 

Spicy Tuna Steak

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True story: Mr. Little Fish is a cannibal. Not because he eats other humans (that I know of), but because he eats fish. A lot. I can’t be sure but I think his favorite protein in the whole world might be salmon. I’m not sure because I haven’t asked because he refuses to indulge my attempts to get him to commit to some superlative (Would you say Nutella is your favorite thing ever? No. Top 2? Ehh….), but I’m just gonna go ahead and presume that it is.

Unfortunately for him, I am awfully picky about my salmon. Whenever I ordered it in restaurants, I always found it dry and overly fishy. Salmon has a very distinct flavor to me, and I haven’t quite found a pattern to when I find it tolerable and when I don’t, although I suspect cooking it at home might have something to do with it (recipes to come!).

The only consistent way that I like salmon is in sushi. I like raw fish. I even made ceviche once (it was delicious). So, when I recently bought Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food (which is a great food-nerd book by the way!), and he featured a blackened tuna steak in his “Searing” section, I thought that we’d found an acceptable compromise.  And indeed we did, despite Mr. LF’s unending paranoia about eating raw foods.  It’s like he came from a Third World country or something (spoiler alert: he did).

The spice mix on the fish is perfect–spicy, salty, tangy, delicious.  I stuck to the original recipe for the spice mix, even though it only called for one tuna steak, and it has been plenty.  In fact, I decided that, rather than throwing it out, I have put the spice mix in a little ziplock baggie and stuck it in the fridge for future tuna-coating purposes.  This will make an already fabulously quick recipe even quicker!

Also, because I think there is something primal about seeing the grill marks on food, I invested in an inexpensive cast-iron grill pan awhile back that has been great for all kinds of steaks (but particularly for a delicious ribeye I made the other day!).  If you are only interested in buying one cast iron pan, I would suggest going with a regular skillet over this grill pan because it’s slightly less versatile.  But for the price, you could easily get them both!  I am sure, however, that you could probably sear this tuna on a regular non-stick pan, but make sure to put a good coating of oil so that it actually does not stick.

Blackened Tuna Steak
Adapted from I’m Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown
Serves 2

Deliciously pink on the insde

Deliciously pink on the insde

Ingredients:

2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
3 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried ginger
2 tsp ground cumin
Coconut oil
2 tuna steaks, about 1-inch thick
1 half lemon

Directions:

1.  Mix the spices together in a small baggie.  Then, put your cast iron skillet on the burner over medium high heat.  This gives the cast iron some time to heat up before putting the food on it.
2.  Put the tuna steaks on your cutting board, and use a pastry brush, or your fingers, to rub the melted coconut oil on to the surface of the steaks.  Sprinkle enough of the spice mix on the fish to cover all sides of it.
3.    Drizzle a tiny bit of the coconut oil over the pan, and then place your tuna steaks in the pan.  It will sizzle and sear and might get kind of smoky, so turn your oven hood on.  Leave the tuna steaks completely alone for 3 minutes.
4.  If, at the end of the three minutes, the fish is sticking to the pan, let it sit for one more minute.  If not, flip it over to the other side and cook for another three minutes.
5.  Take the steaks out of the pan, and squeeze a little lemon juice over them.  Serve with roasted veggies or on top of salad!

What’s your favorite way to cook fish?

Spicy Tuna Steak
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • Coconut oil
  • 2 tuna steaks, about 1-inch thick
  • 1 half lemon
Directions
  1. Mix the spices together in a small baggie. Then, put your cast iron skillet on the burner over medium high heat. This gives the cast iron some time to heat up before putting the food on it.
  2. Put the tuna steaks on your cutting board, and use a pastry brush, or your fingers, to rub the melted coconut oil on to the surface of the steaks. Sprinkle enough of the spice mix on the fish to cover all sides of it.
  3. Drizzle a tiny bit of the coconut oil over the pan, and then place your tuna steaks in the pan. It will sizzle and sear and might get kind of smoky, so turn your oven hood on. Leave the tuna steaks completely alone for 3 minutes.
  4. If, at the end of the three minutes, the fish is sticking to the pan, let it sit for one more minute. If not, flip it over to the other side and cook for another three minutes.
  5. Take the steaks out of the pan, and squeeze a little lemon juice over them. Serve with roasted veggies or on top of salad!