Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mardi Gras, Lent & Super Bowl, reasons to serve fish!

We used to go to a Super Bowl Party every year, until the hosts retired to Arizona, leaving us all 4th and long. So for the past few years, if we feel like watching with anyone, we'd invite our neighbors over and serve some Burhop's seafood chili - our chef Jaime created this wonderful chili a few years ago,  and then our son decided to enter it in a big chili contest in Chicago. There were about 12 finalists, narrowed down from many entries. They had a panel of experts, of course, and then droves of people invited to come and eat chili. After tasting them all, the general public, having no idea that they were eating seafood chili, voted ours their favorite. The "experts" placed us second, but we were delighted to win the People's Choice Award, since that's who really counts! When people found out that the chili they were eating - and loving - was actually healthy, they were dumbfounded. Who knew that great chili doesn't have to clog your arteries!
     This year the Super Bowl falls on the same weekend as pre-Mardi Gras celebrations. For decades, a volunteer group I belonged to in Evanston had an annual Mardi Gras fund raiser, always a lot of fun. We had big pans of jambalaya and ettouffee, usually home made to save money. If you're not feeding a hundred, but you'd like to have a Mardi Gras party, you can get get jambalaya, gumbo, ettouffee, dirty rice, oysters, shrimp, crayfish and more from us in Hinsdale -- I'm of the opinion now that if I can get something really good that requires very little work, count me in.
     That said, during Lent (which is amazingly early this year - Feb. 10th), because of family tradition, we always eat fresh fish on Fridays. My dad was raised Catholic, and even though he changed churches, he never stopped his Friday fish habit. So I particularly love our prepared entrees, especially the salmon cozies and papillotes. They're so easy, and so delicious, it feels a bit like cheating. Our kids liked fish any day, which made cooking for them a breeze. One of their favorites during Lent - or any time - was Crumby Scrod.

Crumby Scrod (A Kid Favorite!)
Adults love this one as well -- so easy to do, and very tasty.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes                              Serves 4 
2 lbs. fresh scrod, cod, halibut, tilapia, whitefish or any flaky white fleshed fish fillet
3 Tbs. butter                                    
Salt & pepper to taste 
Soft bread crumbs                         
Juice of 1 lemon             

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter in a glass or ceramic oven-proof dish. Add lemon juice. Turn fish over in butter mixture to coat thoroughly. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Process two slices of soft bread in a blender to make bread crumbs. Sprinkle over fish fillets and spoon butter over crumbs and fish. Place fish in a pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes. (Cook fish 10 minutes per inch of thickness at the thickest part of fillet). Crumbs should turn light brown and slightly crispy. Reduce cooking time if fish is very thin. Serve with mashed potatoes and any green vegetable you can get your kids to eat! For mom & dad, a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  

If you have an easy recipe to share for Lent, we'd love to have you send it to us! I've changed the settings so now it's easy to reply to these posts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Losing the Holiday Poundage

One of the holiday "gifts" most of us end up with is several extra pounds of cookies around our waistline. It's so hard to say no when someone passes a plate of sea salt dark chocolate caramels...
     So now it's January, and it would be nice to undo the damage. Here's what I do that works for me:

  1. Cut way, way back on the sweet stuff - just get it out of the house. Sugar is not your friend.
  2. Eat more lean protein - fish is the perfect answer. A 6 to 8 oz. serving of baked or grilled fish is easy to digest and makes you feel full without being over stuffed. 
  3. Have lots of vegetables with your fish - substitute carrots and roasted root vegetables for potatoes, though a baked potato with some plain yogurt instead of sour cream can be very satisfying without being overly fattening. Just don't soak it with butter.
  4. Top your fish with healthy, low fat sauces, like fresh salsas. It adds color and flavor without adding calories or fat. 
  5. At least once a week, have a "salad" dinner - a piece of poached salmon on a bed of mixed lettuce with some fresh fruit - slices of clementine and avocado are great on salads. Heap the lettuce on the plate - you feel like you've eaten a big meal, but you really haven't. I usually add a slice of fresh bakery bread or toast, not too evil. 
  6. Eat slower - it takes awhile for the message to get from your stomach to your brain that you've had enough - that's why those of us who eat too fast also generally eat too much. (I grew up in a home where we practically raced each other to empty our plates and leave the table). 
  7. Drink a large glass of water with your dinner. Drinking several glasses of water a day actually helps you eliminate fat from your system. I always forget this, but it really works.
  8. Shun the after-Christmas candy sales. Don't even look at it when you go shopping. 
  9. Go for a walk. I have a Fitbit, which helps me remember to get more exercise. I walk the dog at least once a day (my husband does 2 or 3 more dog walks a day), and I walk with a friend up at Northbrook Court in the winter - they open up really early for walkers to come and be in the warmth. Check with your nearest indoor mall. 
I've dropped 2 lb.s since New Years, hope to make it 10 before Valentine's Day, the next big calorie holiday. My dearly departed father, who depended wholly on my mother's cooking, switched to a candy bar diet when Mom went into a nursing home, and ended up with type 2 diabetes, which contributed to his demise. Repeat after me - sugar is not your friend. It's OK for an occasional treat, but it's addictive, bad for your teeth, bad for your health. 
     Fish, however, is great for your health!! Snack on carrots and apples, eat fish for dinner, take a walk, you'll feel better and look better. Now if I can only stick to my own advice....