Fish in a Flash

I’ve written this recipe a few times, but wanted to update it a bit for everyone.  This is one of the easiest and fastest three-course meal recipes I’ve ever written and I love that it’s also incredibly versatile.  The basic premise is the same but the specific ingredients can be adjusted, depending on your preference and what you have available.  I hope you love this recipe as much as me!fishinaflash

  • I call this recipe “Fish in a Flash” because you’re only going to need 15 minutes to make this three-course meal for your family.  It’s full of flavor, cost-effective, and adjustable… what more could you want in a recipe?

Ingredients:

  • Fish (Feel free to use whatever fish is on sale or what you happen to have in your freezer)  In this case, I used two tilapia fillets, but I’ve made this dish with flounder, haddock, or any other light, flaky fish.  I haven’t used salmon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t!
  • Crackers (Ritz crackers, Cheese crackers, club crackers, saltines, etc) crushed
  • Salt, Pepper, and any favorite seasoning (I like Paprika)
  • White wine (use whatever you have on hand or you can substitute water)
  • Broccoli flowerettes (I used a half bag of Broccoli-Wokly from the local grocer)
  • Bag of microwave brown rice (or your favorite starch)

Directions:

  • Spray a microwavable dish with cooking spray and arrange your fish fillets on dish.
  • In a small bowl, crush the crackers and mix in your seasonings.  Sprinkle fish with seasoned cracker crumbs.
  • Using your thumb as a stopper, gently “thumb” wine over the crumbs to lightly wet them  to create a coating on the fish.  You can also spoon the wine (or water) over the fish.
  • Top fish with broccoli flowerettes – I did them in a decorative fashion for these photos, but I typically just add a layer of broccoli over the fish.
  • Wet a paper towel and lay on top of the broccoli – this will help to steam the veggies.
  • Pop your dish into the microwave and cook on high for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is flaky and well-cooked.
  • Remove the fish from the microwave and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
  • Cook the 90-second brown rice in the microwave.
  • Remove rice and divide onto individual plates.
  • Serve meal with brown rice on the plate, topped with fish and vegetables.

This has been a staple in our menu selection for most of my 28-years of marriage.  I’ve adjusted and altered the recipe to the point where this is the cleanest and most simple rendition.  The original recipe (from my first year of marriage) included a half stick of butter and lots of lemon juice… this version is much healthier and the flavors really seem to pop.

I hope you’ll try this recipe and see how your family likes our Fish in a Flash.  It might just become a favorite in your house too!

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Recipe: Taco Wine Braid

Here’s a recipe that is has it ALL.  It tastes fabulous, it’s simple to make, and it looks really impressive… what more could you want?!  I made this for my family this weekend and everyone agreed that it was a terrific recipe that I had to share as soon as possible.  I’ll admit that the name of this recipe sounds a bit odd, but it really is a good descriptor, if you look at the photos.   I was using the base from a previous post (Weeknight Taco Pie) and then got a little creative after watching our cousin Ann whip up a delicious lunch that looked like something from a magazine.

Since I wasn’t going to have a lot of time for dinner prep on Sunday, I decided to cook the “taco meat” part of this meal a day ahead of time.  I started with one package of ground turkey, one packet of taco seasoning and some red wine.  I cooked the ground turkey, added the entire packet of taco seasoning, and then added the red wine.  I substituted approximately the same amount of red wine as the packet called for water (ok… I guestimated, since I didn’t want to use a measuring cup) and allowed the browned ground turkey to soak up every ounce of liquid and taco seasoning before adding one jar of black bean salsa (of the “medium-heat” variety).

NOTE: Since I wasn’t at home and didn’t have any James River Cellars wine on hand, I used a bottle of Malbec that I chose at the local market.  I like Malbec, as a general rule of thumb, so this was an easy call for me.  Remember… use the wine you like to drink or have on hand.  If I’d had an open bottle of Pinot Noir, I could certainly have used that.  The flavor will differ slightly from varietal to varietal, but that’s what makes cooking so much fun.  You can also leave the wine out entirely and just use water OR you can add beef stock/broth in place of the water.  USE THE FORCE… be brave!

TacoWineBraidI cooked the taco/salsa mixture until it was very dry and allowed it to cool a bit before storing it in the fridge for the night.  I don’t always do this, but it actually allowed the flavors to meld and mellow a bit, which was welcome surprise.  If you like your food spicy, feel free to use more seasoning or amp up the flavor using a different salsa.  That’s the beauty of making your own food… you can do what you like!

The fun part of this dish came when I decided not to put the taco mixture into a pie plate and bake it.  On a cookie sheet lined with foil (and sprayed with cooking spray), I laid out two packages of refrigerated crescent dough beside one another (so it looked like a really long rectangle.  I then spooned the taco/salsa mixture down the center and topped it with one package of shredded Mexican-style cheese (again… use what you like here).  Using a knife, I made slits along each side (making sure they matched), starting at the meat mixture and going to the outside edge of the dough (but don’t cut through the foil).

Here’s where it got COOL.  Gather up corresponding edges of dough, bring them to the center, twist them, and lay them back down in line (or slightly overlapped… YOUR CHOICE).  Repeat this with all the strips of dough until you get to the end, then pinch the ends closed.  It should look like the photo on the bottom left-hand corner.  If you want to be really fancy, top with cheese (like I did in the photo), brush with a simple egg wash (easy if you use some egg substitute and a little water), or just spray with cooking spray.  Pop your Taco Wine Braid into a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is nicely browned and you can see some bubbling of the taco meat peeking through the holes in the braid.  Let it sit for a few minutes while you gather the plates to serve this gorgeous dinner to your adoring public.

I like to serve this dinner with some lettuce, tomato, and sour cream… again, this is all personal preference.  For our dinner, I used one head of butter lettuce (because the romaine looked like it would be too much), a small container of grape tomatoes, and a tiny package of light sour cream.  Whatever you choose will be wonderful as long as you use what you like or have on hand.

This was a dinner that was a huge hit with everyone in my family.    See if you don’t get some rave reviews of your own if you make it sometime soon for your own family.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Ali’s Rock Star Tilapia

This recipe uses white wine… I typically use a Vidal Blanc or some sort of off-dry white wine.  James River Cellars makes a Chardonel that I love to pair with Tilapia.  Chardonel is a hybrid grape (made from Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc) that was created at Cornell University in 1953.  You could probably use a Chenin Blanc or a favorite Chardonnay instead?

Start with tilapia fillets – I use as many as I need to feed whomever is going to be there for dinner.  Top the fillets with salt, pepper, and paprika.  You can even use Old Bay…. use whatever spice makes your family happy.  Crush Ritz crackers over each fillet – it really only takes two crackers per fillet, but feel free to use more if you want more of a topping.  Next, thumb some of the wine over the fillet – you’re going for a ‘wetting’ of the fillets, not a drowning, so don’t go crazy.

I now have two options.  Option one is to pop the fillets into the microwave and cook on high for 7-8 minutes, or until the fillets are cooked.  Option two is to top the fillets with small broccoli florets, cover with a damp paper towel and cook on high for 10-12 minutes.  Make sure the fillets are cooked before serving.

I like to serve this with microwaveable brown rice (90 seconds to done)… that way, you’ve just finished making a three-course meal in under 15 minutes and you look like a Rock Star!  (Hence the name, Rock Star Tilapia)

I know there are those out there who are cringing at the thought of cooking fish in the microwave, but honestly, I’m lousy at making fish any other way.  Baking, broiling, grilling are all just beyond me… but I can be a Rock Star with my microwave!

Beware, I cook using “The Force”

When I was first married, I followed recipes.  I would go to the grocery store with the purpose of picking up specific ingredients for a singular recipe and then go along, step-by-step, to hopefully come out with the picture-perfect dish that would make my new husband swoon with happiness.  After all, wasn’t the way to a man’s heart through his stomach?

It didn’t take me long to realize that this age-old phrase was simply that… a phrase.  The way to my own love’s heart was simply to be part of his life, whether I was cooking dinner in the kitchen or sitting across from him in a restaurant.  It wasn’t the three-course meal that was important; it was the thought behind the preparation… the plan behind the action… the love that was shown simply by paying attention and trying.

So I started to “wing it” when it came to food.  I know there are those of you who are cringing right now… cooking is a science and should be treated as such.  As much as I do agree that there’s a huge amount of science that goes along with cooking the right ingredients and the right temperature to achieve the right result, I also would insist that cooking existed for millions of years before we had oven thermometers and Pyrex measuring cups.  I simply don’t want to be tied down to a full-on planned recipe every time I want to make dinner.  It’s just not “me”…

So, I use “The Force” when I cook.  You know, the reference from Star Wars?  “May The Force be with you”?  I look to recipes for ideas, inspiration, and basic constructs of a dish… and then I branch out.  Sure it’s scary sometimes… but when it all comes together and makes a meal that everyone agrees is a WINNER, it’s a totally hyped experience.  Yes, there are those times when the recipe fails miserably, but thankfully those have become fewer and fewer over the years.

Take my chocolate chip cookie recipe, for example.  I started out using the standard Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of the package.  It’s tasty… it’s traditional… and it’s what everyone uses when they first start out making cookies.  It just started getting boring to make the same recipe over and over again.  My chocolate chip cookie recipe is a bit more “flamboyant”… for lack of a better word.  I’ve learned that I like to have some unique ingredients in my recipe, to add different back-notes of flavors to the cookie.  Over the years, my recipe has included chili powder, ground ginger, almond extract, espresso, blood orange balsamic vinegar, and yes… WINE.   Lest you think that I’ve abandoned the focus of my blog so soon, I will say that I do add red wine to my chocolate chip cookie dough.   It adds a lovely fudginess to the cookies and my guys seem to love it, which is why I’ll probably be making another double batch of dough to keep in the fridge before the weekend rolls around.

Many people like recipes to read like directions (step 1, step 2, step 3, etc) while others tend to allow for some creativity to flow when following a recipe.  It’s seen as more of a guideline than a directive.  For those of you who fall into the second category, you will understand my recipes much easier than those of you who crave the specifics of teaspoons, tablespoons, and quarter cups of ingredients.  In any case, I hope that you find some entertainment value in my cooking… I believe that it’s the journey that’s just as important as the final dish or destination.

Try using The Force in your cooking sometime… you might find a creative soul just waiting for the opportunity to shine!