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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Going Shopping

I've been beached on the sofa all week with a chest cold,
but today, it's time to get out.
 Mom's birthday is coming up; she's been
 a tropical fish hobbyist for 50 years, but left her tank behind in Virginia
 when she moved.
 We've decided to remedy that.
Fish tanks have changed from those rectangular things with hoods that housed
our fire belly toads, slider turtles, and even our newt named Gingrich.
They've become sleek and sophisticated with a more decorative flare.
This is kind of cool, but not quite what I'm going for.

We own this one, which holds 3 gallons and has ambient lighting.
You can choose the color of the lights to match your room,
so naturally, ours glows blue.
$30 made it an easy choice.
 If you're looking for low maintenance, how about a bowl with a beta fish
that elevates your finned friend to the level of royalty?
At $60, this is a very pampered $3 fish.
 Perfect for our beachy home, but I think we want more of a community setting.
  I'm leaning towards this 5 gallon Chi tank. It's self contained with the filtration system,
lights, and a water feature built right in.
At $60, it's about the same as an old fashioned tank
with ala carte components.
This is just cool.
It's a little larger, and has a great profile.
 It also comes in silver.
My only qualm is the $120 price tag.

Today, the search begins for real.
Headed for the pet store and every Walmart
in the county.
If not back, avenge death.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chinese Buffet

Ahhhh, the weekend.
The work week is over, you're ready for a little relaxation,
and a nice, crowd pleasing dinner would help.
The take out menus are in your hand.
What would be delicious and make everyone happy?
Chinese food!
But oh, the fat and calories!
The deep fried guilt!
Your waistline!
You could undo all of those salads in a phone call!
We have the answer.
We know just what to do.
Our methods may be a little different...
But the results?
A menu of favorites lightened up a tad. 
Put down the menu and preheat the oven.
Shall we start with an appetizer?

Baked Crab Rangoon

2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
8 oz fat free cream cheese, softened
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup crab meat, drained
wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 415 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

We found wontons at our local Asian market.
 Already picked crab claw meat from the seafood
 counter was perfect.
 In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, scallion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sugar together until well combined. Fold in the crab meat.
Taste to adjust the seasoning.
Resist the temptation to just settle into a chair with the bowl and a spoon.
Lay a wonton wrapper on your work surface. Plop about 2 teaspoons of the filling mixture in the center of the wrapper, then brush two adjacent sides of the wrapper lightly with water.
Fold the wrapper over on the diagonal. Press around the filling to remove air pockets, then press the sides to seal the wrapper tightly. Set this on the prepared baking sheet. Now lather, rinse, and repeat until all the filling is used.

Spray the tops of the wonton wrappers lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and crisp.

Makes 20-24 

Quite frankly, we doubled this. I know my family.
Next up is everyone's favorite side dish or main dish.
Make the rice sticky so you can pick it up with chopsticks.
Fried Rice

3 cups cooked white rice
3 tbs sesame oil
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (thawed)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
  3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
      On medium high heat, heat the oil in a large skillet or wok.  Add the peas/carrots mix, onion and garlic. Stir fry until tender. Lower the heat to medium low and push the mixture off to one side, then pour your eggs on the other side of skillet and stir fry until scrambled. Now add the rice and soy sauce and blend all together well. Stir fry until thoroughly heated.
If you decide to do this as a main dish, add chicken, pork, or shrimp
with the veggies.
Now for the entree!
This is a favorite of mine, and frankly, my crew declared this to
be a tastier version than our favorite delivery place!

Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken
The chicken coating:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts
salt + pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten, or egg substitute to really be good
1/4 cup canola oil
The sweet and sour sauce:
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbs ketchup
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp garlic salt
       Start by lowering the temperature in your oven from 415 to 325 degrees. Rinse your chicken breasts in water, pat them dry with a paper towel, and then cut them into bite sized cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip chicken into the cornstarch to coat then dip into the eggs.  Heat your 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook your chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place the chicken in a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.    
Mix all of your sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a bowl with a whisk 
and then pour evenly over the chicken.
The torturous part? Bake the chicken for an hour so that it's cooked all the way through,
 turning it every 15 minutes.
The smell is amazing. 
I had people ducking into the kitchen every time I turned the chicken.
Stop licking the monitor.
Call the gang to the table and serve with a pot of green tea, hot Chinese mustard
and soy sauce.
I made extra sweet and sour for dipping the crab rangoon.
We had sherbert ready for dessert,
And we had a little less guilt to boot.

for the original recipes.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simple Seafood Paella

We live in Florida, where seafood is plentiful.
 And we truly love seafood.
 There are dishes so special, you just have to answer the call.
 And since my husband is Spanish,
there's only one thing to do...
Don't be!
We've got the easiest recipe ever to put this traditional Spanish
concoction on your table and make the whole family swoon.
Special enough for company, this version is easy enough for a week night.
Paella often also has chicken or sausage, but this one is all seafood.


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1 each small-sized sweet red and green bell peppers, seeded, and cut into strips
  • 1 cup drained, chopped canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups long-grain rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or saffron threads
  • 5 to 6 cups simmering vegetable stock
  • 12 extra-large shrimp in their shells, shelled and deveined, setting the shells aside
  • 12 hard-shelled clams, such as littlenecks, scrubbed
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed
  • 8 ounces of crab claw meat
  • 12 ounce salmon filet, seared rare
  • 1 can of black olives
  • 1 cup peas
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Minced fresh parsley to garnish
We're going pair this with a little Cabernet.
Actually, Cabernayyyyyyyy.
It's alcohol removed.
The only real hooch goes in the food.

First things first, we're going to make a sofrito.
It sounds scary, but it's simple.
 In a heavy 12-inch skillet heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until hot, add the onions, and pepper strips and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring for 5 minutes more, until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates and the mixture is thick.

Dried thyme will work if you don't grow herbs.
That's what we're looking for.
Transfer to a plate and deglaze pan with 1/2 cup dry white wine.
Deglaze simply means pouring a liquid into a hot used pan to clean it and start a sauce.
Scrape the bits, or fond, off of the bottom with a wooden spatula.
Stir to heat the wine.
Add the shrimp shells and the vegetable stock.
A little sprinkle of sea salt for flavor...
...and let this simmer away, making a simple, rich, delicious seafood stock.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a 14-inch paella pan or large dutch oven, which is what I used, combine the sofrito, rice, and the saffron.

Skim the shells out of the stock.
Pour in 5 cups simmering stock and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil over high heat. Add the olives and peas. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and season with salt.

Arrange the seafood on top of the rice. Set the pan on the floor of the oven or the lowest shelf and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and the grains are tender but not too soft. If necessary, add some water if the rice needs to be more soft.
 Do not stir the paella once it goes in oven.
What you have at this point is serious one dish heaven.
A little fresh fruit salad on the side,
and you have a dish that could easily be your Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes
standard with a little tweaking.
Bonus points for it being healthy and low fat.
Dig in; I have some real wine for you guys.