Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Bug & Bear, Cooking | 0 comments

Get Your Crafty On: Easter Chocolate Bowls

Today, I amazed myself. I think I amazed my family too. I did something crafty with Bug and Bear and it turned out cute. It was also fun AND no tears were shed. It’s a first. It’s an Easter miracle.

I’ve been brutally honest here about my incompetence with crafts. It’s just not my thing, crafting. I purpose to do creative things with my kids because they love it, but I always choose non-traditional activities, and the finished product is never attractive enough to post pictures.

Recently my friend told me about the fun recipes, activities, and crafts that Imperial Sugar posts in the Kids Kitchen section on their website. I can only imagine that crafty mamas would love Kids Kitchen for all of the adorable kitchen craft ideas, but for the craft challenged, such as myself, it enabled me for the first time ever to wow my family with my craftiness when they did not believe it was possible. Feeling inspired looking through all of the recipes and ideas, I decided to attempt Easter Chocolate Bowls with Bug and Bear. We had so much fun, they were easy to make, and they turned out photo worthy.

All you need for this craft are chocolate chips and small balloons for the bowls, plus powdered sugar, an egg, and a lemon for Royal Icing. Since Bug and Bear are too young to help with melting chocolate chips and blowing up balloons, I gave them each a balloon to play with while I set everything up.

They probably could make a day of just playing with balloons – they LOVE balloons, which is part of what made this so much fun. Since Bug doesn’t like chocolate (?!) I melted white chocolate chips for her and regular chocolate chips for Bear in small bowls in the microwave. I was warned to be careful in this step because if the chocolate is too hot it will pop the balloon and launch melted chocolate all over your kitchen. I put each bowl in the microwave for one minute, stirred, then one more minute, and that was long enough to melt the chips without making the chocolate too hot. Then I spread waxed paper over the counters, blew up several balloons in different sizes, and let Bug and Bear get to work.

They loved the messy work of spreading softened butter over the balloons so that they can be easily removed from the chocolate shell when it’s time to pop them.

Even better was dipping them into the chocolate, and of course, taking a little lick.

Obviously we won’t be handing these out as gifts. They’ve been marked.

I found that a 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips covered about 3 small to medium balloons. Bug and Bear had great fun dipping their balloons in chocolate, but there were a few flaws in their work, so after they finished I spooned a little extra chocolate on the balloons and smoothed it out to make sure it was thick and evenly applied.

Once the balloons were all coated, I put them in the freezer and we made the Royal Icing. Bug helped sift the powdered sugar and Bear added the egg white and lemon juice.

After the chocolate covered balloons hardened in the freezer for about an hour, we took them out and decorated them with the Royal Icing that we made pink and blue with food coloring. It would be fun to pipe different designs onto the bowls, but since Bug and Bear are too little to do that, we rolled the Royal Icing into circles and lines like play-doh, then arranged it in different ways using our hands. They had great fun doing this. After we decorated, we put the bowls back in the freezer to harden again. Later I took them out, popped the balloons and carefully removed all pieces from inside the bowls, and then filled them with Easter treats as a surprise for Bug and Bear.

Then choruses of “You’re the best mommy!” and “This is the best Easter surprise chocolate bowl EVER!” resounded through the house. And for the first time in the history of my mothering career, I felt crafty.

This post was sponsored by Imperial Sugar. All opinions are my own. For more fun kid’s crafts, gift ideas, printables and coloring pages, click here to visit the Kids Kitchen on

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in Cooking | 0 comments

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Bison Chili

Once upon a time, Husband and I wanted to make chili. Husband remembered that his dad had a great chili recipe, so he called him up to get it.

Husband: “Dad, don’t you have a good chili recipe? We want to make chili. But I don’t like onions or bell peppers and C doesn’t like cumin or beans.”

Dad: “Ummm… I don’t think you guys like chili.”

A father’s wisdom right there, folks. But the thing is, we do like chili, so long as it’s of the onionless-beanless-meaty-easy-on-the-cumin variety. Recently when Husband requested bison chili for his birthday dinner (actually bison chili and chocolate mousse, he’s a man of diverse tastes) I was ecstatic to find that the famous recipe from Tolbert’s Chili Parlor in historic Grapevine, Texas, is basically just beef and chiles with lots of spice and a little cumin. I altered the recipe slightly to include bison instead of ground beef since it’s leaner and less processed with antibiotics and hormones, added a little bacon fat because, well, bacon fat makes everything better, and adjusted the spices to our liking.

I found the dried chiles called for in this recipe at Whole Foods. Speaking of Whole Foods, that place is like grocery nirvana. In an effort to save money and condense my shopping trips with small children to one stop, I’ve begun exclusively shopping at Wal Mart. I can feed our family of four on something like $20 a week, it’s incredible. But Whole Foods, oh man, Whole Foods is like an alternate grocery universe where the fish counter worker engages me in witty banter, I mysteriously enjoy grocery shopping, and my children skip through the aisles excitedly chattering about specialty foods. Wal Mart sucks and I never want to go back.

But anyway. Bison Chili. You should try it.

Bison Chili

Bison Chili (adapted from Tolbert’s recipe for Frank X. Tolbert’s Original Bowl of Red)

5 slices bacon

4 pounds ground bison

16 dried ancho chiles

1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin

1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano

1 heaping tablespoon cayenne

1-1 1/2 tablespoon tabasco, depending on spice preference

6-8 minced garlic cloves

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons masa harina

Cut stems off of chiles and remove seeds from inside. Be sure to remove all seeds otherwise they will give the chili a bitter flavor. Place the chiles in a small saucepan and cover with water. Simmer the chiles for 30 minutes.

While chiles are simmering, cook bacon in a pan over medium high heat to render fat. Remove bacon from pan and brown ground bison in two batches in bacon fat. Once cooked, remove browned meat to a large pot or dutch oven.

Once chiles have simmered for 30 minutes, puree them in a blender with a small amount of cooking liquid to make a smooth, thin paste. Use as little liquid as possible or the chili will be soupy. Pour the chile puree over the ground meat in the dutch oven. Pour enough of the remaining chile cooking liquid into the dutch oven to cover the meat by about 1 inch. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the cumin, oregano, cayenne, tabasco, garlic, and salt. Return the chili to the heat and resume simmering, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

After 45 minutes, add the masa harina. Cover the chili again and simmer for another 30 minutes, tasting often to adjust seasoning to your liking. Remove the chili from the heat, cool, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Skim fat from top of chili before reheating. Serve with cheese, sour cream, and green onion.

This chili takes a bit of time to make but makes a lot, so we eat it for several nights and freeze the rest for a later time. It is also good served in chili cheese burritos, chili dogs, and stuffed poblano peppers.





Gobble Gobble

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in Cooking | 1 comment

Gobble Gobble

It feels as though we have been eating turkey for a lifetime. Or longer. Three days of leftover turkey dinner. Turkey enchiladas. Turkey and asparagus in cream sauce over rice. Turkey tortilla soup. Too. Much. Turkey.

Yet I am determined to use all 20 pounds of it. Inspired by this recipe from Giada, I made Turkey Bolognese tonight. It was surprisingly delicious, and surprisingly tasted nothing like turkey. If you have leftover dark meat, you must try!

Turkey Bolognese

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

8-16 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms

4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 8. We heart garlic)

2 pounds shredded dark meat turkey

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 15 oz cans tomato sauce

1 8 oz can tomato paste

Salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, crushed red pepper to taste

1/2 c finely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Sauté carrots, mushrooms, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes
Add turkey, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasoning, and basil
Simmer until flavors are combined

To make this even easier, I sautéed the carrots and garlic, then threw everything in the crockpot (did not cook mushrooms) and cooked it on low for 8 hours. I also added a splash of red wine. It was yummy. And it used up all of my remaining leftover turkey.

Thanksgiving Feast

Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 in Cooking | 0 comments

Thanksgiving Feast

Have I ever told the story of how husband doesn’t like onions? He doesn’t like onions. That’s the end. It’s not a good story, but it is one that changed my life. I love onions. I used to put them in everything. I married Husband in spite of his onion aversion because I told myself he could change, and I secretly held out hope that it was a purely psychological issue. As a newlywed, I would finely mince a small amount of onion, sauté it beyond recognition, then sneak it into a dish and wait for him to sing praises over my onion studded dinner – instead, he would take one bite, call me out on my onion lies, and say he couldn’t eat anymore.

For a while it seemed like it would break us, our irreconcilable onion differences, but over time I slowly adapted. Some situations, though, still pose a unique challenge… Spaghetti. Chili. Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving dinner. It’s an onion packed meal. My favorite Thanksgiving side is dressing, but that, my friends, is basically just onion casserole. In an attempt to create an onion free holiday, I tweaked the traditional sides and came up with some onion free options that Husband and I can both agree on.

Here are two: Texas Cornbread Pudding and Spinach Madeleine. Neither is technically onion free if you go by the recipe, but I substitute a couple garlic cloves for the onion and both dishes turn out delicious. Texas Cornbread Pudding is a recipe from Brennan’s Restaurant in Houston. Spinach Madeleine was in the Junior League of Baton Rouge cookbook (River Road Recipes) about a hundred years ago, and my mother has served it at Thanksgiving since before I was born – the original recipe includes ingredients no longer sold at the store, so I updated it here. Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Texas Cornbread Pudding

4 1/2 cups crumbled cornbread

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 c finely chopped yellow onion (or 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced)

1 1/2 c corn kernels

4 eggs

2 c whipping cream

1 1/2 c shredded pepper jack cheese, divided

Salt and pepper to taste (I use about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper)

Prepare cornbread a day ahead of time and reserve. Preheat oven to 325. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add onion (or garlic) and corn; saute until onion is translucent (or until corn is lightly browned). Set aside.

Whisk together eggs and cream in a large bowl. Stir in reserved crumbled cornbread, reserved corn mixture, and 1 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper; pour into a greased 8x8x2 inch baking pan. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Cover pan with aluminum foil and set in hot water bath (a larger pan of hot water that comes within 1/2 inch of top of baking pan). Bake 1 1/2 hours, or until firm in center.

Serves 8. I always double the recipe, put it in a 9x13x2 inch pan, and increase the baking time to closer to 2 hours.


Spinach Madeleine

2 packages frozen chopped spinach

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp chopped onion (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)

1/2 c evaporated milk

1/2 c cooking water from spinach

1/2 tsp black pepper

3/4 tsp celery salt

3/4 tsp garlic powder

Salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp)

6 ounces pepper jack cheese, cut into small pieces

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Dash cayenne pepper

1/2 c bread crumbs

1 T melted butter

Cook spinach according to directions on package in shallow bowl or dish (I follow microwave directions). Drain spinach and reserve cooking liquid. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour, stirring until blended and smooth but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until soft – or garlic and cook about 1 minute. Combine evaporated milk and cooking liquid from spinach – add liquid slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook until smooth and thick, stirring constantly. Add pepper, celery salt, garlic powder, salt, and cheese, Worcestershire, and cayenne; stir until melted. Stir in cooked spinach until combined thoroughly with sauce. Pour into an 8×8 inch baking dish. Combine butter and bread crumbs and sprinkle over top.

Serves 5-6. I always double this and put it in a 9×13 inch baking pan. It can easily be made ahead (and tastes better if it is) and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.


I love changing up our holiday meals with new recipes – if you have one you love, please share it in the comments!


Low Calorie Fish Tacos

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Cooking | 0 comments

Low Calorie Fish Tacos

Husband has lost nearly 50 pounds in the past three months, primarily by counting calories. I’m sure carrying children up and down mountains is helping, but mostly he’s just watching what he eats. I’m so proud of him. He has worked really hard.

I want to support his efforts so I’m making an attempt to cook low calorie meals, but it doesn’t come easy for me. I was raised in a home where dinner involved a roux, or a cream sauce, or a healthy helping of butter. I like my food to taste good. Plus, you can really only eat so much grilled chicken and salad before that meal drives you to do something drastic, like eat a whole pizza by yourself or fire up your deep fryer instead of your grill.

I have been on a mission to cook new and interesting meals that are tasty, different, filling, and low calorie. This one was all of the above, AND it came in at just 280 calories a serving!

Low Calorie Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream


1 lb Coho salmon fillet (or you can substitute any fish of your choice)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder

Preheat broiler. Combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder in a small bowl. Place fish skin side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle evenly with seasoning mix, then gently rub in seasoning. Broil fish until opaque in center, about 10 minutes. Remove fish from skin and flake with a fork.

Cabbage with Chipotle Cream:

1 head green cabbage
1/2 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
2-4 canned chipotle peppers, minced

Slice cabbage very thin. Combine Greek yogurt, lime juice, and chipotle peppers to make chipotle cream, then toss with cabbage to combine.

Serve fish and cabbage with chipotle cream in corn tortillas (which are lower calorie than flour), topped with guacamole* and salsa.

Serves 4
Calories per serving of 2 tacos: 280
* guacamole adds extra calories – topped with guacamole I calculated each serving of 2 tacos at 350 calories




Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

Posted by on Sep 7, 2012 in Cooking | 3 comments

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

I’m about to tell you something that I usually keep quiet, and I’m asking you not to judge. A major staple of my children’s diets is cream cheese. They slather it on just about everything. From what I understand, it makes my cooking more palatable. So you can imagine the horror when we run out of the beloved food. We’re talking tears and hunger strikes. Not really. Okay, sometimes.

During a recent visit from my mom, we discovered while preparing breakfast that we had no cream cheese. My mom rushed to the store in the hopes of heading off a cream cheese meltdown, and in her haste accidentally grabbed this…

Blueberry Cream Cheese

Best. Mistake. Ever. This stuff is gooooooood. You should get some. Go now. You can read the rest of this when you get home.

Are you back? Anyway, the children wouldn’t touch the blueberry cream cheese with a pole, but the grown ups devoured it in no time at all. Then we bought more. When I wasn’t eating it, I was thinking about it. I knew it was destined for more than just toast. And so it became the inspiration for these Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins.

Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Muffins

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup apple sauce

Juice and zest of one lemon

6 ounce container of lemon flavored Greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed

Blueberry cream cheese

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and set aside. Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the applesauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon yogurt. Stir to combine.

In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, bakind soda, baking powder, and salt.

Pour dry ingredients into the medium bowl with the wet ingredients and stir to combine just until everything is incorporated. Fold in the blueberries. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin cups and bake 15-17 minutes until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Top each warm muffin with a generous tablespoon of blueberry cream cheese.



Posted by on Jun 20, 2012 in Cooking | 3 comments


I love guacamole. I consider it a dietary staple. We eat it with almost everything. Sometimes I eat it from a spoon. I love it. Really, really love it.

My guacamole recipe is very simple, but every time I serve it, people rave about it and ask for the recipe. Here it is…


3 small or 2 large avocados

1/2 of a jalapeno, finely chopped (adjust according to how spicy you like it, remove the seeds to make it less spicy)

1/2 of a small tomato, diced

1-2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 small lime, juiced

Kosher or sea salt

Peel and seed avocado, and mash in a bowl using the back of a fork. Add jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice. Sprinkle generously with salt. Stir together, taste, and adjust seasoning to your preference – it’s the lime juice and salt that make it so good, so don’t go too light! This feeds 2-4 people, but the recipe can easily be increased.

I often make this early in the day and cover it tightly with plastic wrap to keep in the refrigerator until dinner – because of the lime juice, it will stay green and fresh. Serve with chips, or anything really, or maybe with Mexican Chicken!


Crock Pot Meal: Mexican Chicken Extravaganza!

Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in Cooking | 0 comments

Crock Pot Meal: Mexican Chicken Extravaganza!

I don’t much care for meals made in the crock pot. I find them unattractive. One night I served up a crock pot Asian chicken concoction as husband was pulling into the driveway with a coworker. As ugly as they are, crock pot meals tend to be bountiful, so we invited Co-Worker to stay and have dinner with us. He seemed to love it, ate seconds and thirds as Husband and I disappointingly picked at it.

“Did you know she could cook like this before you married her?” my favorite Co-Worker of Husband asked with sincere appreciation.

“Not really,” replied Husband jokingly, “She never really made anything this bad when we were dating.”

Then Husband and I looked at each other and exchanged a knowing belly laugh. I never cooked in the crock pot before life got so crazy with two children 3 and under that I became desperate for quick fix meals. But desperate I am, so the crock pot is now a heavily used kitchen appliance in our home. This is my favorite crock pot meal, it’s unbelievably easy, super tasty, not entirely ugly, and easy to use in a variety of dishes.

So, without further ado, here it is, Mexican Chicken Extravaganza! It’s the basic recipe followed by four, FOUR, different meals that can be made out of one crock pot of chicken. This could feed your family for a week, if they’re really into Mexican Chicken… and if you get tired of it before it’s gone just put it in your freezer to use another time.

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken:

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2-3 cans Rotel tomatoes with green chilies

2-3 packets McCormick taco seasoning

Place chicken breasts, either frozen or defrosted, in crock pot. Sprinkle liberally with taco seasoning. Pour cans of Rotel over the top. (I always use one can of Rotel and one packet of taco seasoning for every 2 chicken breasts, but we like it spicy and flavorful… you can use less if you prefer). Cook on high 4-6 hours or low6-8 hours. You can not hurt it. At some point during cooking, stir chicken with a fork until it breaks apart and shreds, and mixes thoroughly with the liquid, then continue cooking – I usually do this 3-4 hours into cooking, but again, you really can’t hurt it so just shred it when you can at some point before eating.

Mexican Chicken Tacos:

Serve shredded chicken on tortillas, topped with your favorite taco toppings… we use shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. We buy these Tortilla Land flour tortillas in the refrigerator section at Costco and cook them ourselves, they taste like homemade tortillas and are so much better than packaged flour tortillas. I think packaged corn tortillas taste good too.


Mexican Chicken Enchiladas:

1 can re-fried beans

1 small can creamed corn

4 oz. can chopped green chilies

2 cups shredded cheddar

1/2 cup of your favorite salsa

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or sour cream

10-12 flour tortillas

Sliced jalapenos and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

I never measure anything when I cook, so you’ll have to combine and taste test. To make the filling, I mix approximately 2-3 cups of Mexican Chicken with 1/2 can of re-fried beans (just enough to kind of hold it together), 4-8 oz. of creamed corn (just enough to make it creamy), the entire can of green chilies, and 1/2 cup of cheese. Spread 1/3 cup of filling down the center of a tortilla, roll, and place seam side down in a greased casserole dish, repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Combine salsa and cream or sour cream, and pour evenly over the top of enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. We serve topped with sliced jalapenos, chopped fresh cilantro, and guacamole.

The nice thing about these enchiladas is that you can really combine anything you like with the chicken to make the filling. I had these things on hand one night and threw them together and we liked it, so it became the standard recipe. In the past I have also mixed the chicken with just 1/4 cup of cream cheese and a can of green chilies to make the filling and that was delicious too. I’ve also made them before with leftover ground beef taco meat and leftover steak.


Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Mexican Chicken:

4-6 poblano peppers

2 cups Mexican Chicken Enchilada filling or plain Mexican Chicken

1 cup cream cheese at room temperature

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno, chopped (optional)

4-6 slices bacon

Use a paring knife to cut all around the stem at the top of each poblano pepper and remove it, keeping the top and stem intact. Remove seeds from inside of peppers. Mix leftover enchilada filling or plain Mexican Chicken with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno, stirring well to combine, then stuff each pepper until full. Replace the top on each pepper, securing in place by wrapping a slice of bacon around the top and securing with a toothpick. Grill approximately 5 minutes on each side, a total of 20-30 minutes, until peppers are charred and tender. You could also prepare in the oven instead of on the grill – leave off bacon and fit top of pepper securely on it, place in a baking dish covered tightly with foil, bake at 425 for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

Mexican Chicken Baked Potatoes:

I never have time to actually bake a potato properly in the oven, so I microwave them. To microwave, poke holes in a clean potato, wrap in a paper towel, and microwave on high, turning every 5 minutes, for a total of 10-15 minutes. Top with Mexican Chicken and your favorite toppings – we use cheese, sour cream, butter, salsa, jalapenos, and green onions.


All of these recipes are really just intended to spark ideas for busy cooks who need to make dinner in a hurry. I stumbled upon each of these family favorites just by putting together ingredients I had on hand. I believe if you like to eat, then you have all you need to cook food that you like… combine your favorite ingredients and seasonings, taste, and adjust according to what you like. Enjoy the Extravaganza!





Simple Fancy: Salmon and Pasta

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Cooking | 1 comment

Simple Fancy: Salmon and Pasta

I celebrated my 36th birthday last week.  I think for a mother of very young children, “celebrating” takes on a whole new meaning.  For me this year, the ultimate in celebrating looked like a break from all things domestic, especially the daily routine of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of people. I was just feeling really burned out on the never-ending-ness of it all, so my birthday seemed like a perfectly reasonable excuse to just kind of take a week off, and to my great excitement, everyone agreed. I didn’t cook, Husband cleaned up the house, my parents came to visit and took me out for dinners at restaurants where other people were entirely responsible for the meal preparation and cleaning, and I got to take leisurely showers whenever I felt like it.

Since my parents did the hard work of driving to town and assisting with my domestic hiatus, I wanted to cook them at least one meal.  The domestic hiatus demanded the meal be one that didn’t take a lot of time, require a lot of prep, or leave a huge mess, but I still wanted it to be nice enough to serve to guests.

Salmon is my go to when I want to cook a nice meal that’s also simple and quick.  I’ve tried salmon lots of different ways that are more involved than this simple recipe, but my family always agrees that this is our favorite.  It requires nearly nothing in the way of time, prep, or clean up.  Perfect!  I almost always throw asparagus in with the salmon for the last five minutes of cooking, but this time I opted for this Fusilli with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper recipe instead (I didn’t have fusilli or Romano cheese on hand, so I substituted elbow macaroni and Parmesan).  The pasta was a perfect compliment to the fish and was incredibly quick and easy to prepare.  The entire meal was delicious, only took about ten minutes of prep and another ten minutes of cook time, and was nice enough to serve to guests.


Salmon and Cheesy Pasta

Simple Salmon:

2 lbs salmon fillet

Kosher or sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Garlic powder

Dried basil

Cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat broiler.  Place salmon skin side down on foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle fish generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil.  Add a light sprinkling of cayenne if desired.  Place under broiler for 10-12 minutes until fish is just opaque in center and flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with Fusilli with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper and lemon wedges.  Feeds 4-6 people.

Make Ahead Meal: Oven Fried Catfish and Golden Zucchini Casserole

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Cooking | 1 comment

Make Ahead Meal: Oven Fried Catfish and Golden Zucchini Casserole

There’s a farmer’s market near my house where we try to buy as much freshly picked, organically grown, pesticide free produce as possible. I never thought too much about where my food came from until my second baby developed reflux. Medicine didn’t really help her, so since she was exclusively breastfed I tried altering my diet so that she could get some relief and we could get just a little sweet sleep. I managed to figure out that one of many things she was sensitive to was corn. It sounds simple enough, but it felt nearly impossible to cut corn completely out of my diet…it’s in so many foods in one form or another and it’s fed to most animals sourced for meat. I learned that almost all of the corn we eat and feed the animals we use for food is not even real corn, it’s a genetically modified version of corn, man-made to withstand things that usually kill plants. Frankenstein corn. I don’t know, it freaked me out and I started more carefully investigating what’s actually in/on the food I feed my family.

This week at the farmers market they had golden zucchini that they had just picked that morning. We bought a bunch, along with some locally made cheddar pepper cheese, so I decided to make a casserole.

I thought fried catfish would be good with the zucchini casserole, but I decided to make a healthier, oven fried version. It’s adapted from my mama’s recipe.  Mama says in the old days when she was a little girl in Louisiana people soaked their catfish in milk to make it taste better cause it came from the creek out back.  She’s got a lot of tales, that mama.  I’ve never called her mama before, but it seems to go with the story.

I made a quick, simple side of romaine lettuce with a sweet oil and vinegar dressing. The dressing was inspired by Babe’s Chicken Dinner, which I think is probably one of the best eating establishments in the world. Babe’s has two menu items, fried chicken or chicken fried steak. That’s all the selection, and either one comes with all you can eat family style sides – biscuits, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and this salad. Babe’s salad is just iceberg lettuce with this delicious dressing, but I substituted romaine for just a little hint of nutritional value. I think the dressing I came up with is pretty close to Babe’s dressing.

If you read this post, then you know that the only way I manage to feed my family these days is by preparing meals ahead of time, or preparing them with lighting speed. The only part of this meal that really took any time was the Golden Zucchini Casserole, so I made that early in the day and just reheated it in the oven when I cooked the fish. I also soaked the fish in milk, seasoned the cornmeal, and made the dressing ahead of time, which allowed me to have this meal all finished and on the table in just the 20 minutes it took it to cook in the oven at dinner time.


Oven Fried Catfish:
4-6 catfish fillets
1 cup milk
2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Vegetable oil cooking spray

Soak catfish fillets in milk for at least one hour. Combine cornmeal with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Remove fish from milk and dredge in seasoned cornmeal. Spray foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray, place fish on top, then spray fish liberally with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.


Golden Zucchini Casserole:
3 large golden zucchini, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (can substitute squash)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1/2 cup cheddar pepper cheese (or any cheese you like)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp melted butter

Heat olive oil in large pan over medium high heat. Add zucchini and garlic cloves and sauté until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain zucchini of liquid, then pour into mixing bowl and add sour cream and cheese, stirring to combine. Pour zucchini mixture into a buttered baking dish, top with bread crumbs, and drizzle with melted butter. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Salad with Babe’s dressing:
Head of romaine, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp white sugar

Whisk oil, vinegar, and sugar, and toss with lettuce and freshly ground pepper.






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