Category Archives: Fish

Slow Roasted Salmon with Avocado Salad

slow roasted salmon with avocado salad via abalancedlifecooks.com

So there’s this little show that’s blowing up ABC called Scandal. Have you heard of it? Thought so! Awesome, right? We watch every single week and never have any idea what to expect. Well, there happens to be another reason why I tune in each Thursday besides getting to see the gladiators in suits do their thing and repeating out loud every time Olivia Pope declares, “It’s handled!” 

That reason? Katie Lowes who plays Quinn Perkins in the show. For nearly 20 years, our families have shared a ski house in Vermont. So every Thursday I look forward to getting to see Katie in our living room. On Valentine’s Day I was lucky enough to see her again when she appeared (as herself) on the ABC talk show The Chew. And she was so stinkin’ adorable! You can watch the clip here.

Ski House Ladies at Kaite & Adam's wedding (photo by Adam Pass)

ski house ladies with the beautiful bride at Katie & Adam’s wedding (photo by Adam Pass)

It just so happens that during Katie’s bit on The Chew they made a delicious looking (and crazy healthy) meal that I knew I had to recreate ASAP. I’m always looking for new ways to cook salmon and what could be better than a) slow roasting and b) topping it with an insanely tasty avocado salad?

With slow roasting, you cook the salmon at a very low temperature (225 degrees) for a bit of time (about 40 minutes). It cooks all the way through and stays totally moist (ugh I hate the word, but couldn’t think of a better way to describe it.) Bonus: It doesn’t stink up your apartment!

Then there’s the avocado salad: creamy chunks of avocado, orange zest and juice, diced shallot, spicy freshno chili, and spunky champagne vinegar. I mean really. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Slow Roasted Salmon with Avocado Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

Salmon

Side of wild salmon (0.75-1 lb)

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Avocado Salad

3 avocados, diced

1/4 cup olive oil

1 orange, zest and juice

2 Tbsp champagne vinegar

1/2 shallot, diced

1 fresno chili, minced

Preparation

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Place salmon on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Cook 35-40 minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the avocado salad. Place ingredients (avocados through chili) in a bowl and mix to combine.

Cut salmon into 4 equal-sized pieces. Top each piece with avocado salad and serve with quinoa if desired.

Recipe lightly adapted from The Chew 

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Favorite Pan-Fried Tilapia

Favorite Pan-Fried Tilapia

Favorite Pan-Fried Tilapia

Are you in need of a quick weeknight meal that’s short on time, but full on flavor? I’ve got your solution right here. This tilapia recipe will knock the socks off of everyone in your household. I’ve found that keeping a go-to tilapia recipe up my sleeve is a great way to avoid hitting up our local Chipotle, sushi joint, or Chinese take-out on those nights when I’m not quite sure what to make. I was able to throw this meal together using some frozen tilapia (soooo budget friendly!) and extra Brussels sprouts. Because apparently I’m the kind of person who has extra Brussels sprouts.

I’ve been making a version of this tilapia recipe for a while, but it recently occurred to me to add a few additional spices (paprika and cayenne) to the dredging mixture and it launched things into a whole other tasty dimension.

Although the recipe uses very little flour over all, it gives the filets a slightly crispy outer layer that completely transforms an otherwise unexciting variety of fish. Because let’s face it, tilapia isn’t the fanciest fish you can buy. But with this recipe, no one would know.

The result, as my Grandma Fanny would probably say (cue thick New York accent): It’s a nice piece of fish.

Favorite Pan-Fried Tilapia

Serves 2

1/3 cup flour

2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp cayenne

2 Tilapia filets (about 0.75 lb.)

Olive oil

Preparation

Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat

Combine flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne on a plate. Mix with a fork or small whisk. Pat tilapia dry with a paper towel. Lightly brush fish with olive oil on both sides. Dredge both sides of the fish in flour mixture. Place fish in skillet. Cook about four minutes on each side until fish is cooked through.

Penne with Shrimp & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Whole wheat penne, sun dried tomatoes, and greens in a white wine garlic sauce

Whole wheat penne, sun dried tomatoes, and greens in a white wine garlic sauce

You may have noticed that pasta recipes don’t show up around here very often. There are two reasons for that. 1. I don’t have  a drop of Italian in my DNA, which means I didn’t grow up eating lots of pasta and it’s not something I have tons of experience with. 2. Truth be told, I’m a bottomless pit for pasta (and pizza, by the way). So, much to my pasta-loving fiance’s chagrin, I don’t cook it that often.

Fortunately, I exhibited just enough restraint this Sunday to pull off this recipe without nursing a bellyache afterward. And you know what? It may be one of the best things I’ve ever made. Like, ever ever. For the first time in my life the words, “this tastes like it’s from a restaurant!” spilled out of my mouth regarding something I made. It was the first time I ever tried to pull off a white wine garlic sauce, which is one of my most favorite things ever. And it’s so easy! Any time I’m in a restaurant and I see the words “white wine garlic sauce” you can almost always bet that’s what I’m getting.

If I’m keeping it real around here I have to admit this meal almost didn’t happen. It was on the verge of being a complete fail. You see, I had the bright idea to add just a little bit of cream to the sauce. But, trying to make it a little healthier, I picked up half-and-half at the store instead of cream. When I added the half-and-half to the sauce when it was done…it curdled! (A quick Google search has me thinking it’s either due to the lower fat content of half-and-half vs. cream or it’s because the liquid was cold when I added it to the hot sauce.) I won’t go into detail about how gross curdling is because I want you to think positively about this sauce and love it as much as I do.  I had a solid three minute freak out until I realized I had just enough ingredients left to give it another go. So I tossed out the first batch of sauce (luckily, I hadn’t added the shrimp, greens, or penne yet) and started from scratch–omitting the half-and-half this time, which was definitely the way to go all along.

This meal hit all of the right notes for this time of year. It’s light and healthy, featuring whole wheat fiber-rich penne, protein-packed shrimp, and nutrient-rich greens. At the same time, it’s warm and comforting–just what the doctor ordered in early January.

Action shot!

Sunday (or any day) supper is served

Penne with Shrimp & Sun Dried Tomatoes 

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (thawed if frozen)

6 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped (FYI: I used sun dried tomatoes in olive oil from Trader Joe’s that were julienned. If you buy this kind use 2 heaping Tbsp and chop them.)

1 cup white wine (Chardonnay works great)

2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

5 oz baby greens such as spinach or arugula. (I used Power to the Greens from Trader Joe’s, which includes baby kale, baby chard, and baby spinach.)

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation

Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add shrimp and saute until cooked through. Remove shrimp to a plate.

Add sundried tomatoes to the pan. Saute for about a minute or two. Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering liquid for about 12-15 minutes. (If you like, cut tails off of shrimp while you wait for the liquid to simmer – though it’s not necessary.) Add the greens and red pepper flakes and cook until greens are wilted. Add shrimp and penne to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until shrimp are heated through.

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Shrimp and Tomatoes

Do you have a go-to healthy meal? The thing you make on Monday after you’ve been stuffing your face with all kinds of good stuff for days on end? I do. It’s almost always salmon. Salmon, something green (usually steamed kale), and another veggie (roasted tomatoes in the summer, baked sweet potato in the winter.) It’s just an easy, satisfying, completely whole food, no-doubt-about-it good for you meal.

After spending four days in Kansas City  last week (for a wedding and visiting Robert’s family and friends), I’d seen my fair share of meat and, well, booze. It was time to clean things up on the food front. I was *this* close to jotting the ingredients for my default super-healthy Monday meal on my shopping list when I spotted a spaghetti squash sitting on the counter. It had been there since August. I knew it was time for the squash to become food instead of countertop decor. A quick Pinterest search landed me on a recipe similar to the one above. I upped the health factor by adding steamed broccoli and roasted tomatoes to round things out. It was light, filling, and easy to make (the squash takes a bit of time to cook — about 45 minutes — but as a whole the meal doesn’t require much labor.) There’s no denying it also makes for a colorful meal (hello antioxidants!)

I hope you don’t mind if I take just a moment here to indulge in a little food rant. A good kind of rant. A kind of rant that you’ll thank me for later. You see, spaghetti squash isn’t a substitute for pasta. It’s just not. In my search, I saw tons of recipes online that sub the squash in for the wheat-based stuff. From experience, I just want you to know that no matter how much you try to convince yourself of it, squash will never be spaghetti. Not even spaghetti squash. I’m just looking out for you because I don’t want you to be disappointed. Yes it’s thin and noodle-like in appearance, but that’s where the similarities end. Spaghetti squash has just the slightest bit of crunch and an earthy squashy flavor. It’s really delicious, I promise, but if you what you really, really, really, really want is spaghetti have spaghetti. And when you want squash, well, eat this!

Moral of the story: if you take spaghetti squash for what it is–and this recipe is a great introduction to cooking with it– I think you’ll be totally delighted.

Spaghetti Squash, Shrimp, and Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 small to medium sized spaghetti squash
1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 head broccoli
Olive oil
1 lemon
2 Tbsp Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash lengthwise. Season the cut side with salt and pepper. Place squash cut side down in a 9×13 glass baking dish. Add 3/4 cup of water. Cook about 45 minutes until tender when poked with a fork.

After the squash has been cooking for about 20 minutes, place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 25 minutes.

When the squash has 10 minutes left, place the shrimp on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for about 10 minutes until pink.

After you remove squash from oven allow it to cool so you can hold it.

Steam the broccoli.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the seeds and discard. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl. Add shrimp, tomatoes, and broccoli to the bowl. Squeeze about 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, season with salt and pepper if needed to taste, add parsley, toss to combine and serve.

Source: Martha Stewart

Spiced Tilapia, Pineapple Salsa, and Brown Jasmine Coconut Rice

Do you ever have one of those weeks? One of those weeks where, for absolutely no reason at all, you seem to dwell more in your head than in your heart? I try to do everything I can to keep those weeks to a minimum, but last week….last week was one of those weeks. The thing I’ve learned about those weeks is you’re the only person on the planet who can bring yourself back into balance. So you have to dig deep into your arsenal of those things that make you feel like you even if it means reaching for every single tool you have. Eventually one will do the trick.

See that dinner above? That’s the one that did the trick. Although it was totally delicious that was just a bonus. A side effect of my pleasure. What truly did the trick was cutting the pineapple into tiny pieces, squeezing the last bit of juice from the perfect little limes, experimenting with simmering brown jasmine rice in coconut milk (a creamy, tropical-tasting success!), and getting lost in the stories of country crooners pouring from the speakers throughout our apartment.

I don’t know why and I don’t know how it worked. I just know that by the time I sat down to dinner it just did. My heart felt a little lighter. The room seemed a little brighter. And everything tasted a little sweeter.

I’m absolutely certain that this meal will bring you whatever you need. For some that may be dinner and for others it may be something more. I can also guarantee that even if the Sugarland Pandora station isn’t your thing it will still taste just as good : )

Spiced Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa
Serves 2

Ingredients 
1 pineapple, skin removed and flesh cut into small bite-sized chunks
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs removed, chopped, and keep as many seeds as you want for heat
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Sprinkle of salt to taste
4 tilapia filets
Olive oil
Caribbean seasoning (my favorite is 365 Caribbean Barbecue Seasoning from Whole Foods)

Preparation
To make the pineapple salsa, combine ingredients pineapple through salt in a bowl. Mix with a spoon. Set aside.

For the fish, heat a pan on medium heat. Pat tilapia filets dry with a paper towel, brush one side of each filet with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning. When pan is hot, place fish in pan seasoned side down. Brush the other side with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning. Cook two to three minutes, flip, and cook two to three minutes on the other side until fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Serve with pineapple salsa.

Brown Jasmine Coconut rice
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup brown jasmine rice
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup water

Preparation
Combine rice, coconut milk, and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Peach Salsa

Walk into any farmers market, produce store, or supermarket and it quickly becomes clear that stone fruit–especially peaches–are having a moment. Last weekend we stocked up at a farm stand on our way home from a trip to Michigan and this weekend we bought about a dozen softball-sized peaches at the Green City Market here in Chicago. Even before unloading our bags I knew that some of our bounty was destined to become peach salsa.

I had never made peach salsa before, but I’m a huge fan of homemade mango salsa and I knew this would be just as good. (Funny side note: Salmon with mango salsa is the first thing I ever cooked for Robert. It was also the first time I ever made mango salsa, which happened to be in January…with rock-hard, flavorless mangos. Perhaps I should’ve known then and there that it was the beginning of a lifetime in which he’d happily eat both my cooking successes as well as my flops. I’m sure the homemade margaritas didn’t hurt either….)

But this isn’t about mangos in the winter, it’s about fresh, juicy peaches in the summer! Is there anything more perfect? 

We ate the salsa alongside pan-seared salmon (that technique never disappoints) and raw baby spinach. Of course, I’d be lying to you if I told you I ate it as seen in the photo above. No ma’am. My plate looked like this: 

You know how I love a big bowl of food. Meanwhile, Robert’s peach salsa feast looked like this:

Just keeping it real around here.

Of course, you can serve the peach salsa countless different ways–on top of chicken, shrimp, tacos, or scooped up in a crispy tortilla chip. In other words, what are you waiting for?

Peach Salsa

Ingredients
3 ripe peaches, pits removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Sprinkle of sea salt

Preparation
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust any quantities as desired.

Source: Eat, Live, Run

Broccoli Slaw with Apple & Shrimp

Full disclosure: Sometimes I don’t feel like cooking. Many weeknights I’d like nothing more than to shower post-yoga, cozy into the couch, eat some (preferably healthy) food, and watch the latest episode of The Bachelorette, or, lately, So You Think You Can Dance. Um…sidenote. Did anyone see the first Top 20 episode of SYTYCD this week? Amazeballs. I’ve already watched every dance at least twice. The next show isn’t until July 11 so there’s going to be a lottttttttttt of re-watching around here. (Want to grab lunch? Go to the Farmers Market? Hang out by the pool? Sorry, I can’t. I have to watch SYTYCD for the 10 billionth time.) Already the best season ever. Need proof? I don’t even know which dance to link here…Let’s go with these insanely good jazz dancers who I swear could be twins, but are just tiny brown-haired perfect dancing mutants. Okay one more: The Top 20 (and Mia Michaels is back!!!)

Wait what was I talking about? Oh yeah, not cooking. Sometimes I’m just not feeling it (especially when it’s 300 degrees outside), but I still want to consume the items in my fridge, eat well, and avoid ordering takeout. That’s how this dinner came to be. I randomly picked up a bag of broccoli slaw at Trader Joe’s earlier this week. (If you’ve never had broccoli slaw it’s just shaved broccoli stalks and shredded carrots. Mega crunch factor.) To me, slaw screams summer and this kind is way tastier than the one made with cabbage. I didn’t have any specific plans for the slaw at the time, but when I saw it in my fridge on an I-don’t-feel-like-cooking day I decided it was the perfect answer. The only effort I put into it was slicing an apple into matchsticks for some sweetness and whipping up a super easy dressing (with Greek yogurt instead of mayo–score!) Then, for protein, I sauteed some shrimp. (Okay, those required a tiny bit of cooking, but I could handle five minutes on the stovetop.) Although I’m still figuring out what it takes to have a perfectly stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry (why do I feel this is going to be a lifelong effort?), frozen shrimp is one thing I always have on hand–it’s ideal for putting together meals in a pinch like this one.

I almost didn’t post this recipe because it feels so simple and so easy, but isn’t that what summer is all about? Toss this baby together so you can spend those long summer nights doing whatever you love to do–hanging out at the beach, going for a walk, or watching this ridiculous performance. Again.

Broccoli Slaw with Apple & Shrimp
Serves 2

Ingredients
12 oz bag broccoli slaw
1 gala apple (or other firm, sweet kind) cut into matchsticks
Dozen shrimp
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

For the dressing:
4 Tbsp plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp agave (or honey)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
Dash salt
Black pepper

Preparation
If shrimp are frozen, defrost in water for 10 minutes. Drain. Place shrimp in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.

Place broccoli slaw and apples in a bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a separate container with a lid. Shake vigorously until combined. Pour all of the dressing on the slaw and toss to coat. Season with additional black pepper and set aside.

Heat a small pan on medium heat. When hot, add shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally, until pink–about five minutes.

To serve: Fill a bowl with broccoli slaw, top with shrimp, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.