Something’s Fishy in Golden Valley, Minnesota

Okay, I’ll bet you guessed this cooking adventure involves fish. For the following reasons, I wanted to tackle cooking fish. First, I was afraid of cooking fish and wanted to overcome that fear. Fish can be expensive and no one wants to ruin it. Secondly, I love fish. I order it a lot while eating out because I don’t cook it at home. Thirdly, I was inspired by two meals on our recent vacation. We ate some amazing halibut at Girl & the Goat restaurant in Chicago established and run by a favorite Top Chef winner, Stepahnie Izard. Then, Kip had some delicious trout at Hercules restaurant while we were in Saugatuck, Michigan. The final reason for taking on this challenge, fish is healthy for you, and especially me, a diabetic, trying to maintain a healthy A1C level (I’ll explain that in a future post).

First up was rainbow trout.

image

Now, I had to get over any squeamishness about using a whole fish with the head, tail, eyes and all. Actually, having the eyes is a good thing. Bright, clear eyes means the fish is fresh (as mine were) and opaque eyes when cooking means the fish is done, translucent eyes means it’s undercooked and sunken eyes means it’s overcooked. I bought both the trout and the halibut at a fish market because our local grocery store doesn’t carry them. The fish was fresh, deboned, cleaned and fairly reasonable. We got a little over a pound of trout for $15, less than what you’d pay for one in a restaurant.

One of my cookbooks had a section on pan frying, grilling, broiling and baking trout and I decided to use the baking method because some friends recently gave us a recipe for baked, stuffed trout. The stuffing ingredients included diced water chestnuts, sliced green olives and chopped green onions sautéed in butter with packaged wild rice added.

imageimage

The trout turned out perfectly. The recipe’s cooking time and temperature were spot on, 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

imageimage

The night after the trout was halibut.

image

Halibut is an easy fish to work with. Most cooking directions I read were very similar; season with salt and pepper, heat canola oil in a large sauté pan, cook skin side down first, five minutes on each side. It’s done when fish flakes easily with a fork. I cooked a pound of halibut which was almost too much for the two of us.

imageimage

I served the halibut over rice covered with a coconut – red curry sauce but there are many recipes for halibut that you can prepare to suit your cuisine and tastes.

image

I’ll definitely be adding these dishes to my repertoire because they are easy and delicious, nothing to be frightened of. Now, maybe I can learn to like other seafood such oysters, calamari and scallops! Stay tuned!

Stuffed Baked Trout

Sauté in butter: 1/3 cup chopped water chestnuts, 1/4 cup chopped green olives, 1/4 cup green onions; add packaged, microwaveable wild rice, salt, pepper; put mixture inside trout; place trout on sprayed pan or baking dish; bake at 375 for 20 minutes

Halibut with Coconut-Red Curry Sauce

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/halibut-with-coconut-red-curry-sauce

Advertisements

I Conquered My Fear…Of Our Grill!

image

I have a confession. I had a fear of our grill. I was afraid of cleaning and lighting the grill, overcooking and undercooking things and having things stick to the grates. This fear caused me to let other people in my life assume the role of grillmaster while I mastered the side dishes, salads, appetizers, desserts, beverages and table settings. For the past eleven years I made sure Kip was the grillmaster of our household but that changed this past weekend. I conquered my fear of the grill.

image

First, I helped Kip clean and prepare our gas grill. I took baby steps and started with an easy menu of salmon and asparagus. Next, I prepped the asparagus and salmon. I chose easy, basic recipes from two of my cookbooks. The ingredients were similar for both: olive oil, salt and pepper for both the salmon and asparagus with fresh dill for the grilled salmon.

image

Kip was a great teacher and encourager. He made sure the grill achieved the proper temperature and that I didn’t let all the heat escape opening the grill too soon. He made sure I used the proper grilling tools and paid attention to the timer.

image

The end result was a success! The asparagus was delicious and the salmon was cooked perfectly. Gordon Ramsay would have been proud. I know it may seem hard to believe that I never used our grill before but it became comfortable to let someone else do it. This cooking adventure has allowed me to try new things, even things I had been fearful of. Maybe it’s time for me to conquer my fear of liver and beets!

It’s Rhubarb Season!

Growing up in northern Michigan, I remember raiding the neighbor’s garden patch and enjoying stalks of crisp, tart rhubarb. It’s rhubarb season here in the Midwest and kids and adults are enjoying wild and domestic rhubarb. I even saw a couple students last week chewing on rhubarb stalks as they walked to school in the morning.

image

I was inspired for this week’s cookbook adventure by a visit to the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.

imageimage

image

Many vendors had rhubarb for sale and I thought it would make a good challenge for me. One of my Cooking Light cookbooks had a small section highlighting the many uses of rhubarb from chutneys, to sauces and desserts.

image

I chose to make a Rhubarb Pudding Cake and amazingly I had all the ingredients I needed including fresh baking powder and unsalted butter. I learned a few weeks ago that baking powder only has a shelf life of six months after it’s opened. Rhubard is very easy to work with. It just needed washing and cutting.

image

The rest of the ingredients for the Rhubarb Pudding Cake are basic: flour, baking power, salt, unsalted butter, an egg, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, milk and powdered sugar.

image

I’ve been asked to include recipes on the blog so here is my first attempt to do that.

image

The Rhubarb Pudding Cake was delicious and even better when served a la Mode.

image

image

Now that the farmer’s markets are open I’m looking forward to more fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of grilling. My next post will focus on a grilling adventure for me. Kip is the grill master in our home so this will really be an adventure. I have never cleaned, turned on or used our gas grill so stay tuned for the next adventure!

I Just Shared My Passion With One of Our Rice Lake Families

For seven years I have shared my passion with Rice Lake families by cooking dinner for the successful bidder of “Dinner with the Principal” from our silent auction. Over the years I have cooked Italian, Thai and American cuisine. This year I cooked the winning family a Mexican themed dinner with my secret guacamole & blue corn chips; avocado, corn & black bean salad; chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce; and strawberry tres leches cake.

image

image

image

I enjoy these dinners because I get to learn about families and students on a new and deeper level and they get to see their principal in a different light. I am invited into their homes and I come with ingredients, prepared dishes (sometimes), cooking utensils and other things I need. I work to make it easy and enjoyable for the family.

This year I cooked for the Miller family. Currently, they have two children at my school, Ahna in 4th grade and Josh in 5th grade, and their four oldest boys, Thomas, Ryan, Jared and Chris, are Rice Lake alumni.

image

I had a great night hearing how everyone was doing, shared some stories from school and learned Josh and I share the same love of cooking. He was very interested in all the dishes and ingredients and watched carefully as I made my special guacamole in front of them.

If you love guacamole and haven’t seen this plastic tool, you’re missing out! After injuring myself twice with knives trying to cut and remove avocado pits, I discovered this wonderful tool that opens avocados, removes pits and scoops out the flesh safely! Too bad I didn’t know about it before visiting the emergency room, twice!

image

I have such a great job in that I can share my passion and develop relationships at a deeper level with students and families. Now Josh and I can continue to share our love of cooking even after he leaves my school. I’m hoping Ahna and Josh will remember their principal came to their home and cooked dinner for them for many years. We all have the power to change lives and create memories, for students and ourselves.

My Summer To-Do List…And Food is Involved!

I am creating my annual summer to-do list (two years counts as annual, right?). But, my list doesn’t contain any home projects, yard work or school related tasks. My list contains things to do in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and the Midwest that I have never done. Last year I checked watching a Minnesota United soccer game, listening to a concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell and visiting Westwood Nature Center (only two miles from my home) off the list. Here are some of the items on this year’s list, which continues to grow. And, imagine that a lot of them have to do with food! You can follow my adventures on Facebook where I’ll post some of my photos or follow me on Twitter (@PrincipalFrench) where I will be including these activities, along with 84 others posts, as I chronicle my 100 Days of Summer @ #RLRSummer posting my summer reflections, learnings and rejuvenations from June 1 (first day of the last week of school) to September 8 (first day of the new school year). Come along on my summer adventure of trying new things!

Kayaking the Mississippi River above the falls in Minneapolis.

image

Going around the lakes in Minneapolis on the Nice Ride rental bikes.

image

Visiting the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. (Maybe some Spam eating!)

image

Riding the light rail Green Line to St. Paul to see the St. Paul Saints in their new ballpark. (Definitely eating the new ballpark food!)

image

Having dinner at one of the area’s pizza farms. (Eating pizza with friends at a farm on a beautiful summer night.)

image

Spending the night in a yurt at one of the state parks. (Booked July 12 and 13; hauling in all the food we’ll be eating.)

image

Going to the Henderson, MN Sauerkraut Days June 26, 27 and 28. (Maybe enter the sauerkraut eating contest!)

image

Visit some of the caves in southeastern Minnesota.

image

Eat at one of the many food truck gatherings around the Twin Cities. (Awesome food truck eating!)

image

Visit the Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota.

image

Explore the Mill City Museum.

image

Visit the Amana Colonies in Iowa. (And I hear they cook amazing food and bake delicious pies!)

image

Eat at the Harbor View Cafe on Lake Pepin in Pepin, Wisconsin. (Destination eating!)

image

Go to the top of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis.

image

Check out the Minnesota Zoo.

image

Eat at one of the restaurants at one of the local lakes. (I’m aiming for Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis.)

image

What’s Goulash to You? Remembering My Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day, I am channeling my mother, Carol, and cooking a different version of one of the favorite dishes she served when we were young. Growing up in Michigan, I’d never heard of hot dish (which is a staple in Minnesota) but we Michiganders enjoyed our casseroles and goulashes.

I’ve seen and eaten a variety of goulashes in my life from elbow macaroni with tomato sauce to more ethnic meat based, paprika flavored and pasta-less dishes. Carol’s goulash recipe is included below and it was a whole different variety altogether. It consisted of ground beef, onion, green pepper, spices and canned Franco-American spaghetti. You can’t find Franco-American spaghetti anymore, it’s made under the Campbell’s brand these days. It might sound otherwise, but it’s a tasty dish.

Carol’s Goulash (Kip says, “This stuff is delicious!”)

Two cans Campbell’s spaghetti (formerly Franco-American), 1 lb ground beef, onion and green pepper chopped; brown ground beef, onion and green pepper; drain; add spaghetti; season with oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and 1/2 tsp sugar; add dash of hot sauce; heat thoroughly on stove or in crock pot 4-6 hours on low. It’s interesting that not all ingredients have a listed amount. I guess that shows she cooked by taste and eyeballed amounts rather than be exact.

For my cooking challenge this week I went with the goulash theme (in honor of Mom) but wanted to create something more familiar to the goulash I ate when traveling in the Czech Republic a few years ago.

I used two cookbooks from my collection, “The Best Czech Recipes” book I purchased in Prague, Czech Republic, and “The New York Times Cook Book.” Both contained similar goulash recipes (Bohemian Pork Goulash and Prague Three-Meat Goulash). One recipe had three varieties of meat (beef, pork and veal) and the other used more vegetables (onion, tomatoes and green pepper) so I combined the ingredients from both.

image

The resulting goulash turned out well and Kip said, “it was delicious!” As I mentioned in previous posts, he likes spicier food and more heat than I do so he sprinkled more paprika onto his servings. I have discovered and use Sweet Hungarian Paprika which has a smoother taste than other varieties.

imageimage

This type of goulash can be served by itself or with an accompanying starch. It would work well with mashed potatoes or noodles. I used spaetzle, German originated tiny noodles or dumplings. It’s a great fit with the goulash.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and a special shout out to my mother, Carol, who is watching me from above as I share my cooking passion she inspired. Don’t worry Mom, I’ll keep making your version of goulash because it is delicious and reminds me of you whenever I make it.

Managing My Diabetes While Cooking for One

I enjoy cooking for Kip and myself but cooking for two can sometimes be challenging. Good thing we like leftovers! I can eat the same thing for more days than Kip so I am happy bringing leftovers for lunch for a week at a time.

Another challenge is cooking for one. When Kip is away, I generally don’t think about cooking for myself. I’ll stop for fast food or takeout. But, my cooking adventure had me rethinking that this weekend while Kip was away visiting his family in South Dakota.

image

I have type 2 diabetes which adds an additional dimension to my cooking challenge. This weekend I used one of my Diabetic Living cookbooks to prepare dinner for one while at the same time cooking something that is good for me. Now, cooking healthy for a type 2 diabetic isn’t rocket science. It’s good, common sense eating for anyone. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and light on sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. To manage my diabetes I need to count the carbohydrates in each meal. It’s smart eating for anyone; watch your carbs and manage your portions.

I may be taking the easy way out by making this Southern Beefy Skillet but I am cooking for myself while avoiding the quick, easy, nearby places that serve burgers, fries, pizza and burritos. This dish has vegetables, beans, lean protein, all things good for me and my diabetes.

image

I’m making a few substitutions to the recipe by replacing ground beef with ground turkey and butter beans with cannellini beans. I’m more sensitive to heat and spicy foods so I’ll be eliminating the chopped jalapeño but keeping the hot sauce.

image image

Well, the dish turned out pretty well. My version is on the left while the photo on the right is from the cookbook. One complaint I have is because diabetics need to watch their sodium intake, the recipe called for no-salt diced tomatoes and no-salt tomato sauce. It made the finished product a bit bland so I added some salt and pepper to my plate. I know, I need to be careful about the sodium but I’ll have to work on my healthy eating one step at a time.

Now, if I can just resist the urge to walk to Dairy Queen for dessert!