Monday, August 31, 2015

Potato Crusted Lemon Herb Fish Fillet

Like many women, I try to eat healthy as much as I can. I find myself struggling a lot with this because, well, I love good food. So in my kitchen I try to make healthy meals that taste good. If it’s too plain I get bored quite easily and go back to bad eating habits. I like to make fish a lot because well…healthy brain food and low calorie!

If you’re not a fish person you don’t have to eat it every day to benefit from it, once or twice a week is good enough according to Everyday Health who wrote a great article entitled "7 Life - enhancing reasons to eat fish". Sooo after reading that, I'm officially on the fish band wagon! Who's with me?

That a girl!
I have many great seafood recipes to share with you since seafood is an important part of Mediterranean cuisine, but today I will share a refreshing low calorie recipe that is sure to please everyone…even the fish haters :-).

For this particular recipe I used a 500 gram Perch fillet which is suitable for 2 people. I rinsed the fish and let it marinate in olive oil, the juice from one lemon, a clove of garlic, about a teaspoon of salt and fresh cut parsley. I let it marinate for about 20 - 30 minutes. In the mean time I peeled and cut about 4 potatoes vertically slicing them thinly.

I coated the bottom of my pan in olive oil (not too much) and covered the bottom in a layer of sliced potatoes. Then I positioned the fillet on top of the potatoes and covered the rest of the fish with the potato slices. I sprinkled some bread crumbs on top and added a dash of salt. 

I baked it at about 200 degrees Celsius for 30 - 35 minutes or until you can see the potatoes are done and crispy. After removing it from the oven I added fresh minced parsley and served!

                                                 Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sweets - Honey Nut Rum Cake

A long time tradition in our family is that every Sunday we hold a big family meal at my eldest Uncle’s house. His wife is an AMAZING cook and she starts preparing from the minute she wakes up! I don’t know how she does it. She usually makes 2 first course dishes, 2 second courses and several side dishes as well as appetizers. Everything she makes is from scratch and genuine always using fresh ingredients.  That’s what I love most about her cooking. The guests, on the other hand, take turns each Sunday bringing a dessert. So that’s why I wanted to start a tradition on my blog documenting my Sunday Sweets :-)!
This Sunday I wanted to share a dessert that became a favorite of mine. I like to experiment in the kitchen a lot and sometimes I fail big time but then other times, fortunately I’m pleasantly surprised. This is one of those times :-). This is a very easy recipe to make and only has a few simple ingredients. It’s a light dessert that you can make when you know you have a big Sunday meal ahead of you! 

Ingredients for the cake:
-          125 grams of butter
-          125 grams of brown sugar
-          125 grams of flour
-          1 teaspoon of baking powder
-          2 eggs
-          100 grams of crushed walnuts
-          3 tablespoons of honey
-          2 tablespoons of rum
-          Zest from 1 lemon
-          Pinch of salt
Ingredients for the topping:
-          250 ml of heavy cream
-          1 tablespoon stabilizing powder for whipped cream or 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
-          Sliced almonds for decorating
-          Honey
Start by heating your oven to about 150°C (300°F), butter and flour your baking dish.
Mix together butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and sifted flour and continue mixing. Then slowly add the honey, walnuts, a pinch of salt together with the rum and ultimately the grated lemon peel from 1 lemon. Make sure not to grate the white part of the lemon or it will taste bitter.  Pour batter in baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes.

For the topping I whipped up 250 ml of heavy cream and I added a stabilizer for the whipped cream so that it wouldn’t fall apart but if you don’t have that you can add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and it’ll work just as well. I decorated it with a drizzle of honey and sliced almonds. I hope you enjoy the recipe and let me know if you decide to try it. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Oven Roasted Parmesan Brussles Sprouts

Have you ever really wanted to like a vegetable but once you cook it and taste it you’re like…uhhh, no thanks? Well, that’s me with Brussels sprouts. Those little green balls are packed with so many vitamins and nutrients that you wouldn’t even believe! They have it all… According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, these guys are filled with detox-activating substances, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory support, cardiovascular support, digestive support and get this – they also contain a large amount of omega 3 fatty acid which is not something you would expect from a vegetable. I know I was shocked when I read that!   

Who wouldn’t want all of those benefits in a meal? But as I said before, I just could not get myself to eat them….until I  realized that I wasn’t cooking them right. I would either boil or steam them add salt and pepper and that was it. They tasted awful and would not go down at all. So during one of my recipe searches I found that many people would oven roast them. I had never tried that before and decided to give it a go. 
Here’s what I did:
 I cut the brown ends off each sprout and removed any yellow leaves then cut them in half. When you cut the ends off, the leaves will start coming apart but no worries just put everything in a bowl rinse them with water and drain well.

Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and an abundant sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese until all the sprouts are fully covered.  Roast in a pre-heated oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the sprouts are brown and crispy.
I added another dusting of parmesan once out of the oven ...You can never have enough parmesan :-)... and that’s it! So simple and you have no idea how delicious they were! I never thought I would like them so much by cooking them this way.  They were a big hit and I will definitely be making these again as a side dish! Try them out and let me know. Thanks for reading!

My kitten rescue story

I have always been a dog person. My belief was that cats were evil and dogs were great because they love to cuddle, sit in your lap and are always loyal to you whereas cats don’t show you the love that dogs do. Cats carry diseases and are traitors. They’ll leave you any chance they get. That was my opinion on cats.
I wanted a dog to care for and love so one day I finally convinced myself and brought my puppy home. But this post is not going to be about my puppy. It’s going to be about my cat. Yes I know, I just finished telling you I’m not a cat person…well I proved otherwise. 
I found my cat while I was walking the dog one Friday afternoon. When I got home from work that day, June 21, 2013, I put the leash on my pup and we went out for our daily walk. All of a sudden he started barking up a storm and pulling me into the corner of a building. I then saw what he was barking at... Curled up in a corner is this little black and white cat the size of a tennis ball with half of its tail missing and bleeding badly. The skin from the tail was hanging loose and only the cartilage was visible. My heart immediately sank looking at this little creature whose eyes were full of terror. My dog was still barking trying to attack the frightened kitten and I was trying to keep him away.

In that moment the only thing I was thinking was that if I walk away and leave her there she will die and when I go for my usual walk with the dog the following day and I see her laying lifeless I'll feel terrible about myself for not helping her and giving her a chance to live.
I decide to take the dog back home. I put on a pair of latex gloves, I get an old dog carrier that I had in my garage, get in my car and drive back to the spot where I had found her. Fortunately, she was still there. I had no idea how to handle her, I knew nothing about cats. I tried picking her up but she kept hissing at me. I finally managed to put her in the carrier, got in the car and drove to the nearest vet.
I waited patiently until it was finally our turn.  The vet told me the kitten was a female (I couldn’t tell) and that she was probably a month old. The rest of the tail had to be amputated which meant that she had to have full anesthesia. She told me that since the kitten was too young she might not have survived the operation but it was all that could be done. The vet gave her antibiotics and the operation was scheduled for first thing Monday morning. That meant she had to come home with me and stay all day Saturday and Sunday…

I took her home and put her in a cardboard box in the guest bedroom. I had to keep her away from my dog who was very aggressive towards cats. The vet had given me cat food to give her and she ate with such an appetite the poor little thing. My dog was always behind that bedroom door, he knew she was in there.  But I kept them apart. I knew I would give the cat away eventually…I couldn’t keep a dog and a cat together! Monday came around and before going to work I took the kitten to the vet for her surgery. I left her there wondering if she was going to make it. I already felt like I was getting attached to her. All morning I kept thinking about her and if she was ok. I couldn’t take it anymore and called the vets office.
The vet told me that she was already wide awake from the anesthesia and she was eating and jumping around. I was so happy!! I couldn’t wait to pick her up that afternoon! I took her home with me and bought a small litter box for her. Her little bobtail was all bandaged up but she was a healthy kitten! Needless to say I never gave her away. 
She is part of our family now and she and my puppy are inseparable. I was hesitant about my dog getting along with her but they play together and sleep together and have become best friends.
I have grown to love her so much and I take back everything I ever thought about cats. She purrs whenever I pet her and she is always by my side. She follows me in every room of the house. When I’m cooking she’s sitting on the kitchen chair keeping me company, when I’m watching tv she’s right there next to me.

She is an absolute joy and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. God really does work in mysterious ways and I am forever grateful to Him for this joy He has given to our family. By the way, her name is Gigia which is the female version of Luigi. You see, I found her on June 21st, which in Italy is the day that Saint Luigi is celebrated :-). Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Spicy Tuna Linguine

I will start by saying that my Italian relatives consider this recipe an entirely elementary dish that is prepared when there is no other alternative in the kitchen. If my aunts read my blog I already know what they would say: "I can't believe she's writing about tuna pasta...out of all the delicious Italian recipes she chose tuna pasta!" Relax aunties...there will be more recipes coming, but as my first recipe on the blog I wanted to share something quick and easy that is also very tasty and nutritious!

This is a first course dish that you can make in about 15 minutes. I know a lot of people don't care for tuna because of its strong flavor but the sauce and spices really tone down the fishy taste.

In Italy there are many different variations to this recipe. Some people like to add capers, sardines or olives while others don’t add the jalapeno pepper or pecorino like I do for example but this is the version that I prefer the most because of its simplicity.

Ingredients (recipe for 2):

-          1 can of tuna packed in olive oil and drained
-          1 cup of plain tomato sauce
-          1 small shallot finely chopped (1 small onion is fine as well)
-          ½ carrot grated
-          ½ celery stick finely chopped
-          3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
-          Salt to taste
-          1 small jalapeno peppe
-          200 grams of linguine pasta
-          1 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
-          1 tablespoon of grated pecorino cheese  (optional)


Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the shallot, carrot and celery stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Make sure not to burn the shallot. Add the can of tuna and stir until you see the tuna soften a bit then add the tomato sauce.

Experience the heart

Now I add the jalapeno pepper and cover setting on low-medium heat stirring occasionally.

In the mean time I bring a pot of salt water to a boil and cook the linguine al dente and drain. You can use any type of pasta. My other half prefers long pasta so I use linguine, but short pasta is just as good. I used a mix of regular linguine and seaweed linguine which sounds weird, I know, but is delicious and very good for you as well J.  I had some left over and decided to mix the two for this recipe. The cooking times were the same for both types of linguine so that wasn’t a problem.  

The sauce is almost ready. Remove the jalapeno pepper and turn off the heat.

At this point add the pecorino to the sauce if you like.  Pecorino has a tangy flavor and I think it goes very well with this recipe. I don’t add a lot just enough to add flavor. For me the tuna sauce is too plain without the pecorino. You don't have to add it but don’t knock it till you try it!

Mix the sauce with the pasta and add the parsley to decorate. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The heart is forever inexperienced - Henry David Thoreau

I love this phrase. I find that it really is true. The heart is always learning, hopeful and anxious about the future and what it will hold. We hope for the best and make plans but there is always a small part of us that knows life doesn't always go as intended. Sometimes we get thrown a curve ball and have to deal with issues that we weren't prepared to cope with. I am a middle child. I have an older sister who was born with cerebral palsy and who is two years older than me. She has always lived in a wheel chair and never spoke. Yet she has huge blue eyes that say so much just by looking at you. My parents were in their early 20's when they had her. They weren't expecting a disabled child, there was nothing that they could do but love her, nurture her and help her grow into the beautiful woman she is today.

To be completely honest, I don't know if I would have had the courage to have 2 more children after having a disabled child, but they did and I thank God for that. Even though my sister never spoke, there has always been an extra special bond between us. We shared the same bedroom when we were little. We had twin beds only hers was a hospital bed and I had a pink canopy bed. When I was scared at night because of a thunder storm or when I couldn’t sleep, I used to sneak in her bed and hug her tight until I fell asleep and I would feel safe knowing she was there even though she couldn’t walk or talk. Thousands of miles separate us today and months go by when we don’t see each other but when I fly over to visit her during the holidays and look into those big blue eyes and kiss that face, I feel safe again and I know she’s been waiting for me, excited to hear my stories. I’m the luckiest girl in the world because my sister is an angel.